Sometimes Native Plants Overstep Their Bounds

      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

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