Identifying Invasive Species

Learn how to stop the spread of plants, insects and animals that destroy ecosystems.  

An invasive species is any species that is not native to an ecosystem and considered to be harmful, and now is the time to take a look around your property and identify plants that inhibit the growth of native flora. These nuisance plants have the ability to cause environmental and economic damage by outcompeting with native plants that are necessary to support high-quality habitats for animals and insects. Increasing public awareness of this threat is the goal of Invasive Species Awareness Month in May.

How are they dangerous? Certain non-native species release chemical toxins which prohibit the growth of other nearby plants and stand in the way of managing healthy ecosystems for humans, animals and plants. Research findings released May 1, 2013 by Lincoln Park Zoo and Northern Illinois University concluded that invasive European buckthorn, common in the DuPage County area, contributes to amphibian decline and altered mammal distribution throughout the Midwest.

The Center For Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health offers this easy-to-read list of invasive species and photos to help identify problem organisms in Illinois.

Another common invasive plant species in this area is garlic mustard, and proactive management of these ecological threats is key to eradicating the problem. Emerald ash borers, gypsy moths and Asian carp also require a watchful eye, so if you come across something that looks suspicious you can report it to experts that actively manage these types of findings.

The Midwest Invasive Plant Network has just completed a video (see below) that demonstrates the impacts of a few popular ornamental plants (common buckthorn, Japanese barberry, burning bush, and Callery pear) on natural areas in the Midwest. The smart phone app mentioned in the video can be downloaded for free from the Apple store for iPhone or iPad.  The Android version is coming soon.



 New Invasive Species 

The New Invaders Watch Program is an early detection and rapid response network where anyone can report sightings of invasive species. The organization is a partnership of volunteers, government groups and nonprofits who specialize in managing the Chicago region.

See the latest on new invasives found in DuPage County presented by plant ecologist Scott Kobal.

We encourage boaters, anglers and others who enjoy Illinois’ lakes and rivers to keep their eyes peeled for an aquatic “superweed.” Through the Hydrilla Hunt! program, volunteers can watch out for the highly invasive aquatic plant named Hydrilla verticillata, or simply “hydrilla.” Hydrilla has been discovered in Wisconsin and Indiana and is expected to arrive in Illinois very soon, seriously impacting desirable native aquatic plants and wildlife and recreational fishing and boating.

Hydrilla spreads quickly and forms dense mats of vegetation at the water surface. Just a small stem fragment of hydrilla can sprout roots and grow into a whole new plant. It can be seen snagged on fishing lines and boat anchors, or by noting plants seen while boating or growing along the sides of a pier.

For more information, including how to join the Hydrilla Hunt!, identification sheet and other resources, visit 

More information on invasive species:

Aquatic Invasives 

Terrestrial Invasives 



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