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    Great Smoky Mountains

    National Park NC,TN

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Vegetation: June-July, 2009

Issue 4 > Resource Roundup > Vegetation
 
Non-native European Euonymus found at Newfound Gap.

Non-native European Euonymus found at Newfound Gap.

NPS photo.

New invasive species

Vegetation managers were working near Newfound Gap when one of them, Cherie Cordell, spotted a plant she knew wasn’t native. Botanist Janet Rock identified it as a European euonymus (pronounced yoo-ON-eh-muss). Euonymus flowers are greenish and not very noticeable, but the fruit comes in shades of bright yellow, pink, and orange. Birds eat the fruit and spread the seeds. Humans shouldn’t eat any parts of the plant. In Europe, where people used the wood for the spindles of spinning wheels, it is still called the spindle plant.

Forestry technician Troy Evans found another suspicious plant that turned out to be the non-native Mock orange. While people outside the park plant this for decoration in their yards, it hadn’t been on the park’s list of exotic (non-native) species.

Expeditions to eliminate invasives

Kristin Glover and the North Carolina vegetation crew trekked to one of the most remote areas of the Park—the north side of Fontana Lake—to eradicate Mimosa and to “mop up” any kudzu plants that have survived their intensive treatments. This is year two of a three year grant to control exotic plants on the North Carolina side of the park, particularly in remote, hard-to-access sites that haven’t received as much attention for logistical reasons. While there the crew is also looking for any bittersweet patches popping up, which Kris Johnson described as controlling “spot fires:” birds drop the seeds in the park, so vegetation crews have to watch for its sudden appearance.

Vegetation crews also spent a week at creek sites near Enloe Creek treating hemlocks. Intern Mike Wardwell reported that the work was wet due to wide creeks and frequent crossings, and tangled with rhododendron. Nevertheless, the crews completed soil drenching all of the trees at the Enloe Creek site with the pesticide that protects the tree against Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, and made progress at another site.

Big Creek high school intern work

Since late June, high school students from North Carolina and Tennessee have worked with resource managers and educators to gain experience in a national park. In late July, high school interns working out of the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center worked with a vegetation crew in Deep Creek Campground to remove invasive, exotic privet plants.

Cades Cove plants and fire

Many plants in grasslands are adapted to go to seed or send out new growth after fires, which happen often if humans don’t suppress them. In Cades Cove, some of the non-native plants that have moved into the fields are also adapted to fire. Non-native lespedeza is a fire-tolerant shrub that vegetation managers noticed sent out seeds following the prescribed fires in Cades Cove. Now, managers are coordinating their efforts with fire managers so each time the fields burn, vegetation crews can pull the plants and prevent more lespedeza seedlings.

Return to Resource Roundup: June-July, 2009.

Did You Know?

The park is named for the misty clouds that hang over the mountains.

The wispy, smoke-like fog that hangs over the Smoky Mountains comes from rain and evaporation from trees. On the high peaks of the Smokies, an average of 85 inches of rain falls each year, qualifying these upper elevation areas as temperate rain forests. More...