Native Plant Society of Texas


Let’s start with your immediate question.

“What plants are invasive here?”   And then follow with the answer to “why”?

Edwards Plateau Ecoregion Dirty Dozen Terrestrial Invasive Species

These plants, identified by, are particularly worrisome invasive species in the Edwards Plateau ecoregion. Many of these are beautiful plants. They are still available through Big Box stores. However, they spread quickly, easily and overwhelm the growth of native plants to the detriment on the wildlife that rely on them.  They invade the Texas Hill Country in a territory where there is no natural protection. Click on their common names to go to the Invasive Plant Database to identify each.

Glossy privet – Ligustrum lucidum
Chinese tallow tree – Triadica sebifera
Johnson grass – Sorghum halepense
Heavenly bamboo – Nandina domestica
Chinaberry tree – Melia azedarach
Japanese honeysuckle – Lonicera japonica
Giant reed – Arundo donax
Golden rain tree – Koelreuteria paniculata
Elephant ears – Colocasia esculenta
Paper mulberry – Broussonetia papyrifera
Tree of heaven – Ailanthus altissima
King Ranch bluestem – Bothriochloa ischaemum var. songarica

Mediterranean Mustard – a Real “Bastard Cabbage”

The term “invasive” describes alien species , usually native to Europe, Eurasia, or Asia,

Giant Reed (Arundo donax)

which thrive without cultivation,

expand into natural areas  displacing the native plants

 and disrupt naturally-balanced native ecosystems of plant, insect and wildlife.

The National Invasive Species Information Center says “…these plants are characteristically adaptable to new habitats,

grow aggressively,

and have a high reproductive capacity.

They are often introduced to a new location without the environmental checks and balances such as seasonal weather, diseases, or insect pests that kept them under control in their native range. Their vigor combined with a lack of natural enemies often leads to outbreak populations.” (emphasis mine)

In other words, invasive plants become a monoculture – crowding out the native species and the ecosystem supported by the native plant foundation.  Insects native to the Edwards Plateau don’t use invasives as food, habitat, or as host plants for larvae. That limits the food supply for nesting birds and the larger, key wildlife species.

Then How Do Invasive Species Get Here?    

There are several routes. Usually, we have something to do with it in some manner. 

  •  seeds and weeds sneak in through imported nursery plants and soils.
  • landscapers and friends misidentify/or give us unknown plants. Tumbleweeds (several species)
  • travelers bring home  fruits, flowers or seeds as souvenirs.
  • Then there are migratory birds who eat fruit there and poop out the seeds here.
  • And wind. The only control we have over birds and wind is not provide the resource.

But some species have been purposefully introduced to “improve” our natural resources.

* Russian thistle (Tumbleweed) was introduced as a cattle feed in the midwest. Wind spreads the seed as the dry plants tumbles..

*The bunch grass King Ranch Bluestem was seeded on degraded rangelands in west Texas as graze for cattle and for soil and water conservation. Wind spreads the fine seed.

 *Chinaberry (Pride of India), is imported and sold widely as an ornamental tree. Birds spread the seeds from the berries. 

Horehound, a native of the Mediterranean, was brought to North America as a medicinal plant for the herb garden. You have probably had horehound cough drops. Its fine seeds flourish  readily on disturbed ground.

Horehound (Marrubium vulgare L.)

Invasive, non-native  plants are a serious threat to the health of our local eco-system. To make the situation more complicated, Texas state law states that many plants identified by scientists as invasive and harmful are perfectly legal to sell. You will find them offered every spring and summer in the gardening department of major stores in our area.

Pyracantha spp.

In 2017 the Board of Directors of the Fredericksburg chapter NPSOT  raised the issue of the degradation of the Hill Country ecosystem with a letter sent to the largest of these stores. Our goals are to help their managers,  and those in the main offices who order the plants, understand the issue, to register our concerns, and to ask them not to sell plants on the Edwards Plateau“dirty dozen” list. 

Stewardship: What Can We Do As Consumers and Gardeners?

  •  Consider using plants from native plant nurseries.  Native plants are best suited for your microclimate and require minimal upkeep. They also help support native fish and wildlife.
  • When disposing of plants with the potential of spreading, completely dry or freeze the plants to kill them. Then add them to household garbage that will not be composted. Do not dump aquatic plants into waterways.
  • Learn to identify invasive non-native plants, as well as native plants. 
  • Remember! Plants from other regions of the world are houseguests.  Help them mind their manners.

Learn and help stop the spread!