What is an invasive plant?

Learn About Invasive Plants

What is an Invasive Plant?

IPAW defines an invasive plant as one that invades native plant communities and impacts those native communities by displacing or replacing native vegetation.

Here is a great video for a quick introduction for people who are new to invasive species. It highlights Asian Bittersweet, Wild Parsnip and Zebra Mussels.

Plants Out of Place

If you look up the word “weed” in a reference such as Dictionary.com, you’ll find rather benign definitions about unwanted plants in cultivated areas such as gardens or farm fields. But if you look up the word invasive, you’ll find it defined in terms of cancerous growths or military forces!

Both a weed and an invasive plant are plants out of place, but an invasive plant encroaches into forests, roadsides, and prairies where it is unchecked by the devotions of an obsessive backyard gardener. The ramifications of invasive plants are so much more ominous than that of weeds because they can and do destroy the natural diversity of native vegetation.

Ironically, many invasive plants get their foothold through well-meaning gardeners who introduce the species as a lovely accent to their patch of paradise. However, many of these plants come from foreign lands and do not have the natural controls that a native plant has. Soon the nonnative plant takes over – first the garden and then, by propagating via the wind, through deep-set runners and by the cooperation of willing birds carrying the seeds, more distant places.

Here are some additional terms you should know:


Occurring naturally in a specific area or plant community; not introduced.

Invasive Natives

Sometimes native plants can become overly abundant in a plant community to which they are indigenous, often in response to a change in the disturbance regime.

Invasive Plants

Non-indigenous species or strains that become established in natural plant communities and wild areas, replacing native vegetation.

Potentially Invasive Plants (Wisconsin)

Species that are invasive in parts of North America, having similar climates and plant communities, and that are thought to have the potential to colonize and become invasive in the state of Wisconsin.


Undesirable and troublesome plants growing in disturbed areas, especially cultivated ground.

IPAW’s List of Wisconsin’s Worst Invasive Plants

There are many plants that are invasive in Wisconsin. To ease you into an awareness of invasive plants without overwhelming you, IPAW has developed a list of Wisconsin’s Worst foreign invaders.

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