Invasive terrestrial plants can disrupt native landscapes like prairies, wetlands, and forests. They also negatively impact agriculture economies and can be harmful to our health. Learn more about the invasive plants that are threatening Minnesota and what you can do to help by visiting the resources on this page.
- Why should I care about invasive plants?
Invasive plants damage the natural heritage of our wetlands, prairies, forests, lakes, and rivers by harming Minnesota's native plants and animals. Invasive plants, if left unchecked, limit how we can use public land now and for future generations. Some examples of invasive plant impacts on public land are:
- Limiting tree seedling establishment and regeneration of forests.
- Reducing native plants and the wildlife that depend on them for food and cover.
- Changing ecosystem processes such as promoting fires, changing nutrient availability in the soil, or increasing erosion.
- Reducing the availability of forage for grazing animals.
Invasive plants can also decrease your ability to enjoy hunting, fishing, mushroom collecting, bird watching, and other recreational pursuits by:
- Forming dense thickets or tangles that are difficult to walk through.
- Reducing native plants and the wildlife that depend on them for food and cover.
- Forming single-species stands that displace native wildflowers.
- Producing sap or spines that can irritate human skin or are toxic to horses.
You can be a part of the solution by being aware of invasive plants and taking action to prevent their spread. Learn about the impacts of particular species in the "How do I learn more about invasive plants" section.
Here are two additional resources about the impacts of invasive plants:
- Brochure: Why Should I Care About Invasive Plants (Midwest Invasive Plant Network)
- Video: Little things, big problems: Invasive plants in our parks (National Park Service)
- What is an invasive plant?
An invasive plant in Minnesota is a plant that is not native to Minnesota and causes economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. Not all non-native species are invasive. You can refer to the list of definitions below to help sort out terms you may hear.
- Invasive species (Minnesota Statute 84D.01): a non-native species that: (1) causes or may cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health; or (2) threatens or may threaten natural resources or the use of natural resources in the state.
- Native species: a species naturally present within Minnesota or that expands from its historic range into this state without human intervention.
- Non-native species: a species that is not native to Minnesota, but was brought by human movement or activity to Minnesota. An "introduced species" is a similar term that refers to a species brought intentionally or accidentally to Minnesota.
- Weed: a plant that is growing in a place where a person does not want it to be. A weed could be a native or non-native species. For example, poison ivy is native to Minnesota, but if it is growing in your garden you are likely to consider it a weed. If it is growing in a state forest, it is generally not a concern. A "nuisance species" is a similar term that could refer to a native or non-native species.
- Noxious Weed: a plant regulated as a Prohibited or Restricted Noxious Weed under the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's noxious weed law. Noxious Weeds and Specially Regulated Plants have specific legal restrictions and requirements under this law.
- Prohibited and Regulated aquatic invasive species: aquatic invasive species regulated by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
- Naturalized species: A non-native species that can survive and reproduce in an area where it is not native. While the term sounds similar to "native species", a "naturalized species" is still a non-native species. "Established" is a similar term that also means the species has a self-sustaining and reproducing population.
- How can I prevent the spread of invasive plants?
Preventing the introduction and spread of invasive plants is the best way to stop invasive plants. Human actions allow plants to travel great distances much faster than on their own. By following these simple steps, you can help prevent the spread of invasive plants in Minnesota:
- Plant native species or species that are not invasive. Before buying or planting new plants, check the list in the "How do I learn more about invasive plants?" section to ensure the plant is not invasive. The webpages for each plant on this page includes a native substitutes list to give you ideas for alternative plantings. The Landscaping with Native Plants to Ward Off Invasives & Benefit Wildlife: A Homeowner’s Guide (Midwest Invasive Plant Network and the US Forest Service) has more information on planting native species.
- When recreating, always arrive and leave with footwear and gear clean of mud, seeds, and vegetation. Learn more ways to prevent spreading invasive plants when recreating by using the DNR's guide to preventing invasive plants while recreating and visiting PlayCleanGo.org.
- Stay on designated roads and trails, going off trail increases the chance of spreading invasive plants to sensitive areas.
- If using forage or mulch, try to use weed-free certified supplies in your projects.
- How do I learn more about invasive plants?
Click on the links for individual species to learn more about identification, distribution, impacts, management, regulatory status, and native plant alternatives for those particular species. If you prefer a booklet-style guide to invasive plants, links to those options are provided after the list of individual species.
This is an educational list of plants that can be invasive in natural areas. Some plants are regulated by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture as Noxious Weeds and that is noted in their descriptions. An * next to the plant name indicates it is an early detection species.
- Birdsfoot trefoil
- Brown, diffuse, and meadow knapweeds*
- Bull thistle
- Butter and eggs
- Canada thistle
- Common tansy
- Common teasel*
- Cow vetch and hairy vetch
- Creeping Charlie
- Crown vetch or axseed
- Cut-leaved teasel*
- Dalmatian toadflax*
- Erect hedgeparsley
- Garlic mustard
- Giant hogweed*
- Grecian foxglove*
- Hoary alyssum
- Leafy spurge
- Musk or nodding thistle
- Narrowleaf bittercress*
- Orange hawkweed
- Oxeye daisy
- Poison hemlock
- Queen Anne's lace
- Spotted knapweed
- White and yellow sweet clover
- Wild parsnip
- Yellow starthistle*
Trees and shrubs
- Amur cork tree
- Amur maple
- Autumn olive
- Black locust
- Japanese barberry
- Multiflora rose
- Non-native bush honeysuckles
- Non-native knotweeds
- Norway maple
- Russian olive
- Siberian elm
- Siberian peashrub
- Tree of heaven*
- Winged burning bush
Invasive plant booklets
- Minnesota Noxious Weeds (Minnesota Department of Transportation) – contains information on identification and management of species regulated by the noxious weed law. Note that regulatory status may change more frequently than the printed version changes, so always consult the Noxious Weed List for the most up to date regulations.
- By Land And By Sea: Identification Guide To Non-native Species For Minnesota (University of Minnesota) – contains identification and regulatory status information on aquatic and terrestrial non-native plant and animal species. The guide may be purchased from the University of Minnesota or information may be accessed through individual species webpages.
- A Field Guide to Terrestrial Invasive Plants in Wisconsin (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources) – contains information on identification, impacts, and management of 60 invasive plants found in Wisconsin. You may print the pdf file or there is a printed version available for purchase through the Wisconsin DNR.
- How do I control and dispose of invasive plants?
The individual species pages in the "How do I learn more about invasive plants?" section above contain specific management recommendations for those species. Listed below are additional management resources that cover many invasive plant species.
- Minnesota Noxious Weeds (Minnesota Department of Transportation) – contains information on management of species regulated under the noxious weed law.
- Invasive Plant Control Database (Midwest Invasive Plant Network and the University of Wisconsin) – this interactive database allows you to specify the species of interest, season of treatment, habitat, and other customizations and then provides management recommendations based on your criteria.
- Woody Invasives of the Great Lakes Collaborative – contains information on identification, control, regulatory status, and landscape alternatives for woody invasive species in the Great Lakes region.
- Restoring Natural Areas to Prevent Secondary Invasions: A Land Manager’s Guide (Midwest Invasive Plant Network and the US Forest Service)
Plant disposal recommendations
- See the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Guide to Removal and Disposal of Noxious Weeds in Minnesota.