Inspiring exploration, appreciation, and conservation of our natural world.

Invasive Plants to the Grand Traverse Region

Explore the links below to learn what plants are invasive in our region. The invasive ornamentals list details what plants to avoid in gardening, one of the main vectors for invasive species distribution. The Top 20 list highlights the most damaging species in our region, more than half of which were imported as landscape ornamentals.

Invasive plants are non-native plants that cause harm to the economy, the environment, or people.

Harm to the economy: Invasive plants impact our local farmers by competing with agricultural crops, reducing beneficial insect populations and hosting common pests like the soybean aphid—all of which can reduce yields and increase pest management costs  In a region like ours, where the natural world is the single most important economic driver, it’s easy to see how reduced trillium, morel, or leek populations, or reductions in the regional bird populations that native plants support, could negatively impact that “Up North,” “Pure Michigan” allure that has been such a boon for our region’s tourism economy.

Harm to the environment: Recognizing their devastating impact on local and global ecosystems, ecologists around the world have elevated invasive species among the top threats to biodiversity.  For example, many insects, including numerous caterpillar species (larval butterflies) feed exclusively on a specific native “host” plants. These insects in turn provide critical food for many other living things, such as songbirds, the greater majority of which depend on insects to survive into adulthood.  Compounding the impacts of habitat loss, invasive species degrade what habitat remains, contributing directly to our world’s ongoing extinction crisis.

Harm to people: Some plants cause harm to people. For example, the sap from wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) causes intense blistering on the skin when exposed to sunlight.  Skin irritations may result from contact with spotted knapweed and with the sap from leafy spurge.

Below you’ll find a link to a list that contains all plant species that are of concern for their impacts, or potential impacts, to our region’s native habitat.