Monday, February 4, 2013

Invasive Plants -- Privet

The next few blogs will be about invasive plants in our landscapes.

This is the time of year to trim, mulch and assess your landscape, decide where to plant new trees and bushes, decide which ones that need cutting down to improve your yard. And since I plan to plant some new fruit trees this year, I thought it was a good time to look at some of the non-native invasive plants in my yard.

There are plenty of these invasive plants thriving in the southeast and you may ask what species grow in your landscape and why are they a problem? Probably one of the best known in our state is "Kudzu." It was brought here originally from Asia to solve erosion and land problems but it's aggressive nature soon covered trees and property along roadsides and untended land.

There are many reason why invasive plant species are bad for native plants and wildlife. Generally, these plants are aggressive and will survive through drought, too much moisture and shade or sun killing and taking over native vegetation. Often wildlife habitats are displaced by too much growth because they won't shelter in this growth, nor benefit from the flowers and/or fruit.

Invasive plants are distributed in many ways; mowing, importation of topsoil, seed and plant packaging, mulches, introduction of ornamentals, commercial wildflower mixes, construction equipment, seeds from birds and animals (that do feed on berries), and even people who unwittingly pick up seeds on roadways, etc.

To discover invasives in your landscape or area, check out this website for a long list to include the ten most common,

Privet is on this list and one of the problems in my yard. The true origin of privet is unknown, but in the southeast from Texas, east to Georgia and north to Virginia the Chinese variety is widespread. It is a deciduous or evergreen plant that blooms white flower clusters from April thru June.

Most of us think of the privet as a hedge or ornamental made a southern tradition by our forefathers on large homes and plantations introduced to this area in the mid 1800's.

As seen above the berries turn purple or black in late fall and winter (August thru December).

The leaves grow on spindly limbs on each side in a row.

Privet bushes grow and colonize by root sprouts making them difficult to eradicate. Cutting branches back to the ground will not solve the problem. They are aggressive, fast growing, tolerate shade or full sun and grow upwards thirty feet or more, forming a dense thicket in several years. Also they seem oblivious to drought conditions.

As you can see above my privet problem began over thirty years ago when this ornamental was planted next to my house by my parents. Although, it appears like a nice ornamental shrub, my yard has been all but taken over by this one invasive species. It grows and spreads so fast maintenance has become a problem for me the last several years since I do the yard work.

So what's the solution to my privet problem? I could dig them up but that would be too hard on my back. Although, I don't like using chemicals that is the best solution. I'll try Garlon, Arsenal AC, Garlon 3A, Velspar L, or a gyphesale herbicide in a 20% solution mixed with water on the stumps after cutting back the bushes, especially to protect the surrounding vegetation.

We'll look at another invasive plant species next time.

So until next time.....

Happy Gardening 2013!

Posted by Wilma Smith

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