A native alternative, Fothergilla gardenia is a shrub with brilliant fall color. Photo: B. Eshenaur, NYS IPM.

Alternatives to Ornamental Invasive Plants: A Sustainable Solution for New York State

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Alternatives to NYS Invasive Prohibited Plants

Alternatives to NYS Invasive Regulated Plants

Invasive species are among the top causes of biodiversity loss across the globe. New York is one of many states throughout the U.S. now taking steps toward improving our environment by slowing the spread of invasive plants. Horticulturalists and gardeners can be part of the solution by growing and planting alternatives to ornamental invasive plants.

Here you’ll find plants similar both in appearance and in cultural requirements to the invasive plants they can replace. These plants may be native or not but are not considered invasive. The alternatives listed here are just a few of many possibilities. They are hardy in much of New York, but check both your hardiness zone and your site’s conditions. Many of these alternatives are readily available at local nurseries.

Invasive plants and animals pose a serious threat to some local economies in NY. For one, maintaining the value and beauty of woodlands, parks, and farms requires expensive control measures. For another, invasives that diminish the natural beauty of the outdoors also diminish the value of tourism.

You can help make the future of New York greener by growing the “native-friendly” plants suggested in this brochure instead of invasive species.

Seek additional advice at your local extension office and through Cornell’s searchable Woody Plants Database.

Please see the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) regulations and the complete list of prohibited and regulated species. Check local laws, as some NY municipalities have further restrictions on invasive species.

Alternatives to NYS Invasive Prohibited Plants

The NYS DEC prohibited plant list consists of 69 invasive plants. As of March 2015, it is illegal to sell, import, purchase, transport, propagate or introduce any prohibited invasive species. Most of the prohibited plants are considered weeds. Listed here are selected prohibited and regulated plants that have ornamental characteristics and are sometimes cultivated.

NOTE:

*Native to the United States     
** Native to New York State (hybrids and cultivars of native species included)

AQUATICS
Invasive Alternatives

Yellow Flag Iris, Iris pseudacorus

White Turtlehead**, Chelone glabra

Japanese Iris, Iris ensata

Louisiana Irises*, Iris spp.

Blueflag Iris**, Iris versicolor

Cardinal flower**, Lobelia cardinalis

VINES
Invasive Alternatives

Porcelain Berry, Ampelopsis brevipedunculata

Oriental Bittersweet, Celastrus orbiculatus

Japanese Honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica

Dutchman’s Pipe**, Aristolochia macrophylla

Trumpet Honeysuckle**, Lonicera sempervirens

American Bittersweet**, Celastrus scandens

Trumpetcreeper**, Campsis radicans (Aggressive spreader)

Fox Grape**, Vitis labrusca

TREES
Invasive Alternatives

Japanese Angelica Tree, Aralia elata

Pagoda Dogwood**, Cornus alternifolia (Canker disease is a problem in Eastern NY)

Witch Hazel**, Hamamelis virginiana

Staghorn Sumac**, Rhus typhina ‘Dissecta’ (Cutleaf cultivar, will spread)

Amur Cork Tree, Phellodendron amurense

Honeylocust*, Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis

Kentucky Coffeetree**, Gymnocladus dioicus

Japanese Pagoda Tree, Styphnolobium japonicum

Hackberry**, Celtis occidentalis

HERBACEOUS PLANTS
Invasive Alternatives

Garden and Purple Loosestrifes, Lysmachia vulgaris, Lythrum salicaria

Fireweed**, Chamerion angustifolium

Meadowsweet*, Filipendula purpurea, F. rubra

Blazing Star*, Liatris spicata

Cardinal flower**, Lobelia cardinalis

Obedient Plant**, Physostegia virginiana

Perennial Sage, Salvia nemorosa (S. x superba; S. x sylvestris)

False Indigo, Baptisia spp. (blue, yellow, and white varieties; many are not native)

Golden and Yellow Groove Bamboo, Phyllostachys aurea, P. aureosulcata

Bottlebursh Buckeye**, Aesculus parviflora (for grove effect)

Black Willow**, Salix nigra (Prune regularly for multiple stems and grove effect)

Big Bluestem**, Andropogon gerardii

Sugarcane Plumegrass**, Saccharum giganteum

SHRUBS
Invasive Alternatives

Japanese Barberry, Berberis thunbergi

For dwarf purple cultivars of B. thunbergii:

Old Fashioned Weigela, Weigela florida (Dwarf purple cultivars)

For standard purple cultivars of B. thunbergii:

Smokebush, Cotinus coggygria (Purple cultivars)

Eastern Ninebark**, Physocarpus opulifolius (Purple cultivars)

Weigela, Weigela florida (Standard purple cultivars)

For yellow or gold cultivars of B. thunbergii:

Eastern Ninebark**, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Dart’s Gold’

Old Fashioned Weigela, Weigela florida (Yellow cultivars)

For green cultivars of B. thunbergii:

Spicebush**, Lindera benzoin

Bush Cinquefoil**, Dasifora fruticosa

Fragrant Sumac**, Rhus aromatica (Dwarf cultivars)

Virginia Rose**, Rosa virginiana

Weigela, Weigela florida

Autumn olive, Elaeagnus umbellata

Eastern Baccharis**, Baccharis halimifolia

American smoketree*, Cotinus obovatus

Northern Bayberry**, Morella pensylvanica

Serviceberry**, Amelanchier canadensis

Border Privet, Ligustrum obtusifolium

Boxwood, Buxus sp.

Holly, Ilex spp. *(some species native to U.S.)

Yew, Taxus spp. (T. canadensis native to NY; check hardiness zones) All species deer susceptible

Amercan arborvitae**, Thuja occidentalis (Note: deer susceptible)

Black chokeberry**, Aronia melanocarpa

Shrub Honeysuckle:

Fly, Lonicera x bella

Amur, L. maackii

Morrow’s, L. morrowii

Tartarian, L. tartarica

Beautyberry*, Callicarpa americana

White Meadowsweet**, Spiraea alba

Nippon or Vanhoutte Spirea, Spiraea nipponica

Red Osier Dogwood**, Cornus sericea

Alternatives to NYS Invasive Regulated Plants

The NYS DEC regulated list consists of six invasive plants. Regulated species may be possessed, sold, purchased, propagated or transported but may not be introduced into a free-living state (e.g. planted in or adjacent to public lands or waters or natural areas).

NOTE:

*Native to the United States     
** Native to New York State (hybrids and cultivars of native species included)

TREES
Invasive Alternatives

Norway Maple, Acer platanoides

Freeman Maple**, Acer x freemanii

Sugar Maple**, Acer saccharum

London Planetree, Platunus x acerfolia

Basswood**, Tilia americana

For red cultivars of A. platanoides including ‘Crimson King’ consider purple but smaller trees:

Eastern Redbud*, Cercis canadensis (Purple cultivars)

Crabapple, Malus spp. ‘Royal Raindrops’

Black Locust*, Robinia pseudoacacia

Honeylocust*, Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis

Hickories**, Carya cordiformis, C. ovata

Yellowwood**, Cladrastis kentukea

Kentucky Coffeetree**, Gymnocladus dioicus

For additional information on appropriate tree selection visit the Urban Horticulture Institute. Refer to the site assessment checklist.

VINES
Invasive Alternatives

Sweet Autumn Clematis or Japanese Virgin’s Bower, Clematis terniflora

Groundnut**, Apios americana

Virgin’s Bower**, Clematis virginiana

Climbing Hydrangea, Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris

SHRUBS
Invasive Alternatives

Winged Euonymus or Burning Bush, Euonymus alatus

Red**or Black** Chokeberry, Aronia arbutifolia, Aronia melanocarpa

Gray Dogwood**, Cornus racemosa

Dwarf*, Hybrid*, or Large* Fothergilla, Fothergilla gardenii, F. x intermedia, F. major

Witherod Viburnum**, Viburnum nudum var. cassinoides

Blueberry**, Vaccinium corymbosum (in sites with acid soil)

Ozark Witch Hazel, Hamamelis vernalis ‘Kohankie Red’

Wintercreeper Euonymus, Euonymus fortunei

Bearberry**, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Sweetfern**, Comptonia peregrina

Bearberry Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster dammeri

Allegheny Spurge**, Pachysandra procumbens

Wild Blue Phlox**, Phlox divaricata (does not tolerate dry sites)

Moss Phlox**, Phlox subulata

HERBACEOUS PLANTS
Invasive Alternatives

Chinese (Japanese) Silver Grass or Maiden Grass, Miscanthus sinensis

Big Bluestem**, Andropogon gerardi

Feather Reed Grass, Calamagrostis x acutiflora

Korean Feather Reed Grass, Calamagrostis brachytricha

Bottlebrush grass**, Elymus hystrix

Switch Grass**, Panicum virgatum & cultivars

Indian grass**, Sorghastrum nutans

Authors: Brian Eshenaur, New York State Integrated Pest Management Program, Cornell University, nysipm.cornell.edu, and Sharon Bachman, New York Invasive Species Outreach Program, nyis.info, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Erie County.

Reviewed by: Nina Bassuk, Cornell University Horticulture Section, and Jim Engel, White Oak Nursery, whiteoaknursery.biz.

Produced January 2015. Last updated July 2017.

Adapted from: Alternatives to Invasive Plants, A Sustainable Solution for Long Island Horticulture. Produced by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. Project Leader: Alexis Alvey 2009, revised 2012.

USDA PLANTS database is the source for the native status of the plants in this publication.

Questions and comments on this resource are welcome. Please contact Brian Eshenaur at bce1@cornell.edu.