Invasive Tree and Shrub Trade-in

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Invasive Tree and Shrub Trade-in for Cook County

We’re excited to offer this opportunity to give a free native tree or shrub in exchange for the removal of an invasive species on the list below. BUT–check that there are no active bird nests. ABC 7 news in Chicago covered this program–it gives the basic facts as well as some photos: View interview with Stephanie

We are able to do this because of our plant sales, garden tour, and memberships. Thank you for making sure we can help the environment as much as possible!

Why care about invasive species

Invasive plant species harm local ecosystems by wiping out native plant species. Further, invasive plants cost us billions of dollars through damage to ecosystems and the cost to restore natural habitats. Native plant communities are essential for a healthy ecosystem that allows other animals to live and reproduce. When we have invasive plants in our yards, they contribute to the continued seed dispersal in natural areas.

What we can all do
We all can help out the environment by removing invasive trees and shrubs and instead plant a native tree or shrub that will support many other animals and provide you with a feeling of connection to nature.
Our program
To promote the elimination of invasive plant species in our area, we are piloting this “buyback” program for those in Cook County. You won’t literally bring the removed invasive tree or shrub to us, but you will need to submit a photo (no larger than 1 MB in size) of yourself and the removed invasive plant. The invasive plant should also be disposed of properly. Please complete the form in order to be considered for a free native tree or shrub. Decisions will be based on the completion of the form and order of submission. We will have 20 plants to give away.
Targeted Invasive Species
We are targeting the following trees or shrubs because these are the woody plants doing the most damage in local natural areas:
  • Barberry
  • Burning Bush
  • Honeysuckle Shrub
  • Callery Pear
  • Buckthorn
  • Tree-of-Heaven
The form will close once we’ve identified recipients or on September 15, whichever comes first. Recipients will pick up their tree or shrub on the day of our fall tree and shrub sale.
We will update with the list of trees or shrubs you can choose from soon.
Date and Location: TBD

Email us with any questions: [email protected]

  • You must live in Cook County.
  • We can only provide one tree or shrub this year per applicant.
  • You must be able to pick up your plant at our fall native tree and shrub sale.
  • Invasive shrubs or trees removed must be mature and of fruiting age or close to it.
  • You must upload a picture of yourself with the removed invasive tree or shrub.
  • The photo should show identifying features of the invasive. Ideally, you will take a pic after the plant has been removed. Submitting a brown pile of sticks or branches may cause us to deny your application.
  • We recommend that you take steps to prevent resprouting of the invasive plant.
  • The invasive plant and new native plant should be located on your property.
  • If you are doing this with a non-profit, the owners of the land should be involved in order to ensure the long-term care of the tree or shrub.
  • You must be willing to water the shrub for the next couple of years when we do not receive an inch of rain/ week.
  • You must mulch the tree/shrub at the beginning and then keep leaves as a natural mulch (as long as tree/shrub is free of pathogens that could kill the plant). We encourage the use of “soft landings,” native plants that complement the tree or shrub.


Seek app by iNaturalist–If you need help confirming the identification of the tree or shrub, you can use app like Seek to make sure you do indeed have one of the targeted invasive species. The links below also have images and notes about identification.

Midwest Invasive Plant Network–identification and removal information

University of IL Extension’s Guide–visuals alongside recommended methods. Some of the methods may not be appropriate for those not trained in some of the practices.

To apply, please click here for the Invasive Tree or Shrub Trade-in


We would like to thank Byron who let us know about the Missouri Invasive Plant Council’s Buy Back program, which was a huge model for us.