‘Lions, tigers and bears, oh my!’

County Agent’s Corner

Cogongrass is easily recognizable in highway medians by the white seed head plumes.

Cogongrass is easily recognizable in highway medians by the white seed head plumes.

If you are an older individual then you know exactly where this title comes from. As a small child these animals brought up images in your mind that got your attention. Nobody wants to encounter these three, especially alone. The lions, tigers and bears I want to discuss are the ones blooming right now. The bear is in full bloom and making many of us weep as allergies kick in.

Chinese privet is everywhere and should be a concern for any landowner. This invasive plant is all along our roadsides, fence rows, coming up in our forests, in shrubs around the home and in just about any undisturbed area that gets full sun. Privet is so thick in places, it is replacing many of our native wildflowers and shrubs. It out-competes them for sunlight and nutrients. Birds love the seed and will distribute them wherever they perch. In many abandoned sites and vacant fields, landowners will have to hire a dozier or other equipment in order to retake their properties from this plant.

On my property, I try to at least cut the mother trees to reduce the seed bank for the next year. I then come back, after the first frost, when all other plants have gone dormant and apply a foliar herbicide.

Fall is the best time to attack this plant with foliar herbicides. If you do not use herbicides, there is a plant rocker that helps to lift the plant out of the ground but it is labor intensive. I do like the smell of privet and it tells me that the bream should be on bed, but that’s about all it is good for. There are much better plants to select from if you need a screen.

Japanese honeysuckle has been around so long most folks think it is a native plant. It is not! It’s a climber and occupies the canopies of smaller shrubs and trees. It isn’t the problem privet is but left alone, it forms thickets that smother out natives by out-competing them. It is a good deer browse, smells good and indicates to me that the bream should be on bed. It is an evergreen also and if you want to apply foliar herbicides, after frost is a good time to make the application. There is a reduced risk to off target plants at that time of year. Two applications of a 25% glyphosate mixture should take honeysuckle out. Birds like the seed and will spread them everywhere they roost. Japanese honeysuckle is a real lion when it comes to invasive species.

Cogongrass is not a tiger, but rather the 500 lb. gorilla in the state, when it comes to invasive species. It is fairly common as you approach the coast of Alabama but it poses a real threat to all of the Southeast. Cogongrass is blooming here now. It will look like a small patch of Pampas grass about 8 – 15 inches tall. Look for the white plumes of the seed heads. It should bloom until about mid-June.

Cogongrass grows so thick it overcomes all other forages that feed wildlife. It will come up in our thinned timber stands, along roadsides and other locations that are difficult to access that receive full sun. In timber, it can grow to about three feet tall and if it catches on fire, burn so hot it will destroy timber. It can be controlled by mowing, digging, or with chemical applications. It is not an easy plant to remove from the environment.

It came to the Southeast via a packing crate from china in the early 1900’s. It is easily spread because of the seed heads. Storms can blow the seed for miles or they can easily ride on your vehicle as you return from the coast. The I-65 corridor is a major route for movement into North Alabama. I have found Cogongrass at Rainbow Crossing, on Hamilton Mountain and between Oneonta and Allgood in the past few years. I also found a patch on Pleasant Valley Road just off Gallant Road in St. Clair County. Again, look for the patch of white plumes about 8 – 15 inches tall as you drive around the county. Let me know if you think you have spotted it so it can be nipped in the bud. Our efforts today will pay dividends for our grandchildren.

There are several other invasive species that need to be mentioned. Kudzu, mimosa, callery pears (Bradford escapes), princess tree, bush honeysuckle and a host of others. Most of these plants came to us from the nursery trade and long ago escaped into our native forests and landscapes. It will take an effort to manage these invaders as we move forward. For more information on invasive species go to www.aces.edu/forestry/invasive/. Master Gardener anniversary

The Blount County Master Gardener Association is celebrating 25 years of service in the county. A reception will be held on Sunday, June 10, from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m., at the D.S. Loyd Building at Palisades Park. Everyone is invited to attend!