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When Is a garden Plant a weed?

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Are Your Garden Plants Going Bush?

Many common garden plants can invade our bushland and recreation areas in the ACT and region.

When Is A Garden Plant A Weed?

Weeds are plants growing in locations where they are not desirable or wanted. Many commonly grown garden plants have already spread from the confines of our yards, ponds and aquariums into rural, natural and open space areas causing environmental damage and requiring expensive control actions. These plants are referred to as ‘garden escapes’.

Garden escapes may be either natives that have been planted outside their natural range, or plants which have been introduced from overseas. Some garden escapes are already well established in natural areas, but others are in the early stages of invasion and could become widespread unless we stop them now.

How Do Garden Escapes Spread?

Most garden escapes invade our open space and natural areas by the spread of seed. Your garden may be a major source of garden escapes which are being spread without you realising it. Birds can spread seeds in their droppings after eating the fruit from berry-producing plants like privet and cotoneaster species. Wind and water also disperse seeds. Some garden escapes establish and reproduce from stems, bulbs or corms after being dumped as garden waste on roadsides, parkland or bushland.

Weed Swap Program

The Australian Native Plants Society and the ACT Government offer a free Weed Swap Program twice a year in spring and autumn. You can dig up your garden escapes and swap them for a native plant.

Garden Escapes – A Serious Threat

We are fortunate in the ACT and region to live close to natural areas and our visitors also admire the reserves and open spaces that make Canberra the ‘Bush Capital’. If we want to protect these natural areas and open spaces, we must be responsive to the potential harm that garden escapes can inflict on our native flora and fauna.

Garden escapes may cause problems by smothering native plants, preventing natural regeneration or by changing the natural balance of resources for native animals such as birds, mammals, reptiles and invertebrates.

Controlling garden escapes is an important part of managing our natural heritage and costs the community millions of dollars every year. This brochure has been produced to help you identify plants that can escape from your garden. If we act now, we can keep our natural areas intact. Every individual and corporate citizen has an important role to play.

You can help by removing these plants from your garden or avoid planting them.

Control Methods

Most weeds included in this brochure can be controlled by hand pulling, digging out or cutting down. Registered herbicides are available for spraying leaves or painting stumps. Contact your local ‘Bush Friendly’ garden centre for information on chemical control.

It is important to dispose of garden waste in a manner so as not to spread weeds further. Seed-free foliage can be safely composted or delivered to green recycle centres. Seed heads, bulbs, corms and stems that regrow should be sealed in a bag and disposed of responsibly.

Alternatives for Garden Escapes

An important part of preventing garden escapes from invading our bushland and recreation space is to remove those plants with the potential to escape from your garden and replace them with plants that do not pose a problem. Your local ‘Bush Friendly’ nursery can advise you on replacement plants for garden escapes suited to your situation and requirements.

Not the Only Ones

The garden escape species included in this brochure are not the only problem plants in the Canberra region. The following plants also have the potential to escape from your garden if left unchecked. Though these plants are not a major problem in the Canberra region at the moment it is recommended that these species be treated with caution.

Gazania Gazania species

South African Daisy Osteospermum species

Chinese Pistachio Pistachio chinensis

Butterfly Bush Oenothera species

Olives Olea species

WA Bluebell Creeper Billardiera heterophylla

Bush Friendly Nurseries

Many nurseries in the ACT and region have agreed to be ‘Bush Friendly’ and help prevent the spread of garden escapes by not selling any plants included on this brochure. Please support those nurseries that support the scheme and purchase your plants from nurseries displaying the ‘Bush Friendly’ sign.

Aquatic Weeds

Parrots Feather

Species: Myriophyllum aquaticum

Family: Maloragaceae

Origin: South America

Dispersal: vegetatively and from aquarium escape

Invades: rivers, wetlands and lakes


Species: Cabomba caroliniana

Family: Cabombaceae

Origin: North America

Dispersal: by vegetative parts

Invades: rivers, wetlands and irrigation channels


Species: Salvinia molesta

Family: Salviniaceae

Origin: South America

Dispersal: vegetatively spread by water and aquarium escape

Invades: rivers and wetlands

Delta Arrowhead

Species: Sagittaria platyphylla

Family: Alismataceae

Origin: USA

Dispersal: mainly by seed

Invades: lakes, reservoirs, ponds

Water Hyacinth

Species: Eichornia crassipes

Family: Pontederiaceae

Origin: South America

Dispersal: by vegetative parts

Invades: rivers, wetlands and irrigation channels

Alligator Weed

Species: Alternanthera philoxeroides

Family: Amaranthaceae

Origin: South America

Dispersal: vegetative parts spread by water, wildlife and by people. Sometimes mistaken for the garden plant Mukunu-wenna.

Invades: rivers and wetlands and irrigation chanels

Creepers And Climbers

English Ivy

Species: Hedera helix including the Canary Island subspecies

Family: Araliaceae

Origin: Europe

Dispersal: by birds and vegetatively from dumped garden refuse

Invades: dry forest, heathland, river corridors and neighbours gardens

Japanese Honeysuckle

Species: Lonicera japonica

Family: Caprifoliaceae

Origin: Eastern Asia

Dispersal: by birds and vegetatively from dumped garden refuse

Invades: moist sites in forests, woodlands, gullies and neighbours gardens

Wandering Jew

Species: Tradescantia albiflora

Family: Commelinaceae

Origin: South America

Dispersal: vegetatively from dumped garden refuse

Invades: wet forests, gullies and neighbours gardens

Blue Periwinkle

Species: Vinca major

Family: Apocynaceae

Origin: Mediterranean

Dispersal: vegetatively from dumped garden refuse

Invades: moist forest gullies and neighbours gardens

Herbs And Grasses

Common Horsetail

Species: Equisetum arvense

Family: Equisetaceae

Origin: northern hemisphere

Dispersal: from spores and rhizomes

Invades: wetlands, low-lying wet areas and grasslands

Pampas Grass

Species: Cortaderia selloana

Family: Poaceae

Origin: South America

Dispersal: seed, underground roots and vegetatively from dumped garden refuse

Invades: dry forests, woodlands, grassland and heathlands


Species: Phyllostachys aurea

Family: Graminae

Origin: South-east China

Dispersal: vegetatively from dumped garden refuse, running rhizomes

Invades: wide variety of plant communities and neighbours gardens

Mexican Feather Grass

Species: Nassella tenuissima

Family: Poaceae

Origin: South America

Dispersal: seed

Invades: dry and wet forests, woodlands, grassland and heathlands

Shrubs And Trees

Cootamundra Wattle

Species: Acacia baileyana

Family: Mimosaceae

Origin: limited localities in New South Wales

Dispersal: seed spread by birds, ants and water

Invades: dry forest and roadsides, particularly disturbed sites or after bushfire

English Broom

Species: Cytisus scoparius

Family: Fabaceae

Origin: Europe

Dispersal: seed spread by machinery, water, animals and people

Invades: river corridors, dry forests, woodlands

Cape Broom

Species: Genista monspessulana

Family: Fabaceae

Origin: Europe

Dispersal: seed spread by machinery, water, animals and people

Invades: dry forest and woodland

Lombardy Poplar

Species: Populus nigra ‘Italica’

Family: Salicaceae

Origin: Italy

Dispersal: by suckers and vegetative parts moved by water

Invades: river corridors, gullies and moist sites

White Poplar or Cottonwood

Species: Populus alba

Family: Salicaceae

Origin: Europe, Western Asia, North Africa

Dispersal: by seed, suckers and vegetatively

Invades: rivers, wetlands, moist sites and neighbours' gardens

Tree of Heaven

Species: Ailanthus altissima

Family: Simaroubaceae

Origin: China

Dispersal: by suckering and seed

Invades: dry forest and woodland

False Acacia

Species: Robinia pseudoacacia

Family: Fabaceae

Origin: Eastern North America

Dispersal: by water and vehicles and suckers

Invades: native grasslands, dry forests and neigbours gardens

Nettle Tree

Species: Celtis australis

Family: Ulmaceae

Origin: Mediterranean to South-western Asia

Dispersal: by birds

Invades: dry forest and woodland

Common or Black Alder

Species: Alnus glutinosa

Family: Betulaceae.

Origin: Europe and Asia

Dispersal: seed spread by wind and water

Invades: cold damp sites around lakes and river corridors


Species: Ligustrum lucidum and Ligustrum sinense

Family: Oleaceae

Origin: China

Dispersal: by birds

Invades: moist sites and river corridors

Radiata or Monterey Pine

Species: Pinus radiata

Family: Pinaceae

Origin: South-western North America

Dispersal: seeds spread by wind

Invades: wide variety of plant communities


Species: Salix species

Except S. babylonica, S. x calodendron and S. x reichardtii

Family: Salicaceae

Origin: Western Asia, Europe, North and South America

Dispersal: seed and vegetatively

Invades: river corridors and wetlands


Species: Pyracantha species

Family: Rosaceae

Origin: South-western China to Eurasia

Dispersal: by birds

Invades: forests, woodlands and parklands

Gorse or Furze

Species: Ulex europeus

Family: Fabaceae

Origin: Europe

Dispersal: spread by vehicles, ants and water

Invades: wide variety of plant communities

Box Elder

Species: Acer negundo

Family: Aceaceae

Origin: North America

Dispersal: seed spread by wind

Invades: river corridors and woodlands


Species: Crataegus monogyna

Family: Rosaceae

Origin: Europe

Dispersal: by birds

Invades: forests, woodlands and creek corridors

Spanish Broom

Species: Spartium species

Family: Fabaceae

Origin: Mediterranean and Canary Islands

Dispersal: spread by ants, water, machinery, vehicles and soil

Invades: dry forests


Species: Cotoneaster species

Family: Rosaceae

Origin: Eurasia

Dispersal: by birds

Invades: forests, woodlands and parklands

Service Tree

Species: Sorbus aucuparia and Sorbus domestica

Family: Rosaceae

Origin: Western Asia, Eastern and Southern Europe, North Africa

Dispersal: by birds and suckers

Invades: woodlands and river corridors

Spanish Heath

Species: Erica lusitanica

Family: Ericaceae

Origin: Mediterranean

Dispersal: by seed

Invades: forests and damper sites in woodlands. Looks very similar to a native heath plant

Garden Escapes In The Australian Capital Territory And Region

What you can do

  • Make your garden ‘Bush Friendly’ by removing from your garden, any plants named in this brochure.

  • Encourage friends and neighbours to do likewise. Avoid planting potential garden escapes.

  • Choose plants from your local ‘Bush Friendly’ nursery which has agreed not to sell these plants. Look for the ‘Bush Friendly’ sign.

  • Join your local ParkCare or Landcare group to assist in a united effort to control garden escapes in your local area.

  • Do not dump garden prunings or refuse on roadsides, open spaces or in parkland areas.

  • Take care not to spread plants via seeds in compost or mulch.

  • Never dump aquarium or pond plants in waterways or wash down drains.

Further Information

Canberra Connect: 13 22 81

ACT Parks and Conservation Service

Territory and Municipal Services


Australian Native Plants Society website:

PO Box 217 Civic Square ACT 2608

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