Pretty Invasive

Viburnum plicatum beginning to bloom, Frick Park, 3 May 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

9 May 2022

In early April in Frick Park I noticed many woody saplings leafing out ahead of all the other plants. They were everywhere sporting dark green pleated leaves while the rest of the woods were brown. They looked invasive. I took a picture.

One of many V. plicatum volunteers leafing out, Frick Park, 13 April 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

In early May the older ones started to bloom. Viburnum. But which one?

Viburnum plicatum beginning to bloom, Frick Park, 3 May 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

Viburnums are hard to identify so I asked my friends from the Botanical Society of Western PA, Mark Bowers and Loree Speedy, who identified it as Japanese snowball (Vibrunum plicatum) and remembered it from a survey in Frick Park a few years ago.

When Frick Park was established in 1919 its grand entry was landscaped with beautiful plants from around the world, available from catalogs such as this one from 1910 showing Viburnum plicatum var Tomentosum.

V. Plicatum var. tomentosum in Mount Hope Nurseries catalog, 1910 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The plant looks good in the catalog and even better in person. For over 100 years it’s been thriving and spreading in the park.

It is now listed as invasive in Pennsylvania, certainly in Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties.

Japanese snowball (Viburnum plicatum) invasive map from

Pretty, but invasive.

Read more about invasive vs. native viburnums in this article from Maryland Invasive Species Council: Choose Your Viburnums With Care.

(photos by Kate St. John and from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)

2 thoughts on “Pretty Invasive

  1. Hello Kate,
    Are you familiar with any initiatives to clear out invasive plants, particularly in county parks? I frequent North Park with my dog and there are trails where the entire landscape is covered in Japanese Barberry.

    1. It used to be that volunteers pulled invasive plants but goats are so much more effective that they are “hired” for the Pittsburgh city parks. I don’t know what is done in County parks. If you want to help in the region check with Western PA Conservancy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.