Native Vs. Exotic Plants

Most Forgettable Plants of the Year

Repeat after me: I will never use the following plants, and I will gently but decisively encourage friends and neighbors to follow my lead. Trust me, it's a resolution that takes pretty much NO effort, and is a small step towards creating a safer home and a better world.

OK, maybe not a better world. But it will certainly stop all of us from making it worse.

On second thought, perhaps this should be a group effort. I'll start the New Year's ball rolling, how 'bout you add on ...


Castor Bean Plants (Ricinus communis) with looks that kill

English Ivy (Hedera helix), invasive, unimaginative, overused and — oh yeah! — sometimes toxic

Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), perhaps the most Orwellian-named plant on the planet

Junipers, first and foremost, because life is too short.

Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), wanted dead or alive across North America ... and beyond ...

Your turn!



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Buddleia should be on this list every year. I'm so tired of pulling up these weeds--that are gifts from my neighbors plant--in my own yard. The roots are deep and don't give up easily. It comes up in seems in my walkways and breaks down the concrete. In some areas of the Puget Sound, road shoulders and empty lots are full of the stuff. In spite of this, I still see it for sale in nurseries. This plant should be banned!

Sent by Carol Egan-Davis | 3:00 PM | 12-28-2007

Moneywort (Lysimachia) should be on this list, because no one needs a plant that spreads and smothers other plants like this groundcover

Sent by Carol | 11:03 PM | 12-28-2007

Norway maple, Crimson King. I fell for the name, and the older ones in the neighbothood, that don't wither from unexpected summer heat. Why on earth would we BUY a Norway maple, when there a gazillion native maples in the woods around us? Red maples, silver maples, curly maples, sugar maples, etc. And I've even started them in pots, grown from seed! Now, Japanese maples, that's another story. But Norway maple? Never again. Overused, much abused, promises of delight (phrase thanks to Janis Ian).

Sent by Danuta Majchrowicz, PA | 10:27 AM | 12-30-2007

I second the call to remove junipers from the garden. Plants should be beautiful, provide something for the kitchen, or supply bounteous shade to protect one from the sun. Junipers do none of the above! Plus touching one makes me all itchy.

My additional nominee would be oleanders. California is over-full of oleandears since the California Department of Transportation declared them to be the official 'freeway bushes' sometime in the distant past.

Sent by Lauren Urff | 11:36 AM | 12-30-2007

Not that I really want anyone to forget or not enjoy the lovely Florida Coontie (Zamia pumila var floridana)but I know that my dear friend and her family would like to forget that its attractive and i might add very enticing bright orange seeds were the source for her family friend's (in the form of a spaniel named Dale)untimely demise from ingesting the seeds of the coontie. I was surprised to hear these were poisonous and to such a degree. Definitely a forgettable.

Sent by Christine Crawford | 1:12 AM | 12-31-2007

Yikes! Christine! That is just awful. I had no idea that the seeds of this cycad were so dangerous. Worse yet, when I looked it up online, the Floridata plant encyclopedia didn't even MENTION its poisonous qualities, just lauded it as a landscape plant! Thanks for the heads up.

Sent by Ketzel Levine | 6:04 PM | 12-31-2007

Pampas Grass, any broom, water hyacinth, and Pampas Grass again (for emphasis).

My heart sinks when I head to some of my favorite birding spots, and I see the continuing advance of Pampas Grass everywhere. I live in SF and many surrounding areas, especially on the coast south of here, are being completely overrun. I really wish there were prohibitions against selling some of the really invasive species.

Sent by Siobhan Ruck | 11:34 AM | 1-1-2008

You might also mention that C. scandens (American bittersweet) is a good plant to have around:) It's become rare, with places where we gathered it now paved parking lots.

Sent by Bob Vaiden | 12:36 PM | 1-1-2008

Tree of Heaven...die damn you, and your little sprouts too!

Sent by Tiffany | 6:55 PM | 1-2-2008

What sort of juniper is everyone hating? We have a lot of junipers, which we call Red Cedars in the south. Are they bad? Southerners like them for Xmas trees that are nice smelling, local, a prickly!! I've got too many to think of killing.

Sent by Ruth Busch | 10:53 AM | 1-11-2008

Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense) is one of the worst plants used in landscaping. Yes, it creates privacy but this shrub is choking out many of our native southern lowlands.

Sent by Linda Schotz | 2:04 PM | 1-11-2008

St John's's everywhere and it takes over!

Sent by kathy | 2:26 AM | 9-3-2008

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from