Invasive exotic plants are those plants transported outside their normal home ranges and cause damage or harm in their new location. In their new homes, these alien species are free from the natural competition, herbivores, insects and diseases that normally keep populations in check. Therefore many exotic species can spread rampantly, displace natural plant species and become nuisances. Invasive species are recognized as one of the leading threats to biodiversity and may impose enormous costs on forest managers.
Increasing global trade and widespread use of non-native plants for horticultural and landscaping purposes has contributed to the enormous challenge we now face. While many plants are accidentally introduced into new areas, many more are purposefully transported outside of their home range for a variety of reasons. Not only do these plants have the potential to become established and invasive in their new environments, but they may also carry with them exotic forest pests, such as insects and pathogens, which can have devastating consequences on natural ecosystems. Many of the worst insect and disease epidemics in the history of our nation's forests have begun with the introduction of plant materials from other countries or regions.
Many invasive plants reduce biodiversity by occupying habitat normally utilized by native species. More aggressive invasive species can actually displace natural vegetation by growing so densely as to prevent reproduction by native species, or by physically overtaking natural vegetation such as is observed with kudzu. The long term effects of invasive plants on biodiversity are just beginning to be understood. Forests are complex systems of interacting organisms; the loss of one plant species can affect many other plants, animals, and microorganisms. The interactions are so complex, that often we do not realize their extent until the devastating consequences of biodiversity reduction are observed.
Some invasive plants are a nuisance or even a danger to humans. Invasives are particularly good at invading disturbed sites not occupied by natural vegetation, making regeneration of forests after thinning or harvesting difficult. Likewise, landscape plantings and gardens can easily be overtaken. Some exotics produce chemicals or cause allergic reactions that may harm humans, while others create dangerous fire hazards because of highly flammable plant tissues and the build-up of large quantities of combustible fuels.
The North Carolina Forest Service strongly urges you to utilize native plants in your landscapes, gardens, and forests; and to remove exotic invasives when observed. Some exotic invasive plant species are very difficult to eradicate. Please contact your local NCFS office for assistance with identification and eradication of exotic invasives, and recommendations for native plant species to suit your needs.
Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima)
Silktree/Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin)
Callery Pear (Pyrus calleryana)
Chinese Tallowtree (Triadica sebifera)
Autumn Olive (Eleagnus umbellate)
Bicolor Lespedeza (Lespedeza bicolor)
Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora)
Porcelainberry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata)
Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)
English Ivy (Hedera helix)
Cypressvine Morningglory (Ipomoea quamoclit)
Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
Kudzu (Pueraria Montana var. lobata)
Chinese/Japanese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis / Wisteria floribunda)
Invasive Herbs and Grasses
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
Sericea Lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata)
Japanese Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum)
Chinese Silvergrass (Miscanthus sinensis)
Japanese Knotweed (Reynoutria japonica)