Invasive Neophytes - The Unwanted Guests

May 11, 2020

The pleasant scent of freshly mown grass hangs in the air. Trees, bushes and flowers produce blossoms in all colours and a variety of fruits and berries ripen in the mild spring sun. Yes, nature has a lot to offer during this season! But unfortunately, with the warmer weather comes a not-so-positive issue again - neophytes.

What are neophytes?

Neophytes are alien plants that have been deliberately introduced into new environments by traders or, in some cases, unintentionally carried over through globalisation. In Switzerland, the number of currently established neophytes is around 550 species.  The majority of these are well integrated and enrich the local flora. However, some neophytes exhibit invasive behaviour and displace native plants to the point of extinction, which can have consequences for our entire ecosystem. There are also specimens that can be toxic to humans and animals and cause allergies. Nevertheless, neophytes continue to be brought into Swiss gardens by many wholesalers and nurseries without breaking the law. Only a duty to inform applies, which means that the buyer must be informed about the invasive potential of a plant.

Houzy Advice

Good to know

However, some neophytes exhibit invasive behaviour and displace native plants to the point of extinction.

Houzy Neophyte Checker - Detect Invasive Plants

Identify neophytes simply by taking a photo

With the Houzy Neophyte Checker you can detect dangerous invasive neophytes and protect native plants.
Check Plant Now

The most common neophytes in Swiss gardens

Four neophytes are particularly common in private gardens. The plants are not really dangerous for humans, which is why their sale is not prohibited. Nevertheless, they have worrying effects on nature and biodiversity.

  • Buddleja, Summer Lilac
    The summer lilac, also called butterfly bush, is one of the most common neophytes in Swiss gardens. It has a negative impact on butterfly populations because it displaces food plants of the caterpillars of rare butterflies. It is otherwise harmless to humans and animals.

The Buddleja, also called summer lilac, is one of the most common neophytes in Swiss gardens


  • Vinegar tree
    The vinegar tree is displacing the native plant world. Its milky sap is slightly poisonous if ingested and can cause inflammation.

The vinegar tree is displacing the native flora.

  • God Tree
    The god tree also poses a threat to native plants because it runs wild in dense stands. The organs of the god tree are so strong that the plants even grow through asphalt. Control is enormously costly and difficult.

The invasive god tree runs wild in dense stands.

  • Cherry Laurel
    The cherry laurel bushes often used here as hedges and ornamental plants are poisonous. The fruits of this plant are often eaten by birds and thus spread further. 

The cherry laurel bushes often used here as hedges and ornamental plants are poisonous


More information on these and other common neophytes can be found at neophyt.ch.


Prevent spread and control organisms

Even though neophytes often look beautiful and would look good in our own garden, we must not burden and harass our native flora in this way. That's why you too can now take action against these organisms at home and support the federal government. With the new plant guide from Houzy, invasive neophytes can be identified by photo. The system informs the user and provides tips for professional control and disposal.

Related articles