Basic Mesic Prairie Plants

This selection provides diversity for a prairie garden of approximately 100-125 square feet, with several of each species planted as a group. The garden should be in a location that receives at least six to eight hours of sun with average moisture.

These plants provide for a continuity of bloom, diverse heights, color, and form. There will be a variety of plant-insect interactions.  The grasses selected are short grasses – a better choice for home gardens.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive. There are many other species that would be appropriate in a mesic prairie garden, but this selection constitutes a good starting place.

Genus/Species
(Latin name)
Genus/Species (Common name) Ht Color Bloom Time Spacing
Forbs
Agastache foeniculum Anise Hyssop 3′ Purple June – July – Aug – Sept 18-24″
Allium cernuum Nodding Onion 18″ Purple July – Aug 4-8″
Anemone canadensis Canada Anemone 1′ White May – June 6-12″
Asclepias tuberosa* Butterfly Weed 2′ Orange June – July – Aug 1-3′
Asclepias verticillata* Whorled Milkweed 1-2′ White July – Aug – Sept 1′
Aster laevis Smooth Blue Aster 4′ Blue Aug – Sept – Oct 18-24″
Aster novae-angliae New England Aster 5′ Purple Aug – Sept – Oct 2-3′
Baptisia alba White Wild Indigo 4′ White June – July 3-4′
Baptisia australis Blue Wild Indigo 4′ Blue June – July 2-3′
Coreopsis palmata Prairie Coreopsis 4′ Yellow June – July – Aug 1′
Dodecatheon meadia Shooting Star 1′ Pink April – May – June 1′
Echinacea pallida Pale Purple Coneflower 3′ Purple July – Aug – Sept – Oct 10-18″
Echinacea purpurea Purple Coneflower 4′ Purple July – Aug – Sept 18-24″
Gentiana andrewsii Bottle Gentian 2′ Blue Aug – Sept – Oct 1-2′
Geum triflorum Priaire Smoke .25-.5″ Pink May – June 6″
Heliopsis helianthoides Early Sunflower 5′ Yellow June – July – Aug – Sept 18-36″
Heuchera richardsonii Prairie Alumroot 3′ Green May – June – July 8-12″
Liatris pycnostachya** Prairie Blazing Star 4′ Purple July – Aug – Sept 6-12″
Lobelia siphilitica Great Blue Lobelia 3′ Blue July – Aug – Sept – Oct 12-18″
Monarda fistulosa Wild Bergamot 4′ Purple July – Aug – Sept 2-3′
Parthenium interifolium Wild Quinine 4′ White June – July – Aug – Sept 1-2′
Penstemon digitalis Foxglove Beardtongue 3′ White June – July 12-18″
Phlox pilosa Prairie Phlox 2′ Pink May – June – July 10-12″
Ratibida pinnata Yellow Coneflower 5′ Yellow July – Aug – Sept 18-24″
Rudbeckia fulgida Orange Coneflower 3′ Orange July – Aug – Sept 1-2′
Rudbeckia subtomentosa Sweet Black-Eyed Susan 5′ Yellow Aug – Sept – Oct 2-3′
Solidago rigida Stiff Goldenrod 4′ Yellow Aug – Sept – Oct 1-2′
Solidato speciosa Showy Goldenrod 5′ Yellow Aug – Sept – Oct 2-3′
Tradescantia ohiensis Ohio Spiderwort 3′ Blue May – June – July 12-18″
Veronicastrum virginicum Culver’s Root 5′ White June – July – Aug 18″
Zizia aurrea Golden Alexanders 3′ Yellow April – May – June 1-2′

* Good for mesic to dry sites. For mesic to wet sites, use Asclepias incarnata (Rose/Swamp Milkweed)
** Good for mesic to wet sites. For mesic to dry sites, use Liatris aspera (Button Blazing Star)

Genus/Species
(Latin name)
Genus/Species (Common name) Ht Color Bloom Time Spacing
Grasses
Bouteloua curtipendula Side-oats Grama 2′ Aug-Sept 1′
Schizachyrium scoparium Little Bluestem 3′ July – Aug – Sept – Oct 2-3′
Sporobolous heterolepis Prairie Dropseed 3′ Aug – Sept – Oct 2-3′

Perennial Plants for Birds, Lepidopteran Host Plants

These plants are listed in order of value for nesting birds (Source, Tallamy and Shropshire 2017, National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder).  The list is much shorter than the list of woody plants for birds since woody plants are hosts for a much greater number of lepidoptera.

With the perennials, there is little alignment between perennials hosting lepidoptera and perennials providing good or excellent food for adult birds.  Example – some of the composites host few lepidoptera, but are excellent sources of food for adult birds.  Pale purple coneflower, for instance, is not a high-ranking host plant, but a very good source of food for seed-eating birds.

Genus (Common name) Genus (Latin name)  No. of Lepidopteran species hosted
Goldenrods Solidago 57 *
Sunflowers Helianthus 52 *
Strawberry Frageria 45 *
Bluegrass (native sps. Poa 35 *
Joe Pye Weed, Boneset Eupatorium 33 *
Violets Viola 27 *
Trefoil, Deer Vetch Lotus 25 *
Leadplant, False Indigo, etc. Amorpha 22 *

Examples of perennials with low host value but high food value:

Genus (Common name) Genus (Latin name)  No. of Lepidopteran species hosted
Columbine Aquilegia 9 *
Bee Balm Monarda 8 *
Cardinal Flower Lobelia 3 *

*Provide good food source for adult birds

Woody Plants for Birds, Lepidopteran Host Plants

In selecting woody species for your property, keep in mind the needs of birds and beneficial insects. Native species are much more valuable in providing habitat, while contributing beauty to the landscape Most non-native species have little or no value in providing for the needs of birds and insects.

The woody plants are listed in order of value for nesting birds (Source, Tallamy and Shropshire, 2017, National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder). These species of woody plants are important due to the number of butterfly and moth species (lepidoptera) attracted to the species as host plants. Caterpillars are the major source of food for nestlings – even species that are seed eaters as adults. Some 95% of bird species feed their young on the larvae of butterflies and moths, and spiders.

For convenience, the list is divided into sections for trees, shrubs and vines, but the relative rank is maintained. Some 48 woody genera providing host value for lepidoptera species are included on the spreadsheet. There are additional natives offering habitat value. The list that appears on the CLC website was the results of a search on zip code 60010. To ascertain the plant list for your zip code, check the National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder and provide your zip code.

An additional column shows the importance of the woody species in providing fruits, nuts, or seeds for adult birds (Various sources, including Mariette Nowak, author of Birdscaping in the Midwest and George Adams’ Gardening for the Birds.). Although some woody plants may support a relatively low number of lepidoptera, they may be quite valuable as a food source for adult birds (Elderberry, for instance).

Woody plants also provide shelter and nesting locations. Hawthorns, Spruces, American Plums, Ninebarks, Roses, Viburnums, Maples, Junipers, Pines, and Dogwoods are among the woody plants offering excellent or good cover or nesting value.

Note: this list applies to Midwest region

Genus (Common name) Genus (Latin name) No. of Lepidopteran species hosted Value as Food for Adult Birds
TREES
Oaks Quercus sps. 342 Good – Several birds eat acorns
Wild Cherries, Plums, etc. Prunus sps. 283 (1) Excellent (84 bird species use)
Willows Salix sps. 254 (1) Good
Birch Betula sps. 224 Good
Aspen, cottonwood, poplars Populus sps. 218 Good
Maple, Boxelder Acer sps. 206 Fair (Though Boxelders attract insects that birds eat)
Hickories, pecan, other nuts Carya sps. 195 Good
Crabapple Malus 187 High
Elm Ulmus 157 Not rated
Pine Pinus 132 Fair
Basswood, Linden Tillia 126 Not rated
Ash Fraxinus 115 Will be impacted by EAB
Walnut, Butternut Juglans 114 Not rated
Beech Fagus 104 High
Hawthorns Crataegus 104 High
Pagoda Dogwood Cornus 78 (1) Excellent
Serviceberry Amelanchier 76 (1) Very high
Ironwood, Tupelo Ostrya 70 Good
Spruce Picea 61 Good
American Hornbeam Carpinus 56 Not rated
Witchhazel Hamamelis 55 Not rated
Locust Robinia 52 Not rated
Larch, Tamarack Larix 44 Good
Mountain ash Sorbus 44 Good
Hackberry Celtis 41 Very high
Honey locust Gleditsia 40 Not rated
Sycamore Platanus 38 Good
Holly Ilex 35 (1) Not rated
Blackgum, sourgum Nyssa 29 Good

See the National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder for additional species.
(1) In combination with shrubs of the genus
Not rated = sources used did not show a value of this species for adult food value

Genus (Common name) Genus (Latin name) No. of Lepidopteran species hosted Value as Food for Adult Birds
SHRUBS
Chokecheery, other Prunus shrubs Prunus sps. 283 (2) Excellent (84 bird species use)
Willow Salix sps. 254 (2) Good
Cranberry, Blueberry Vaccinium 162 Very high
Alder Alnus 132 Good
Blackberry, raspberry, others Rubus 105 Very high
Filbert, Hazelnut Corylus 85 Good
Dogwoods Cornus 78 (2) Excellent (Used by 93 Species)
Viburnums Viburnums 77 Good (Used by 35 species)
Serviceberry Amelanchier 76 (2) Very high
Native Roses Rosa 74 Good
Medowsweet, Steeplebush Spirea 52 Good
Sumacs Rhus 37 Good (Used by over 20 species)
Winterberry Ilex 35 (2) High
Sweetfern Comptonia 34 Not rated
New Jersey Tea Ceanothus 31 Good
Ninebark Physocarpus 30 Good
Sassafras Sassafras 29 Good
Elderberry Sambucus 25 Excellent (Used by over 100 species)

(2) In combination with trees of the genus

Genus (Common name) Genus (Latin name) No. of Lepidopteran species hosted Value as Food for Adult Birds
VINES
Grape Vitis 58 Very high
Woodbine, Virginia creeper Parthenocissus 27 Not rated

Teasel, Common & Cut-leaved (Dipsacus fullonum, Dipsacus laciniatus)

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Ecological Impact

  • Lack of natural enemies allows teasel to proliferate. If left unchecked, teasel can quickly form large monocultures excluding all native vegetation.
  • The teasel population has rapidly expanded in the last 30 years particularly along highway systems where mowing equipment aids dispersal.

Characteristics

This biennial plant grows as a basal rosette for a minimum of one year and in its second season sends up a tall flowering stalk and dies after flowering. The period of time as a rosette varies depending on how long it takes the plant to acquire sufficient resources to flower.

dried teasel
Previous Season’s Teasel

Leaves in the rosette are somewhat ovoid in young plants and become large, oblong and hairy in older plants. Leaves of the cut-leaved teasel are deeply lobed.

teasel leaves
Leaf of young cut-leaved teasel plant

The cut-leaved teasel’s leaves are joined at the stem so that they form a cup that will hold water. As a rosette, teasel develops a large tap root that may become more than two feet in length and an inch in diameter at the crown.

teasel stems
Spiny teasel stems

Cut-leaved teasel normally has white flowers from July to September while common teasel produces purple blooms from June to October. Stiff, spiny, leaf-like structures called bracts curve up from the base of the flower head. A single teasel plant produces more than 2,000 seeds which remain viable for several years. The seeds disperse in close proximity to the parent plant but can be transported longer distances by water or on mowing equipment.

teasel flower
Cut-leaved teasel flower head

Habitat

Teasel grows in open, sunny habitats in from wet to dry conditions. Optimal conditions seem to be mesic. In Illinois, teasel sometimes occurs in high quality prairies, savannas, seeps, and sedge meadows, though roadsides, railroad tracks, dumps and other heavily disturbed areas are the most common teasel habitats. Teasel is often found in large stands of tall plants of similar height.

teasel in field
Field of teasel

Similar Species

Invasive

Bull Thistle cila8_001__fmt
Bull thistle

Bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) has longer spines. The thistle flower is above the spiny base while the teasel flower comes out of the honeycomb sections. Thistle leaves are alternate while teasel leaves are opposite.

Native

  • Tall thistle (Cirsium altissimum)
  • Pasture thistle (Cirsium discolor)

These native thistles also have alternate leaves. Native thistles aren’t very prevalent.

Control Methods

Accurately identify cut-leaved and common teasel before attempting any control measures. If identification of the species is in doubt, confirm the plant’s identity with a knowledgeable individual and/or by consulting appropriate books or websites.

Common teasel drawing
Common teasel

Manual

For small populations, mechanical methods work quite well. Dig up young rosettes using a dandelion digger. As when digging dandelions, remove as much root as possible.

When the plants have sent up the flowering stalk, manual control is accomplished by:

  1. Cutting off the flower head, being sure to do so at the proper time—when it is flowering but has not set seed. Remove flower heads and dispose of them by bagging or burning. Flowers can release seed even after they are cut.
  2. Then cutting the plant at or below the ground level.
  3. Monitoring the area for plants that you may have missed. Perform a later inspection to catch any root crowns that re-sprout.

Herbicides

The most cost-effective control method for heavily infested sites is the use of foliar herbicides. Broadleaf herbicides are preferred over nonselective herbicides to minimize effects on nontarget plants. The rosette should be treated during the growing season.

  1. Spraying the plant when it is in the rosette stage should prevent it from developing seed heads. If rosettes are green into the fall, glyphosate can be applied then when danger to other plants is minimal or non-existent.
  2. Check after a couple of weeks to see if the treatment has been successful. Re-apply if necessary.
  3. Multi-year attention is necessary to control this plant.

Ineffective practices

Mowing and burning by themselves are not successful control strategies. Use them in conjunction with other approaches.

Citizens for Conservation
459 West Highway 22
Barrington IL 60010
847-382-SAVE (7383)

www.citizensforconservation.org

2011

Versatile Plant Selection for your Native Garden

The plants on this list were selected using the Cultural Guide in Prairie Moon Nursery’s catalog. Determinations as to moisture and light needs/tolerances are those of Prairie Moon Nursery. The catalog lists additional versatile species. Plants listed are shown in at least two light levels out of three, and three moisture levels out of five. (Data may change from year to year.) A number of the species also have plant-insect interactions.

  • Plants shown in all three light categories are shown with an ‘+’.
  • Plants shown in four (or more) soil moistures are indicated with an ‘*’.
  • Plants favoring Moist (MO), Mesic (ME) or Dry (DR) habitats are shown.

NOTE 1: Some scientific names have changed. This list is using the older, more familiar names. (Aster rather than symphyotrichum, for instance)

NOTE 2: Even though all these plants will grow in various conditions, many will favor one soil type over another, or one light condition over another. Also, similar but less adaptable plants may be a better choice for your site. The Prairie Moon catalog/website will have more information on the plants.

Ag – Aggressive plant
Rhiz – Plant spreads by rhizomes
Ann – Annual

Light/
Moisture
Genus/Species (Common name) Genus/Species (Latin name) Habitat
FORBS
Yellow Giant Hyssop Agastache nepetoides ME
Purple Giant Hyssop Agastache scrophulariaefolia ME
* + Wild Garlic Allium canadense Four
Nodding Wild Onion Allium cernuum ME
Praire Onion Allium stellatum DR
Wild Leek Allium tricoccum ME
Thimbleweed Anemone cylindrica DR
+ Columbine Aquilegia canadensis DR
Milkweeds
* Common Asclepias syriaca (Ag, Rhiz) Four
Rose/Swamp Asclepias incarnata MO
Whorled Asclepias verticillata (Rhiz) DR
Asters
Heath Aster ericoides (Rhiz) DR
* Forked Aster furcatus Four
Smooth blue Aster laevis ME
+ Calico/Side-flowering Aster lateriflorus ME
* New England Aster novae-angliae Four
Sky blue Aster oolentanglense DR
* White Wild Indigo Baptisia alba Four
Cream Wild Indigo Baptisia bracteata DR
Downy Wood Mind Blephilia ciliata DR
Wild Hyacinth Camassia scilloides ME
Partridge Pea Chamaecrista fasciculata (Ann) DR
Prairie Coreopsis Coreopsis palmata (Rhiz) DR
Tall Coreopsis Coreopsis tripteris ME
White Prairie Clover Dalea candidum DR
Purple Prairie Clover Dalea purpurea DR
Showy Tick Trefoil Desmodium canadense ME
+ Shooting Star Dodecatheon meadia ME
Pale Purple Coneflower Echinacea pallida DR
Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea ME
Cream gentian Gentiana flavida ME
* Prairie Smoke Geum triflorum DR
Western Sunflower Helianthus occidentalis (Ag, Rhiz) DR
Pale-leaved Sunflower Helianthus strumosus (Ag, Rhiz) ME
* Prairie Alumroot Heuchera richardsonii Four
Spotted Touch-me-not Impatiens capensis (Ann, Ag) MO
+ Dwarf Crested Iris Iris cristata (Rhiz) MO
Blue Flag Iris Iris versicolor (Rhiz) MO
Round-headed Bush Clover Lespedeza capitata (Rhiz) DR
Button Blazing Star Liatris aspera DR
Prairie Blazing Star Liatris pychnostachya MO
Marsh Blazing Star Liatris spicata MO
Michigan Lily Lilium michiganense MO
Great Blue Lobelia Lobelia siphilitica MO
Prairie Loosestrife Lysimachia quadrifolia MO
* Wild Bergamot Monarda fistulosa Four
* + Hairiy Beardtongue Penstemon hirsuta Four
* Wild Blue Phlox Phlox divaricata (Rhiz) ME
* Prairie Phlox Phlox pilosa Four
Obedient Plant Physostegia virginiana (Rhiz) MO
+ Jacob’s Ladder Polemonium reptans ME
Slender Mountain Mint Pycanthemum tenuifoleum (Rhiz) ME
Mountain Mint Pycanthemum virginianum (Rhiz) Four
* Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta Four
+ Wild Golden Glow Rudbeckia laciniata (Ag, Rhiz) MO
Sweet Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia subtomentosa ME
Brown-eyed Susan Rudbeckia triloba ME
Prairie Ragwort Senecio plattensis MO
Maryland Senna Senna marilandica ME
Starry Campion Silene stellata ME
* Compass Plant Silphium laciniatum Four
Prairie Dock Silphium terebinthinaceum ME
* + Solomon’s Plume Smilacina racemosa (Rhiz) Four
* + Starry Solomon’s Plume Smilacina stellata (Rhiz) Four
* + Grass-leaved Goldenrod Solidago graminifolia (Ag, Rhiz) Five
* Stiff Goldenrod Solidago rigida Four
Showy Goldenrod Solidago speciosa DR
* Ohio Spiderwort Tradescantia ohiensis Four
Blue Vervain Verbena hastata MO
Culver’s Root Veronicastrum virginianum ME
+ Common Blue Violet Viola sororia ME
Golden Alexander Zizia aurea ME
GRASSES
* Big Bluestem Andropogon gerardii Four
* Little Bluestem Andropogon scoparius DR
Side-Oats Grama Bouteloua curtipendula DR
Prairie Brome Bromus kalmii ME
* Canada Wild Rye Elymus canadensis Four
Silky Wild Rye Elymus vilosus ME
+ Virginia Wild Rye Elymus virginicus MO
* Switch Grass Panicum virgatum Four
Indian Grass Sorghastrum nutans DR
* Northern Dropseed Sporobolus heterolepis Four
SEDGES
Prairie Sedge Carex bicknelii ME
+ Commom Bur Sedge Carex grayi MO
+ Palm Sedge Carex muskingumensis ME
+ Penn’s sedge Carex pennsylvanica DR
Long-beaked Sedge Carex sprengelii ME
* Brown Fox Sedge Carex vulpinoidea Four

Reed Canary Grass (Phalaris arundinacea)

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Ecological Impact

  • Tenaciously invades disturbed areas
  • Produces a heavy layer of thatch which suppresses other vegetation
  • Reduces diversity of native plants and insects
  • Provides little shelter or food for wildlife

 

Characteristics

Reed canary grass is a perennial Eurasian grass originally planted for forage and erosion control. It grows from extensive rhizomes to form dense monocultures. The leaves are broad—as much as 0.4 inches—and are flat and rough. They are 31/2″ to 10″ long. Plants can reach to over 6-feet tall. A cool season grass, reed canary is one of the first grasses to sprout in spring.

leaves and rhizome structure
Broad leaves and rhizome structure of reed canary grass.

The plant produces leaves and flower stalks for 5 to 7 weeks after germination in early spring, then spreads laterally. Growth peaks in mid-June and declines in mid-August. A second growth spurt occurs in the fall.

ligules
Large, thin, membranous ligules protrude from the nodes where the leaves are attached to the stem.

The shoots collapse in mid to late summer, forming a dense, impenetrable mat of stems and leaves. The seeds ripen in late June and shatter when ripe. Seeds may be dispersed from one wetland to another by waterways, animals, humans, or machines.

seed head
Late-season seed head: tan, closed.

Habitat

Reed canary grass is found in dense stands along roadsides, in wetlands, ditches, stream and pond banks, moist fields, and wet meadows. It can grow on dry upland soil and in wooded areas, but it grows best on fertile, moist, organic soils in full sun, especially in disturbed wetlands.

 

Reed canary grass
Reed canary grass infestation along Flint Creek in Barrington

Similar Species

Non-native
Orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata) is an alien with narrow leaves (<0.1 to 3 inch) and a wider, less pointed seed head with short, stiff side branches at the bottom.

Native
Blue joint grass (Calamagrostis canadensis) is a native that is shorter than reed canary grass and more draping rather than upright. It is not invasive.

Control Methods for Reed Canary Grass

Phalaris arundinacea drawing
Phalaris arundinacea. USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Vol. 1: 170.

Reed canary grass reproduces primarily through spreading rhizomes. It is much easier to control small populations than to try to remove large, established infestations. Reed canary grass can also spread by seed. Any control method requires 5-10 years of monitoring and follow-up treatment to deplete the seed bank. Re-infestation is likely unless there is a population or seed bank of native species to provide competition. Use care to protect native species.

Large Populations

Prescribed burning in late spring should be followed by mowing or herbicide treatment to prevent seed production. It might be necessary to apply herbicide both in spring and in fall. Burning can enhance growth of reed canary grass if there are no native species present to provide competition. In wet conditions, first top kill reed canary grass with 1.5% active ingredient glyphosate, then burn.

Mowing in early/mid-June and in early October removes seed heads and exposes the ground to light to encourage growth of natives (if present).

Herbicide (glyphosate) applied in spring and fall (when other species are dormant) may be sprayed or wicked. In wet areas, be sure to use glyphosate which has been formulated for use near water. Use caution to protect native species. Cut back last year’s dead leaves in spring to improve effectiveness of herbicide.

In the absence of native species or a native seedbank, remove severe infestations of reed canary grass 12-18″ deep with a bulldozer. Reseed with native species.

Small Populations

In early stages of invasion, hand-pulling or digging may be successful. Remove new plants before they can reproduce vegetatively.

Cover small patches with black plastic for at least one growing season. Be sure rhizomes don’t spread beyond the plastic. Remove plastic; then seed the area with appropriate native species.

In July and August, tie large clumps of reed canary grass; then cut stems and immediately spray with glyphosate. Follow up with burning or mowing. Monitor for resprouting.

Wetland Protection

Careful monitoring of wetlands, especially following disturbance, can prevent major infestations. Reduce infestation from seeds from surrounding slopes by using erosion control on hillsides or by using catch-basins. New plants are easiest to spot in spring. Protect native species when removing reed canary grass.

Citizens for Conservation
459 West Highway 22
Barrington IL 60010
847-382-SAVE (7383)

2011

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

Impact on Forests

  • Out-competes many tree seedlings and other native vegetation.
  • Adversely affects native insects and other wildlife.

First-Year Plants

Garlic mustard is a biennial; it has a two-year life cycle. Seeds germinate in April.

Leaves: Clusters of 3-8 rounded to kidney-shaped leaves develop at ground level during the first growing season. They have scalloped edges, a wrinkled appearance, and remain green all winter.

Leaves
Leaves. Photo by John Hilty, Illinois Wildflowers

Second-year plants

Flowers: Small (1/4 inch), white, 4 petals, on the end of the main stem and side branches, blooms April through June. (see top of page)

garlic_mustard_petals_small
Four petals. Photo by John Hilty, Illinois Wildflowers

Leaves: Heart-shaped to triangular, 1-3 inches wide, coarsely toothed on edges, alternate on the stem, give off a garlic odor when crushed.

Height: Flowering stalks grow 1-4 feet tall.

Roots: Taproot is slender, white, and often has an S-shaped bend near the top.

Seeds: Capsules appear soon after flowering and quickly lengthen. Seeds are small, produced in a row inside the capsule, and black when ripe. More than 100 seeds per plant.

Garlic Mustard
Garlic Mustard. Photo by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Similar Species

Violet: leaves resemble first-year plants, but flowers bloom low and have 5 petals, leaf surfaces are less crinkly. No taproot.

Ground ivy: (creeping Charlie) spreads along the ground as a vine and has purple flowers.

Control Methods for Garlic Mustard

Control strategies must be applied for eight or more years until the garlic mustard seed bank is depleted. Methods may vary over time, depending on the extent of the invasion. Vulnerable areas, especially woodlands, should be monitored each spring to promptly detect new invasions and prevent re-occurrence. Mark areas where plants were found to aid in future monitoring.

Hand Pulling

For smaller infestations or where large groups of people are involved, hand pulling or digging garlic mustard can be effective.

If plants are pulled or dug before budding begins, they may be scattered about the area to dry out, preferably off the ground.

Do not put pulled plants in piles where roots may stay moist and development can continue.

Seed pods
Seed pods

Once flowering has begun, all plants must be bagged. Garlic mustard seeds can still ripen after plants are uprooted! (using energy stored in stems and leaves.)

Pulled plants may be put in plastic bags or large paper bags.

Bagged plants should be disposed of by burning, burying deeply in an area that will not be disturbed, or landfilling. (Please, do not burn plastic bags.) Let garlic mustard collected in paper bags dry thoroughly before burning.

Do not compost garlic mustard. Few compost piles produce enough heat to destroy all garlic mustard seeds.

To send bagged plants to the landfill, label the bags as ‘Invasive Plants – approved by DNR for landfilling’.

Cutting

Cutting plants a few inches above the soil surface just after the flower stalks have elongated but before the flowers have opened can be effective in preventing seed production and may kill garlic mustard plants. However, some plants may send out new flower stalks that require additional cutting. Monitor site regularly.

Herbicides

Extensive infestations – if too large for manual methods – can be controlled by using a 1% or 2% solution of glyphosate (there are many brands). Apply to the foliage of individual plants and dense patches in fall and/or very early spring. At these times most native plants are dormant, but garlic mustard is green and vulnerable. Glyphosate is a nonselective herbicide that will kill or injure all green non-target plants. Use caution during application, and spray so that herbicide neither drips from the garlic mustard leaves or drifts onto adjacent desired vegetation.

Use herbicides only when necessary. ALWAYS read the entire herbicide label carefully, following all mixing and application instructions. Wear recommended protective gear and clothing.

Weed Torch (for Wet Conditions)

Another method for spot-killing patches of newly germinated seedlings in spring is to “flame” them with a propane weed torch. Flames quickly kill tender seedlings, usually without permanently damaging nearby perennial plants. Use the weed torch cautiously, and only when conditions are wet. ALWAYS contact your local fire control agency prior to using this method. Burning permits may be required.

Preventing Further Spread

Clean shoes, pockets, pants cuffs and equipment thoroughly after walking or working in infested areas. Garlic mustard seeds are tiny and are often carried off in clothing, shoes and mud.

Survey your area for green garlic mustard plants. Plants can be spotted any time they are not covered by fallen leaves or snow.

When you find an infestation, remove plants that are producing seed first, working from the least infested to the most infested area. Then remove other plants, again starting with the least infested areas.

Monitor non-infested woodlands carefully and frequently. Removing one or two plants before they go to seed is much easier than removing hundreds or thousands later on.

Websites

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Garlic Mustard information includes a photo gallery and sections on identification, distribution and control.

Vegetation Management Guideline
Fact sheet from the Illinois Department on Natural Resources (2007)

Illinois Wildflowers
Page on website managed by John Hilty includes information and photos from Illinois locations.

Source

This page is adapted from Garlic Mustard – A Major Threat to Wisconsin’s Woodlands, by Paul Hartman and Sharon Morrisey, Univ. of Wisconsin-Extension, 2002. It was revised by Colin Kelly, David Eagan, Eunice Padley, Kelly Kearns, and Colleen Matula, WDNR, 2006. Photos from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Common Reed (Phragmites australis)

PDF of flyer (for printing)

Ecological Impact

  • Common reed has become a destructive weed, quickly displacing desirable plant species. Its high biomass blocks light to other plants and occupies all the growing space below ground so plant communities can turn into Phragmites monocultures very quickly.
  • Invasive stands of common reed eliminate diverse wetland plant communities and provide little food or shelter for wildlife.
Phragmites
Phragmites make a grassy forest.

Characteristics

Common reed is a tall, perennial wetland grass ranging in height from 3 to 20 feet.

common reed height
Common reed height relative to minivan

Strong, leathery horizontal shoots called rhizomes growing on or beneath the soil surface give rise to roots and tough vertical stalks. Cane-like stems 1 inch in diameter support broad sheath-type leaves that are .5 to 2 inches wide near the base tapering to points at the end. Plants produce large, dense, feathery, grayish-purple plumes 5 to 16 inches long in late June through September. The reeds turn tan in the fall and most leaves drop off, leaving only the plume-topped shoot. The root system is comprised of rhizomes that can reach to 6 feet deep with roots emerging at the nodes. Common reed reproduces by these spreading rhizomes and forms large colonies.

stems and leaves
Common reed stems and leaves.

 Habitat

Common reed thrives in sunny wetland habitats. It grows along drier borders and elevated areas of brackish and freshwater marshes and along riverbanks and lakeshores. The species is particularly prevalent in disturbed or polluted soils with alkaline and brackish waters but will tolerate highly acidic conditions. It can grow in water up to 6 feet deep and also in somewhat dry sites. It can be found along roadsides, ditches, open wetlands, riverbanks, lake shores, dredged areas, and disturbed or undisturbed plant communities.

roadside mass
Common reed in North Barrington

Similar Species

In this area, no other plant is likely to be confused with Phragmites australis although similar plants do exist in other parts of the country. It is distinctive in northeastern Illinois. This tall, plumed plant growing in a wet ditch or marsh is easy to identify.

Control Methods

Property owners wishing to deal with stands of Phragmites australis should contact a company that is licensed to perform this type of service.

If you have a very small amount of common reed, the following methods will help prevent it from spreading.

Manual

You can dig up very small populations if you are careful to remove all root material and surrounding soil. You can cut common reed and dig the rhizomes, but physical control is difficult because the plant can reestablish from seed or remaining rhizomes.

Frequent mowing is sometimes an effective control of common reed.

illustration
Phragmites australis. USDA PLANTS Database. USDA NRCS PLANTS Database. Bugwood.org

Chemical

Common reed can be effectively controlled with a general use herbicide such as glyphosate. Follow label directions and state requirements.

If common reed is growing in a wet area, the herbicide must be one approved for use in areas of standing water. This is a job for a professional. The appropriate chemical treatment will be a challenge and may require a permit.

Suggested Replacements

Immediately upon removing a stand of common reed from a dry site, install replacement plants or cover the bare soil with several sheets of newspaper and wood chips. Leaving bare soil encourages other weeds to invade.

After removing common reed, replace it with a native grass that grows in the same habitat. It should thrive.

Sources

459 West Highway 22
Barrington IL 60010
847-382-SAVE (7383)

Photos by CFC Community Education Committee.

Invasives: Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis)

PDF of flyer (for printing)

Ecological Impact

  • Dame’s rocket quickly escapes cultivation because of its prolific seed set.
  • Many people think that it is a native wildflower because dame’s rocket is often sold in wildflower mixes. Dame’s rocket eliminates native vegetation with its profuse plant density.

Characteristics

Dame’s rocket is an erect, herbaceous biennial or perennial in the mustard family (Brassocaceae) growing 1.5 to 3 feet in height. The leaves are oblong, sharply toothed, and alternate. Leaves decrease in size as they ascend the stem.

Dame's Rocket
Dame’s Rocket flower and leaves

The pink, purple, or white four-petaled flowers form large loose, fragrant clusters that bloom from May to June.

Dame's Rocket petals
Four petals on Dame’s Rocket
Dame Rocket flower colors
Dame’s Rocket flowers in their multiple colors

Long, narrow fruits produce many seeds which spread mechanically when the seed pods open. Ground-foraging birds eat and disperse the seeds as well.

Dame’s rocket generally produces a basal rosette during the first year and flowers the following year. The plant blooms prolifically and produces large quantities of seed from May into July. Each plant may have several clusters of flowers at various stages of development, enabling the plant to produce both flowers and seeds at the same time.

The seed pods of dame’s rocket strongly resemble the seed pods of Garlic Mustard—another plant in the mustard family that is invasive in the Chicago  metropolitan area.

Habitat

Dame’s rocket grows in moist woodlands, woodland edges, roadsides, railroad rights-of-way, disturbed sites, waste ground, thickets, and open areas.

Similar Species

Non-native

  • Garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) has opposite leaves that are not toothed and flowers with five petals not four.

Native

  • Woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) blooms April-June. Flowers have five petals. Height is 12-20″. Leaves are mostly opposite and oblong with a blunt end, 1-2″ long. Thrives in woods and forests.
DamesRocketSimNatv_5petalPhlox
Five petals on Phlox divaricata
  • Marsh phlox (Phlox glaberrima) is 1½–2½’ tall with opposite leaves. Flowers are about ¾” across with 5 rounded petals. Prefers moist soil in light shade to full sun.
Native similar to Dame's Rocket
Five petals on marsh phlox (Phlox glaberrima)
  • Wild sweet William (Phlox maculata) is 1-3′ tall with opposite leaves. Fragrant mostly lavender flowers are about ¾-1″ across with 5 rounded overlapping petals.
Native similar to Dame's Rocket
Wild sweet William (Phlox maculata)

 Control Methods for Dame’s rocket

Locating and removing plants immediately before seed sets is the best way to prevent the spread of dame’s rocket. Be sure to check the contents of wildflower seed mixes for this species, and do not purchase or plant mixes that carry it. As a general practice, avoid all “meadows-in-a-can.”

Dame's Rocket drawing
USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 175.

Manual

Pulling or using a dandelion digger is most effective when the soil is moist. If you pull blooming plants, do not compost them as the seeds can still ripen and spread.

It is important to remove the whole root and not just to break off stalks at ground level. Roots left in the ground can sprout new plants the following year that may be even larger or more robust.

You can cut the flower heads off established plants after bloom so the plants do not set seed. Flower heads should be bagged for the landfill or burned where permissible. Do not allow the plants to dry before burning as seedpods may burst open and spread seeds when dry. Where there is sufficient leaf litter or other fuel, burning has been found to be an effective control method.

Chemical

Dame’s rocket can be effectively controlled using any of several readily available general use herbicides such as glyphosate. Follow label and state requirements. To avoid damaging adjacent native vegetation, apply herbicide in late fall when native plants are dormant but the dame’s rocket basal leaf rosettes are still green and vulnerable to sprays. Avoid getting the herbicide on other plants. Repeat control measures for a few years until seeds in the soil are depleted.

Education

Tell your family, friends and neighbors about dame’s rocket. Many people mistakenly think of this plant as “wild phlox” and are unaware of its invasive potential. Leaving the plant to grow and disperse seed will create a bigger invasive problem in the years to come.

Suggested Replacements

Immediately upon removing a patch of dame’s rocket, install replacement plants or cover the bare soil with several sheets of newspaper and wood chips. Leaving bare soil encourages garlic mustard and other weeds to invade.

Most native grasses and forbs that grow happily in the habitat from which you are removing dame’s rocket will thrive in its place.

Sources

http://www.na.fs.fed.us/fhp/invasive_plants/weeds/dames-rocket.pdf

https://pddc.wisc.edu/wp-content/blogs.dir/39/files/Fact_Sheets/FC_PDF/Dames_Rocket.pdf

http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Invasives/fact/DamesRocket.html

Photos by CFC Community Education Committee.

Citizens for Conservation
459 West Highway 22
Barrington IL 60010
Phone: 847-382-SAVE (7383)

www.citizensforconservation.org
August 2011

Invasive Species: Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)

(PDF version of this page)

Ecological Impact

  • Casts dense shade which reduces the growth and survival of native shrubs and trees;
  • Leafs out so early that even spring ephemerals are impacted;
  • Changes soil characteristics making soil inhospitable to other plant life;
  • Works like a laxative on birds which spread the seeds and stain outdoor furnishings.

Characteristics

Common buckthorn is a deciduous shrub or small tree that can reach 22 feet in height with a trunk up to 10 inches wide. Its bark is gray to brown and looks like that of plum or wild cherry. A spine often tips the twig of common buckthorn. Buckthorn’s inner bark is yellow, and the heartwood is pink to orange.

Buckthorn heartwood

Leaves are dark green, broadly oval, and may have pointed or rounded tips with toothed edges. A reliable indicator for identification is its green foliage late in autumn after native shrubs have lost their leaves.

Buckthorn leaves
Buckthorn leaves

Buckthorn has a long growing season, leafing out before native plants have broken dormancy and retaining its leaves until late fall. Its foliage creates dense shade in which wildflowers, grasses, and shrubs are unable to thrive. Buckthorn’s shade also prevents growth of young oaks and hickories.

Buckthorn in growing season
Buckthorn choking trees along roadside

Prolific seed production allows buckthorn to flourish. Female specimens produce numerous small, black, berry-like fruits most of which fall directly under the shrubs creating an impenetrable mass of seedlings; birds eat other fruits and carry them far beyond the mother shrub. Because birds have difficulty digesting the fruits, they rapidly expel the seeds (note the species epithet, cathartica). Thus, the shrubs reproduce and spread rapidly.

buckthorn berries
Buckthorn berries

Habitat

Common buckthorn prefers lightly shaded conditions. It invades open oak woods, deadfall openings in woodlands, and woodland edges. It is also found in prairies and open fields. It tolerates many soil types. Buckthorn respects no boundaries. It is probably in your yard if you have some bushes and a little shade.

 Similar Species

Invasive

  • Glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) does not have a spine at twig tips; the leaf edges are not toothed; and the undersides of the leaves are hairy. Glossy buckthorn typically invades wetlands but also occurs in upland habitats. Both common and glossy buckthorn are capable of growing in full sun as well as heavily shaded areas.

Native

  • Native plums and cherries have similar bark.
  • Black chokeberry, gray dogwood and many species of viburnum have a somewhat similar appearance.

Control Methods for Common Buckthorn

Before you kill buckthorn, be certain that you have identified it correctly. The native species that are routinely mistaken for buckthorn are: American plum, black chokeberry, black cherry, hawthorn, nannyberry and gray dogwood.

Hand Pulling

Hand pull small plants and use a weed wrench to pull plants up to 1½ inches in diameter. Hand pulling removes the roots, preventing resprouting. Remove plants gently to prevent uncovering buckthorn seeds stored in the soil.

Cutting

If buckthorn is larger than 1½ inches, saw or clip the stems near the ground. Unfortunately, buckthorn will resprout. You can repeatedly clip the new sprouts which will weaken the plant, but that is a long process. To prevent resprouting, paint cut stumps with glyphosate (Roundup®) immediately after cutting, being careful to avoid other plants since glyphosate kills all growing vegetation. The best time to use herbicide is in the fall when buckthorn is one of the few actively growing shrubs.

Herbicides

Herbicide container treatments are least effective in the spring. Glyphosate and triclopyr are both effective against buckthorn.

Immediately after cutting, apply herbicide to the stumps with a bristle paint brush or single-use foam brush.

  1. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup®, Rodeo® and others. 10 to 25% active ingredient is needed for stump applications.
  2. Triclopyr is the active ingredient in Garlon® 3A, Garlon® 4, ORTHO® MAX™ Poison Ivy & Tough Brush Killer, Crossbow®, Pathfinder® II and others.

Follow all the usage directions and safety precautions on your herbicide’s container.

Burning

First check to see if burning is allowed in your community. Burning buckthorn is usually not an option for homeowners.

Conduct burns as soon as leaf litter is dry. Buckthorn seedlings are vulnerable to fire due to their immature root structure. Fire will top kill a mature plant, but resprouting will occur.

It is difficult to burn a dense buckthorn stand because buckthorn shades out understory plants allowing minimal fuel build-up. Buckthorn leaves rarely provide fuel since they disintegrate too rapidly. In dense stands, buckthorn trees and saplings can be cut and dropped on site, creating fuel for future fires.

Education

Inform your family, friends and neighbors about buckthorn. Remember, birds feeding on your neighbors’ buckthorn berries will drop seed in your yard too. Encourage neighbors to remove their buckthorn and maybe even offer to help.

Suggested Replacements

Immediately upon removing buckthorn, be ready with replacement plants, or cover the bare soil with several sheets of newspaper and wood chips. Leaving bare soil encourages garlic mustard and other weeds to invade.

Many native trees and shrubs serve as great replacements for buckthorn, providing the same level of privacy along with other benefits. The plants listed below provide excellent nesting sites and cover for birds and small mammals and shade for us. Their flowers provide nectar for butterflies and other pollinators while birds eat their fruit.

  • Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)
  • Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)
  • Blackhaw viburnum, (Viburnum prunifolium)
  • Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)

Sources

Fact Sheet: Common Buckthorn from Plant Conservation Alliance’s Alien Plant Working Group at http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/rhca1.htm;

Chemical Control of Buckthorn by Janet Van Sloun Larson, Natural Resource Specialist, City of Minnetonka, MN; http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/invasives/fact/commonbuckthorn.html.

Photos by CFC Community Education Committee.

Citizens for Conservation
459 West Highway 22
Barrington IL 60010
Phone: 847-382-SAVE (7383)
www.citizensforconservation.org