There is an exceptionally huge list of invasive plants that have taken up residence in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Many of them are Asian species in origin and from parts of Asia with a similar climate to the mid-Atlantic states. They are everything from grasses to shrubs and trees to vines.
Bamboo is not immediately thought of as an invasive plant, but it actually is. Bamboo is a woody grass, similar to reeds. Three species have become invasive and they began as ornamental plants. They are common bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris), golden bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) and arrow bamboo (Pseudosasa japonica). These three species are known to form dense thickets and displace native plant species. They also create dense shade that makes it difficult for other plants to grow. Avoid planting exotic bamboo because, once established, it is extremely difficult to get rid of.
The Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is a shrub that was introduced to the United States in 1875. It is particularly problematic in the northeast, but is also prevalent in North Carolina and a number of mid-Atlantic states. It is versatile and can grow in full sun to shade in woodlands, wetlands and fields. Like bamboo it displaces native species. In places with heavy infestations it will also alter the soil chemistry with leaf litter.
Winged burning bush
Another invasive shrub is the winged burning bush (Euonymus alatus), which is originally from Japan and central China. In the mid-1800s it was popular in landscaping, and it remains popular in some places today, despite its invasive qualities. It has intense red leaves in the fall and is very hardy. It grows readily in forests, coastal scrublands and even prairies, where it forms dense thickets.
The princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa) is a very attractive tree from China. It is sometimes called the empress tree or royal paulownia. Since the 3rd century BC it has had a number of medicinal, ornamental and timber uses. It was imported to Europe by the East India Company and soon thereafter was brought to North America. Princess trees have an amazing ability to survive fires, cuttings, and bulldozing because they are so prolific at sprouting. This makes them exceptionally difficult to get rid of once they have infested an area. They can adapt to many environments, even extremely poor soil and rocky regions.
Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) is a vine prized for its showy spring flowers, but after it was introduced to the United States it quickly grew out of control. It is particularly bothersome in the mid-Atlantic, where it is known to choke the trees to death that it hosts on. In addition to girdling trees, it is known to grow thick and shade out other plants. It is a common sight along roadsides with its bright purple flower racemes.