There are many places to find comprehensive lists of both native and invasive Wisconsin plants. Ideally, plants would stay put on their own lists and not cross over. However, every gardener knows that plants don’t always behave the way we hope and expect they will. Given the right conditions, once in a while some of the plants on the “native” lists have a tendency to become a bit out of control.
For the most part, native plants that misbehave do so because the area has been disturbed in some way, resulting in of a lack of native plant diversity. These disturbances can include removal of vegetation, suppression of fire, changing water levels, or increased runoff and erosion. In other words: interference by humans. Left alone, a healthy natural area will have enough diversity of native plants to keep would-be aggressive natives under control.
Below is a list of some of the overly-aggressive native plants that may attempt to dominate a landscape if given the opportunity. If you already have these on your property or you are considering adding them to your landscape, you really should peruse the lists of native Wisconsin plants and choose as many other natives as you can fit or afford to keep the opportunists in line. As always, remember to choose plants that will thrive in the light, soil type and moisture conditions that your landscape offers.
Please note that the native plants listed below all provide benefit to wildlife and the goal is not to eradicate them. It is merely to keep them in line by controlling them with a mix of other native plants.
Native Plants That Can Become Aggressive
Box Elder – Acer negundo
Honey Locust – Gleditsia triancanthos
Aspen, Poplar, Popple – Populus grandidentata, P. tremuloides
Gray or Panicled Dogwood – Cornus racemose
Redosier or Red Twig Dogwood – C. stolonifera, C. sericea
Smooth Sumac – Rhus glabra
Staghorn Sumac – R. typhina, R. hirta
Currant/Gooseberries – Ribes spp.
Raspberries/Blackberries – Rubus spp.
Northern Prickly Ash – Zanthoxylum Americanum
Virginia Creeper – Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Wild Grapes – Vitus spp.
Common Ragweed – Ambrosia artemisiifolia
Giant Ragweed – A. trifida
Yellow Nutsedge – Cyperus esculentus
Field Horsetail – Equisetum arvense
White Snakeroot – Eupatorium rugosum
Pale-leaved Woodland Sunflower – Helianthus strumosus
Jerusalem Artichoke – Helianthus tuberosus
Virginia Waterleaf – Hydrophyllum virginianum
Wood Nettle – Laportea canadensis
Bracken Fern, Western Bracken Fern – Pteridum aquilinum
Cut-Leaved or Green-Headed Coneflower – Rudbeckia laciniata
Cupplant – Silphium perfoliatum
Canada Goldenrod – Solidago canadensis
Tall Goldenrod – S. gigantea
Stinging Nettle – Urtica dioica
Here are some resources where you can learn more about both native and invasive plants:
The Midwest Native Garden by Charlotte Adelman & Bernard L. Schwartz
Landscaping With Native Plants of Wisconsin by Lynn M. Steiner
Landscaping With Native Trees by Guy Sternberg & Jim Wilson
Gardening With Prairie Plants by Sally Wasowski
Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest by Elizabeth Czarapata