Some of the worst invasive plants are actually quite lovely, as you will see by viewing the photos on the following pages. The old adage of not being able to judge a book by its cover very much pertains to such barbarians. In fact, some of these thugs owe the success of their invasion, at least in part, to their beauty: dazzled by a well-turned branch, seduced by flowing racemes of colorful flowers, we've been duped into transporting them from foreign lands and giving them prominent positions in our backyards.
My photos of invasive plants run the gamut from lowly weeds to towering trees. In between, you'll see examples of problematic vines and even a venerable landscape shrub, beloved in some quarters for serving as living privacy screens. Other shrubs qualifying as beautiful invasive plants are burning bush (pictured above) and butterfly bush.
For the most part, this is not vegetation hard to find in the areas where the invaders have been successful, such as New England, U.S. (my own stomping grounds). In fact, once residents of such areas learn what these attractive invasive plants look like, they will be hard-pressed to take a drive in the summertime and not see some examples of them. If you enjoy weed identification, just keep your eyes peeled for them (preferably, while someone else is doing the driving, for the sake of safety) amongst the vegetation along the edge of the road, at the edge of the forest, and in people's landscapes. They are truly ubiquitous!
As alluded to above, it is not a fluke that some of the most widespread invasive plants are also some of the best-looking. You have heard of "Sleeping With the Enemy," right? But how about planting the enemy? Long before the phenomenon of invasiveness was considered or "invasive plants" had even entered everyday parlance, Western explorers and collectors in the Orient brought back plants from China and elsewhere that had caught their eye. The public, too fell in love with them. Once a market for them was established, they were propagated in significant numbers and distributed.
Not that all of these invasive-plant imports are beautiful by my standards. Frankly, I have no idea what the collectors ever saw in Japanese knotweed, a weed that escaped cultivation to become a menace (it is excruciatingly difficult to remove Japanese knotweed). Well, OK, it does produce a flower that earned it the nickname, "fleece flower" (not to be confused with Persicaria polymorpha, which also goes by that common name). But its late-summer floral display is small recompense for having to deal not only with its invasiveness, but the thoroughly unattractive dried canes left over when autumn yields to winter.
But my focus in this gallery is on the invasive plants that I, myself find attractive. In the case of each of these invaders, it is easy for me to understand why growers in North America craved these foreign imports. Use my photos as an aid in identifying some of these beautiful barbarians.