20 Invasive Trees

  • 01 of 20

    Amur Corktree

    Picture of an Amur corktree
    Image by Justin Tso via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution license
    • Latin Name: Phellodendron amurense
    • Family: Rutaceae (citrus or rue)
    • Other Common Names: Amur cork tree, Chinese corktree
    • Native to: Eastern Asia
    • USDA Zones: 3-7
    • Height: 30-45' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun

    In some areas, this can be a good choice for an urban tree as it can tolerate a wide variety of conditions. Since it is able to reseed itself well, though, it has become invasive in other locations. You can help spread the control if you only plant the male versions of this dioecious tree.

    This tree...MORE provides huáng bò, which is used in Chinese medicine.

    Other invasive trees in this list include:

    • Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
    • Blue gum eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)
    • Box elder (Acer negundo)
    • Brazilian pepper Schinus terebinthifolius
    • Chinaberry Melia azedarach
    • Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum)
    • Common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)
    • Common ironwood (Casuarina equisetifolia)
    • Glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus)
    • Melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia)
    • Norway maple (Acer platanoides)
    • Paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera)
    • Peruvian pepper (Schinus molle)
    • Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides)
    • Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia)
    • Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila)
    • Tamarisk (Tamarix spp.)
    • Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima)
    • White poplar (Populus alba)
    Continue to 2 of 20 below.
  • 02 of 20

    Black Locust

    Picture of Black Locust pods
    Image by Roberto Verzo via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution license
    • Latin Name: Robinia pseudoacacia
    • Family: Fabaceae (pea)
    • Other Common Names: False acacia, post locust, yellow locust, green locust, white locust
    • Native to: Southeastern United States
    • USDA Zones: 4-8
    • Height: 30-80' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    The black locust bears beautiful flowers and can tolerate many different conditions. Like most of the members of the legume family, it can fix nitrogen from the air and can grow in nitrogen-deficient areas, making this a good possible choice for some...MORE problematic areas. However, it produces an abundance of seeds and you will soon have new seedlings everywhere. The black locust also has weak wood that can break off easily, especially during storms.

    Continue to 3 of 20 below.
  • 03 of 20

    Blue Gum Eucalyptus

    Picture of a Blue Gum Eucalyptus forest
    Image by M Hedin via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
    • Latin Name: Eucalyptus globulus
    • Family: Myrtaceae (myrtle)
    • Other Common Names: Common eucalytus, Tasmanium blue gum, southern blue gum, blue gum
    • Native to: Tasmania and southeastern Australia
    • USDA Zones: 9-11
    • Height: 98-230' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Other eucalyptus trees

    The blue gum eucalyptus will spread itself in warm zones. This can be especially troubling since it is very flammable and can cause problems in places like fire-prone California. Like other trees, it has adapted and...MORE drops seeds after flames pass through. The tree can also regrow even if it has been burned or cut down.

    Continue to 4 of 20 below.
  • 04 of 20

    Box Elder

    Picture of Box Elder Tree
    Image by Matt Lavin via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
    • Latin Name: Acer negundo
    • Family: Aceraceae (maple)
    • Other Common Names: Maple ash, boxelder maple, western boxelder, Manitoba maple, ashleaf maple, California boxelder, inland boxelder, ash-leaved maple
    • Native to: North America
    • USDA Zones: 2-9
    • Height: 30-50' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Other maple trees
    • How to ID a maple tree

    One distinct feature of the box elder is its compound leaves, which is different than the familiar palmate leaf of other maple species. This tree spreads easily through...MORE the abundant samaras and the wood is weak and brittle. On a positive note, though, this is one of the best species for tapping sap for syrup.

    Continue to 5 of 20 below.
  • 05 of 20

    Brazilian Pepper

    Picture of the Brazilian Pepper Tree
    Image by homeredwardprice via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
    • Latin Name: Schinus terebinthifolius
    • Family: Anacardiaceae (cashew)
    • Other Common Names: Christmasberry, rose pepper, aroeira, Florida holly, Brazilian peppertree, wilelaiki
    • Native to: South America
    • USDA Zones: 9-11
    • Height: 10-45' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun

    Ants love hanging out on them and will carry the seeds away. Birds also spread the seeds and the tree can send out suckers. The canopy is thick and will make it too shady for other plants below it.

    It is illegal to plant this tree in Florida due to...MORE its invasive nature.

    If you have ever seen pink peppercorns at a restaurant or store, they were harvested from this tree or its sibling, the Peruvian pepper (Schinus molle). You may want to try one or two first as like many of its relatives, parts of the plant can irritating to some people.

    Familiar relatives include poison ivy, sumacs, mangoes, pistachios, and cashews.​

    Continue to 6 of 20 below.
  • 06 of 20

    Chinaberry

    Picture of a chinaberry
    Image by oddharmonic via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
    • Latin Name: Melia azedarach
    • Family: Meliaceae (mahogany)
    • Other Common Names: Chinaberry tree, Cape lilac, bead-tree, pride-of-India, Persian lilac, rosary tree, white cedar, umbrella-tree, China berry
    • Native to: Asia and Australia
    • USDA Zones: 7-10
    • Height: 20-60' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    This tree spreads when birds eat the fruits and the seeds come out with their droppings. It takes over and native plants fail due to shade cover and allelopathy. The tree also makes the soil around it...MORE more alkaline through fallen leaves which can make it more difficult for other plants to thrive.

    Another negative aspect of this tree is that all parts are poisonous to humans.

    The seeds of this tree have been used to make rosaries and necklaces.

    Continue to 7 of 20 below.
  • 07 of 20

    Chinese Tallow Tree

    Picture of the Chinese Tallow Tree
    Image by Tatters:) via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
    • Latin Name: Sapium sebiferum or Triadica sebifera
    • Family: Euphorbiaceae (spurge)
    • Other Common Names: Popcorn tree, white wax berry, candleberry tree, chicken tree, Florida aspen, vegetable tallow
    • Native to: China and Japan
    • USDA Zones: 8-11
    • Height: 20-50' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun

    The name Chinese tallow tree is given because the seeds can be used to make vegetable tallow. These seeds also inspire the name popcorn tree due to their appearance.

    This species can prove to be useful in the right locations...MORE as you can make biodiesel from it. All parts are poisonous.

    Continue to 8 of 20 below.
  • 08 of 20

    Common Buckthorn

    Picture of Common Buckthorn
    Image by hspauldi via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
    • Latin Name: Rhamnus cathartica
    • Family: Rhamnaceae (buckthorn)
    • Other Common Names: Purging buckthorn, buckthorn, European buckthorn, French berry, rainberry thorn, rhineberry thorn, common hart's horn, waythorn
    • Native to: Africa, Asia, and Europe
    • USDA Zones: 2-9
    • Height: 12-25' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    This dioecious plant is a large tree or small plant. Birds love to eat the fruit and spread the seeds. All parts are poisonous to humans.

    Common buckthorn is difficult to control. Even...MORE if you try to cut or burn it down, it will still be able to send out new shoots and regrow. You can help curb this growth by painting the stump with a herbicide like a glyphosate right after it is cut or burned.

    Continue to 9 of 20 below.
  • 09 of 20

    Common Ironwood

    Picture of Common Ironwood
    Image by Sam Fraser-Smith via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
    • Latin Name: Casuarina equisetifolia
    • Family: Casuarinaceae (sheoak)
    • Other Common Names: Beach sheoak, horsetail tree, Australian pine, beefwood, Polynesian ironwood, horsetail casuarina
    • Native to: Asia and Australia
    • USDA Zones: 9-11
    • Height: Can be up to 150' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun

    Though this tree appears to have needles and cones, it is not a conifer. The tiny scale leaves are clustered closely on the thin twigs. Some of the common names include horsetail, referring to the appearance of the twigs...MORE on the branches.

    This species is able to fix nitrogen and spread where other plants may have problems. Some people may be allergic to the common ironwood.

    Continue to 10 of 20 below.
  • 10 of 20

    Glossy Buckthorn

    Picture of a Glossy Buckthorn
    Image by henchminion via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
    • Latin Name: Rhamnus frangula or Frangula alnus
    • Family: Rhamnaceae (buckthorn)
    • Other Common Names: Fernleaf buckthorn, alder buckthorn, tallhedge buckthorn
    • Native to: Europe, Asia and Africa
    • USDA Zones: 3-7
    • Height: 10-20' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Glossy buckthorn can be either a large shrub or small tree. They rapidly form thickets and the seeds are also spread by birds, creating more new plants. If you want to take them out, you can either cut them or use fire. Afterward, spread...MORE glyphosate on the remaining trunk lest it start sprouting back.

    Continue to 11 of 20 below.
  • 11 of 20

    Melaleuca

    Picture of Melaleuca
    Image by mauroguanandi via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
    • Latin Name: Melaleuca quinquenervia. Sometimes Melaleuca leucadendron is used for this species.
    • Family: Myrtaceae (myrtle or allspice)
    • Other Common Names: Cajeput tree, broad-leaved tea tree, paperbark tea tree, punk tree, broad-leaved paperbark, white bottlebrush tree, melaleuca
    • Native to: Papua New Guinea, Australia, and New Caledonia
    • USDA Zones: 9-11
    • Height: Usually 25-40' tall, but can be 100'.
    • Exposure: Full sun

    This Australian native produces a large number of seeds in the fruits, which...MORE are favored by birds. Some people have allergic reactions when the tree is in bloom.

    This is the source of tea tree oil. Melaleuca has several different uses in natural medicine.

    Continue to 12 of 20 below.
  • 12 of 20

    Norway Maple

    Picture of a Norway Maple
    Image by Nacho 13 via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
    • Latin Name: Acer platanoides
    • Family: Aceraceae (maple)
    • Native to: Western Asia and Europe
    • USDA Zones: 3-7
    • Height: 40-90' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Other maple trees
    • How to ID a maple tree

    This maple species is commonly used in the urban landscape. Over time it has spread and become invasive. It does well in shade so can thrive in forests and cause problems for native plants below. Plant one of the other maple species instead to enjoy the color changes in fall.

    Continue to 13 of 20 below.
  • 13 of 20

    Paper Mulberry

    Picture of Paper Mulberry
    Image by SSKao via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
    • Latin Name: Broussonetia papyrifera or Morus papyrifera
    • Family: Moraceae (fig or mulberry)
    • Other Common Names: Tapacloth tree, deer's tree, tapa cloth tree, wauke, gou shu
    • Native to: Asia
    • USDA Zones: 6-10
    • Height: 30-50' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun

    The name paper mulberry is in reference to the fact that the bark is used to make paper. It is closely related to the other genus of mulberries (Morus.)

    Like the tamarisk mentioned later in this collection of invasive trees, the paper mulberry consumes...MORE large amounts of water, making it harder for surrounding plants to get a drink. It is rapidly able to crowd out natural flora in the area.

    Another negative aspect of this plant is that it can cause pollen allergies.

    Continue to 14 of 20 below.
  • 14 of 20

    Peruvian Pepper

    Picture of the Peruvian pepper tree
    Image by wallygrom via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
    • Latin Name: Schinus molle
    • Family: Anacardiaceae (cashew)
    • Other Common Names: False pepper, American pepper, escobilla, Peruvian mastic, Peruvian peppertree, molle del Peru, peppercorn tree, pirul, pepper tree, California pepper, mastic tree
    • Native to: South America
    • USDA Zones: 9-11
    • Height: 25-40' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun

    Pink peppercorns are collected from this tree or the related Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius). As with other members of the cashew family, this tree has the potential to...MORE cause irritation for some people, so eat pink peppercorns sparingly until you know how you react.

    Continue to 15 of 20 below.
  • 15 of 20

    Quaking Aspen

    Picture of of Quaking Aspen
    Image by ZionNPS via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
    • Latin Name: Populus tremuloides
    • Family: Salicaceae (willow)
    • Other Common Names: American aspen, quakie, aspen
    • Native to: North America
    • USDA Zones: 1-7
    • Height: 20-60' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun

    In the mountains near my house, there are thousands of quaking aspens. In fact, one of the world's largest organisms is Pando, a quaking aspen forest in another part of Utah. "Quakies", as we call them, clone themselves and spread aggressively. Expect many suckers to pop up in your lawn if you have...MORE one of these.

    This is a good choice for the coldest zones where not many other plants are able to survive.

    For a similar effect, plant a male ginkgo biloba tree.

    Continue to 16 of 20 below.
  • 16 of 20

    Russian Olive

    Picture of Russian Olive
    Image by daryl_mitchell via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
    • Latin Name: Elaeagnus angustifolia
    • Family: Elaeagnaceae (oleaster)
    • Other Common Names: Wild olive, silver berry, oleaster, silver Russian olive
    • Native to: Asia
    • USDA Zones: 3-8
    • Height: 12-45' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun

    One reason that the Russian olive is able to spread so well is because it can fix nitrogen, allowing it to grow where other plants struggle. Another is the fact that birds love the fruit and spread the seeds, which germinate and thrive readily.

    Continue to 17 of 20 below.
  • 17 of 20

    Siberian Elm

    Picture of Siberian elm
    Image by Matt Lavin via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
    • Latin Name: Ulmus pumila
    • Family: Ulmaceae (elm)
    • Other Common Names: Chinese elm, Asiatic elm, dwarf elm
    • Native to: Asia
    • USDA Zones: 4-9
    • Height: 35-70' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    The Siberian elm spreads through the thousands of seeds produced each summer. The resulting seedlings are difficult to eradicate.

    A similar tree that is much less invasive (and has the added bonus of being less susceptible to Dutch elm disease) is its relative, the Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata.)

    Continue to 18 of 20 below.
  • 18 of 20

    Tamarisk

    Picture of Tamarisk
    Image by le fromage via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
    • Latin Name: Tamarix spp.
    • Family: Tamaricaceae (tamarisk)
    • Other Common Names: Saltcedar, salt cedar
    • Native to: Africa, Asia, and Europe
    • USDA Zones: Depends on species
    • Height: Depends on species
    • Exposure: Full sun

    These thirsty trees crowd out native plants by using up lots of water, which is especially troublesome since many of these trees are found in drought areas. They also get the name salt cedar because they collect salt in their leaves. As the foliage drops, the soil becomes saltier and further...MORE causes problems for other plants.

    Continue to 19 of 20 below.
  • 19 of 20

    Tree of Heaven

    Picture of the Tree of Heaven
    Image by Nicholas_T via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
    • Latin Name: Ailanthus altissima
    • Family: Simaroubaceae
    • Other Common Names: Chouchun, paradise-tree, ailanthus, ghetto palm, Chinese sumac, stinking sumac, ailanthus, copal-tree, stink tree
    • Native to: China and Taiwan
    • USDA Zones: 4-8
    • Height: 40-100' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    If you have ever read the book A Tree Grows in Heaven (see my list of books with trees and shrubs, this was the tree featured. I see their distinctive branching pattern throughout the cities near me. If there is a...MORE crack in the pavement, the tree of heaven will find it and start growing.

    This tree gives off a strong smell, inspiring names like stink tree. It is words and the male's flowers often smell worse than the female's.

    Continue to 20 of 20 below.
  • 20 of 20

    White Poplar

    Picture of White Poplar
    Image by Matt Lavin via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
    • Latin Name: Populus alba
    • Family: Salicaceae (willow)
    • Other Common Names: Silver poplar, abele, silverleaf poplar, silver-leaved poplar
    • Native to: Europe and Asia
    • USDA Zones: 3-9
    • Height: 40-100' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun

    Both trunk and the leaf undersides are white on this tree. If you plant one white poplar, it will not be long before it sends out suckers and creates new trees. It also sends out a lot of litter including many seeds, creating a mess.