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Exotic and Invasive Plants

What are "invasive" plants?
Invasive plants are those plants that spread rapidly with little or no assistance from people.  They can be expensive to remove and often difficult to control.  They often grow where they are not wanted, replacing more desirable plants.  Most invasive species are exotic, but some are native to this area.

View a list of Invasive Exotic Plants in Mecklenburg County

What are "native" and "exotic" plants?

Native plants occur naturally in a particular area.  Species native to North America are generally recognized as those that were here before Europeans arrived.  These plants grow well in our climate.  They require less care when used for landscaping, and they provide the preferred food and shelter for wildlife.

Exotic, introduced, alien, or non-native plants, on the other hand, have been moved by people from their native habitat to a new area.  Some exotic plants are imported for human use such as landscaping, erosion control, or food crops.  Other exotic plants arrive as "hitchhikers" among shipments of other plants, seeds, packing materials, or fresh produce.  While many exotic plants have little or no harmful impact on our communities, they are more likely than native plants to escape their intended habitat and become invasive.

How do good plants go bad?
Most invasive exotic plants have certain traits that allow them to replace other plants.  Invasive exotic plants generally

  • survive a wide range of soil, water temperature, and light;
  • reproduce early, often in large numbers, and in multiple ways;
  • grow rapidly for a long part of the year; and
  • are difficult to control or kill.

How do invasive exotic plants harm our community?
Exotic plants lack natural enemies in their new environment.  They cause economic, environmental, and human harm by

Overgrown creek banks
Invasive plants quickly "take over" and 
can be expensive to control

  • becoming weedy and overgrown;
  • killing established shade trees;
  • obstructing pipes and drainage systems;
  • forming dense beds in water;
  • lowering water levels in lakes, streams, and wetlands;
  • destroying natural communities;
  • promoting erosion on stream banks and hillsides; and
  • resisting control except by hazardous chemical.

Why does Charlotte-Mecklenburg Stormwater Services care about invasive plants?
These plants can obstruct the safe and efficient flow of stormwater.  Drainage systems may provide a pathway for seeds and seedlings of invasive plants to float downstream and spread to other areas.  Through the Invasive and Nuisance Plant Management Program, Storm Water Services identifies invasive species and works to control their growth.  Examples of targeted plants are:  kudzu, Japanese knotweed, Japanese and Chinese wisteria, Japanese honeysuckle, privet, mimosa, and tree of heaven.

Invasive, exotic plants can destroy
well-established plant communities.
These trees will die because they cannot
out-compete the kudzu infestation. 

  What can I do to control invasive plants?
The first line of defense is prevention. Often, the cheapest and easiest way to control the spread of invasive plants is to keep them from growing in your yard in the first place.

Avoid planting exotic species. Select native North Carolina plants and trees for home landscaping. If you do select exotic species, avoid plants that are described as "fast growing" or "rapidly spreading." Remember that wind, animals and streams can carry seeds far from your home to other areas.

Remove invasive plants from your yard. Replace them with native, non-invasive varieties. In addition, support large-scale efforts to remove invasive plants from your community parks and public areas.


Should I use native plants for landscaping?
Yes.  Native plants:

  • resist drought, require less maintenance, and are cost-effective
  • need fewer pesticides and fertilizers due to their natural adaptations
  • provide food and shelter for birds, butterflies and other native wildlife
  • reduce the chances for invasive plants to grow in your yard.


For more information, visit or call:

North Carolina Cooperative Extension

National Invasive Species Council
(202) 513-7243

The Plant Conservation Alliance
(202) 452-0392

The Nature Conservancy - Wildlife Invasive Species Team
(919) 403-8558

Kudzu smothers other plants
Kudzu threatens to overtake other plants
near a tributary of McDowell Creek

A list of exotic plants of Mecklenburg County

  • Bradford Pear
  • Mimosa
  • Princess Tree
  • Tree-of-Heaven
  • Autumn Olive
  • Multiflora Rose
  • Nandina
  • Chinese Privet
  • Rose-of-Sharon
  • Bamboo
  • Chinese Lespedeza
  • Common Reed
  • Ground Ivy
  • Japanese Knotweed
  • Japanese Stiltgrass
  • Johnsongrass
  • Air potato
  • English Ivy
  • Japanese Honeysuckle
  • Kudzu
  • Morning Glory
  • Periwinkle
  • Porcelainberry
  • Chinese and Japanese Wisteria