The other day I was at a meeting in the Birmingham Metro area. The reason for this meeting was to see what community leaders thought I needed to cover in my educational programing for 2017. I try to keep in touch with the pulse of the community which I serve, but at this meeting I was totally caught off guard. My subject area is Forestry, Wildlife, and Natural Resources. My specialty is forestry; to which I owe a 35 year career. Walking into the meeting, I expected community leaders say they wanted to hear more about nuisance wildlife. Many of you have written me, thanking me for my articles on armadillos, chipmunks, squirrels, etc. Dealing with nuisance wildlife is the number one thing I do in the Metro. However, at this meeting, community leaders stated they wanted to hear more about invasive species.
Throughout the county, the US Forest Service conducts a survey of forestland. One fifth of the acreage is surveyed on a rotational basis, so that, every five years we have a new survey of our land. While here in Alabama, we may have 23 million acres in timber, we also have almost 5 million acres in invasive plants. Our number one invasive with around three million acres in coverage is Japanese Honeysuckle. Planted as a wildlife food source, Japanese honeysuckle can completely cover the ground preventing regeneration and overtopping trees to kill them. Following in a distant second with one million acres is Chinese privet. Privet loves moist forests. For those of you who love hardwoods and hate pine plantations, you should be concerned with privet. After Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina, beautiful hardwood forests were replaced with privet tangles after the big trees fell.
Following privet is, Kudzu, Cogongrass, and Japanese Climbing Fern. Rounding out the top seven are the two trees Mimosa, and the Popcorn-tree. Just these seven species occupy almost five million acres of timberland. The invasive species problem is not just a forestry problem. Farmland and our waterways are fighting the battle too. This time of year I spend most of my time helping pond owners identify weeds in their ponds, and how to kill these weeds. Most of the weeds I encounter are invasive weeds like Alligatorweed, Hydrilla, Eurasian Water Milfoil, and Water Lettuce. If these plants are not controlled, they will over-take a pond, streams, rivers, and even our reservoirs.
What can you do? Number one, become informed! There are a number of resources to help you understand the problem. Here in Alabama, our best resource is the Alabama Invasive Plant Council (ALIPC) http://www.se-eppc.org/alabama/. Every year we gather for an annual meeting to discuss where we are with the plants, how to kill these plants, and what's new on the horizon. Another source of good materials is the University of Georgia's, Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health at http://www.invasive.org/. UG's Center not only covers plants, but any other type of invasive. The second way you can help is once you find an invasive learn how to kill it. This may mean changing the landscaping around your house. It is a difficult decision to make, but if we do not stand up for our native plants and protect them from these invaders, one day the natives will be gone.Written by Andrew J. Baril of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, C. Beaty Hanna Horticulture & Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
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