Non-Native Woody Plants of Arkansas
Non–native plant species are continuously being introduced into the United States through both accidental and intentional means. Many of these species never become established in the flora, or if establishment occurs, many do not seriously threaten native plant species. However, numerous non–native plant species have become invasive subsequent to establishment and naturalization. Invasive species can alter native habitats and ecosystems, and often seem to reduce native biodiversity. Some of the worst invasive plants are ornamental trees, shrubs, and lianas. A few examples of woody ornamentals that have established in the Arkansas flora and subsequently become invasive include: Nandina domestica
(nandina), Ligustrum sinense
(Chinese privet), Ligustrum lucidum
(glossy privet), Rosa multiflora
(multiflora rose), and Sapium sebiferum
(Chinese tallow tree). About 23-26% of the Arkansas flora consists of non–native species. Most of the spontaneous and naturalized woody plants in Arkansas are Asiatic in origin.
Assemblages of naturalized, non-native woody plants are often observed in wooded areas of southwestern Arkansas. The species composition of the assemblages is variable, but most often involves some combination of two or more of the following nine species: Elaeagnus pungens
(thorny olive), Ilex cornuta
(Chinese holly), Ligustrum japonicum
(Japanese privet), Ligustrum lucidum
(glossy privet) Ligustrum sinense
(Chinese privet), Mahonia bealei
(leatherleaf mahonia), Nandina domestica
(nandina), Photina serratifolia
(Chinese photina), and Prunus caroliniana
(Carolina laurel cherry). All of these species are evergreen (L. sinense is sometimes only semi-evergreen), shade tolerant, produce fruits that are bird-dispersed, and appear to be fairly plastic with regard to specific habitat requirements. Contrastingly, in northwestern Arkansas, Euonymus alatus
(winged burning bush) and Lonicera maackii
(amur honeysuckle) are sometimes observed together as prominent understory species in wooded habitats. Non-native woody species with bird-dispersed fruits (and seeds) are often highly invasive.
The species presented on this website represent three categories of non–native plants. The first category includes those species which are naturalized and more or less permanently established components of the Arkansas flora. The second category consists of species which are spontaneous, but not well established or naturalized in the state. Species in the final category are those which have the potential to become part of the Arkansas flora, but at present are not known to be established or spontaneous in the state. The species in this last category are cultivated in Arkansas, and usually established in adjacent states or along the Gulf coast and could be expected in Arkansas. A list of terms and their definitions regarding non–native plants is also included on this site.
The three pictures to the right show spontaneous juveniles of six different species of non-native plants. The top photograph is of Chinese firethorn, Pyracantha fortuneana
(left) and trifoliate orange, Poncirus trifoliata
(directly next to and to the right of the P. fortuneana
plant). The center photograph is of Chinese photina, Photina serratifolia
(left) and leatherleaf mahonia, Mahonia bealei
(right). The bottom photograph is of Chinese privet, Ligustrum sinense
(upper right) and Siberian elm, Ulmus pumila
List of Naturalized Species
List of Spontaneous Species
List of Species with the Potential to Become Spontaneous or Naturalized
List of Trees, Shrubs and Lianas for Dendrology
Henderson State University Arboretum
Narcissus of Arkansas
Brett E. Serviss, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology
Henderson State University
Arkadelphia, AR 71999-0001
Phone: (870) 230-5158
Last updated: 11 November 2011
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