Herbicide Selectivity in Invasive Plant Management

Choosing the right herbicide to fit your vegetation management objectives is an important decision. Herbicides are classified in a number of ways based on how they are used and their selectivity on different plant families. 

NON-SELECTIVE HERBICIDES are not selective about the plants they control. Glyphosate ( Accord® XRT II and Rodeo® herbicide, and other trade names) is a non-selective herbicide that will cause significant injury to both broadleaf and grass plants. These herbicides are effective on sites where total vegetation removal is desired and application is often followed by restoring desirable vegetation on the treated site. If restoration is not part of the management plan, undesirable weedy plants may reestablish in bare ground created by non-selective herbicide treatments. 

SELECTIVE HERBICIDES are those formulated to control specific plant families. Milestone® and Transline® specialty herbicides are selective herbicides that control invasive broadleaf plants, allowing grasses and some desirable broadleaf plants to thrive. Applying selective herbicides to target plants reduces the potential for erosion by maintaining vegetative cover and minimizes damage to desirable non-target plants.

Remember that many herbicides work selectively within a given rate of application. Too low of a rate and the target plant is not controlled, and too high of a rate and injury to non-target (desirable plants) may occur. Selectivity is a dynamic process that involves the interaction of the plant, the herbicide, application methods and rates, and the environment.

Nonselective herbicide (glyphosate) applied to Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) resulted in injury to desirable grasses (left) shown 45 days following application.  Removal of grass competition by glyphosate allowed for invasion of oxeye daisy  (Leucanthemum vulgare), another invasive plant, 416 days after application (right).

Published May 2013; reviewed and revised July 2018.


®™Trademark of The Dow Chemical Company (“Dow”) or an affiliated company of Dow. Milestone specialty herbicide is not registered for sale or use in all states. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is registered for sale or use in your state. When treating areas in and around roadside or utility rights-of-way that are or will be grazed, hayed or planted to forage, important label precautions apply regarding harvesting hay from treated sites, using manure from animals grazing on treated areas or rotating the treated area to sensitive crops. Consult the label before purchase or use for full details. Consult the label for full details.

State restrictions on the sale and use of Transline specialty herbicide and Accord XRT II herbicide apply. Consult the label before purchase or use for full details. Always read and follow label instructions. 

Active ingredients for herbicide products mentioned in this article: Milestone (aminopyralid), Transline (clopyralid),  Accord XRT II, Rodeo (glyphosate).