The North Carolina coast is full of native flora and fauna, giving the area distinctive beauty you won’t find throughout the rest of the state. Turf Medic knows that keeping invasive plants at bay is an important part of protecting this natural habitat and allowing it to thrive.
While they may seem harmless, invasive species dominate easily and often take over native vegetation that birds, insects, and other animals depend on for food and shelter. In addition, they can affect the area’s agriculture, forestry, and fishing industries in the form of reduced crop yields, decreased biodiversity, increased wildfire risk, and permanently altered natural habitats.
The good news is, you (and the native greenery you love) don’t have to live with these troublemakers – Turf Medic is here to help you recognize these unwanted plants and learn how to keep them out of your lawn!
Watch Out! North Carolina Invaders
Step #1 in eliminating unwelcome flora? Identification. While some problem species, like poison ivy, dandelions, and crabgrass are easily recognizable, other intruders can be harder to spot and may only appear in a particular region of the country.
The following are all found in North Carolina’s Coastal Plain and are some of the most common culprits known for creeping into area landscapes.
Also known as Bradford pear, this is an invasive tree that was once commonly used as an ornamental in landscaping. It produces abundant fruit and the seeds from this fruit are often dispersed by birds, making it easily spread throughout the region.
- Pyramid-shape with a domed top, typically growing 30 to 50 feet tall
- Narrow, oval-shaped, glossy dark green leaves
- Blooms in the spring with 5-petaled white flowers
A shrub once used as live fencing for pastures, multiflora rose is found on NC’s list of problem plants due to its bountiful nature and unforgiving structure. This shrub spreads easily and forms in dense thickets, making it nearly impossible for native vegetation to penetrate.
- Grows to approximately 10 feet and has arching, thorny stems
- Compound leaf structure, with 7 to 9 leaflets alternating along the stem
- Oval-shaped leaves with serrated edges
- Blooms in May or June with 5-petaled, fragrant white or pink flowers
- Develops bright red rosehips during the summer months
An herbaceous variety that is on both NC’s state and federal list of noxious weeds, cogongrass is considered one of the world’s 10 most invasive growers. It forms a dense layer, preventing wildlife from burrowing and foraging, and burns very hot, making it a risk for wildfire and controlled burns.
Seed heads blossom in the spring, revealing cottony white blooms (resembling those of a dandelion) that can grow up to 8 inches long
Leaves narrow to a sharp point and feature a white, off-centered midrib
Originally introduced as an ornamental addition to coastal landscapes because of its lovely purple flowers, this invader quickly overtook the area’s native habitats. Its heavy, wooden vines wrap around indigenous trees and shrubs, eventually strangling and killing them.
- Fragrant, drooping lavender or purple flowers that bloom during the spring
- Compound leaves with 7 to 13 lance-shaped, wavy-edged leaflets per stem
- Velvety seed pods that grow to approximately 4 to 6 inches long
There is a native variety of wisteria as well. This species, however, doesn’t grow nearly as quickly and aggressively as the invasive type. The most easily identified difference between the two is in the plants’ seed pods — native wisteria seed pods are smooth while its undesirable counterpart’s are velvety.
Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list of area invaders. The NC Native Plants Council is a helpful resource and has a complete directory online, including photos and common traits for each entry.
Create a Plan of Attack
The best way to keep destructive genus away is to be proactive, preventing spread before it becomes an issue. Unwanted vegetation is most often transported by humans from areas outside its native habitat. Seeds and plant pieces can stick to clothes, shoes, cars, and other belongings, so keep an eye out — especially if you know you’ve been around a potentially harmful variety.
Additionally, watch for new sprouts in your own yard and remove any that are from a noxious species. This will help stop the spread and minimize their impact on your space.
What if they’ve already invaded?
Getting rid of intrusive plants can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. The following Turf Medic tips will help you eradicate these trespassers and bring back your yard’s native beauty:
- Pull them out at the roots, either by hand or using a shovel or hoe
- Use shears to cut vines away from trees and other structures
- Apply eco-friendly herbicides and weed killers, being careful to avoid any native vegetation as you distribute
- For strains that are especially tough to get rid of, large trees, or widespread infections, call the professionals at Turf Medic – our lawn experts can safely and quickly rid your yard of these nasty green invaders!
Now that you have the knowledge and resources to identify and deal with these intruders, you can preserve the outdoor oasis you’ve worked so hard to create while also protecting the native habitat that makes coastal NC special. Whether you need help identifying harmful species or getting and keeping them out, the Turf Medic team has an answer to your invasive plant problems!