Winter Invasive Plant Identification

Our invasive plant management program may slow down in the winter months, but it certainly doesn’t stop. There are several invasive evergreen plant species that can be easily identified and removed. English Ivy is one well known example, but there are several other vines, shrubs, trees, and herbaceous plants that can be spotted in Arlington County’s parks in the winter.

Winter Creeper (Euonymus fortunei)

Winter creeper, or creeping Euonymus, is a commonly used ornamental vine. It is an evergreen perennial with toothed, opposite, oval shaped leaves. The dark green leaves are thick and leathery with white veins. Winter creeper can grow as a groundcover, a climbing vine, or a shrub. It bears attractive red fruits in the fall. This plant can be hand pulled or dug out. In order to remove climbing vines, use the same method that is employed when removing English Ivy.

 

Italian Arum

Photo: Missouri Botanical Garden

Italian Arum (Arum italicum)

Italian arum is a perennial herbaceous plant that is found in various areas in the United States, including D.C. and Northern Virginia. This stemless plant has large, dark green leaves with white veins and blooms a white flower in late spring. After flowering, this plant holds red fruits in the late fall. Italian arum usually keeps its leaves during mild winters, but any harsh or cold weather may cause the leaves to die and re-emerge in the spring. This plant is difficult to dig up; the corms (or root system) may break apart during the process.

 

Lesser Celandine

Photo: www.forestryimages.org

Lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria)

Lesser celandine is not evergreen, but it can be seen in late winter months.  This herbaceous perennial is usually found in dense mats along stream edges. It has spread throughout the United States, and is commonly found in Arlington. After its short flowering window in March and April, this plant dies back for the rest of the spring, summer, and fall. It is a low growing plant with glossy, kidney-shaped, green leaves and small yellow flowers. As with Italian arum, lesser celandine has a tuber-like root system that is difficult to dig out; therefore, the primary treatment method for large infestations is a foliar application of herbicide.

 

Photo: Bugwood.com

Photo: Bugwood.com

Leatherleaf mahonia (Mahonia bealei)

Leatherleaf mahonia is an attractive shrub that is often planted in ornamental landscapes. It has thick, spiny evergreen leaves that are similar to holly. It flowers in late winter and holds plump blue fruits that are spread by birds. The leatherleaf mahonia is very invasive in warmer climates and has started to spread into Arlington’s natural areas. This shrub can be cut down repeatedly or hand-pulled when it is young.

 

For more information about these winter invasive plant species, please contact sarcher@arlingtonva.us

For information about volunteer opportunities to remove invasive plants, visit our website.

Comments

  1. Cliff Fairweather says:

    You have two pics of Italian arum instead of one of winter creeper.

  2. Carolyn Barton says:

    Both the first and second pictures in the post about identifying invasives in the winter are of the Italian arum. I’d like to see a picture of winter creeper since I’ve heard of it but am not sure of its identity.