Stories in Maryland/DC

Taking on Maryland's Invasive Species

Help protect the lands you love by learning about some of the invasive plants commonly found in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

A young boy holds the broken end of a thick plant stem to his nose breathing in the scent.
Know your plants A boy sniffs aromatic invasive garlic mustard leaves during a bioblitz event. © Devan King / TNC

Invasive species are one of the top threats to our natural heritage, along with habitat loss and degradation. Invasive plants can displace native species, eliminate food and habitat for wildlife, alter natural fire regimes and nutrient cycling in soils and inhibit native plant regeneration.

Exotic wisteria plant and seed pod illustration.
Exotic wisteria (Wisteria japonica, W. sinensis) Fragrant purple flowers emerge in early summer and yield long fuzzy seed pods. The twining vine can strangle and overtop tall trees. © Rachel Rogge

What is an invasive plant?

Invasive plants are usually nonnative species that have been introduced intentionally or by accident and spread from human settings into natural areas with negative effects to our economy, environment or health.

Free from the plant-eaters and parasites that keep them in check in their native ranges, they reproduce rapidly and spread aggressively, taking over natural areas and altering biological communities. Invasive plants have been referred to as a form of biological pollution.

Why should you be concerned?

In the U.S. alone, invasive species cost over $120 billion annually in damage and control, and the cost they inflict on our natural heritage is immeasurable.

Whether you are acting as a steward for your own property, a local park, or a far away natural area, invasive plants are likely to be a problem. In the face of such global threats to biodiversity as habitat destruction and climate change, we can each make a difference by preventing and controlling the spread of invasive species.

Oriental bittersweet leaves and fruit illustration.
Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) This twining vine can strangle and overtop tall trees, form dense thickets, and alter the structure of a forest. © Rachel Rogge

Learn how to identify invasive plants

The illustrations below will help you identify 10 of the most prevalent and problematic invasive plants in our region and how to control them. You can also participate in plant walks, weed control workdays and invasive species trainings offered by local groups.

Spread the word, not the weed

Seeds of invasive plants are well adapted to spreading and easily hitchhike to new environments. Weed seeds can be carried in soil trapped in shoe or tire treads, in the soil of transplanted plants, in hay or straw used to stop erosion or feed animals, or even on your pant legs. Please help prevent new invasions by cleaning soil from your shoes and the tires of vehicles that may be driven into natural areas.

Multiflora rose flowers and fruit illustration.
Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) This bush crowds out native vegetation, depletes soil nutrients, climbs trees, and displaces native plants that provide food and shelter. © Rachel Rogge

What you can do at home and in your parks

Learn about the plants on your property. Do you have invasive plants? Do the invasive plants overwhelm the native plants? Consider removing invasive plants from your yard and garden, and replace them with non-invasive and native plants in your landscaped areas.

Don’t feel like you have to do it all at once; remove and replace invasive plants as your time and budget allow. Every little bit helps.

Local groups and park managers host year-round volunteer work parties, so consider lending a few hours to help protect and restore your favorite parks and natural areas. Removing invasive plants is a healthy form of outdoor exercise suitable for all ages, and it’s rewarding work.

Putting Down Roots with Native Plants

Learn More

Become an educated consumer

Don’t purchase or transplant invasive plants. Ask plant sellers before you buy, to be sure the plant you want is not invasive and ask for alternatives if it is. Take the Recommended Landscape Alternatives to Invasive Plants wallet guide with you to your nurseries and show them some examples. You can get more ideas for your yard and garden from our online native plants guide. Our garden guide will help you choose plants native to the mid-Atlantic region, supporting pollinators and biodiversity.


Common Maryland Invasives

These illustrations will help you identify 10 of the most prevalent and problematic invasive plants in our region and how to control them. You can also participate in plant walks, weed control workdays and invasive species trainings offered by local groups.

Two illustrations, of single lobed leaves on a thin stem with small white trumpet shaped flowers and a cluster of four red berries.
Two illustrations, three-lobed leaves on a thin twisting vine and a group of leaves around a central cluster of small white blossoms.
An illustration of several long stems filled with single lobed leaves.
Two illustrations, wide, spade shaped leaves with jagged edges grown from an upright stem topped with small white flowers and a cluster of leaves grow from the top of a thick taproot.
Two illustrations, a cluster of three long, tube shaped seed pods growing from a thin vine and a thick, ropey vine coils around the trunk of a tree sprouting clusters of delicate purple flowers.
Illustration of a thick vine with clusters of leaves and groups of 2-3 red oblong berries.
Two illustrations, tight red berry clusters on the end of a hairy stem and a thick, hairy stem with smaller branches containing clusters of fringed leaves.
Two illustrations, a thin vine with tapering leaves and delicate, trumpet shaped flowers and a vine with two dark berries.
Two illustrations, large oval leaves with jagged edges hang beneath clusters of yellow berry pods and pods split open into three sections to reveal bright red berries.
Two illustrations, five petal white flowers with yellow centers grow in clusters from a thin stem and five red berries branch off of the end of a stem.

More Information for You

  • Invasive Plants Brochure

    Guide to the terrestrial invasive plants of the Potomac River watershed.

  • Landscape Alternatives

    Use this helpful wallet guide when making landscaping choices for your home or garden.