Be on the Lookout for Invasive Species, and Opt for Native Plants in Your Garden This Season

Tips for recognizing invasive plants and protecting the region’s biodiversity


As we enter National Invasive Species Awareness Week, it’s a good reminder to Rhode Islanders of our state’s diverse ecosystems that are threatened by invasive plants and animals, which can disrupt native habitats. Knowing invasive species to avoid planting and ways to sustain native plant habitats is the first step in safeguarding the region’s rich biodiversity. Here’s a handful of tips to get started. 

Clean Your Gear  

After spending time outdoors, especially near water, thoroughly clean your clothing, shoes, and equipment to remove any plant fragments or animal hitchhikers.

Don't Move Firewood  

Avoid transporting firewood from one location to another, as it can harbor invasive insects and diseases. Buy firewood locally or use heat-treated firewood.

Plant Native Species  

When landscaping your yard or garden, choose native plants that are adapted to the local ecosystem and less likely to become invasive. Read more about the growing green gardening movement in our archives.

Report Sightings 

If you suspect you have encountered an invasive species, report it to the Rhode Island DEM or the University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension. Your vigilance can help prevent the spread of these harmful organisms.

Rhody Resources

When it comes to creating a native plant haven in your own backyard, the following nurseries and services can help you get started. 

Blue Moon Farm Perennials,

Dear Avant Gardener,

Ecoastal Design,


Groundwork Rhode Island,

Prickly Ed’s Cactus Patch and Native Plant Emporium,

Rhode Island Natural History Survey,

Rhode Island Wild Plant Society,

URI Master Gardener Program,

Invasive Plants to Avoid

Learn about the common invasive species in Rhode Island and how to identify them. Resources like the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) website and the University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension provide valuable information. Here’s a handful of invasive species to steer clear of as you’re making gardening plans this season:

Autumn Olive  

This quick-spreading shrub might sound delicious, but it’s more of a nuisance, outcompeting native plants and altering soil chemistry.

Common Reed 

This towering invader takes over wetlands, displacing native vegetation and interfering with the wetland hydrology. 

Garlic Mustard

With its aggressive takeover of forest understories, Garlic Mustard is trouble. It releases chemicals that alter soil chemistry, making it difficult for our beloved native plants to stage a comeback.

Japanese Barberry

This ornamental rogue might look pretty in your garden, but it forms dense thickets, shading out native plants and creating a tick haven. Consider alternative native shrubs for your landscaping that are bird- and bee-friendly instead.

Japanese Knotweed 

Known for its infrastructural destruction, Japanese Knotweed is the Houdini of the plant world, squeezing through cracks and causing chaos for both native plants and human constructions.

Mile-a-Minute Vine 

The name says it all. This vine grows with a vengeance, covering and choking out other plants faster than you can say invasive species.

Oriental Bittersweet  

With its tendency to strangle trees and shrubs, Oriental Bittersweet is the stuff of forest nightmares, causing significant damage to wooded areas.

Tree of Heaven

Don’t let the heavenly name fool you. This tree outcompetes native species and supports the invasive spotted lanternfly, creating an ecological nightmare.

Water Chestnut  

Forming dense mats on water surfaces, Water Chestnut disrupts water flow and gives native aquatic plants an eviction notice.


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