Winter Weeds in the Southeastern US

English ivy 002

English ivy is visible in the winter

Here in the southeastern U.S. we are fortunate to have a number of evergreen plants during the winter. Not all of those plants are native, of course, and a few of those non-native ones are even invasive. Since evergreen plants really stand out in the winter, now is a good time to work on removing the invasive ones while you can see them clearly.


I find six evergreen invasive plants in my area: Chinese and Japanese privet (Ligustrum spp.), English ivy (Hedera helix), autumn olive (Elaeagnus spp.), mahonia (Mahonia bealei), heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica), and Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica).

Nandina seedling

Nandina seedling


These are all woody plants and can be removed in various ways.  If they are young and small, try pulling them out now while the ground is relatively moist (wear gloves to ensure good traction and minimize any reaction – plants like English ivy can cause a rash).

Once you learn how to recognize seedlings, pulling them up and stuffing them in your pockets is a good way to get rid of them early. Sometimes I forget to take them out and well-washed seedlings tumble out of the washer, dead as a doorknob.


Mahonia bealei

Mahonia bealei

If they are too large to pull, you can cut them down or cut into their bark to reveal the cambium layer and carefully apply (consider using a foam paintbrush) a bit of brush killer on the stump or cut area.  At the very least, remove any berries on the plant and mark the plants with some bright string or flagging tape (available at home improvement stores) so that you can come back to remove them properly when you have help.  Bag up any berries and place them in the trash.

Elaeagnus 002

Autumn olive (Elaeagnus spp.)

Interested in identifying other invasives? This is a good website – detailed photos for identification and links to learn more about methods of control for invasive plants in the Eastern United States.  Plants are listed both by common name and by scientific name – use your browser’s “Find” function to search for what you’re looking for (but be aware that the common name be not be the same as what you know it as, so search by scientific name if possible).


Removing invasive plants is good for the local environment and something we all can do. Each plant that we remove, each seed that we take out of circulation, opens up an opportunity for a locally native plant to grow and thrive. Each locally native plant that grows is a means of support to local insects and birds.

Privet streamside

A thicket of privet (Ligustrum sinense) chokes a local stream, crowding out the native plants that would have grown there.


© 2014, Ellen Honeycutt. All rights reserved. This article is the property of We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

Related Posts with Thumbnails


  1. says

    These were good information. I am also a native-plant supporter. I will buy non-native plants only if they are not invasive. That olive is found in many parts of NJ and really invasive.
    KL recently posted..The Thief

  2. Susan says

    I joke that getting rid of invasives is my main retirement project! We have most of the ones you mentioned in your article here in SE Michigan except Nandina. I had hoped to get out and cut and paint a lot of Autumn Olive but it has been too cold to paint on the herbicide, not to mention how much snow we have had. My goal is to keep getting rid of the invasives and to plant more natives to take their places. In one hillside area where my husband and I got rid of a small forest of Autumn Olive, the next spring there were a bunch of Sassafras seedlings. I think the mother tree had died and the seeds were just waiting for some sun.

    Thanks for your informative posts.

  3. Lisa Tompkins says

    This is one of my favorite outdoor activities – especially at this time of year. It’s addictive! I like to hang my little plucklings in the crotch of a tree (where they can’t re-root) to serve as a warning to the invasives that I haven’t gotten to yet. My only recommendation is not to be too quick to replant as I’ve been surprised any number of times by the natives that popped up in their place. Sounds like you’ve had the same experience, Ellen. I’ve found native honeysuckle hanging on just beneath the Japanese invasive quite a few times. And, I didn’t even know that it grew on my property. Thanks for spreading the love. :o)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge