The conceptualization of alien invasive species conflates two axes of variability that have become unhelpfully blurred. The nativeness/alienness axis refers to the presumed belonging of a species in ecological or social space. Invasiveness refers to the behavior of the species in question, particularly in relation to other species. The overlay of nation introduces further variability. Teasing these axes apart is important for more effective environmental management. We examine these concepts using two influential forms of ecological knowledge: the biogeographical and ecological literature and the vernacular experiences of suburban backyarders. Three case studes, the invasive native Pittosporum undulatum and two invasive exotics, Lantana camara and Cinnamomum camphora, illustrate the complex and contingent nature of human interactions with such species and the potential for human interactions to increase and/or reduce the propagation of plant species.