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The Invaders: Mimosa and More

Here are a few plants you definitely don't want in your garden.

Sometimes wanting a plant that will give fast coverage can lead to grabbing a cutting of the first candidate you spot — or letting a volunteer keep growing in the chosen site because even though it's not the plant you wanted, it seems to be doing the job. Okay, granted, you won't reach for kudzu, Japanese honeysuckle, wild grape or poison ivy. But here are some other bad boys you'll want to steer clear of:

Air potato. Put one cutting of this baby in the ground, and you'll be regretting it ever after. This invasive vine can grow a foot per day. Its chief problem, though, are its small round fruits (round and brown, hence its name) that are produced in great abundance and seem to have a near 100 percent germination rate, even with scarce contact with poor soil. After a season's worth of growth, the little "potatoes" lie cheek to jowl on the ground, and every couple of days, you'll be pulling up dozens of six-inch plantlets. You'll have to keep at it until every last sucker is gone.

Multiflora rose. This exotic species was brought into the U.S. in the 19th century and used as a rootstock for cultivated roses. Besides this plant's knack for popping up in all the wrong (and right) places, it also serves as the host for rose rosette, a deadly virus that's transmitted by a tiny mite to the roses you've spent good money on.

Mimosa. This fast-growing tree is sometimes coveted by travelers on interstates who are not familiar with its bad-boy nature. What's not to like about a small- to mid-sized tree that has pink frou-frou blossoms in the summer? Well, the fact that it self-seeds like crazy, and the young seedlings have such a deep tap root that they're nearly impossible to pull up.

There are some 400 plants classified as seriously invasive species in the U.S. today. Invasiveness depends on climate — the cardinal climber (Ipomoea x multifida), for example, can grow out of control in Texas but not in Tennessee. Other invaders in some locations: Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense), porcelain berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata), wintercreeper euonymus (Euonymus fortunei), amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata), tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), empress tree or princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa), plus, Japanese honeysuckle and kudzu, of course.

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