Aggressive Natives

bob64(6)March 19, 2008

As the battle against invasives grinds on I am becoming more and more attracted to the idea of planting the more aggressive natives such as goldenrod, virginia creeper, etc. I am also becoming more enamored with any native seeds I can buy cheaply and in bulk like creeping red fescue. I have even thought about seeing if there is somewhere I can buy ragweed seeds (at least it's native). Am I punking out too soon or does this make sense considering the 500+ year onslaught that surrounds me in the northeast?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Sounds great to me. :) I love Virginia creeper - it's all over my yard, and doesn't even seem particularly aggressive. I've also planted trumpet vine, and I'm considering planting sweet fern, the aggressive habits of both I have been warned about. I'll let you know in a few years if I still love them all!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 5:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The native mints (wild bergamot) - oh boy, they are something else!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 5:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
gonativegal(zone 5a)


If you've got a really big area try any of the silphiums - particularly Cup Plant. They really need their own section but this will smother out anything.

For a woodland situation, again you need a large space, try Canadian Anenome - Anenome canadensis.

You need only a plant or two to initiate what will become huge colonies.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 7:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
joepyeweed(5b IL)

I wish virginia creeper was as aggressive as I've heard it to be. I've been trying to get it to grow along my back fence line and it just piddles around never going anywhere... the garlic mustard in that same area would be thriving nicely if I weren't diligent about keeping it in check.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 8:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I understand asters can be pretty aggressive as well. I'm continuing a natural landscaping project this year, turning the whole backyard into a native-plant savannah, so I've also put a few "aggressive" natives on the wishlist. For instance, I've wintersown wild bergamot (monarda fistulosa) and man of the earth (ipomoea pandurata), both of which are supposed to be pretty assertive. New England aster, golden groundsel (packera obovata), anisescented goldenrod, & Virginia creeper are other spreading natives I plan to plant this year.

You might also want to consider cool-season grasses, which can compete with the exotic weeds and grasses that generally germinate & flourish early. I plan to sow some elymius canadensis in an area that tends to be dominated by clover.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 8:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I think that's a wonderful idea!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2008 at 7:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ahughes798(z5 IL)

Be careful what you wish for, it might come true.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2008 at 11:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ellen_s(z5 centralMA)

haha - I agree with ahughes798, be careful! :-)
Around here, perennial sunflower (Helianthus) is highly aggressive, and great bird/pollinator plants. They reseed heavily too. Goldenrod, different asters, and ferns are others. You might want to take a look at what natives already grow in your wild areas, and take their cue.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2008 at 9:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I read that one native plant preserve got overrun with Canada Anemone and took to calling it "Canada Enemy". If it's that or englishy ivy I think I would take the "Canada Enemy". Thanks for all of the responses. I've got things to think about.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2008 at 9:45AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ladyslppr(z6 PA)

i think using aggressive native plants to replace aggressive non-native plants is about the only way to achieve a semi-permanent eradication of the non-natives. I'd much rather have an overgrowth of a native than a non-native, and I think overgrowth is really a subjective term. If a native plant is well adapted to a site, it will thrive, but will support native insects, birds, and animals, and will generally permit other native plants to grow more readily than a similar stand of non-native plants would. I'm not saying that native plants never overtake a garden, but they rarely overtake natural areas the way non-natives can, and the ecological impacts are a lot less severe if they do.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 10:45AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
janet_e(6B PA)

A few more aggressive natives:

woodland sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus)
pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)
panicled aster (Symphyotrichum paniculatum, aka Aster lanceolatus, aka Aster simplex) -- this is by far the most aggressive aster I've grown
aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, aka Aster oblongifolius) -- this is the second most aggressive aster for me

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 2:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I forgot about Poke Weed which is strange since I have it in abundance.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 4:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have some milkweed growing in my veg garden. Also asters, Campion, Fleabane and Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) an ephemeral, but beautiful while it lasts! I let the weeds (native plants) grow with my vegs because they attract beneficial insects. If you don't have deer, try false solomon's seal. Bouncing Bet works for me in the sun, has covered a huge area, kept in check by lawn mower. Violets are fairly aggressive too, and look pretty.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2008 at 12:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ahughes798(z5 IL)

Just be careful what you plant. Yes, some natives are aggressive, but they are held in check by other natives. If one doesn't have the other natives....then there's a problem.

I've got Canada(Tall)Goldenrod infestation, and believe smothers the other natives just as well as an invasive non-native.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 11:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
terrene(5b MA)

It sounds like a good idea, especially for areas that are more wild or naturalized and can't be weeded constantly. They probably have a better chance of holding their own against the onslaught of non-native invasives!

I'm winter-sowing many vigorous natives this year - Campsis radicans (trumpet vine), cynanchum laeve (Milkweed vine), Asclepias syriaca (Common milkweed), Silphium perfoliatum (Cup plant), Aster oblongifolius, and others that I'm hoping will eventually spread and naturalize a little.

Also encouraging the existing natives in the yard that are aggressive too, such as Phytolacca americana, Solidago canadensis, and Virginia creeper.

Also hoping to get over to a neighborhood farm where they gave me permission to dig up some Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem artichoke) to plant in a naturalized area in the way back yard. Once this is established, it's supposed to be pretty intractible.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 7:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem artichoke) to plant in a naturalized area in the way back yard"

If you put it in, be sure you will never want it out. It's impossible to eradicate.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 10:28AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
dandy_line(3B (Brainerd, Mn))

Boltonia asteroides is not invasive, but it will smother anything in its path due to its dense foliage. Hooray for it.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 11:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ladyslppr(z6 PA)

I think your strategy has to depend on how large a battle you are fighting. If you have yard, or even an acre or two, and you have the time then you might eradicate the invasive weeds and simply monitor the area to make sure they don't become established again. In that case you can plant anything you like and make sure it survives by taking good care of it. On the other hand, if you have acres or simply a little more land than you can really carefully monitor all the time, then you have a different problem - how to eradicate the invasive weeds and replace them with something to keep them at bay even if you can't be vigilant all the time. The more your situation resembles the latter case, the more you should look at the really aggressive native plants.

If I have a small area of woodland to maintain, I might rely on violets, mayapple, or other relatively small plants that can be somewhat aggressive in the garden, plus my careful attention to the area. However, if I have a couple of acres where I'd eradicated russian olive, Canada Thistle, or Japanese knotweed and wanted to be sure they wouldn't return, I'd put in the most aggressive native plants I could find. I would much rather have a large stand of Canada Goldenrod than Canada Thistle (the thistle isn't really from Canada - it is european/asian). Even the most aggressive natives are going to take some time to become established to the point they will be much help at keeping out non-native plants, but they are a lot better than more delicate native plants would be.

If you visit natural areas you find that the vegetation is largely made up of large stands of 'aggressive' natives (I'd call them 'vigorous' or 'dominant', not 'aggressive') especially where there has been some disturbance in the past. The less dominant plants fill in between the more dominant plants, or gradual succession creates niches for less dominant plants to grow, so on a large enough scale you find plant diversity even with the dominant natives. In fact, i think in many cases the dominant native plants help support the less dominant ones (think about a prairie - what is more aggressive than prairie grasses? yet there are lots of wildflowers, too. Same goes for a woodland - dominated by trees by full of other plants)

I am not claiming that there has never been a situation where a native plant was so invasive that it caused ecological damage, but I think the cases are rare, and mostly a result of our perception of things. Around here (PA) eastern Hemlock would inevitably take over most of the forest if there was no disturbance. It might take 1000 years, but it would happen. Does anybody claim that hemlock is invasive? The hemlocks, like the goldenrod, blackberries, black locust, and oaks before them are part of natural succession. I think most of the native plants we perceive as invasive are merely filling in their niche at their allotted time in the development of the ecosystem. I am not recommending them all as garden plants, nor denying that they can take over pretty thoroughly, but just pointing out that they too, in turn, will be replaced, and in the mean time they play an important role in the ecosystem. Non-native plants are another story, sicne they may not easily be replaced by succession, they are far more likely to COMPLETELY take over, and they generally play only a limited role in supporting wildlife or otherwise being part of the ecosystem.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 9:42AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ladyslipper and all, thanks for the comments, etc.
My "gardening" is to try and ecologically restore an 8.5 acre church property (maybe 1/3 is buildings and parking lots) during weekends in the suburbs outside of NYC while also taking into account erosion and water flow issues due to steep slopes, human safety and the ridiculous (but mostly ignored) complaints of neighbors and some congregants who think a woodland should look like a formal English garden (which none of them would pay for should I be stupid enough to try). Being one of the first places heavily settled by Europeans and their offspring, the northeast has gotten a head start on ruining itself with invasives so I definitely have a lot of invasives to deal with. I think your comments have helped me to realize that given my time and budget constraints and large-scale project, that I will have to use the most aggressive natives I can find. Thanks.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 12:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Would you just get rid of the porcelainberry or oriental bittersweet or whatever it is smothering the trees along the parkways in Westchester? Maybe the japanese knotweed as well? Thanks.

Seriously, I just noted to the person with the rose question above that in a sunny spot a wild rose, rosa caroliniana, that I have, spread quite prolifically. I grew it from seed, a little tricky, but you might be able to find it. Also, why not native grasses, if there's sun? Little bluestem is great. A bunch grass, so doesn't spread, but nothing will beat it out once it's in. I see penstemons (beardstongue) growing in big bunches in fields north of you. Lots of aggressive things are not so aggressive if it's shady and will take a while to move in. For shade (and sun probably as well), celandine poppy (stylophorum diphyllum) seed in pretty well in light shade. Podophyllum peltatum, mayapple, spreads in light shade as does wild ginger, asarum canadense. Your mileage may vary depending on conditions -- nothing is aggressive in dry shade. You might check out, that sells seed in bulk, including a number of native grasses.

I don't think you'll have success if you just toss seeds at the weeds, however. It's my sense that that's a losing proposition. If the native seeds are to germinate and flourish, you've probably got to clear out the other stuff first. Or you've got to raise plants from seed and then transplant to wild, and protect from the invaders for awhile. I've had mixed results even with the latter.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 5:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The parkways in Westchester are getting ridiculous. There are some volunteer groups doing what they can like VineCutters. The county parks department also has a volunteer coordinator named Bob DelTorto whom you can contact to volunteer your services if your own projects haven't completely eaten up your time. He is the guy to the right in the picture in the attached link.
I agree that just tossing seeds doesn't work very well, I tried it and failed. I tend to have more success with transplants than seeds.

Here is a link that might be useful: Vine Cutters

    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 9:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We have a friend who spends time with loppers out on the parkways. We are mostly in Brooklyn and drive by on the way to our house and garden in Columbia County, where I've grown the stuff I mention above. The vines make a really spooky landscape along the Saw Mill. Our eradication efforts are mostly located farther upstate, unfortunately (where we claim a qualified success on our acre against a stand of Japanese knotweed, and ongoing efforts against garlic mustard, mostly driven off our own property).

I've found that even many of the hardy, aggressive natives need the right conditions in which to flourish, and the sometimes dry woods we have, under locust or sugar maple, are not always that.

By the way, if you've got a sunny spot that doesn't get totally dried out where you'd like something big, joepyeweed (eupatorium maculatum?) will fill space and look pretty spectacular in the summer. Doesn't spread, except by the occasional seed, however.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 10:22AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have some volunteer Joe Pye in some wet areas and a parking median and some I planted in a flower bed. It is a pretty plant. I just bought two cat tail plants (typha) that I am thinking of putting in another wet area that is fairly overrun by nasties. Someone told me that there used to be cattails in a spot that is now mostly red osier dogwood. Why it left I don't know. At least something good took its place.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 2:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ladyslppr(z6 PA)

I think the transition from cattail to red osier dogwood is a natural step in plant succession in the northeast. Here, many wetlands tend to become shrub swamps, with cattails growing mainly in disturbed areas or edges for a while, until shrubs shade them out The shrub stage seems to last a very long time with a few trees growing in spots.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 10:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

An update.
The cattails that I put in a wet area don't appear to have survived. Kinda funny since it is often referred to as impossible to kill. The hilly area where I thought some aggressive natives are needed still needs some; especially when the junipers finish dying within the next few years. Some positive developments in that area though are that some colonies of Dogbane and Milkweed have filled in a bit. The Dogbane is starting to bloom and actually looks kinda nice. At the moment I am continually hacking out the invasives and hoping that the Dogbane and Milkweed do some of the job for me. I noticed that I have to hack all of the vines once by about July 1st and a second time in fall to make it manageable, prevent smothering of the natives and to prevent or reduce invasive seed production. I will probably put in some of the plants y'all have suggested at some point in the not too distant future (when time, conditions and budget permit). Once the junipers die there will be a lot more sun and a lot more invasisves in the area if I don't act preemptively. Goldenrod was present in parts of the hillside in years past but I don't see much if any of it this year. There is also some volunteer poison ivy which is native and aggressive but not really my first choice if you know what I mean.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 10:07PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Avoiding Spreading Invasive Beetles
I was trying to find sassafras, which it turns out...
Is it cheating to use varieties that were bread from natives?
For example, instead of native Itea virginica, using...
Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)?
Hello. I found a pile of Cardinal flowers by the roadside...
Photos of Natives on Tumblr
Hi all, I have a small (1/4 acre) woods here in Minnesota....
Annuals, Biennials, and Short Lived Perennials
I am interested in compiling a list of the above, mainly...
Sponsored Products
Terracotta 9-Inch Dark Sky Outdoor Wall Mount with Tribal Drum Border Design
$70.20 | Bellacor
Amytis Heirloom Gold w/Extra Kenlac 15-Light Crystal Swarovski Elements Chandeli
Darya Rugs Persian, Red, 3'8" x 6'4" M5765-15251
Darya Rugs
Darya Rugs Persian, Black, 3'9" x 5'3" M5625-25414
Darya Rugs
Safavieh Indoor/Outdoor Safavieh Rugs Dhurries Blue / Ivory 2 ft. 6 in. x 4 ft.
$64.97 | Home Depot
Area Rug: Dick Idol Slate Gray 3' 3" x 5' 3"
Home Depot
Safavieh Indoor/Outdoor Safavieh Rugs Dhurries Black/Ivory 2 ft. 6 in. x 10 ft.
Home Depot
Darya Rugs Persian, Brown, 8'4" x 11'5" M5540-15349
Darya Rugs
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™