Oriental bittersweet is an invasive that WNCA and its partners are working to mitigate and remove in Western North Carolina.

Oriental bittersweet is an invasive that WNCA and its partners are working to mitigate and remove in Western North Carolina.

Click HERE to download our new, wallet-sized Do Not Buy Guide to help stop the spread of invasive species at the source! This guide tells you which WNC invasive plants to avoid purchasing and the native alternatives you can use instead. Just print it out, fold it up and keep it with you when you go to your local nursery to get your fall and spring plantings!

Since 2002, the Western North Carolina Alliance has addressed the challenge of non-native invasive plants in the mountain counties of North Carolina.

Introduced accidentally and intentionally (for erosion control, livestock forage, and landscaping), these invasive species escaped from developed communities and have become naturalized in the wild. Without the predators and competitors these plants have evolved with, they are given the opportunity to flourish, usually at the expense of our native plant communities.

Many non-native invasive plants have faster growth rates and higher seed yields than native plants, and the competition for soil resources, light, and area is intense. Also, a number of these species are highly efficient in transporting their seeds and expanding their root systems.

It’s important to identify and manage heavy invasions to protect the great biodiversity we enjoy in Western North Carolina.

A great online resource for the identification of non-native invasive plants in the southeast is provided by the U.S. Forest Service and can be found by clicking here.

WNCA Ecologist & Public Lands Director Bob Gale, has been researching, writing, and educating the public about the threats posed to natural communities by infestations of non-native invasive plants since 1999, and he has conducted field inventory and control work for WNCA for the  past 10 years.

Including his presentations and workshops, Bob’s work with non-native invasive plants in Western North Carolina has spanned the 23 mountain counties in WNC,as well as portions of the Cherokee National Forest, just over the Tennessee border. Working on an array of different public lands types (National Forest lands, National Parks lands, state/county/municipal parks lands, and private property bordering these lands), Bob has coordinated numerous non-native invasive plant control and restoration projects in the area, establishing WNCA as a regional leader of non-native invasive plant management. Here are some highlights of past and current projects:

Cheoah River Project: Located within the Cheoah Ranger District of the Nantahala National Forest (Graham County, N.C.), near the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, approximately 167 acres of suitable habitat for the federally threatened shrub Virginia spiraea (Spiraea virginiana) were treated over four

summers (2009-2012). Project Supervisor Lauren Reker, along with Assistant Supervisors Chris Davis (2009), Mary Schultz (2010), Adam Bigelow (2011), and Nick Rose (2012), led a 10-person crew from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in eradicating more than 95 percent of the non-native species present, including kudzu, multiflora rose, Japanese honeysuckle, oriental bittersweet, Chinese/European privet, mimosa/silktree, princess tree and Chinese yam. This project was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and was completed in the fall of 2012.

Ochlawaha Bog Project: Ochlawaha Bog, located adjacent to Mud Creek in Hendersonville, N.C., is an example of one of the rarest natural communities found in western North Carolina, the southern Appalachian bog.The 16+-acre project site encompassing the Ochlawaha Bog is currently owned by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) and provides habitat for federally listed plant species.

Project Supervisor Lauren Reker and WNCA Ecologist Bob Gale led crews of volunteers during the spring of 2010 and from November 2011 to May 2012 to treat four common non-native invasive species (Chinese/European privet, Japanese honeysuckle, multiflora rose and oriental bittersweet) as well as 10 other species of relatively minor abundance. More than 90 percent of the non-native invasive plants were treated at the time of project completion in 2012.

Kanuga Bog Project: A southern Appalachian bog designated as a significant natural heritage area, the Kanuga Bog is located in Hendersonville, N.C., on the property of the Kanuga Conference Center.The Kanuga Bog supports rare plant and animal species and WNCA was contracted through the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy to perform non-native invasive plant management under the guidance of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the course of 10 days in April 2013. Project Supervisor Lauren Reker and Assistant Supervisor Nick Rose, with support from volunteers, treated more than 98 percent of the non-native invasive plants present on the 1.8-acre site. The treatment of Hosta and Yellow-flag iris during this project constituted the first treatment of these species within a significant natural heritage area in Western North Carolina known to WNCA and its partners. If funding is appropriated, this project could be expanded and would resume in October 2013.

Merrill Property/King Creek Project: Located in Flat Rock, N.C., near the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site,this 4+-acre project area is part of a privately owned property held under conservation easement by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC). The northeast section of the project site encompasses about 2.75 acres of a significant natural heritage area (SNHA), a mountain bog called King Creek Bog. As a designated significant natural heritage area, the King Creek Bog is likely to contain unusual/rare plant and animal species, high biodiversity, and other unique ecological characteristics. During November 2012 and May-June 2013, Project Supervisor Lauren Reker and Assistant Supervisor Andrea Thompson, with support from WNCA and CMLC volunteers, treated about 40-45 percent of the following non-native invasive species: autumn olive, Chinese/European privet, Japanese honeysuckle, Japanese knotweed, Japanese spiraea, multiflora rose, oriental bittersweet, and tree-of-heaven. This project is ongoing and will resume in fall 2013.

Sandy Bottom Wetlands: The Sandy Bottom Wetlands are located near the Bent Creek Experimental Forest and the N.C. Arboretum in Asheville, adjacent to the French Broad River and the Blue Ridge Parkway. This wetland area is a hot spot of salamander diversity and is home to federally threatened wetland plants, as well.The property is owned by the University of North Carolina at Asheville and is currently being used for ongoing research projects.WNCA has been performing invasive inventory and control at this important site since 2005 and will continue this restoration work in future years. Project Supervisor Megan Rayfield, joining WNCA through Duke University’s Stanback Internship Program, and UNC Chapel Hill intern Tyler Smith have been working in the summer of 2013 to treat the heaviest invasions on the 40-acre site. The major culprits are oriental bittersweet, multiflora rose, border privet, Japanese stiltgrass, Japanese honeysuckle and autumn olive. Work will continue into fall, and volunteers are always welcome! If you’d like to lend a hand, contact Cynthia@WNCA.org.

WNCA has also partnered with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Equinox Environmental Consulting and Design to form the Southern Appalachian Cooperative Weed Management Partnership(SACWMP). Efforts are focused on non-native invasive plant management along the Appalachian Trail, as well as on National Forest and National Park Service lands. The goals of the partnership include not only the detection and control of non-native invasive plants, but also public education and the facilitation of cooperation across jurisdictional boundaries.

For more information about SACWMP, click here.

SACWMP and WNCA have also been consulting with and assisting a new partnership focused on non-native invasive plant management within the ecologically significant Hickory Nut Gorge watershed. Information about the Weed Action Coalition of Hickory Nut Gorge (WAC-HNG) can be found at its website here.

Controlling, and ultimately eliminating, non-native invasive plants from a site is a multi-phase process of monitoring and management. All of these project sites will need to be revisited periodically to ensure that invasions do not become reestablished.

Every bit of help we get from volunteers makes a dent in the advancing wall of non-native invasive plants that threatens our native local diversity.

Click here to volunteer with WNCA today!