Nature’s Notebook

Connecting People with Nature to Benefit Our Changing Planet

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Shady Invaders Species Identification Tips

Here are some photos and tips to help you identify the invasive and native shrubs that we ask you to observe as part of the Shady Invaders campaign. 

Invasive species:

 

Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)

Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) Japanese barberry breaking leaf buds Photo: Erynn Maynard
Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) has spoon-shaped leaves Japanese barberry leaves Photo: Eric Burkhart
Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) has bright red foliage in fall. Note that there is also a cultivar of Berberis thunbergii that has purple foliage all year round. This is not considered fall foliage.  Japanese barberry fall color Photo: Erik Burkhart
 Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is yellow inside the woody parts of the stems and roots  Japanese barberry yellow inside wood Photo: Eric Burkhart
Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) flowers Japanese barberry flowers Photo: Eric Burkhart
Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) fruits change from green to bright red Japanese barberry fruit Photo: Eric Burkhart

 


 multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora)

Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) breaking leaf buds Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) breaking leaf buds Photo: Erynn Maynard
Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) leaves have a feathery stipule at the base of each leaf, which distinguishes this species from other roses multiflora rose leaves
Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) flowers multiflora rose flowers Photo: Eric Burkhart
Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) fruit multiflora rose fruits

 


 burningbush (Euonymus alatus)

Burningbush (Euonymus alatus) has green leaves that change to bright pink and red in the fall. The leaves are in opposite arrangment, meaning they are on opposite sides of the branch as opposed to alternate. You can see the strips of thin corky-bark, called wings, along the stems. The wings are not apparent on all specimen, but usually you can find wings somewhere on a plant, which helps with identification. No other shrub with opposite leaves should have these wings.   Euonymus alatus leaf color Photo Eric Burkhart
Burningbush (Euonymus alatus) non-showy flowers appear in early spring. This photo was taken in central Pennsylvania in May. Note the relatively blunt serrations (knife-like edges) on the leaf margin, unlike the entire margin (smooth edges) on privet.  Euonymus alatus flowers Photo Eric Burkhart
Burningbush (Euonymus alatus) unripe fruit. In more northern regions of the US, these unripe fruit are usually seen late summer or early fall.   Euonymus alatus unripe fruit Photo Erynn Maynard
Burningbush (Euonymus alatus) ripe fruits. After the leaves have fallen, the bright fruit will still persist. This photo was taken in November in central PA.   Euonymus alatus ripe fruits Photo Eric Burkhart

 


 privet (Ligustrum sp.)

Privet (Ligustrum spp.) can form a dense thicket in the understory of a forest.  privet, Ligustrum spp. Photo Eric Burkhart
Privet (Ligustrum spp.) leaves have an opposite arrangement, with leaves coming off the stem on opposite sides.  privet (Ligustrum spp.) leaves with opposite arrangement Photo Erynn Maynard
Privet (Ligustrum spp.) flowers and fruit arise at the ends of the branches. They flower in early summer, and shortly after form unripe, green fruits. This photo of the plant flowering was taken in June in central PA.  privet, Ligustrum spp. leaves and flowers Photo Eric Burkhart
Privet (Ligustrum spp.) unripe fruits, at the ends of the branches. This plant will flower and fruit even in the dense shade of the forest understory.  privet (Ligustrum spp.) unripe fruit Photo Erynn Maynard
Privet (Ligustrum spp.) fruits ripen to a dark purplish-blue-black. Athough fruit ripens in late summer, you can find ripe fruit still attached to Ligustrum well into the winter. privet (Ligustrum spp.) ripe fruit and colored leaves Photo Eric Burkhart

 


 About honeysuckles, in general:

Honeysuckle identification tips

Remember, we are interested in shrubs under a deciduous forest canopy. However, some honeysuckles are actually vines, which don't stand upright without support (they lack sturdy woody stems). 

Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii)

Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) has "Hershey kiss"-shaped leaf tips Amur honeysuckle flowers Photo Eric Burkhart
Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) ripe fruits are bright red Amur honeysuckle fruit Photo Eric Burkhart

 


Morrow's honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii)*

Morrow's honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii) has hairy (pubescent), blunt-tipped leaves and white flowers Morrow's honeysuckle flowers Photo Erynn Maynard
Morrow's honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii) has orange to red fruit Morrow's honeysuckle fruit Photo Eric Burkhart
Morrow's honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii) increasing leaf size Lonicera morrowii, increasing leaf size Photo: Erynn Maynard

 *Note that this species commonly hybridizeswith Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) to form a separate species, Lonicera x bella.


 Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica)*

 Tatarian honeysuckle  (Lonicera tartarica) breaking leaf buds Tatarian honeysuckle  (Lonicera tartarica) breaking leaf buds Photo: Erynn Maynard
Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) has hairless, blunt-tipped leaves and white to pink flowers Tatarian honeysuckle flowers Photo Eric Burkhart
Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) has red fruits Tatarian honeysuckle fruit Photo Erynn Maynard

  *Note that this species commonly hybridizeswith Morrow's honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii) to form a separate species, Lonicera x bella.


 

Native species:

 

spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

spicebush (Lindera benzoin), a leaf bud between two flower buds, none bursted spicebush (Lindera benzoin), a leaf bud between two flower buds, none bursted Photo: Erynn Maynard
spicebush (Lindera benzoin) breaking leaf buds spicebush breaking leaf buds Photo: Erynn Maynard
 spicebush (Lindera benzoin) flowers or flower buds  spicebush flowers or flower buds Photo: Eric Burkhart
 spicebush (Lindera benzoin) colored leaves   spicebush colored leaves Photo: Erynn Maynard

mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium)

mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) colored leaves mapleleaf viburnum colored leaves Photo: Erynn Maynard
mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) ripe fruits mapleleaf viburnum ripe fruits Photo: Erynn Maynard

 


About dogwoods, in general:

Dogwood identification tips

 flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) open flowers. Note that flowers are the small cluster of yelow flowers in the center of the four large white bracts. Flowering dogwood open flowers Photo: Erynn Maynard
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) ripe fruits.  Flowering dogwood ripe fruits Photo: Jeff McMillian USDA Plants Database
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) bark Flowering dogwood bark Photo: Steve Bean

 


gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa)

gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa) leaves and open flowers gray dogwood open flowers Photo: Erynn Maynard
gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa) leaves and open flowers Cornus racemosa leaves and open flowers Photo: Erynn Maynard
gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa) ripe fruit gray dogwood ripe fruits Photo: Eric Burkhart
gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa) bark gray dogwood bark Photo: Erynn Maynard

 


alternateleaf dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)

alternateleaf dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) flower buds alternateleaf dogwood flower buds Photo: Erynn Maynard
alternateleaf dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) open flowers alternateleaf dogwood open flowers Photo: Erynn Maynard
alternateleaf dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) ripe fruits alternateleaf dogwood ripe fruits Photo: Erynn Maynard
alternateleaf dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) young bark alternateleaf dogwood young bark Photo: Erynn Maynard

 


black haw (Viburnum prunifolium)

Black haw (Viburnum prunifolium) breaking leaf buds. Ignore the bud-scale leaves, which enclose the bud but are not true leaves. Once the bud-scale leaves separate to expose the true leaf tips, as in the photo at right, report breaking leaf buds as "yes." Viburnum prunifolium breaking leaf buds Photo: Erynn Maynard
Black haw (Viburnum prunifolium) leaves. The epithet ‘prunifolium’ can be broken down into:pruni-Prunus is the genus of cherries-folium    referring to foliage or leaves. The leaves of this plant resemble cherry, except that they are oppositely arranged instead of alternately arranged along the stem like cherries. Blackhaw is also sometimes confused with dogwoods, although the leaf margin of blackhaw is serrate or toothed, while dogwoods have entire margins that are smooth along the edges.  blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium) leaves Photo Eric Burkhart
Black haw (Viburnum prunifolium) flowers. In dense forest shade, black haw flowers and fruits very sparsely, if at all.  blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium) flowers Photo Eric Burkhart
Black haw (Viburnum prunifolium) fruits. The fruits are desirable by wildlife, so do not last as long as the fruits of iinvasives burningbush and privet Black haw fruits (Viburnum prunifolium) Photo Eric Burkhart
Black haw (Viburnum prunifolium) bark. Black haw is also sometimes confused with flowering dogwood because of the alligator-like bark. However, the branching of backhaw looks messier, and they tend to retain the base of opposite branches that resemble thorns a bit.  bBlack haw (Viburnum prunifolium) bark Photo Eric Burkhart

 


southern arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum)


hobble-bush (Viburnum lantanoides)