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Landscape Articles

What Are Invasive Plants in Massachusetts?

Humans have continuously increased the rate of plant movements and introduced new plant species to Massachusetts for many years. Most introduced plants do not threaten our native plant and animal communities, but some non-native plants spread rapidly in our natural areas, thrive in a variety of habitats, and are difficult to remove or control. With the exception of direct habitat destruction, these invasive specifics pose the greatest threat to the native biodiversity of Massachusetts.

So, what are invasive plants?

Invasive plants are non-native species that have spread into native plant systems in Massachusetts. These plants disrupt native ecosystems and cause environmental harm to the area they are found in. Non-native plants are put into three categories, invasive, likely invasive, and potentially invasive.

Invasive is plant with rapid and widespread dispersion.

Example: Sycamore Maple, Acer pseudoplatanus is an invasive maple tree with the threat of out-competing native tree species that are close by.

Likely invasive is a non-native species that is naturalized in Massachusetts, but doesn't meet the full criteria of an invasive plants because it is not yet widespread.

Example: Porcelain-berry, Ampelopsis brevipedunculata is likely invasive because the non-native plant grows rapidly and shades and smothers native vegetation.

Potentially invasive species are the plant species not currently found in Massachusetts, but can be expected to become invasive in the near future.

Example: Hairy Joint Grass, Arthraxon hispidus could become a potential threat due to the growth rate and habitat. The grass grows in dense form in sunny habitats with moist soils, which are therefore vulnerable.

Read this article for more information about the difference between native and invasive plants.

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