Posts Tagged ‘invasive potential’

Leatherleaf Mahonia – Mahonia bealei

Leatherleaf Mahonia leaflets and fruit
Leatherleaf Mahonia leaflets and fruit

This evergreen is a native of China and brought to the United States in 1848 as an ornamental. In 1848, after the Opium Wars in China had ended which opened up trade, Robert Fortune first found this plant. An interesting story surrounding his first encounter goes like this: Fortune saw the leaves of this plant peeking above the walls of an enclosed courtyard of someone’s home. He didn’t know the people, but apparently that didn’t matter to him. He opened their front door and walked through the house to the courtyard where he considered digging up the shrub, but felt it was too large to survive. In the next town he offered a reward to anyone who would bring him smaller specimens he could carry with him. In short order he received three separate shrubs.


This interesting plant is recommended in the southeastern United States as a wildlife attractant, but it is that wildlife that it attracts that has contributed so heavily to its becoming an almost invasive plant there! The fruits are abundant and are greatly relished by the birds, which eat it and spread the seed in their excrement. So this once garden plant is now naturalized throughout the south. The Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council has it listed as a Rank 2 NIS plant (significant threat). This means that it poses a threat of becoming invasive, but as of yet is not spreading easily into native plant communities.


The leaves on this plant are very attention-grabbing. They resemble holly leaves in basic shape and in having points on the leaflets, but they are opposite unlike holly leaves that are alternating. The other major difference is that these are not opposite leaves, but leaflets…which make them all together one very large leaf! The flowers are an interesting yellow, growing abundantly in large clusters and appearing in late winter. Walk past on a crisp winter, very early spring day and get a whiff of citrus in the air…those are the Mahonia flowers!


The fruit which follows start out green but swiftly turn bluish black with a grayish bloom. If you can beat the wildlife to them (birds will strip the plant bare in a few short days) then they are actually edible. There are many seeds wrapped up in very little flesh, but the taste has a very refreshing, slightly acidic taste. They have been recommended added to cereal. They ripen in April and May and provide Vitamin C.


Since this plant is in the Barberry family of plants it has Berberine in the rhizomes which make it a bitter tonic with antibacterial effects. A decoction of the root and stems has been used to treat pulmonary tuberculosis, recurring fever, and cough in rundown body systems, rheumatoid arthritis, backache, weak knees, dysentery, and enteritis.

Snow on the Mountain – Aegopodium podagraria variegate

Snow on the Mountain
Snow on the Mountain

‘Herbe Gerard groweth of itself in gardens without setting or sowing

and is so fruitful in its increase that when it hath once taken roote,

it will hardly be gotten out againe,

spoiling and getting every yeare more ground,

to the annoying of better herbe.’

By Gerard

This invasive plant is known to occur in 29 states in the mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and Northwest of North America. It is listed as Invasive, prohibited of banned in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont. It was well established here by 1863, having come from Europe with the early stages of settlement as an ornamental.

Ground Elder (as it is also known) has long been used in medical use. It was cultivated as a food crop and a medicinal during the Middle Ages. It was spread through Europe by the conquering forces, Romans brought it to England. In its use as a treatment for gout it was well welcomed by the monks & bishops of old who ate very rich diets.

An infusion was used to treat rheumatism, arthritis, and disorders of the bladder and intestines. Externally it was used as a poultice in the treatment of burns, stings, wounds and painful joints.

Culpepper said:

‘It is not to be supposed Goutwort hath its name for nothing, but upon experiment to heal the gout and sciatica; as also joint-aches and other cold griefs. The very bearing of it about one eases the pains of the gout and defends him that bears it from the disease.’

Bradford Pear – Pyrus calleryana

Bradford Pear flowers
Bradford Pear flowers

This tree is a cultivar of one brought to North America around 1908 to breed a tree that was disease resistant, this proved futile, but the Bradford cultivar proved to be resistant to smog and a good street tree. It was introduced by the USDA in 1963 for this ornamental purpose. It is short lived (around 25 yrs) and fragile in high winds or when snow or ice accumulate on the branches.

The fruit is considered inedible, but a recipe for wine was found on the internet. (Found at the Wine Making Homepage by Jack Keller…

Animals find the fruit fine for eating after the first hard frost. They spread the seed in their dung. In many states the Bradford Pear is considered an invasive species, and people are discouraged from planting them.

Another drawback for planting this tree is the contrast of the flowers to how they smell. Although the flowers are very pretty to look at, the flowers are strongly aromatic and the scent has been described as smelling like tune fish gone bad!

Mayweed Chamomile – Anthemis cotula


This native of the Mediterranean region has been introduced to North America, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand. It has spread and taken over so effectively that it is considered a noxious weed in many places. By 1995 Mayweed was found in almost all of the lower, contiguous 48 states. Mayweed is also called Stinking Chamomile due to its foul smelling scent, but that same scent is very attractive to ladybugs!

Although Mayweed is related to chamomile, it is not as effective a medicine as chamomile. It has historically been used as an antispasmodic, to encourage menstruation, and to treat ‘hysterical’ conditions of the uterus. Although rarely used, the whole plant is considered antispasmodic, astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic, emmenagogue and tonic.

In Peru the plant is used as a flavoring, and the flowers are used to make tea. The flowers make a less unpleasant flavored tea than the whole herb. Care must be exercised in using this herb as just touching it can cause allergic reactions in some people.

Datura – Purple Horn of Plenty – Datura metel

Purple Horn of Plenty
Purple Horn of Plenty

This medicinal plant’s use dates back as far as 3000 years. Today it is used in traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment for asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic pain, seizures, and coma. Datura metel has also been used for its anesthetic (pain-killing) properties.

It has been used ceremonially for centuries for shamanic journeys or puberty rites. It causes hallucinations through the alkaloids present in every part of the plant. The plant is extremely poisonous and therefore ingestion is strongly advised against! The symptoms of poisoning are flushed skin, headaches, hallucinations, and possibly convulsions or even a coma.

I t has been used in India as an aphrodisiac for centuries.  Its use spread through Asia and Europe. Witches were believed to use it when preparing to ‘fly.’

Grannyvine – Ipomoea tricolor

The beautiful morning glories growing upon an old country
fence, as their vines are crawling, winding, and reaching-
with leaves so lush and luxuriant, as their flowers
abundantly burst forth with the bright promises of this
coming day.

The wonderful morning glories growing upon a trellis on
the side of our old farm house, as their vines are twisting,
turning, and meandering-with leaves so rich and abundant,
As their flowers lavishly bloom merrily in optimism,
sharing their gift of beauty and love to whoever it may

By William Irwin


Many Mexican Native American cultures used it as an hallucinogen. It was know to the Aztecs as tlitliltzin (the Nahuatl word for ’black’ with a reverential suffix.

Native American used a root tea for a diuretic, laxative, expectorant, and for coughs. A powdered tea of the leaves was used for headaches and indigestion.

The flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and other daytime insects and birds, as well as the Hawkmoth at dusk.

By crowding out, blanketing and smothering other plants, morning glory has turned into a serious invasive weed problem. It is listed in Arizona and Arkansas as a noxious weed, being banned in Arizona!

Granny Vine - Morning Glory

Granny Vine - Morning Glory

Lipiope – Liriope muscari

Liriope flower

This is one of the plants that an Elderly neighbor gifted me with this summer. Her husband had dug out tons of it and wanted it gone! My husband and I have been trying to find enough places for it this year.

The plant is very hardy, and nothing seems to kill it! I have some in a bucket, not planted for 7 or 8 weeks now…and found them blooming this week!!!

What surprised me while researching it was it’s medicinal uses. Looking at it I expected it to be less valuable! But the Koreans used it as a tonic to increase stamina. The root has been used as an anti inflammatory, a pectoral (Useful in relieving disorders of the chest or respiratory tract), a stimulant (temporarily arouses or accelerates physiological or organic activity), and an aphrodisiac (stimulating sexual arousal).
There is one reference I found for this plant as a food plant…The root may be eaten after cooking. The root sometimes have a fleshy, tuberous part near their tip (presumably, this is the part eaten)