Invasive Plant Species

Dark green leaves with pinwheel purple flowers
Vinca minor/Vinca major (Periwinkle) invades open to shady forests. It forms dense and extensive mats along forest floors that exclude native vegetation. It is native to Europe and was introduced in North America in the 1700s as an ornamental plant.

NPS Photo

History & Impact of Invasive Species in Hot Springs National Park

The Hot Springs area, while made use of by Native Americans long before the discovery by European settlers, has continuously been an attractive site for visitors and entrepreneurs alike. Starting in the 1800s, Hot Springs has seen many public and private businesses utilizing natural spring waters. Because of these businesses, exotic flora and fauna were introduced, primarily by the bathhouse owners trying to make their bathhouses more esthetically pleasing.

The National Invasive Species Council (NISC) defines an invasive species as “a species that in non-native to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.”

Dark green pointy leaves with yellow lines branch out and cover the landscape
Hedera helix (English Ivy) completely covers the ground making it nearly impossible for other plant species to grow.

NPS Photo

The park has nearly 40 invasive species present throughout the Hot Springs National Park (HOSP). Some of the most common and damaging invasive species include Nandina domestica (Nandina), Ligustrum sinense (Privet), Hedera helix (English Ivy), Pueraria montana (Kudzu), and Vinca minor/Vinca major (Periwinkle). The invasive species thrive because they grow and reproduce more rapidly than natives, tolerate a wide variety of habitat conditions, are aggressive competitors for resources, and often lack natural enemies, predators, or pests in the ecosystem. In short, they overwhelm the ecosystem, while also preventing native species from competing for resources.

Large fat spade-shaped leaves from a green vine cover the ground as far as you can see.
Pueraria montana (Kudzu) can take over an area very quickly blocking the diverse native plants and creating a monoculture.

NFS/ Kerry Britton

Effects On Wildlife

It is also important to note the damage invasive plant species can have on the native wildlife. Many of the invasive vining species like English ivy and kudzu envelope surrounding bushes and trees, which not only deprives the native species from water and sunlight, but it also eliminates a possible food source for native animals.

With the case of nandina, its berries naturally produce cyanide, which when eaten in large quantities by birds, deer, or other species of wildlife can lead to poisoning and ultimately death. The impact of invasive species at HOSP is visible throughout the park and continued efforts are necessary to prevent their spread.
A bush in the forest with long pointy eye-shaped leaves and white berries.
Nandina domestica (Nandina) or Heavenly Bamboo is a very aggressive shrub from Asia that many people use for landscaping and it has become a major problem since it was introduced.


The Invasive Plant Management Program

Following the creation of the National Invasive Species Council, (NISC), the federal government has been working to combat the impact of invasive species on its federal lands. The Natural Resource Management (NRM) division at Hot Springs National Park, (HOSP), is responsible for monitoring and controlling the invasive species. They are continually working to inventory and map the roads, trails, and developed areas in the park to better understand and treat invasive plant infestations. With this information, the National Park Service and other conservation organizations can work together to successfully manage and eradicate the problems of invasive species.

The Natural Resources Management team also works with volunteers, local schools and colleges to cut and remove invasive species such as Nandina and English Ivy to maintain a healthy and natural ecosystem.

You can make a difference!

Hot Springs National Park is a very urban park. It and other state and city parks are effected by the landscape management choices of local landowners. Choosing to plant native species and removing any invasives that have been planted by previous owners can help keep your local ecosystem healthy and protect the diversity of your local parks.

Before & After - Tufa Terrace Trail

Our Natural Resources Division works hard to observe and manage the many aggressive invasive species in our park. Below is a slider showing the same area of Tufa Terrace Trail before and after removal.

A winding trail with black railings on both sides has trees and the ground is covered with invasive species such as kudzu A winding trail with black railings on both sides has trees and the ground is covered with invasive species such as kudzu

Left image
Tufa Terrace Trail - BEFORE
Credit: NPS

Right image
Tufa Terrace Trail - AFTER
Credit: NPS

A hillside is on fire next to a road as a prescribed fire specialist spews fire from a canister at a prescribed burn
Prescribed Fire at Hot Springs National Park

NPS Photo

Prescribed Fire

Controlled burns, also known as prescribed burns, are used to simulate natural wildfires that are essential to any healthy forest ecosystem. With the introduction of fire into the Park’s forests, it removes the thick undergrowth of leaves, bushes, and invasive species that are congesting the area. Once the fire has eliminated these factors, it allows for native species to reproduce with far less competition. Using the methods of prescribed fire and mechanical plant removal, HOSP can work to eliminate damaging invasive species and encourage the growth of local flora and fauna.
A view from West Mountain overlook looking across rolling hills with fall colored leaves.


Learn about the natural resources at Hot Springs National Park. This includes information about our thermal water, wildlife, and plants.

Aerial photograph of Central Ave in the evening. Car lights are streaking along the streets.

Along Central Avenue

Being in the heart of downtown Hot Springs, there are plenty of opportunities to explore some of the unique shops and boutiques.

Last updated: October 21, 2021

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101 Reserve Street
Hot Springs , AR 71901


501 620-6715

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