Ruby-throated hummingbird with Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia). Photo: Mervin Wallace

Alternative Species

The plant names in green below are commonly used in landscaping. Unfortunately, some of these plants, such as the Autumn Olive and Purple Loosestrife, are invasive and harmful to Missouri’s natural ecosystems. The plants listed below each of the non-native plant heading are natives that make excellent replacements.

 

 

Amur Maple

Acer ginnala

Aesculus pavia (Red Buckeye)

Usually a single-stemmed, rather open shrub with palmate leaves. Spikes of showy red flowers, 4-8 in. long, are pollinated by ruby-throated hummingbirds in spring. Foliage drops naturally in late summer. Brown, egg-shaped fruit in the fall. This handsome shrub is a Plants of Merit winner.

Amelanchier arborea (Serviceberry)

Tall shrub or small tree bearing clusters of fragrant white flowers in April. Flowers give rise to very flavorful, purple-black, berrylike fruits relished by both songbirds and people. This lovely tree has colorful fall foliage in a blend of orange, gold, red and green and is a Plants of Merit winner.

Carpinus caroliniana (American Hornbeam)

A small to medium multi-stemmed tree forming wide spreading rounded tops. A subtle beauty often overlooked. Simple toothed leaves are dark green and have variable yellow, orange,red or reddish purple fall color. Beautiful thin, bluish-gray bark that almost ‘ripples’as the tree matures. Hence another common name ‘Musclewood’.A Missouri Botanical Garden Plant of Merit-

Cornus alternifolia (Pagoda Dogwood)

Spreading, horizontal, low-branched tree with great horizontal habit. Flat-topped clusters of fragrant, yellowish white flowers in May or June are followed by handsome blue-black berries on red stems. Burgundy foliage in fall. Good alternative to cold-sensitive Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) in northern areas.

Bugle Weed

Ajuga cultivars

Asarum canadense (Wild Ginger)

A deciduous ground cover with soft green, kidney-shaped leaves and inconspicuous green-brown flowers in the spring. Forms large colonies in cool moist woodland areas.

Senecio aureus (Golden Ragwort)

A good semi-evergreen ground cover for moist shady locations. The flat-topped clusters of yellow, daisylike flowers open at the top of sparsely leaved, 12 to 24 in. stems in early spring. Plants spread rapidly and may be aggressive.

Senecio obovatus (Squaw-weed)

Loose umbels of yellow flowers are produced from early April through June on 12″ stems. The semievergreen foliage is rounded and serrated along the edges. Plants spread slowly by underground stems. Grows well in dry shade.

Porcelain Berry

Ampelopsis brevipedunculata

Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia Creeper)

A deciduous, climbing woody vine that attached to flat surfaces by tendrils ending in adhesive tips. Leaves composed of five leaflets emerge bronze in spring, mature to dull green in summer and change to purple or crimson-red in autumn. One of the first woody plants to take on fall color. Clusters of small, greenish-white flowers appear in the upper leaf axils in late spring to early summer, but are hidden by the foliage. Honey bees gather pollen from the flowers and birds love the dark blue to black berries that form in summer. Deer, quail, squirrels and wild turkeys feast on other parts of the vine.

Wormwood

Artemesia spp.

Oenothera macrocarpa (Missouri Primrose)

A showy, trailing plant with large, yellow, fragrant flowers up to 4″ across. Plants bloom for a long period from spring through summer.

Non-native Asters

Aster cultivars

Aster novae-angliae (New England Aster)

This tall aster produces hundreds of large purple or pinkish flowers with yellow centers in Sept. and Oct. The flowers are a favorite nectar source for migrating monarch butterflies.

Aster oblongifolius (Aromatic Aster)

One of the last wildflowers to bloom, this aster is loaded with blue-purple daisylike flowers that persist into late fall. This aster grows into a tidy, compact, self-supporting mound and is a Plants of Merit winner.Aster turbinellus (Lavender Aster)

Aster oolentangiensis (azureus) (Sky Blue Aster)

Dozens of blue flowers with yellow centers bloom in fall. The foliage is blue-green and stems are dark. Butterflies love the nectar.

Barberry

Berberis spp.

Itea virginica (Virginia Sweetspire)

Shrub with slender upright branches that eventually arch over; usually wider than tall. Very fragrant clusters of drooping creamy white flowers May-June. Dark green leaves turn scarlet and crimson in fall, remaining showy for many weeks.

Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey Tea)

A low-growing, compact shrub that’s excellent for hot, dry sites. Billows of delicate white flowers form at the end of young branches in May and June. Clusters of small black fruit form in July and August.

Butterfly Bush

Buddleia davidii

Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey Tea)

A low-growing, compact shrub that’s excellent for hot, dry sites. Billows of delicate white flowers form at the end of young branches in May and June. Clusters of small black fruit form in July and August.

Chinese Bittersweet

Celastrus orbiculatus

Celastrus scandens (American Bittersweet)

A twining woody vine that will grow vertically or sprawl horizontally over bushes and fences. Hanging clusters of yellow-orange fruit split open to show bright red-orange seed coats. Plants are male or female. Both sexes are needed for fruit set.

Non-native Coreopsis

Coreopsis cultivars

Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf Coreopsis)

Showy, deep yellow flowers on tall stems in May and June. Plants outgrow weeds and hold the soil.

Coreopsis palmata (Prairie Coreopsis)

Features soft yellow, daisy-like flowers with flat yellow centers on top of stiff upright stems. Plants bloom from late spring to mid-summer. Spreads by rhizomes and self-seeding.

Non-native Delphinium

Delphinium cultivars

Delphinium exaltatum (Tall Larkspur)

Stately spikes of purplish blue flowers on tall stems bloom in July and August. This first-rate plant brings real grace to any landscape. Handsome shallowly cut foliage forms a nice mound. Butterflies, bees and other pollinators visit the flowers. Excellent cut flower.

Bleeding Heart

Dicentra spectabilis

Stylophorum diphyllum (Celandine Poppy)

A wonderful early spring bloomer for the shade garden. Showy yellow flowers are held above lobed, blue-green leaves.

Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebells)

Pink flower buds open to sky blue in March and April. Foliage is blue-green. This plant is a spring ephemeral, meaning the foliage goes dormant in summer. Great for naturalizing in a rich, moist woodland environment.

Geranium maculatum (Wild Geranium)

A clump-forming woodland perennial that forms a mound of deeply cut, palmately-lobed, dark green foliage. Features 1 1/4″ diameter, medium pink to lilac, saucer-shaped, upturned, 5-petaled flowers in spring for 6-7 weeks.

Foxglove

Digitalis cultivars

Penstemon digitalis (Foxglove Beard Tongue)

A profusion of tubular white flowers on strong stems in May and June provide nectar for hummingbirds. This handsome plant has attractive seed heads and foliage that turns reddish in fall.

Penstemon cobaea (Purple Beard Tongue)

Show-stopping spikes of loosely spaced white to violet to deep purple, 2 in. long tubular flowers atop erect stems. Flowers bloom in June and are larger than other penstemon flowers.

Penstemon tubaeflorus (Prairie Beard Tongue)

Refined spires of tubular white flowers arranged in ‘rings’,or tight clusters in tiers around the strong, slender stems. Blooms from mid spring to mid summer.The main leaves are well below the flowers. Similar to the Foxglove Beard Tongue, but flower clusters are more narrow.

Autumn Olive

Elaeagnus umbellata

Amelanchier arborea (Serviceberry)

Tall shrub or small tree bearing clusters of fragrant white flowers in April. Flowers give rise to very flavorful, purple-black, berrylike fruits relished by both songbirds and people. This lovely tree has colorful fall foliage in a blend of orange, gold, red and green and is a Plants of Merit winner.

Burning Bush

Euonymous alatus

Euonymus atropurpureus (Wahoo)

Shrub or small tree most often grown for its attractive red berries and reddish fall color. Small purple flowers in spring are followed by scarlet red fruit in fall which birds enjoy.

Aronia melanocarpa (Black Chokeberry)

It is hard to beat the wine red fall color and the black fruit display of this very adaptable shrub! A plant the colonizes due to its ability to sucker. Foliage is deep green and glossy all summer. Clusters of white flowers in spring form the large black fruits in the fall.

Rhus aromatica (Fragrant Sumac)

Low, irregular spreading shrub with lower branches that grow horizontally then turn up at the tips. Tends to sucker and root along stems that touch the soil, forming a dense stand. Yellow-green flowers appear before leaves emerge. Clusters of fuzzy red fruit form on female plants August-September and may persist into winter. Many birds and mammals feed on the fruit. Leaves turn bright red-purple in fall.

Rhus glabra (Smooth Sumac)

Compound leaves are shiny dark green on top and almost white on the undersides. Compact clusters of dark red, velvety berries form August-September. The brilliant red fall foliage becomes a focal point in the landscape.

Golden Currant is a fragrant, native alternative to the yellow-blooming Forsythia.

Forsythia

Forsythia x intermedia

Lindera benzoin (Spicebush)

A broad, rounded multistemmed shrub covered with fragrant yellow-green flowers in early spring. The flowers open before the leaves emerge and are held close to the branches. Aromatic light green leaves turn deep yellow-gold in fall. Birds feed on the small, brilliant red fruits formed on female plants. A 2005 Missouri Botanical Garden Plants of Merit winner.

Ribes odoratum (Golden Currant; Clove Currant)

A thornless, loosely-branched, arching shrub with blue-green lobed leaves turning dull yellow in fall. In spring, golden yellow flowers appear and emit a strong, clove-like fragrance. Birds and small animals eat the black, round, berries formed June-August.

Non-native Hibiscus

Hibiscus cultivars

Hibiscus lasiocarpos (Rose Mallow)

White or pink flowers with red centers grow 4 to 5 in. across. Flowers open for many weeks in mid-summer. Large fuzzy leaves and a shrublike form give this plant substantial bulk in the landscape. Plants generally break dormancy late in spring so be patient.

Non-native Hydrangea

Hydrangea cultivars

Hydrangea arborescens (Wild Hydrangea)

Large clusters of flat, creamy white, flowers open in June and last for many weeks. Plants bloom most of the summer. Pollen-rich flowers attract many insects. Plants form rounded mounds. Flowers can be used in fresh or dried arrangements. Grow in partial shade in rich moist soil. Tolerates deep shade.

Japanese Honeysuckle

Lonicera japonica

Lonicera flava (Yellow Honeysuckle)

A twining, deciduous woody vine with tubular yellow flowers in whorls at the ends of stems April-May. Round, fleshy, orange to red berries appear in late summer. Hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to the nectar produced by the flowers while birds and small mammals eat the fruit. Deer browse the stems and leaves.

Clematis virginiana (Virgin’s Bower)

Abundant clusters of fragrant creamy white flowers in August and September give way to lots of silky seed heads. Seed heads are only produced on female plants. The foliage is bright green. Plants climb by twisting leaf-stalks around objects. Vines are semi-woody in southern areas but tend to die back to the ground in the north.

Purple Loosestrife

Lythrum spp.

Asclepias incarnata (Marsh Milkweed)

Sweetly scented clusters of rose-pink flowers bloom in summer. Butterflies find the faint vanilla fragrance irresistible and monarch larvae feed on the foliage. Grows naturally in swamps and wet meadows but also grows well in the garden.

Filipendula rubra (Queen of the Prairie)

A regal beauty with huge showy flowerheads of deep pink sway on strong stems, three to seven feet tall. Blooms in mid summer over dark green, deeply divided foliage-what a sight! Spent flowerheads are also attractive.

Liatris pycnostachya (Prairie Blazing Star)

Unbranched stalks bear dense spikes of magenta flowers in July and August on strong stems. The nectar-rich flowers are a favorite with butterflies and hummingbirds. Songbirds love the seed.

Liatris aspera (Rough Blazing Star)

Tall stalks of rounded, fluffy, deep rosy purple flowers bloom in September. Most of the flowers open at the same time making it a good cut flower. Butterflies love the nectar. This is one of the last Liatris species to bloom.

Non-native Crabapple

Malus cultivars

Ilex decidua (Deciduous Holly; Possum Haw)

A shrub or small tree producing white flowers in late spring and early summer followed by orange or red berries on female plants. Fruiting requires pollination from a male plant. The berries perist through winter and are an important food source for birds. Bluebirds especially like the fruit. Adaptable to soil but prefers well-drained soil with average moisture.

Amelanchier arborea (Serviceberry)

Tall shrub or small tree bearing clusters of fragrant white flowers in April. Flowers give rise to very flavorful, purple-black, berrylike fruits relished by both songbirds and people. This lovely tree has colorful fall foliage in a blend of orange, gold, red and green and is a Plants of Merit winner.

Crataegus viridis (Green Hawthorn)

Clusters of white flowers in mid-May. Lustrous, medium green foliage turns purple or scarlet in fall. Bright red, persistent fruit color in September. The bark of older trunks often exfoliates to expose an orangish-brown inner bark. Minimal thorns.

Maiden Grass

Miscanthus spp.

Tripsacum dactyloides (Eastern Gama Grass)

A robust, clump-forming, warm season grass with coarse, arching, narrow, gray-green leaf blades. Orange and purple flower spikes grow 10 in. long and arch above the foliage from May to September. Naturalizes by creeping rhizomes and self-seeding.

Panicum virgatum (Switch Grass)

A clump-forming, columnar, warm season grass that grows 3 ft. tall with flower heads rising 3 ft. above the foliage. Medium green leaves turn yellow, sometimes with orange tints, in autumn, fading to tan in winter. Foliage is topped in mid-summer by finely-textured, pink-tinged, branched flower heads. Flower heads turn beige in fall with the seed plumes persisting well into winter. Birds feed on the seed and plants provide cover for wildlife. Sometimes spreads by rhizomes and seed.

Pachysandra

Pachysandra terminalis

Senecio aureus (Golden Ragwort)

A good semi-evergreen ground cover for moist shady locations. The flat-topped clusters of yellow, daisylike flowers open at the top of sparsely leaved, 12 to 24 in. stems in early spring. Plants spread rapidly and may be aggressive.

Senecio obovatus (Squaw-weed)

Loose umbels of yellow flowers are produced from early April through June on 12″ stems. The semievergreen foliage is rounded and serrated along the edges. Plants spread slowly by underground stems. Grows well in dry shade.

Asarum canadense (Wild Ginger)

A deciduous ground cover with soft green, kidney-shaped leaves and inconspicuous green-brown flowers in the spring. Forms large colonies in cool moist woodland areas.

Fountain Grass

Pennisetum spp.

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem)

A small, non-spreading, clump-forming grass with blue-green leaves that turn reddish orange in the fall. Fluffy silver seed heads are ornamental through winter.

Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed)

Very thin, emerald green leaves form a dense arching tuft. Seed heads form in August and give off a distinct aroma. These graceful clumps turn yellow or deep orange in fall. Provides food and cover for wildlife. A 2005 Missouri Botanical Garden Plants of Merit winner.

Carex stricta (Tussock Sedge)

Dense mounds of rich green, fine-bladed foliage. Tolerates a wide range of soil moisture and shade. Useful for water gardens

Bradford Pear

Pyrus calleryana ‘Brad

Chionanthus virginicus (Fringetree)

Shimmering, white frothy flowers blanket this shrub/small tree in May or June. Small, round, bluish olive-like fruit form on female trees in fall and are eaten by many types of birds. Leaves often turn bright yellow in fall. This beauty is a Plants of Merit winner.

Nyssa sylvatica (Black Gum)

Plants of Merit winner. One of our most beautiful and underused native trees. Rivals anything for fall color displays. Makes an excellent specimen tree, nice and tidy shape. Attractive, glossy, dark green leaves that turn fluorescent yellow, to orange, to scarlet red (most often), to purple colors in fall. Spectacular! Bark is dark gray to almost black, almost alligator-like patterns. Slow to grow, plant young trees in early spring. Deep rooted, so difficult to transplant when mature.Separate male and female trees. Fruit the size of navy beans ripen to a dark blue in fall and are a favorite food to many birds. Host for the black and white Hebrew Moth.

Japanese Pagoda

Sophora japonica

Sapindus drummondii (Western Soapberry)

An attractive small native tree with glossy compound leaves and excellent deep yellow-gold fall color. Flowers are showy, creamy-white on upright panicles up to 10″ long. The translucent-yellow, grape-like fruit are poisonous. Fruit ripen in October and persist through much of the winter to give this tree many seasons of interest. Fish who eat the seed from fallen fruit are poisoned. Gray ‘sculpted’ bark gives great winter interest. Not commonly planted, but a great ‘almost unknown’ native!

Spirea

Spirea cultivars

Physocarpus opulifolius (Ninebark)

Clusters of white to pinkish flowers resembling spirea bloom May-June. Birds eat the seed formed in reddish drooping fruit clusters in fall. The bark provides winter interest as it peels away in strips to reveal layers of reddish to light brown inner bark on mature stems. This handsome shrub is a Missouri Botanical Garden Plants of Merit winner.

Japanese Tree Lilac

Syringa reticulata

Chionanthus virginicus (Fringetree)

Shimmering, white frothy flowers blanket this shrub/small tree in May or June. Small, round, bluish olive-like fruit form on female trees in fall and are eaten by many types of birds. Leaves often turn bright yellow in fall. This beauty is a Plants of Merit winner.

Cotinus obovatus (American Smoketree)

Considered a small tree or a large shrub. Rounded bluish to dark green leaves that turn a spectacular mix of yellow,orange and amber to red and burgundy in fall. Huge pale green clusters of flowerheads with silken hairs, up to 12″ across, form the appearance of “smoke” in late spring. Bark is an attractive gray-brown and scaly when mature. Our native Smoketree is much better and easier to grow than its Asian cousins that are more often seen in the trade.

Lilac

Syringa vulgaris

Chionanthus virginicus (Fringetree)

Shimmering, white frothy flowers blanket this shrub/small tree in May or June. Small, round, bluish olive-like fruit form on female trees in fall and are eaten by many types of birds. Leaves often turn bright yellow in fall. This beauty is a Plants of Merit winner.

Lacebark Elm

Ulmus parvifolia

Celtis laevigata (Sugarberry)

Celtis occidentalis (Hackberry)

A reliable all-purpose shade tree which is pyramidal when young then develops a broad crown with ascending branches. The leaves are medium green. Fall foliage is a soft yellow. Birds and wildlife relish the small, round, orange-red or purple fleshy fruit that forms September-October.

Japanese Zelkova

Zelkova serrata

Celtis laevigata (Sugarberry)

Celtis occidentalis (Hackberry)

A reliable all-purpose shade tree which is pyramidal when young then develops a broad crown with ascending branches. The leaves are medium green. Fall foliage is a soft yellow. Birds and wildlife relish the small, round, orange-red or purple fleshy fruit that forms September-October.

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Learn more at moinvasives.org