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Invasive Exotic Species List

NC Native Plant Society – Invasive Exotic Plants in NC

We hope this list will help eliminate the use of invasive exotic plants in landscaping and restoration projects.

The intent of this list is to:

  • Rank exotic plants based on their demonstrated invasive characteristics
  • Educate the public and resource managers
  • Encourage early detection of invasive exotic species so that a rapid response can be implemented when needed

The intent of the NC Native Plant Society Invasive Exotic Plant list is to rank exotic (alien, foreign, introduced, and non-indigenous) plants based on their invasive characteristics, to educate the public and resource managers, and to encourage early detection of invasive exotic species so that a rapid response can be implemented when needed. We hope this list will help eliminate the use of invasive exotic plants in landscaping and restoration projects.

Background: Many introduced plants have become naturalized in North Carolina and some are replacing our native plant species. Not all exotic species are considered harmful. Invasive plants are usually characterized by fast growth rates, high fruit production, rapid vegetative spread and efficient seed dispersal and germination. Not being native to NC, they lack the natural predators and diseases which would naturally control them in their native habitats. The rapid growth and reproduction of invasive plants allows them to overwhelm and displace existing vegetation and, in some cases, form dense one-species stands.  Invasive species are especially problematic in areas that have been disturbed by human activities such as road building, residential development, forest clearing, logging, grazing, mining, ditching, mowing, erosion control, and fire control activities.

Invasive exotic plants disrupt the ecology of natural ecosystems, displace native plant and animal species, and degrade our biological resources. Aggressive invaders reduce the amount of light, water, nutrients and space available to native species. Some cause increased erosion along stream banks, shorelines and roadsides. Some exotics hybridize with related native plant species, resulting in changes to a population’s genetic makeup; others have been found to harbor plant pathogens, which can affect both native and non-native plants, including ornamentals. Others contain toxins that may be lethal humans and other animals. Some invasive plants compete with and replace rare and endangered species and encroach upon their limited habitat. Other problems include disruption of native plant-pollinator relationships, tree and shrub mortality due to girdling, reduced establishment of native tree and shrub seedlings, reduction in the amount of space, water, sunlight and nutrients that would be available to native species, and altered fire regimes. Invasive plants also cause economic losses and expenditures each year for agriculture, forestry, and roadside management.

Our native fauna, including insects, birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and other animals, is dependent on native plants for food and shelter. While some animals can feed on a wide number of plant species, others are highly specialized and may be restricted to feeding on several or a single plant species. As exotic plants replace our native flora, fewer host plants are available to provide the necessary nutrition for our native wildlife.  In some cases, invasive plants replace nutritious native plant foods with lower quality sources. Each exotic plant is one less native host plant for our native insects, vertebrates and other organisms that are dependent upon them.

It is important to document the spread of invasive exotic plants into natural areas. When invaders are found outside of landscape plantings, they should be recorded and voucher specimens should be collected for donation to a herbarium.

To reduce invasive plant invasions, we must approach the problem in a variety of ways: stop planting them, prevent accidental introductions, manage existing infestations, minimize disturbance to forests, wetlands, and other natural communities, and learn to work with (rather than against) natural systems and cycles.

Download the NPS Invasive Exotic Plant List.doc

Rank 1 - Severe Threat

Exotic plant species that have invasive characteristics and spread readily into native plant communities, displacing native vegetation.

Scientific name Common name
Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle Tree of Heaven
Albizia julibrissin Durz. Mimosa
Alliaria petiolata (Bieb.) Cavara & Grande Garlic-mustard
Alternanthera philoxeroides (Mart.) Griseb. Alligatorweed
Celastrus orbiculatus Thunb. Asian bittersweet
Elaeagnus angustifolia L. Russian olive
Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb. Autumn olive
Hedera helix L. English ivy
Hydrilla verticillata (L.f.) Royle Hydrilla
Lespedeza bicolor Bicolor lespedeza
Lespedeza cuneata (Dum.-Cours.) G. Don Sericea lespedeza
Ligustrum sinense Lour. Chinese privet
Lonicera fragrantissima Lindl. & Paxton Fragrant honeysuckle
Lonicera japonica Thunb. Japanese honeysuckle
Microstegium vimineum (Trin.) A. Camus Japanese stilt-grass
Murdannia keisak (Hassk.) Hand.-Mazz. Asian spiderwort
Myriophyllum aquaticum (Vell.) Verdc. Parrotfeather
Paulownia tomentosa (Thunb.) Sieb.&Zucc. ex Steud. Princess tree
Persicaria perfoliata (Linnaeus) H. Gross (=Polygonum perfoliatum L.) Mile-a-minute vine
Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ssp. australis Common reed
Pyrus calleryana Decne. Bradford pear
Polygonum cuspidatum Seib. & Zucc. Japanese knotweed
Pueraria montana (Lour.) Merr. Kudzu
Rosa multiflora Thunb. Multiflora rose
Salvinia molesta Mitchell Aquarium water-moss
Vitex rotundifolia L.f. Beach vitex
Wisteria sinensis (Sims) DC Chinese wisteria

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Rank 2 - Significant Threat

Exotic plant species that display some invasive characteristics, but do not appear to present as great a threat native communities in NC as the species listed in Rank 1.

Scientific name Common name
Ampelopsis brevipedunculata (Maxim.) Trautv. Porcelain-berry
Arthraxon hispidus (Thunb.) Makino Hairy jointgrass
Berberis thunbergii DC Japanese barberry
Broussonetia papyrifera (L.) L’Her. ex Vent. Paper mulberry
Cardiospermum halicacabum L. Balloon-vine
Cayratia japonica (Thunb. ex Murray) Gagnep. Bushkiller
Centaurea biebersteinii DC Spotted knapweed
Clematis terniflora DC (=C. dioscoreifolia) Leatherleaf clematis
Conium maculatum L. Poison hemlock
Coronilla varia L. Crown vetch
Dioscorea oppositifolia L. Air-potato
Eichhornia crassipes (Mart.) Solms Water-hyacinth
Euonymus alata (Thunb.) Sieb. Burning bush
Euonymus fortunei (Turcz.) Hand. - Mazz Winter creeper
Ficaria verna ssp. ficariiformis (F.W. Schultz) B. Walln. (=Ranunculus ficaria) Lesser Celandine
Glechoma hederacea L. Gill-over-the-ground, ground ivy
Humulus japonicus Japanese Hops
Lamium purpureum L. Henbit
Lespedeza bicolor Turcz. Bicolor lespedeza, shrubby bushclover
Ligustrum japonicum Thunb. Japanese privet
Ligustrum vulgare L. Common privet
Lonicera maackii (Rupr.) Maxim. Amur bush honeysuckle
Lonicera morrowii A. Gray Morrow’s bush honeysuckle
Lonicera standishii Jaques Standish's Honeysuckle
Lonicera ×bella [morrowii × tatarica] Hybrid Bush Honeysuckle
Ludwigia uruguayensis (Camb.) Hara Creeping waterprimrose
Lygodium japonicum (Thunb. ex Murr.) Sw. Japanese climbing fern
Lythrum salicaria L. Purple loosestrife
Mahonia bealei (Fortune) Carriere Leatherleaf Mahonia
Miscanthus sinensis Andersson Chinese silver grass
Morus alba L. White mulberry
Myriophyllum spicatum Komarov Eurasian watermilfoil
Nandina domestica Thunb. Nandina
Persicaria longiseta (de Bruijn) Moldenke (=Polygonum caespitosum Blume) Oriental ladies-thumb
Persicaria maculata (Rafinesque) S.F. Gray (=Polygonum persicaria L.) Lady’s thumb
Phyllostachys spp. Exotic bamboo
Poncirus trifoliata (L.) Raf. Hardy-Orange
Pseudosasa japonica (Sieb. & Zucc. ex Steud.) Makino ex Nakai Arrow bamboo
Rhodotypos scandens (Thunb.) Makino jetbead
Rubus phoenicolasius Maxim. Wineberry
Solanum viarum Dunal Tropical soda apple
Sorghum halepense (L.) Pers. Johnson grass
Spiraea japonica L.f. Japanese spiraea
Stellaria media (L.) Vill. Common chickweed
Veronica hederifolia L. Ivyleaf speedwell
Vinca major L. Bigleaf periwinkle
Vinca minor L. Common periwinkle
Wisteria floribunda (Willd.) DC Japanese wisteria
Xanthium strumarium L. Common cocklebur
Youngia japonica (L.) DC. Oriental false hawksbeard

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Rank 3 - Lesser Threat

Exotic plant species that spread into or around disturbed areas, and are presently considered a low threat to native plant communities in NC.

Scientific name Common name
Ajuga reptans L. Bugleweed
Allium vineale L. Field garlic
Artemisia vulgaris L. Mugwort, common wormwood
Arundo donax L. Giant reed
Baccharis halimifolia L. (*) Silverling, groundsel tree
Bromus catharticus Vahl Bromegrass, rescue grass
Bromus commutatus Schrad. Meadow brome
Bromus japonicus Thunb. ex Murray Japanese bromegrass
Bromus secalinus L. Rye brome
Bromus tectorum L. Thatch bromegrass, cheat grass
Buddleia davidii Franch Butterfly bush
Chicorium intybus L. Chicory
Chrysanthemum leucanthemum L. Ox-eye daisy
Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten. Bull thistle
Daucus carota L. Wild carrot, Queen Anne’s-lace
Dipsacus fullonum L. Fuller’s teasle
Egeria densa Planch. Brazilian elodea, Brazilian water-weed
Fatoua villosa (Thunb.) Nakai Hairy crabweed
Festuca pratensis Huds. Meadow fescue
Ipomoea quamoclit L. Cypressvine morningglory
Kummerowia stipulacea (Maxim.) Makino Korean clover
Kummerowia striata (Thunb.) Schindl Japanese clover
Lamiastrum galeobdolon Yellow Archangel
Liriope muscari (Dcne.) Bailey Liriope, Lilyturf
Lysimachia nummularia L. Moneywort, creeping Jenny
Melilotus albus Medik. White sweet clover
Melilotus officinalis (L.) Lam. Yellow sweet clover
Najas minor All. Brittle naiad
Pastinaca sativa L. Wild parsnip
Perilla frutescens (L.) Britt. Beefsteakplant
Populus alba L. White poplar
Senecio vulgaris L. Ragwort
Setaria faberi R.A.W. Herrm. Nodding foxtail-grass
Triadica sebifera (L.) Small Chinese tallowtree
Tussilago farfara L. Coltsfoot
Vicia sativa L. Garden vetch

*Baccharis halimifolia is native to marshes and marsh borders on the outer Coastal Plain in NC, but has spread along road corridors to invade disturbed areas in the Piedmont, which is not considered its native habitat.

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Watch List A

Exotic plants that naturalize and may become a problem in the future; includes species that are or could become widespread in North Carolina. At this time, more information is needed.

Scientific name Common name
Arum italicum P. Mill. Italian lords and ladies
Buglossoides arvensis (L.) I.M. Johnston (L.) I.M. Corn gromwell
Bupleurum rotundifolium L. Hound's-ear, hare's ear
Centaurea cyanus L. cornflower
Cyperus entrerianus Böckler Deep-rooted sedge
Echium vulgare L. Viper’s bugloss
Elaeagnus pungens Thunb Thorny olive
Hibiscus syriacus L. Rose of Sharon
Hypericum perforatum L. St. John’s-wort
Ilex cornuta Burford Holly
Ornithogalum umbellatum L. Star of Bethlehem
Solanum dulcamara L. Climbing nightshade
Verbascum thapsus L. Common mullein

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Watch List B

Exotic plant species that cause problems in adjacent states but have not yet been reported to cause problems in NC.

Scientific name Common name
Acer platanoides L. Norway maple
Akebia quinata (Houtt.) Dcne. Fiveleaf akebia
Bromus inermis Leyss. Smooth bromegrass
Carduus nutans L. Musk thistle
Carex kobomugi Ohwi Japanese sedge
Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop. Canada thistle
Commelina benghalensis L. Bengal dayflower
Hesperis matronalis L. Dame's rocket
Imperata cylindrica Cogon grass
Iris pseudoacorus L. Pale-yellow iris
Lonicera tatarica L. Tartarian honeysuckle
Ludwigia grandiflora ssp. grandiflora (Michx) Greuter & Burdet Creeping waterprimrose
Melia azedarach L. Chinaberry
Nymphoides cristata (Roxburgh) Kuntze Crested floating heart
Pistia stratiotes L. Water-lettuce
Potamogeton crispus L. Curly pondweed
Quercus acutissima Carruthers Sawtooth oak
Rhamnus cathartica L. European buckthorn
Setaria italica (L.) P. Beauv. Foxtail-millet
Setaria verticillata (L.) Beauv. Bur-foxtail
Setaria viridis (L.) P. Beauv. Green millet
Stachys floridana Shuttlw. ex Benth. Florida Hedge nettle
Torilis arvensis (Huds.) Link Spreading hedge-parsley
Tragopogon dubius Scop. Yellow goat's-beard
Trapa natans L. Water Chestnut
Tribulus terrestris L. Puncturevine
Xanthium spinosum L. Spiny cocklebur

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Compiled by Misty Franklin Buchanan ,
with review and input from biologists in the following agencies:
NC Natural Heritage Program,
NC DENR Aquatic Weed Control Program,
NC Exotic Pest Plant Council,
US Fish &Wildlife Service,
The Nature Conservancy,
NC Zoo,
NC Botanical Garden,
and UNC Herbarium.

2006 marked the first edition of the NC Native Plant Society Invasive Exotic Plant list. The 2004 Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council Invasive Exotic Plant list was used as a model for organization of this list, but species listed and ranks assigned here are applicable to North Carolina. The NC Native Plant Society Invasive Exotic Plant List is considered a work in progress, and will be evaluated and updated as new information is gathered about these and other species.

Please send your comments to:

North Carolina Native Plant Society
C/O North Carolina Botanical Garden
Totten Center 3375,
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3375

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