Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Hedges and windbreaks (pathway cause)



Hedges and windbreaks (pathway cause)


  • Last modified
  • 13 July 2017
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Pathway Cause
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Hedges and windbreaks (pathway cause)
  • Overview
  • Most of the incidences of the introduction of plants primarily for hedge/windbreak purposes, and which later became invasive, occurred in the 1800s, before any risks were associated with these species. Characteristics of good hedge plants, the p...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Hedges and windbreaks (pathway cause)

International Common Names

  • English: Hedge; Hedgerow; Hedging; Shelter belts; Shelterbelts; Wind breaks
  • French: Haies/brise-vents


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Most of the incidences of the introduction of plants primarily for hedge/windbreak purposes, and which later became invasive, occurred in the 1800s, before any risks were associated with these species. Characteristics of good hedge plants, the presence of spines or thorns, a dense multi-stemmed shrubby habit, and unpalatability or tolerance to browsing, are also shared by invasive species. The risks associated with international introduction of potentially invasive plants have been well highlighted in recent decades, though seed of many of these is still available from mail-order and internet-based companies. The main risks, however, are likely to concentrate on local spread, as farmers continue to plant live fences from plants already in the area.


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Summary of organism types or species introduced

In the Forestry Compendium (CABI, 2005), there are 524 tree species recorded as being used for either hedges, windbreaks or shelterbelts, and of these, 94 were either invasive, aggressive, or noted to have a tendency to become a weed. However, many of the characteristics of good windbreak trees (fast growth, tall, narrow crown, wind-firm, etc.) make them good plantation species, so it is rare that a species would have been introduced principally as a windbreak tree. For example, Casuarina spp. are commonly planted as windbreaks in the tropics as are Cupressus spp. in Mediterranean regions, but they are also frequently used as forestry and ornamental species. Hedge plants, however, generally have unique characteristics uncommon in forestry, such as having spines or thorns and a dense, low-growing form, and resistance or tolerance to browsing.

Of the 463 invasive plants in the Crop Protection Compendium (CABI, 2007), the following 23 species (almost 5% of the total) are (or have been) used for hedging or as a hedge plant: Acacia karroo, Caesalpinia decapetala, Casuarina glauca, Dichrostachys cinerea, Genista monspessulana, Gliricidia sepium, Hakea drupacea, H. gibbosa, H. sericea, Jatropha curcas, Lantana camara, Ligustrum robustrum, Lycium ferocissimum, Opuntia stricta, Parkinsonia aculeata, Pithecellobium dulce, Psidium cattleianum, Rhamnus cathartica, R. frangula, Rubus fruticosus, Tamarix aphylla, T. chinensis and Ulex europaeus. Most are multi-purpose species, but providing a stock-proof or ornamental hedging is recorded as the main reason for long-distance introduction of just over half of these; highlighted below.

Caesalpinia decapetala was widely introduced to form a security barrier against people or wild animals, and is also regarded as a striking ornamental.

Dichrostachys cinerea has a number of environmental uses for example in agroforestry, soil improvement, revegetation, land reclamation, soil conservation and erosion control, and has been widely planted for hedging and live fencing.

Hakeadrupacea, H. gibbosa and H. sericea were introduced from Australia to South Africa primarily as a hedge or barrier plant, but also for sand stabilization and firewood production (Shaughnessy, 1986), and also to New Zealand for the same reasons.

Lantana camara has been introduced throughout the tropics and subtropics, often used as a hedge plant, and in East Africa, in locations where it is not weedy, it has been used effectively as a live fence (Howes, 1946).

Ligustrum robustrum was introduced as a hedge species in Mauritius in 1895 (Rouillard and Guého, 1990). It continues to be used as an ornamental species, and is commonly found as a hedge plant in La Réunion.

Lycium ferocissimum was widely introduced from South Africa to Australia as a hedge plant and had become naturalized by the mid 1800s (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992), and it was also introduced to New Zealand at the same time for the same reasons, and whereas it is no longer grown for this purpose, many of the non-coastal invasions have spread from old hedges.

Opuntia stricta has also been used as a hedge plant, and the showy flowers and attractive fruit also make it a popular pot and hedge plant and it is by this means that it probably arrived in Australia prior to 1839 (Mann, 1970).

Parkinsonia aculeata is widely used as a thorn hedge and as an ornamental, shade or shelterbelt tree (Howes, 1946; Troup and Joshi, 1983; Webb et al., 1984). It was promoted in Australia as an evergreen hedge (von Mueller, 1888) and by British colonialists as an ornamental, for soil fixation and as a hedging plant (Streets, 1962; Troup and Joshi, 1983). It continues to be used and promoted for ornament, shade, windbreak and hedging purposes (Madany, 1991).

Rhamnus cathartica and R. frangula have been used extensively as a hedgerow and ornamental plant. By the 1900s they had become naturalized and widespread in parts of North America where they were used as a hedge, shelterbelt or ornamental.

Ulex europaeus has been introduced intentionally to many temperate parts of the world as a hedge plant to contain grazing animals, as fodder, and even to assuage the nostalgia of European colonists (Richardson and Hill, 1998). It was intentionally introduced to New Zealand as a hedge plant, naturalized quickly, and was declared a noxious weed in 1900 (MacCarter and Gaynor, 1980). It was introduced to Australia for the same reasons before 1845, naturalized by 1889, and was a recognized weed by 1909 (Richardson and Hill, 1998).

In addition to these examples, two species are notable for their popular use a hedge plant, which is likely to be a common reason for their spread locally: Gliricidia sepium is mainly valued as a fodder and shade tree, but as cuttings root extremely easily (‘quick stick’ being one of its common names), it is often planted as a hedge. Also, Jatrophacurcas is mainly valued for the oil produced from its seeds, but being unpalatable and the wood being valueless, it is often grown as a hedge (‘hedge castor oil plant’ being one of its common names).

Principle processes

Species are introduced via seed, and only very rarely as plants or parts of plants (such as probably occurred with Opuntia spp., where the cladodes, or leaf pads, are the main means of propagation). Seed of very many invasive trees are still available from mail order companies and can be purchased via the internet.

Geographical routes and corridors

Shipping routes in the 1800s provided the main routes for introduction of hedging plants, between countries of similar climates, e.g. South Africa and Australia in both directions, from Europe to North America and New Zealand, and from Central America pan-tropically. In recent years, seeds of invasive ornamental hedging plants are sent by airmail and thus arrive at airports and not sea ports as before.

Human-mediated history

All introductions of trees and shrubs for use as hedges or windbreaks were intentional.

Species Transported by Cause

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SpeciesNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Abutilon hirtum (Indian mallow)Used for hedges. Yes Achigan-Dako, 2010
Acacia angustissima (prairie acacia)For hedges in crop fields. Yes Akume et al., 2015
Acacia longifolia (golden wattle)Used for hedges in Argentina and Australia. Yes Yes Birnbaum et al., 2012
Acacia mearnsii (black wattle) Yes Yes Wiersum, 1991
Acacia saligna (Port Jackson wattle) Yes Cronk and Fuller, 1995
Agave americana (century plant)Planted to create natural hedges Yes Yes PROTA, 2016
Agave vivipara (Caribbean agave)Used as hedge plant because of its spiny leaves Yes Yes The Mansfeld’s World Database, 2015
Albizia adinocephala (cream albizia) Yes Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, 2016
Allamanda blanchetii (purple allamanda)Cultivated as a hedge plant Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2019
Allamanda cathartica (yellow allamanda)Commonly used as ground cover and for hedges and screens Yes Yes Francis, 2000
Anredera vesicaria (Texas madeira vine)Grown on fences and hedges Yes Achigan-Dako, 2010; Achigan-Dako, 2010
Asparagus falcatus (sicklethorn)Used as a safety hedge Yes PROTA, 2020
Austrocylindropuntia cylindrica (cane cactus) Yes
Austrocylindropuntia subulata (Eve’s needle cactus) Yes
Balanites aegyptiaca (simple-thorned torchwood)Used for live fences in Africa Yes Booth and Wickens, 1988
Bambusa bambos (giant thorny bamboo) Yes Yes Duriyaprapan and Jansen, 1995
Bambusa tuldoides (punting pole bamboo)Used as hedge plant Yes Yes But and Chia, 1995
Bambusa vulgaris (common bamboo) Yes Yes Dransfield and Widjaja, 1995
Barleria cristata (Philippine violet)Cultivated as hedge plant Yes India Biodiversity Portal, 2016
Barleria lupulina (hophead Philippine violet)Cultivated as hedge plant Yes Yes Smith, 1991
Bauhinia monandra (Napoleon's plume)Used as hedge-plant Yes Yes Connor, 2002
Bauhinia tomentosa (yellow bauhinia)Planted as hedge plant in gardens and agricultural lands Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Bontia daphnoides (white alling)Used in the Caribbean as windbreak Yes Yes Chinnock et al., 1987
Bougainvillea spectabilis (great bougainvillea)Often planted as hedge plant Yes Yes Salam et al., 2017
Breynia disticha (snowbush) Yes Yes Achigan-Dako, 2010
Bromelia pinguin (wild pineapple)Used as a living fence in rural communities Yes Guess and Guess, 2001; UNDP, 2011
Brugmansia suaveolens (white angel's trumpet) Yes
Caesalpinia pulcherrima (peacock flower)Planted as a living fence Yes Yes Achigan-Dako, 2010
Calliandra houstoniana var. calothyrsus (calliandra)Used in hedgerows in Jamaica Yes Yes McDonald et al., 2001
Candidatus Phytoplasma australiense Yes Yes
Cascabela thevetia (yellow oleander)Used as a hedge plant Yes Yes Useful Tropical Plants, 2020
Cassia grandis (pink shower)Used in agricultural settings as live fence, re-vegetation pioneer, and for intercropping Yes Yes ICRAF, 2014
Cestrum diurnum (day jessamine)Planted in fencerows Yes Yes Francis, 2002
Cestrum nocturnum (night jessamine)Species is planted for use as a hedge plant Yes Yes Hanelt et al., 2001
Chrysopogon zizanioides (vetiver)Planted as a vegetative barrier Yes Yes Joy, 2009
Cissus quadrangularis (treebine)Used for live fences Yes Yes Brink and Achigan-Dako, 2012
Citrus leprosis virus C (leprosis of citrus) Yes
Cnidoscolus aconitifolius (chaya)Used as living fence posts Yes Yes Ross-Ibarra and Molina-Cruz, 2002
Cocos nucifera (coconut)One of the most wind tolerant plants in the world Yes Yes Chan and Elevitch, 2006
Cornus sericea (redosier dogwood)Europe Yes Achigan-Dako, 2010
Cortaderia jubata (purple pampas grass) Yes Yes
Cortaderia selloana (pampas grass) Yes Yes
Corymbia citriodora (lemon-scented gum) Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Crataegus monogyna (hawthorn) Yes Yes Alverson and Sigg, 2008
Cupressus sempervirens (Mediterranean cypress)Common hedge plant Yes Yes
Cydalima perspectalis (box tree moth)Adults fly up to 10km per year Yes Leuthardt et al., 2010
Cytisus scoparius (Scotch broom)Often planted as hedge plant in gardens Yes Yes USDA-NRCS, 2016
Dalbergia sissoo Yes Webb et al., 1984
Discus rotundatus (rotund disc)Not explicitly mentioned in literature, but likely based on the species’ biology Yes
Dracaena fragrans (corn plant)Popular plant for hedges, living fences and windbreaks Yes Yes PROTA, 2020
Elaeagnus umbellata (autumn olive)Ornamental, hedge plant Yes Yes Munger, 2003
Epiphyas postvittana (light brown apple moth) Yes
Eriobotrya japonica (loquat)Often planted as hedge and windbreak Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Erwinia amylovora (fireblight)Hawthorns are susceptible to fire blight but infection does not always result in highly visible symp Yes Bonn and Zwet, 2000
Erythrina berteroana (coralbean)Used a living-fence, soil improver, and in alley cropping systems Yes Yes Barrance et al., 2003
Etlingera elatior (torch ginger) Yes Hammel et al., 2003
Eucalyptus globulus (Tasmanian blue gum) Yes Yes
Eucalyptus robusta (swamp mahogany) Yes Yes Wagner et al., 1999
Eugenia uniflora (Surinam cherry) Yes Yes
Euonymus japonicus (Japanese spindle tree) Yes Yes
Euphorbia lactea (mottled spurge)Occasionally planted as a hedge plant Yes Yes Little et al., 1974
Euphorbia milii (crown-of-thorns)Sometimes used as a low hedge Yes Yes Gilman, 1999
Euphorbia neriifolia (Indian spurge tree)Hedges and live fences Yes Yes Useful Tropical Plants, 2020
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge)Often planted as hedge and barrier plant Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Euphorbia trigona (African milk weed)Grown as a hedge plant Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2016
Ficus benjamina (weeping fig) Yes Yes Wiersema and León, 1999
Flacourtia indica (governor's plum) Yes PIER, 2014
Flemingia macrophylla (large leaf flemingia) Yes Yes
Galphimia glauca (goldshower)Hedge plant in gardens and parks Yes Yes Floridata, 2015
Galphimia gracilis (goldshower)Cultivated as windbreaks in vegetable gardens Yes Yes Hanelt et al., 2001
Grevillea robusta (silky oak)Often planted to be used as windbreak tree in plantations Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Hibiscus elatus (blue mahoe)Planted as windbreak in Cuba Yes Weaver and Francis, 1989
Holmskioldia sanguinea (Chinese hat plant)Used as a border and hedge plant Yes Yes Gilman, 1999
Ipomoea carnea subsp. fistulosa (bush morning glory)Often used as a hedge plant in gardens Yes Yes
Ixora casei (giant red ixora)Ornamental, hedge plant Yes Yes Keeler et al., 2003
Ixora coccinea (flame-of-the-woods) Yes Yes Gilman, 1999; Floridata, 2017
Jasminum multiflorum (star jasmine)often used for ornamental hedges Yes Learn2grow, 2016
Jasminum simplicifolium (Australian wax jasmine)Used as hedges in gardens Yes Miles, 1972
Jatropha curcas (jatropha) Yes Yes Pitt, 1999
Jatropha gossypiifolia (bellyache bush) Yes
Lagerstroemia indica (Indian crape myrtle)Planted for boundary and barrier support Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Lagerstroemia speciosa (Pride of India)Planted for boundaries and as a support for rattan Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Lantana camara (lantana) Yes Yes
Lawsonia inermis (Egyptian privet)Live fence Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Leptocybe invasa (blue gum chalcid)Through the use of eucalyptus as windbreaks Yes Yes
Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena) Yes
Leucophyllum frutescens (Texas barometer bush)Grown for boundary, living fences and hedges Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2020
Ligustrum lucidum (broad-leaf privet)Widely used as ornamental and hedge plants Yes Swarbrick et al., 1999
Ligustrum obtusifolium (border privet) Yes Nesom, 2009
Ligustrum sinense (Chinese privet)Widespread hedging plant Yes
Limax maximus (leopard slug)Accidental transport with vegetation and soil Yes
Lonicera maackii (Amur honeysuckle)Seeds spread by birds and mammals Yes Swearingen et al., 2010
Malvaviscus penduliflorus (Turk's cap mallow)Grown as living fences Yes Yes Fryxell, 2007
Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry)Windbreak and shade tree Yes Yes Francis, 2004
Morus nigra (black mulberry)Used as a live fence, shade, shelter, and as windbreak as it is wind-resistant Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Mussaenda philippica (Queen of Philippines)Planted as a fence shrub Yes Yes Ibironke and Victor, 2016
Nopalea cochenillifera (cochineal cactus)Planted as an ornamental for hedges Yes Yes Hanelt, 2017
Noronhia emarginata (Madagascar olive)Deliberate Yes Gilman and Watson, 2018
Ocimum gratissimum (African basil)Planted as hedge plant Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Opuntia engelmannii (cactus apple) Yes
Opuntia ficus-indica (prickly pear) Yes Yes
Opuntia monacantha (common prickly pear) Yes
Opuntia stricta (erect prickly pear)Intentional farm-farm transfer as a hedging plant Yes
Pandanus tectorius (screw pine) Yes
Parmentiera aculeata (cucumber tree)Plants are used as living fences Yes Villanueva-Partida et al., 2019
Pennisetum purpureum (elephant grass)Used for hedgerows, windbreaks and living fences in horticultural crops and orchards Yes Yes Tropical Forages, 2013
Phytophthora lateralis (Port-Orford-cedar root disease) Yes Yes Zobel et al., 1985
Pinus pinaster (maritime pine) Yes Cronk and Fuller, 1995
Pittosporum undulatum (Australian cheesewood) Yes Binggeli and Goodland, 1997
Polyscias fruticosa (ming aralia)Ornamental and hedge plant Yes Yes Useful Tropical Plants, 2020
Polyscias guilfoylei (geranium aralia)Planted as windbreaks and living fences Yes Yes Useful Tropical Plants, 2020
Populus alba (silver-leaf poplar) Yes Yes Jobling, 1990
Populus nigra (black poplar) Yes Yes
Prosopis juliflora (mesquite)Introduced as a hedge and also spread from farm to farm Yes Yes Pasiecznik, 2001
Pterocarpus indicus (red sandalwood)Planted as windbreak in croplands Yes Yes Thomson, 2006
Pyracantha coccinea (scarlet firethorn) Yes Yes Achigan-Dako, 2010
Rhagoletis cingulata (cherry fruit fly)Can serve as a reservoir from which dispersal can occur Yes
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)Root-stock, and planted as a hedge and for conservation Yes Yes Munger, 2002
Rosa rugosa (rugosa rose) Yes Yes Weidema, 2006
Rubus rosifolius (roseleaf raspberry)Ornamental hedge Yes Yes PROTA, 2014
Sanchezia speciosa (shrubby whitevein)Cultivated as a hedge, screen and border plant Yes Yes Meyer and Lavergne, 2004
Schinus terebinthifolius (Brazilian pepper tree) Yes Baggio, 1988
Senna septemtrionalis (smooth senna)Intentionally introduced and cultivated as a hedge plant Yes Yes Sosef and Maesen, 1997
Senna siamea (yellow cassia) Yes Yes Hassain, 1999
Senna spectabilis (whitebark senna)Intentionally introduced in agroforestry as a shade tree and hedgerow Yes Yes Mungatana and Ahimbisibwe, 2010; Wakibara and Mnaya, 2002
Senna surattensis (golden senna)Species grown as hedge and shade tree in plantations and agricultural areas. Yes Yes Hanelt et al., 2001; Little and Skolmen, 1989
Sesbania grandiflora (sesbania) Yes
Spartium junceum (Spanish broom) Yes Yes
Spiraea chamaedryfolia (germander meadowsweet) Yes Yes
Sterculia apetala (Panama tree) Yes Yes Rodríguez-Vargas, 2007
Syzygium malaccense (Malay apple) Yes Yes Little and Skolmen, 1989; Panggabean, 1991; Whistler and Elevitch, 2006
Tamarindus indica (tamarind)Cultivated in agroforestry systems as live fences and windbreak Yes Yes PROTA, 2017
Tamarix ramosissima (saltcedar)And along roads Yes Gaskin and Schaal, 2003
Tecoma capensis (Cape honeysuckle)Often grown as an ornamental hedge plant Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Tephrosia candida (white tephrosia) Yes Yes
Thespesia populnea (portia tree) Yes Yes
Thunbergia erecta (bush clockvine)Cultivated for hedges in gardens Yes Yes Gilman, 1999
Tithonia diversifolia (Mexican sunflower)Often planted as hedge plant Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Triphasia trifolia (limeberry)Used as hedge plant Yes USDA-ARS, 2012
Ulex europaeus (gorse) Yes Yes Hoshovsky, 1986
Vachellia macracantha (porknut)used as ornamental and hedge plant for its thorns Yes Yes Missouri Botanical Garden, 2017
Ziziphus spina-christi (Christ's thorn jujube) Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2017


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Many of the early introductions of hedging plants in the 1800s escaped and became invasive only a few years after they were first planted, thus limiting further introductions of similar species in the same areas, as farmers and landowners had learnt from their earlier mistakes. Nonetheless, other introductions were still made in the 1900s, but with increasing awareness of the risks, educational campaigns began, aimed directly at the ornamental plant industry. These have had an impact in some developed countries, notably the USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as some small island states. The costs of control of escaped environmental weeds have been shown to far outweigh any economic benefits from the trade of such species, and there were even moves to introduce a ‘polluter pays’ principle.

Regarding mail-order purchases of seed of invasive hedging species, the only possible control is through the checking of incoming post, as occurs in New Zealand to good effect. However, this is generally limited in effectiveness, and education via public and corporate awareness campaigns is more likely to have an impact and at lower overall cost. Regarding further spread of such species already introduced into an area, targeting plant fairs and markets, and individual suppliers have been shown to reveal the extent of supply of invasive species. In the aforementioned countries, there is also a move to have plant suppliers agree to a voluntary charter whereby they aim to use native species as alternatives where possible.


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CABI, 2005. Forestry Compendium. Wallingford, UK: CABI.

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7/7/2009 Original text by:

Nick Pasiecznik, Consultant, France