I hope your weekend went well and that you’re well-rested for this workweek to start.
Feel free to talk about whatever here, despite my topic of the night.
As someone who has spent about 7 hours this weekend hacking and cutting back the messy invasive plants from the neighbors along 2 sides of my backyard, I want to provide a PSA for “for the love of god, do not fucking plant these and please consider tearing them all out if you have them.”
Apologies in advance, this is going to be very North American-centric and more or less Midwestern, although many plants invasive hear are invasive over much of the US. I have no clue what invasive plants are in other folks’ areas, but in general best advice is always try to plant native plants or native cultivars. It’s better for the insects and critters, and also typically better-suited for water management. We’re basically in a major extinction event for insects, and this fucking terrifies me. The good news is while we can’t do jack fucking shit for most climate change problems on an individual level, we can create little ecosystems to help species diversity by doing things like planting a few native perennials. Also more plant diversity in your yards means more caterpillar and seed diversity for your birbs, which means more cute birbs outside.
Anyways, let’s talk a few species to never fucking plant and remove if possible. Caveat – I know some plants have major emotional connotations and I would never tell someone they should dig up plants in that situation.
Let’s start with the biggest offenders I can think of offhand.
Callery Pears/”Bradford” Pears – lovely white blossoms in spring. This is what the lead pictue shows – a bunch that have taken up a massive stretch along state highway 50. Super popular like 50 years ago because this variety was supposed to be fast-growing (yep) and sterile (hahahhahhahahah nope). They’ve naturalized in a lot of places. They reek like piss when they bloom. They also revert back to some negative characteristics from the root stock, namely getting nasty thorns on them making their thickets even worse to deal with. If you see anyone planting these now, rethink being friends with that person. Reliable plant nurseries don’t sell these. Also, because they grow so fast, they are very weak and snap easily in thunderstorms/tornadic weather.
What to plant instead if you want pretty spring flowers? You can plant all sorts of other trees instead. Serviceberry trees are similar sized and bloom in spring. Native dogwoods are lovely and compact trees. Redbuds and buckeyes have pretty spring blooms (althugh pink, not white).
Bush honeysuckle – yes, I know those white flowers are so pretty and they smell so good. It’s a fucking monster that grows unchecked and will kill off any undergrowth. Also spreads super easy thanks to birbs eating the little red berries in the fall and pooping them out places. Seriously, it typically takes me 3-4 years to kill one once it gets slightly established. Please hack these back at the base if you have them and then smear herbicide on the cut stems. Do this repeatedly. It might take a few because like fucking hydra, if you cut one stem another often grows back.
What to replace it with? If you want a similar sort of thicket, again serviceberry or beautyberry bush. Although make sure you get native beautyberry, not the Asian one (which is also invasive). Berries clump on the stem for the native one. Definitely consider a native viburnum shrub – those are beautiful and some have pretty bright leaves in autumn.
Fucking wintercreeper. This fucking vine is the northern asshole cousin to kudzu. Does the same thing. It’s a constant battle but dig them both up and apply herbicide to the stems. I cut back so much fucking wintercreeper yesterday. There are sections I can see so established on the neighbor’s sided that the vine is over an inch in diameter. This fucker will destroy fences and anything else it can grow on. Cute white flowers with little red berries in fall. For reference – https://vnps.org/evergreen-and-creepy-its-winter-creeper/
What to replace it with? Nothing. Plant normal things instead of a vine that will cover and destroy everything.
Two really common shrubs still sold basically everywhere that are now realized as invasive?
Butterfly bush – but brighter, I see butterflies and bees all over these? How are these bad? Well, friends, sure they like the nectar, but there are no caterpillars that feed on the leaves and these bushes are super good at pollinating and spreading, where they can push out native plants. Consider New Jersey Tea shrubs or buttonbush, or other shrubs common to your area, instead of planting these.
Winged burning bush – I know these are beautiful in autumn. I know property developers love these because they’re easy to maintain and hard to kill. I know basically every garden center sells these to homeowners. Unfortunately, they spread really easily and crowd out other plants. Good news! There are shrubs in the same family native to North America and still pretty in fall. American burning bush (also called wahoo) is a great replacement.
Thank you for listening to my ramble. The small victory I have today is I talked with one of the two neighbors with honeysuckle all over their yard and encroaching into mine, and he was like “I don’t even know what that bush is, but I don’t go back in that part of my yard because I’m super allergic to poison ivy. I’ll ask the lawn guys to rip it out.” So at least one section will go away!