Monday, May 19, 2008

Asian Photinia--A Newly Identified Invasive

Sometimes Mother Nature can fool those who don't look closely enough. It was recently pointed out to me that the large, aggressive shrub in our Princeton, NJ preserves that I was happily calling Aronia arbutifolia is in fact an exotic invasive, Photinia villosa.

It did seem strange that a species I had had no luck with growing in the past could be doing so well and acting strangely dominant and exclusionary in the local wilds. A quick look in Michael Dir's hefty Manual of Woody Landscape Plants showed distinct differences.

They have similar flowers--both are in the rose family--but native Red Chokeberry blooms a few weeks earlier, with Photinia blossums opening in mid to late May.

The petiole (segment connecting leaf to stem) is 1/8th inch on Photinia, longer on Chokeberry. The leaf venation pattern too is different.

Fall color is tan, while Red Chokeberry is said to be red. Photinia also grows much larger, reaching 15 feet or more.

Results from an internet search suggest that I'm not the only one who has been unaware. The USDA government site shows it growing in three states plus DC, but not in NJ. A University of Florida site says it has little invasive potential.

Thanks to Jared Rosenbaum, of D&R Greenway, for alerting me to the presence of this invasive.


  1. Thanks Steve
    I hope the photo above with darker glossier green leaves and larger white 5 petal blooms was the chokeberry and the lower photo with lighter green leaves and flowers either not open or wilted was the photinia.

    Early spring I am seeing tall multistem shrubs with small yellow buds, the plant's bark is thin speckled with small dots and reminds me of photinia - is this spice bush or photinia

  2. All the photos in the post are of Photinia. Differences in leaf color are probably due to light levels or the camera's exposure settings.

    Speckled bark and small yellow buds would be spicebush. In the winter, spicebush and Photinia can be distinguished by the round flower buds of the spicebush and also contrasts in the leaf buds.