Ten Invasive Plant Species to Remove
Habitat management has become a huge talking point within the hunting industry over the last decade or so. Whether you have five acres or 500, habitat improvements to help attract wildlife are always on the to-do list. While food plots are one of the main selling points for habitat management, they are not the end all, cure all. Deer and other wildlife need diversity, whether its for food or for shelter. While you may see wildlife on your property during certain times of the year, the goal is to have deer, turkey, rabbits and other wildlife using your property year-round. Plant diversity on your property allows for changes in food sources or cover without having to go to the neighbor’s property to find it. Some plant species have a knack for decreasing the diversity in an area by outcompeting more beneficial species. Invasive species tend to both grow at an exponential rate and set a large amount of seed all while having very few, if any, natural predators. Here is a list (no particular order) of some of the top invasives to look out for and some management techniques to use whether you’re working on your piece of heaven or looking at purchasing a new honey hole.
1. Tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima)
While the name may sound divine, the tree-of-heaven is anything but. This species is one of the most vigorous invasive in the United States. Cutting alone only tells the tree to send up root suckers. A canopy quickly forms shading out any desirable, native species. Treatment of these areas should be done by either cutting and treating the stump with herbicide, conducting a foliar herbicide treatment, using the hack and squirt method or doing a basal bark treatment. All of these should be done with a systemic herbicide which will be translocated throughout the plant providing a complete kill. A herbicide with the active ingredients of glyphosate or triclopyr is recommended. Persistence is key when it comes to invasive species which means multiple treatments may be needed.
Photo Courtesy of Minnesota Department of Agriculture
2. Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
This invasive species was brought over, like many other invasives, for ornamental reasons. Some still plant this species for late season browse for deer, not knowing the potential impacts that this species might have. This honeysuckle is a creeping vine that will cause a dense covering blocking out native species. Mowing only promotes growth and trimmings have the potential to root themselves causing increased stem density. Hand pulling or a foliar application of herbicide, with the active ingredients of triclopyr or glyphosate, are recommended. These methods can be done well into the fall as Japanese honeysuckle holds on to its leaves while other natives have gone dormant.
Photo Courtesy of Country, Farm & Garden
3. Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii)
Instead of a vine like Japanese honeysuckle, amur honeysuckle takes on the shape of small to medium size multi-stem bush. Its red berries are a favorite for birds, which then defecate across the landscape spreading the seeds. It can be found in disturbed sites, old pastures or fields and along roads and tree lines. Dense patches inhibit native vegetation and can slow established forest growth. Cutting and spraying the stump is recommended for treatment of small areas. A foliar application in the fall is also recommended do to this species holding its leaves longer. A herbicide with the active ingredients of glyphosate or triclopyr is recommended. A spring-time prescribed fire will also kill seedlings but only weaken mature trees.
Photo Courtesy of Ohio Environmental Council
4. Common/ Glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus Cathartica, R frangula)
These two species are often found together and are difficult to tell apart with an untrained eye. Luckily the management practices between the two are the same. These small to medium size trees, often multi-stemmed, form dense thickets allowing little to no understory growth. They are also allelopathic which means they produce chemicals which inhibit the growth of other native plants around them. These species produce a dark purple berry which birds help distribute. Seedlings can be pulled while larger trees should either receive cutting plus a stump treatment or a basal bark treatment. Foliar herbicide application can also be used in the late fall as these species hold their leaves and applied to new growth after brush mulching large areas.
Photo Courtesy of Forestry Images
5. Russian/autumn olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia, E. umbellata)
The autumn olive is the main culprit in the Midwest and east but the Russian olive is not far behind. Adapted with nitrogen-fixing root nodules, these two cousins can inhabit areas with very poor soils. Their seeds, like many of the other invasives, are spread by birds. Both species tend to inhabit open areas, soon making them impenetrable. Cutting alone promotes root and stump sprouting. A herbicide treatment to the stump is recommended after cutting and reapplying until stump sprouts stop appearing. Pulling of young plants is also proven eradication method.
Photo Courtesy of Our One Acre Farm
6. Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense)
Much like the others on this list, Chines privet has a beautiful array of flowers which lead to a large amount of seeds being produced. Dense understory’s form blocking out any light from reaching the forest floor. Hand pulling of the young plants up to 2 inches in diameter can be done. A cut stump treatment of triclopyr should be applied after cutting this tree due to its vigorous stump sprouting. In many occasions, forestry mulching will be the ticket for removal. After mulching, a foliar application of glyphosate is recommended on the herbaceous resprouts.
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia
7. Reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea)
While many people like this grass for its dense stands and ability to withstand intense changes in water levels, its ability to form mats of dead material and spread by rhizomes makes it hard to kill. This is a cool season grass which means it grows in the spring and fall. Foliar applications of glyphosate should be applied during these times. The dead material should be removed either by mowing and raking or by burning in the early spring. This will allow you to see the new growth and allow for efficient use of herbicide the following year by not spraying the dead plant material.
Photo Courtesy of Fair Dinkum Seeds
8. Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora)
This thorny bush can be found in prairies, savannas and open woodlots creating impenetrable walls and “living fences”. The large roots systems and thorns make this a difficult plant to pull. Foliar applications can be used but overspray is a problem with near desirable plants. Cutting and treating the stumps with either a glyphosate or triclopyr product is recommended in early fall into winter. Goats have also been used to curb the invasion when herbicides aren’t used.
Photo Courtesy of Ohio DNR
9. Kudzu (Pueraria spp.)
One of the nastiest vining invasives there are. Kudzu can form dense mats, covering everything from the forest floor to the tops of trees. If you have never seen a kudzu infestation, it feels like you are in a different world. If allowed, infested areas can heavily grazed by sheep and cows. They need to continuously remove over 80 percent of the plant material to be effective. Herbicide treatments are recommended for full irradiation. For the average person, glyphosate can be used to treat areas. Other herbicides like Tordon can be used but are a restricted use herbicide. Restricted use herbicides can only be applied by individuals with a pesticide applicators license or under the supervision of someone who is licensed.
Photo Courtesy of Bugwood.org
10. Bradford (Callery) Pear (Pyrus Calleryiana)
This deciduous tree species bears a beautiful array of white flowers in the early spring making it a favorite for municipalities and landscapers across the Midwest and East. Missouri even offered a buy-back program allowing attendees to show a picture of them with a cut down Bradford pear, and in return, they would receive a desirable native tree to plant. The original cultivar was sterile from itself, but crosspollination has created a monster. Cutting these trees down in the early spring, when they are flowering and easy to identify, is recommended. After cutting, treat the stump with a triclopyr or glyphosate herbicide. Photo Courtesy of Ohio Environmental Council
Proper identification is key when working with invasive species. Make sure you know what you are removing before you enact your management strategies. Many of these species have native, beneficial relatives that can be tricky to identify.
When using herbicides, remember to READ THE LABEL before starting. Labels for different herbicides can be found online before purchasing. If you do not feel comfortable using herbicides, find someone with an applicators license to insure proper use. Your local extension agent or NRCS office can be used for guidance when implementing a management plan. Knowing that managing invasive species is a multi-year project is half the battle, but management is necessary when wildlife habitat is at stake.