• Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the national park.

    Great Smoky Mountains

    National Park NC,TN

There are park alerts in effect.
hide Alerts »
  • Trail Advisory

    Several trails in the park are temporarily closed. Please check the "Backcountry Facilities" section of the Temporary Road and Facilities Closures page for further details. More »

Vegetation: Fall, 2009

Issue 5 > Resource Roundup > Vegetation
 
Kudzu at Chicamauga-Chattanooga National Battlefield in TN.

Kudzu--such as this photographed at Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Battlefield--has largely been eliminated in the Smokies due to high rates of detection. New tools will help with other invasive plant detection.

NPS photo.

A new way to nab non-native invasive plants

In Santa Monica Mountains, a park in California, park employees and visitors have a new pocket-sized tool to identify non-native plants. Once a suspect plant is spotted, a person can pull out an iPhone, snap a photograph, and compare it to a database of known non-native, invasive plants. While this application is only available for this California park now, it may spread, allowing more eyes in the field, and giving resource managers a useful reporting tool in parks all over the country.

Faster-acting help for healthier hemlocks

Crews treating hemlocks for the non-native and highly destructive hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) have started using a new chemical tool to treat trees. Dinotefuran, or Safari (brand name) treatment works in six weeks instead of six months, meaning that trees can absorb the protective chemical into their needles faster. Ongoing studies are testing for chemical persistence in the needles to see how long treatments last.

Overall, 18,000 trees throughout the park with either imidicloprid or Safari, and to supplement these efforts, vegetation managers had 62 biological control beetle releases. New focal areas for hemlock conservation include Enloe Creek, Heintooga Road, the Gabes Mountain trail near Cosby, and an area near Cataloochee.

New focal areas include the Enloe Creek Conservation Area, Heintooga Road, the Gabes Mountain trail near Cosby, and an area near Cataloochee.

Seed harvesting

Vegetation managers—along with the help of individual park volunteers, Experience Your Smokies volunteers, and interns—collected seeds from 28 species of native plants in Cades Cove. Last year, they collected a new high number of 1401.9 pounds of seed; totals are still coming in for 2009.

Are they here yet?

Traps throughout the park hang in trees and test for the presence of the Emerald Ash Borer and Gypsy Moth. In late October vegetation managers brought the traps in and analyzed the insects caught: none were the destructive, non-native insects, although both of these forest pests are probably on their way, according to managers. The pests travel with humans: the Ash Borer in particular shows up in firewood that campers bring to the park. If introduced here, we could lose 90-100% of our ash trees.

Exotics control

Working together with volunteer groups, Americorps, and the Southeast Exotic Plant Management Team (EPMT), the vegetation crew in North Carolina successfully completed approximately 230 different exotic treatments over the summer and fall, according to crew leader Kristin Glover. Target sites included the Little Cataloochee multiflora rose site, in which the crew cut and stump treated 24,539 stems of multiflora rose, and Deep Creek at the Noland Divide trail, where the crew hand-pulled 14,072 privet stems. Overall, the North Carolina crew mapped 41 exotic plant sites.

North Carolina vegetation management crews are continuing to make a bigger dent on eradicating exotic plants on the Fontana Lake sites, part of the most remote area in the park, accessible only by boat or long hike.

Tennessee crews are moving along the Foothills Parkway West to eradicate mimosa, and are continuing their large-scale work in Cades Cove and other parts of the park. Read the Resource Roundup in December for more of their annual totals.

Pesticide persistence

Researchers are testing water and hemlock needles to see how long applied pesticide—imidicloprid— lasts. They hope to find little to no traces of pesticide in the water but substantial levels in the hemlock needles. The pesticide has of course been tested in the lab for safety, but tests in the field will help vegetation managers know how much and how often to apply pesticides to protect hemlocks in the long-term and keep water clean.

Restoring Chilogate

Vegetation managers are re-planting former leased agricultural land with native wetland species. This will create new habitat and discourage non-native, invasive plant species from taking advantage of the cleared land. Wetlands are a vital but often remote habitat type in the Great Smoky Mountains.

To read a feature article about their efforts, click here. You will leave the NPS site. Return by clicking the "back" arrow.

Return to Resource Roundup: Fall, 2009.

Did You Know?

Visitors can often spot bears in trees at the edges of forests.

Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the park. This equals a population density of approximately two bears per square mile. Bears can be found throughout the park, but are easiest to spot in open areas such as Cades Cove and Cataloochee Valley. More...