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University of Minnesota Extension

Controlling unwanted trees and shrubs

Quick facts

Trees and shrubs are valued in the right location but may need to be controlled if they invade areas where they are not wanted.

Invasive trees and shrubs are non-native plants that can

  • reduce economic values
  • damage the environment
  • cause harm to human health.

Native woody plants can be aggressive too when they spread into areas where they are not desired.

Common aggressive woody plants

Some commonly seen invasive woody plants in Minnesota include Amur maple, buckthorn, Norway maple, non-native bush honeysuckles, multi-flora rose, black locust, Japanese barberry, Russian olive, Siberian elm, Siberian pea shrub and mulberry. For details on these invasive species and more, visit the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.  

Native woody plants can also be aggressive growers and spread into areas they aren’t wanted. An example of this is encroachment of box elder and cottonwoods into lands planted as grasslands.

Native plants that grow rapidly and are often considered weedy include poison ivy, blackberry, raspberry, sumac, hazel, prickly ash, dogwood, wild grape, Virginia creeper, poplar species like aspen and cottonwoods.

Woody vegetation control options


Re-establishing native vegetation

Many native species can re-establish from existing seed banks and roots if undesirable plants are controlled. Desirable plants can also be seeded or transplanted after controlling invasive species. Planting grasses can reduce establishment of buckthorn seedlings while allowing establishment of desirable native species. An example grass mix may include creeping red fescue, oats or Virginia wild rye after buckthorn removal to prevent erosion. There are also native shrubs that could be considered such as high-bush cranberry, nannyberry, chokecherry, pagoda dogwood, gray dogwood, elderberry, American hazelnut and black chokeberry.

Cost share programs

There may be local, watershed, state or federal cost share programs available for landowners to use to control invasive species on their property and possibly re-plant the treated area. Contact your local Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) or Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) office for more details. Local conservation organizations may also support invasive species control projects.

Gary Wyatt, Extension educator; Mike Reichenbach, Extension educator; Angie Gupta, Extension educator; Roger Becker, Extension educator; Diomy Zamora, Extension educator and Mark Renz, Extension weed specialist, University of Wisconsin.

Reviewed in 2018

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