Lawn Nature + Invasive Species!

Hi all! Has anyone tried to track the biodiversity present in their lawn space? How prevalent do you think are invasive vs. native vs. non-native species in these concentrated areas? How would we be able to track these differences between the categories using inaturalist? Thank you!


There’re projects for properties, not only lawns, but probably could help with answering your question.


in my area, most lawns are dominated by one or two species, and the grass – the defining plant in the lawn – is usually technically an invasive, as defined in conservation terms as aggressive & non-native. that said, if you look carefully, you can often find a lot of other plants (volunteers / weeds), and those seem to be a mix of native and non-native, though it depends on the specific situation.

the invertebrate life seems to reflect the same kind of situation. by numbers of individuals / mass, they might be weighted towards non-natives (ex. European honeybee, Fire Ant, Earthworms, etc.), but there definitely are a lot of native species that show up, too. (so the natives probably win if you count by number of species.) again, it’ll depend on the specific situation.

iNat can be used to differentiate between native and non-native (anyone can set establishment means for a particular taxon + place), but there are a lot of species out there, and many species haven’t been defined as native or non-native in iNat, and many don’t necessarily have the science behind them to make such delineations based on evidence either.

iNat doesn’t get into trying to track “invasive” at all. i think mostly this is because different people use that term to mean different things.


Would you consider the lawn itself invasive, since these are often non-native grasses?

Not sure about other lifeforms, but at least for plants, most everything I’ve found in my lawn is invasive (aside from grass), just because it’s a very tough environment for native plants to thrive in.

With frequent mowing, watering, and nutrients, lawns seem to promote/encourage plants that have a quick life-cycle with many seeds. Some of the ones I’ve seen in my lawn are:

All of which seem to follow that strategy. The last one is really interesting and was in the news lately as a ‘key to drought resistant crops’. I think they forgot to mention that oleracea refers to vegetable and this ‘weed’ is infact edible (and tastes great!). Because of how it does photosynthesis, it has a tart flavor in the morning, which disappears by the afternoon.


Hi! I live in La Serena, Chile, and during the pandemic, we were totally locked down. For months, I wasn’t really able to leave the confines of my lawn. So I just looked at what species I could find and wrote an essay about it. You can find it here:

Hope you find it useful!


This is my property project:
I think there are probably about 1/5 non-native species. The grass is a mix of native and non-native. I wish we could mow less but I want to chop down the Bahia Grass seed heads before they mature.
We remove these as soon as we see them:
White Mulberry (only found one)
Velvetleaf (only found one)
Persian Silk Tree
Autumn Clematis
Japanese Honeysuckle
Chinese Tallow
Japanese Climbing Fern
We haven’t tackled the Creeping Lilyturf in the ditch yet.


I’ve discussed my no-lawn yard in a few places, especially this thread

I don’t have any before conditions for comparison, because my front yard was gravel and my backyard was invasive trees and dead grass when I moved in (and I wasn’t using iNat at the time). I have a few persistent invasive plant species that are remnants of the old turf and entrenched in the seed bank - field bindweed, sowthistle, prickly lettuce, purslane, a knotweed/knotgrass, and dwarf mallow.

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Around me, selfheal does well sometimes and then it’s the occasional ragweed, spotted spurge, American plantain and if there’s native asters going to seed near, they’ll stick around on a high lawn, but he greatest number and diversity of dicots on lawns is mostly not native. For the most part, it’s not red flag kind of invasive, though, except for knapweeds. Around us, it’s taking over lawns as well meadows that are brush cut. It’s on very few personal properties but where it is, it’s presence tends to be strong. If it’s mowed without bagging when it’s gone to seed, it spreads. If clipping are cast to the side, it spreads extremely fast:

If it’s timed to avoid seeds, some will still form below the cutting height, stay in place and create growing dense monoculture mats.

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I find definitions on introduced/invasive are too inconsistent to really try to come up with a ratio.
In my part of north america, it seems the majority of lawn weeds fit into the “introduced” category. I think a lot of “introduced” plants would probably be listed as invasive if they didn’t also fix nitrogen. Seems like fixing nitrogen will make people look the other way when plants spread rapidly without human input.


I agree with bedenkrick- it is a great idea, but defining the terms more exactly would be useful. It seems like what you are looking for is more like “naturalized”- which is a plant that is introduced and persists on its on in the wild, but doesn’t necessarily displace other organisms or cause economic &/or evnironmental harm. There is obviously gray area here, and this also varies regionally. I am especially interested in the “lawn weeds” as these “walkable/ mowable weeds” (native or not- as long as they aren’t invasive) seem like a way to make lawns- which aren’t going anywhere anytime soon- more sustainable and pollinator-friendly. For instance, many lawns here in coastal NC have white clover and henbit- which bloom very early and are covered with pollinators (Southern Blueberry Bees, Bumblebees, butterflies) as they are providing resources even before the first native bloomers (usually Vaccinium and Gelsimium). Not to advocate planting more lawn, but trying to make what we have not sooo sterile. Anyways, to answer the question, lawns in these parts have: white clover, henbit, hedgenettle, plantains (haven’t been able to figure out species, but there are at least 2), picris, Diodia, and Florida Pusley (Richardia), in addition to sandspurs! So basically, there is very little in my lawn that is native, but I also don’t have anything that is especially invasive in my area- except for the sandspurs. Good luck with your collection!


Unkempt, untreated lawns are fun places to botanize. Even better are disturbed areas that have been let to grow but get mowed somewhat often; treated like a lawn.

Here’s some of the better finds I’ve made in lawns:

I’m definitely forgetting some cool species.


I really enjoyed your survey of the species on your lawn.

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Surprisingly, most species of invertebrates in my yard are non-invasive.

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I have mobility issues and can no longer do hikes or long walks, so my observations are essentially confined to my property and thereabouts. But I have just under an acre on what I believe is the edge of an old farmstead, backing onto a ravine with a creek, surrounded by younger hardwoods, older large sugar maples, and a lot of brush (dogwood, various types of honeysuckle, etc.) The soil is mostly clay so my attempts at growing a garden plot for food has been slow and arduous. But some things thrive, like the (possibly decades old) hardy kiwi. A very productive juniper that the cedar waxwings love. And an errant apple tree that keeps blooming and growing small, very bitter apples… We also have a large, native black cherry that the raccoons apparently love to raid. Anyway, i’ve seen all kinds of unusual plants in the yard that I am excited to ID… Today there were some weird looking blue-purplish things that looked a bit like tiny trees and emitted some sort of black dust (spores?) when disturbed. Fascinating! I didn’t get a photo, but I will try tomorrow.


Turkey tangle frogfruit is a native here in the southern US that does well mixed into lawns. It stays short enough not to be chopped up by a lawn mower.
It’s a host plant for Phaon Crescent and Common Buckeye butterflies. Also a popular nectar plant for various butterflies.


I just discovered Turkey tangle frogfruit recently and am trying to get a start for my lawn. Collecting a few seeds from a large wild patch near me. It is a beautiful plant, but the only pollinator I have seen on it is honey bees, which are everywhere here in Lincoln California.


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