Nature in Conflict

The sloping banks and flowing waters of Greens Bayou – and all bayous in the Houston area – are a source of natural beauty. Often referred to as “green ribbons” that traverse our landscape, the bayous are presently battlefields of plant life.

Numerous invasive exotic plant species are wreaking havoc along our bayous. What is an invasive exotic plant species? Over the past century, many exotic plants were imported to North America from Europe, Asia and other regions because they thrived in similar climates, but offered unusual attributes, such as trees with showy fall color or shrubs with showy flowers.

Initially horticulturalists were thrilled with the success of this sharing of species, but 50 to 100 years later we’ve learned this practice was well-intended, but tragically misguided. Sadly, a large percentage of these imported, “exotic” species have proven to be “invasive,” meaning they choke out other naturally occurring plants, which in turn impacts habitat and food sources for wildlife. Numerous invasive exotics currently threaten the natural habitat along Greens Bayou.
To read more on this topic, including ways you can help eliminate invasive species, visit the Bayou Preservation Association’s extensive site at

Invasive Exotics Species Found on Greens Bayou

Provided by Eric Ruckstuhl of Bayou Preservation Association

Air Potato, Potato Vine – Dioscorea bulbifera

Invasive Exotic Vine
Twining Counter Clockwise and Climbing
Heart Shaped Leaves to 6 inches Wide
Control Is Difficult Because of the Tuberous Roots
Sold in the Nursery and Landscape Trade
Native to Eastern Asia

Chinaberry – Melia azedarach

Invasive Exotic Tree
Height Is to 40 ft. or More
Displacing Native Plant Species All Over the United States
Produces Much Fruit and Seeds
Recently Reintroduced Into the Nursery and Landscape Trade
Native to China

Chinese Elm – Ulmus parvifolia

Invasive Exotic Tree
Height Is 40-60 ft.
Wind Blown Seeds
Leaves are Glossy and Smooth
Extensively Planted as a Street Tree
Native to China

Chinese Privet – Ligustrum sinense

Invasive Exotic Shrub
Height Is to 12 ft.
Heavily Displaces Native Trees and Shrubs
Epidemic Level of Infestation
Often Mistaken for Yaupon – Ilex vomitoria
Sold in the Nursery and Landscape Trade in a Variegated Form (variegation serves as a temporary disguise and disappears within a few years)
Native to China

Chinese Tallow – Sapium sebiferum

Invasive Exotic Tree
Height Is to 40 ft.
Very High Seed Germination
Infesting Much of the Southern United States
Capable of Heavy Displacement of Native Plant Species
Native to China

Dotted Bridal Veil – Gibasis pellucida

Invasive Exotic Herbaceous Groundcover
White Flowers
Displacing Many Native Plants Along Streams in the Southern United States
Sold in the Nursery and Landscape Trade
Native to Tropical America, Including Mexico

Eleagnus – Elaeagnus x ebbingei (macrophylla x pungens)

Invasive Exotic Shrub
Height Is to 9 ft.
Evergreen in Mild Climates
Leaves are Elliptic, Green Above,Silvery Below
Sold in the Nursery and Landscape Trade
Both Parent Species Are Native to China and Japan

Golden Rain Tree – Koelreuteria paniculata

Invasive Exotic Tree
Height Is to 45-60 ft.
Yellow Flowers
Displaces Native Plants With High Numbers of Seedlings
Sold in the Nursery and Landscape Trade
Native to Asia

Heavenly Bamboo, Nandina – Nandina domestica

Invasive Exotic Evergreen to Semi-Evergreen Shrub
Height Is to 6ft.
Easily Noticeable Red Berries and Red Fall Color
Displaces Native Plants in Woodland and Riparian Habitats
Sold in the Nursery and Landscape Trade
Native from India to S.E. Asia

Tree of Heaven – Ailanthus altissima

Invasive Exotic Tree
Height Is to 60 ft.
Has Infested More Than 80% of the United States
Suckers Profusely and Self Seeds
Native to China

Wax Leaf Ligustrum, Tree Ligustrum – Ligustrum japonicum, lucidum, quihoui

Invasive Exotic Shrubs to Small Trees
Height Is 6-30 ft.
Evergreen Leaves
Cream Colored Flowers
Bluish Purple Fruit
Sold in the Nursery and Landscape Trade
Epidemic Level of Infestation
Very Large Specimens are Often Tree Ligustrum – Ligustrum lucidum
Native to Asia

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