Invasive Plants at the Robbins Town Gardens

“Relating to, or characterized by military aggression” is the Merriam-Webster definition of the word “invasive,” and one that fits Asian bittersweet, the most rampant four-star invading plant in the Robbins Town Gardens. The aggressor has no enemies except humans. Volunteers from the Arlington Garden Club, Massachusetts Master Gardeners and Friends of the Robbins Town Gardens work to keep the vine under control; and, for the most part, succeed. They have pulled down enormous strangling masses that have festooned trees; they have dug up—as much as possible—the tenacious carrot-orange roots; they have refused to be seduced by the red and gold berries; they pass the word: never plant Asian bittersweet!

Like marauding Asian bittersweet, other unwanted, persistent plants in the Gardens, such as Japanese barberry and Multiflora rose, were first imported from the far east and introduced to the market as ornamental and/or useful plants.

There are reports that our volunteer gardeners also deal with Porcelain Berry, Norway Maple—the seedlings—Glossy and common buckthorn, Bindweed, Garlic mustard, and Black swallowwort.

It would be a mistake to launch a full-scale attack on invasive plants, since complete eradication may be impossible and self-harming. In the Robbins Town Gardens we keep on digging, pulling, clipping and separately bagging the aggressors to be hauled away.

In my own garden I’ve done the same to Multiflora rose, which still comes back. I sometimes wish I could be like the bees that ignore this rose and head for Golden cosmos, where they gather pollen and nectar and do no harm—but then Golden cosmos does no harm and gives so much pleasure.

(For more information on invasive plants:

Miriam Levine – Director – Friends of the Robbins Town Gardens

Emily Snyder – Master Gardener