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Nonnative Invasive Plants of Southern Forests

A Field Guide for Identification and Control

James H. Miller, Research Ecologist, USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station, Auburn University, AL 36849.

Revised August 2003. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS–62. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 93 p.


Invasions of nonnative plants into southern forests continue to go unchecked and unmonitored. Invasive nonnative plants infest under and beside forest canopies and occupy small forest openings, increasingly eroding forest productivity, hindering forest use and management activities, and degrading diversity and wildlife habitat. Often called nonnative, exotic, nonindigenous, alien, or noxious weeds, they occur as trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, ferns, and forbs. Some have been introduced into this country accidentally, but most were brought here as ornamentals or for livestock forage. These robust plants arrived without their natural predators of insects and diseases that tend to keep native plants in natural balance. Now they increase across the landscape with little opposition, beyond the control and reclamation measures applied by landowners and managers on individual land holdings.

The objective of this book is to provide information on accurate identification and effective control of the 33 plants or groups that are invading the forests of the 13 Southern States at an alarming rate, showing both growing and dormant season traits. It lists other nonnative invasive plants of growing concern and explains control recommendations and selective application procedures. The text and photographs were originally developed to assist in the first region-wide survey and monitoring of these invading species, conducted by the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis Research Work Unit of the Southern Research Station in collaboration with State forestry management agencies. The four-number survey codes as well as the international plant codes are given for each species.

Integrated vegetation management programs are needed to combat invading nonnative plants. Strategies of surveillance and treatment of new arrivals will safeguard lands, and reclamation of existing infestations can be achieved by concerted control measures and reestablishment of native vegetation.


   Silktree, Mimosa
   Princesstree, Paulownia
   Tallowtree, Popcorntree
   Russian Olive

   Silverthorn, Thorny Olive
   Autumn Olive
   Winged Burning Bush
   Chinese / European Privet
   Japanese / Glossy Privet
   Bush Honeysuckles
   Sacred Bamboo, Nandina
   Nonnative Roses

   Oriental Bittersweet
   Climbing Yams
   Winter Creeper
   English Ivy
   Japanese Honeysuckle
   Vincas, Periwinkles
   Nonnative Wisterias

   Giant Reed
   Tall Fescue
   Nepalese Browntop
   Chinese Silvergrass

   Japanese Climbing Fern

   Garlic Mustard
   Shrubby Lespedeza
   Chinese Lespedeza
   Tropical Soda Apple

Other Nonnative Plants Invading Southern Forests and Their Margins

General Principles for Controlling Nonnative Invasive Plants

Prescriptions for Specific Nonnative Invasive Plants

Sources of Control Information

Glossary of Important Terms

Flower Parts, Flower Types, Inflorescences

Leaf Arrangements, Leaf Divisions, Shapes, Margins

Parts of a Grass Plant

Pesticide Precautionary Statement

Front Cover
Upper left—Chinese lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata) infestation that developed from dormant seed in the soil seed bank after a forest thinning operation.
Upper right—Kudzu (Pueraria montana) infestation on the urban-wildland interface.
Lower left—Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) and dormant kudzu invading and replacing a pine-hardwood stand.
Lower right—Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) infestation under mature slash pine (Pinus elliottii).


The contributions of Erwin B. Chambliss, USDA Forest Service, Auburn, AL, have been invaluable in image management and layout. Kristine Johnson, Great Smoky Mountains National Park; Johnny Randall, North Carolina Botanical Gardens; Jack Ranney, University of Tennessee; and Fred Nations, Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, made comprehensive reviews and provided invaluable recommendations for improvements. Reviews of control recommendations were made by Ron Cornish, Dow ArgroScience; Harry Quicke, BASF Corporation; Carroll Walls, UAP Timberlands; and Michael Link, DuPont Corporation. Their knowledgeable comments greatly strengthened content and clarity.

All Plant Images by the Author Except for the Contributions by:

  • Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society, Champaign, IL
  • Patrick Breen, Department of Horticulture, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
  • Charles T. Bryson, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Southern Weed Science Research Unit, Stoneville, MS
  • Thomas Ellis, Jr., Baldwin County Forestry Planning Committee, Bay Minette, AL
  • John W. Everest, Department of Agronomy & Soils, Auburn University, Auburn, AL
  • Jerry Gibson, Deer Park, AL
  • Kristine Johnson, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, TN
  • Keith Langdon, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, TN
  • John Meade, Department of Plant Science, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ
  • Fred Nation, Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Fairhope, AL
  • John M. Randall, The Nature Conservancy, University of California, Davis, CA
  • Barry A. Rice, The Nature Conservancy, University of California, Davis, CA
  • Susan Ross, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, TN
  • John Schwegman, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Springfield, IL
  • Jody Shimp, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Springfield, IL
  • Warner Park Nature Center, Metropolitan Board of Parks and Recreation, Nashville, TN
  • Hugh Wilson, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX

Plant Names and Plant Distribution Maps from:

  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Plants Database:
  • Images by Ted Bodner copyrighted by the Southern Weed Science Society for “Forest Plants of the Southeast and Their Wildlife Uses” and used by permission.

Available without charge from the Southern Research Station
and can be requested at or 828-257-4830
and downloaded at

The Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is dedicated to the principle of multiple use management of the Nation’s forest resources for sustained yields of wood, water, forage, wildlife, and recreation. Through forestry research, cooperation with the States and private forest owners, and management of the National Forests and National Grasslands, it strives—as directed by Congress—to provide increasingly greater service to a growing Nation.

The USDA prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD).

To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice and TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

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USDA Forest ServiceUSDA APHIS PPQ The Bugwood Network University of Georgia is a joint project of
The Bugwood Network, USDA Forest Service & USDA APHIS PPQ.
The University of Georgia - Warnell School of Forest Resources and
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences - Dept. of Entomology
Last updated on Wednesday, November 05, 2003 at 01:38 PM
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