‘A Case Of Mistaken Identity’

sc008d5daa 228x300 ‘A Case Of Mistaken Identity’

The Delaware Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture have published an online booklet for the Mid-Atlantic region, (from New Jersey to Virginia) that will help homeowners, and land managers with the difficult task of differentiting between problematic foreign invasive plants, and their native look-alikes.

The US Government spends billions of dollars each year trying to combat the rapid spread of invasive plants in waterways, national parks, and farmland, and the private industry spends equal that amount from their own budgets to do the same. The trouble with many invasive and rapidly growing plants is that they look much like their native cousins, who pose no ecological threat here in their home environment.  For many land managers, including myself, differentiating between the native (and protected) plant, and the look-alike invasive plant can be difficult.  This guide contains the best side-by-side compairisons between these plants that I have ever seen, including pictures, descriptions, and even reasons why the plant needs to be removed.

sc008d88f8 227x300 ‘A Case Of Mistaken Identity’For those of us in the business who can’t tell the difference between “Giant Hogweed,” and a “Cow Parsnip,” this guide will help you properly identify the difference between the two, while giving you proven tips on the permanent erradication of the invasive.  I particularly appreciate the hints it gives on handling some of the more noxious plants, for instance warning the reader that Hogweed sap on the skin causes chemicals burns when it’s exposed to sunlight.

The guide can be found online through this link and identifies 20 of the most common invasive plants that keep those of us in the ‘Green Industry’ on our toes. It’s a great link to bookmark on your browser, or to print out and have on hand during the growing season for quick identification.

Recognizing and Removing Invasive Plant: The Multiflora Rose

img 0113 225x300 Recognizing and Removing Invasive Plant: The Multiflora RoseThe story of the Multiflora Rose is one I would have loved growing up, because unlike other invasive plant species, the story of the Multiflora Rose begins as a Western, complete with cowboys and gunsmoke!

Once upon a time out west there actually were “free range” cattle, who probably ate organic food, and slept on bedding made of 100% natural fibers (if you consider hay a fiber).  These cows however were difficult to keep track of, and occasionally wandered out of range, or “found new homes,” and when the time came to round them up, the cowboys had a difficult time accounting for every animal.  A new idea was born somewhere in the late eighteen hundreds, and “green fencing” was invented in the US.  I’m sure that this wave of “green thinking” was a breakthrough for it’s time, saving cowboys and ranchers time and money that had previously been spent in the purchase, mending, and placing of wooden fences. Cattlemen of all types discovered a favorite plant in a new import from Asia, called the “Mutliflora Rose,” a plant that thrived in its role as a living barrier and hedge around pastureland, channeling the traffic patterns of steer and cow across the prairie.  The rose was dutifully planted across the west, and served it’s purpose beautifully!

A natural, flowering, rosebush fence  must have been the best of all possible worlds, providing function, and beauty – two things I love myself!  Unfortunately, in the mid nineteen hundreds, the plant was selected again, this time by the highway administrations of the day, to fill in median strips, and brighten up the roadsides throughout the United States.  Hindsight being 20/20, we now know that the plant has a tendency to spread, and take over naturalized woodland areas, choking out native vegetation.

I was recently taking a walk through the woods, in a designated wildlife area that I manage, and found this rose cheerfully blooming away. I quickly made a note of the young rose’s location, and planned coming back another day to spray the plant with Round-Up.

Why You Need To Recognize this Plant:

  1. This plant currently infests up to 45 million acres in the Eastern United States alone!  Severe infestations lower property values, and cause our government to spend 30 million (plus) per year to help agricultural businesses, and recreationsal spaces reclaim their land from this plant.
  2. One single bush can produce half a million seeds, that once fallen on the soil, can remain viable for up to 20 years.  That’s one long term problem you don’t want to deal with!
  3. Each bush can grow to a height of approximately 6-10 feet tall, and 13 feet wide. Rare specimins have grown 20 feet tall.
  4. The plant’s growth pattern creates tangled, thorny thickets impenitrible to humans, small mammals, and deer, ruining park land, and fields, and causing eye and skin reactions in cattle.
  5. Wild birds especially find the fruit of this plant irresistable, and will unintentionally spread this plant, through their feces, throughout your neighborhood, or property.  Quick identification of this plant, and timely removal will save you untold amounts of work in the future.

For the eco-conscious gardener, homeowner, or business person, this is one plant to keep an eye on, and remove by hand, or with herbicide, when possible.  It is one exotic invasive plant that is gaining turf in backyards, and highway islands across the nation, and the government can use our help in eradicating it.


  1. Green methods include: cutting, and bagging, controlled burns (by professionals please!), and mowing. Mowing with large equipment will kill young plants, while heavy infestations will need regular mowings for up to a few years to kill mature plants, and prevent it’s spread.
  2. In areas where Multiflora Rose is returning after mowing or pruning, an herbicide, or Round-Up sprayed on the exposed (freshly trimmed) stump, will kill the shrub.
  3. Large infestations often call for broadcast spreading of herbicide to kill the plant in place.

For more information on this plant, visit The United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Library