Invasive Plants of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve

Invasive plants are non-indigenous plant species that out-compete native vegetation for nutrients, sunlight and space. Invasives pose two interwoven problems for the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. On the environmental level, invasives concern the Preserve because they impede restoration, kill existing plants, and simplify ecosystems. On an aesthetic level, since invasives grow quickly and fill in the understory, they stand in between the Preserve’s natural beauty and visitors who seek an escape from the city. As a result, invasives screen some of the Preserves best views of Madison’s lakefront.

Before invasive plant removal…
…after invasive plant removal.

Species of concern

Garlic Mustard

Garlic mustard by Glenda Denniston

Ecological Threat: Garlic mustard is a cool-weather, shade-tolerant plant that spreads quickly in forest understory. It out-competes wildflowers and other important forage plants, necessary for many animals.

Identification: Garlic mustard is easily identifiable by its leaves, which are small and heart-shaped, with scalloped edges. Leaves give off a garlic-like fragrance when crushed. The flowers are small, white, four-petaled, and arrayed as an ‘X’.

Asian bush honeysuckle

Chris Evans, University of Illinois,

Ecological Threat: Honeysuckle forms a dense shrub layer that crowds out similarly-sized plants and shades out smaller ones.

Identification: Honeysuckle is an upright bush from 6-15 feet high. The leaves are egg-shaped and 1-2.5 inches long. The flowers are tubular and fragrant and range from white to pink to crimson.

Common buckthorn

Buckthorn by Stephen L. Solheim

Ecological Threat: Buckthorn grows quickly and out-competes other plants for nutrients and water. Also, its shade creates a good habitat for garlic mustard.

Identification: Tall shrubs to small trees that range up to 25 feet high and 10 inches in diameter. Bark is grayish. Leaves are dull, oval-shaped, and alternate on the branches. Berries are black.

Learn more!

Read a Friends of the Preserve article by Roma Lenehan, “Invasive Plants in the Lakeshore Nature Preserve“.