Common invasive ground covers (periwinkle, English ivy and goutweed) are found throughout various areas of North America. Native to Europe and Asia, these ground covers were introduced to North America as ornamental plants. As invasive ground covers, these species thrive in disturbed areas and prefer shady or semi-shady areas. They commonly grow in rich, moist soils and can be found along roadsides and forest edges.
Periwinkle and english ivy occur throughout regions of the United States, including around the Great Lake states and southern Ontario. Goutweed can also be found in the United States from Maine to Georgia and across Canada from British Columbia to Nova Scotia.
Impacts of Invasive Ground Covers
- Create dense carpets of vegetation that limit the amount of sunlight available to other species, affecting overall plant diversity.
- Persist and spread vegetatively as well as through underground stems and roots.
- Plants are shade tolerant and once established, are highly competitive.
- Periwinkle leaves are toxic to most grazers and seeds are too small for birds to consume.
- English ivy climbs on other plants and objects in its area.
How to Identify Invasive Ground Covers
Check the chart below to learn the differences between these common invasive ground covers.
- Reaches up to 15 cm tall
- Leaves are opposite along stem
- Leaves are pointed, dark green and shiny
- Flowers are showy blue/purple with 5 petals
- Vine stems can reach up to 30 m
- Leaves are alternate along stem
- Leaves are three-lobed, dark and waxy
- Flowers are small, greenish-white
What You Can Do
- Learn how to properly identify invasive ground covers and how to effectively manage invasive plants on your property.
- Avoid using invasive plants in gardens and landscaping.
- Purchase native or non-invasive plants from reputable garden suppliers. See Grow Me Instead: Beautiful Non-Invasive Plants for Your Garden.
- Do not dispose of invasive plants in the compost pile – discard them in the regular garbage or check with your municipality for disposal information.
- If you find invasive ground covers or other invasive species in the wild, please contact the Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711, or visit EDDMapS Ontario to report a sighting.
OFAH/OMNRF Invading Species Awareness Program. (2012). Invasive Ground Covers. Retrieved from: www.invadingspecies.com.
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Header photo by Emily Adams