Vegetation Research & Projects: February-March, 2009

Transplanting many plants

In the winter, when snow piles on mountain ridges and wind bends cold-brittle trees, the greenhouse at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a balmy oasis. Here, vegetation managers spend hours cultivating the native plants that sprouted from seeds they harvested last fall. By February and March, these seedlings have grown to be larger plant “plugs,” and need to be transplanted (moved) from the “406 trays,” (so-called because they hold 406 seedlings) where they first sprouted to plug trays. After the last frost, vegetation managers will plant the plugs in Cades Cove.

As of the end of February, 2009, Cherie Cordell and the rest of the vegetation management crew had transplanted the seedlings of the following native species:

Plants that will soon be planted in Cades Cove:
Lespedeza capitata, Round-headed Bush Clover= 1,600
Pycnanthemum muticum, Mountain Mint= 1,500
Schizachyrium scoparium, Little Bluestem= 4,500
Helianthus angustifolius, Narrow-leaved Sunflower= 1,600
Monarda fistulosa, Wild Bergamot= 1600
Andropogon gerardii, Big Bluestem= 900
Elymus virginicus, Virginia Wild Rye= 1,100
Helenium autumnale, Autumn Sneezeweed= 1,600
Senna marilandica, Wild Senna= 1,300
Pachera aureus, Golden Ragwort= 1,000
Total goal for Cades Cove= 25,000 plugs

Plants that will soon be planted as part of the Chilogatee Wetland Restoration:
Cornus amomum, Silky Dogwood= 500
Rosa palustris, Swamp Rose= 300
Cephalanthus occidentalis, Buttonbush= 400
Alnus sp., Alder= 250

National and Statewide Recognition for Invasive Weed Awareness Week in Tennessee

A proclamation signed by Governor Phil Bredesen proclaimed February 22-28, 2009 as Invasive Weed Awareness Week. This is in conjunction with the 10th annual Invasive Weed Awareness Week held in Washington, D.C. The goal of such a week is “to bring together groups from across the country to focus attention on the severe impacts caused by invasive weeds.” The proclamation cited the challenge of controlling “pest plant species that are not native to the state and that are both injurious to and costly in the management of our state’s natural areas,” and which “result in significant decreases in biodiversity with invasion of habitat by exotic pest plant species as one of the primary reasons cited for endangerment of rare species, [and which alter] community structure and ecological plant processes such as nutrient cycling, fire regimes, and hydrology.”


Volunteers in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The volunteering season at Great Smoky Mountains National Park is underway. The first vegetation volunteer project occurred at Big Creek Campground, located off I-40 about 30 minutes east of Newport, in late February. About 30 enthusiastic volunteers enjoyed a rare warm winter day, and after some hard work, removed about 1,000 invasive garlic mustard plants, and 3,000 sections of invasive Japanese honeysuckle vine.

New Teams for Exotic Species Control

We have our NC exotics team back from furlough and working on mapping/treating exotic plants and HWA. Kristin Glover is the field crew leader. The crew will get some extra labor help later this spring, when they host an Americorps team March15-May 8.

Year’s End Reports

You file 2008 taxes at the beginning of 2009; biologists complete summaries and reports for all of 2008’s activities this time of year (and they do their taxes, too). Finished Integrated Pest Management reports and requests went out in late January-early February, as did hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) monitoring summaries.

Rangers nab poachers in the Park

The following is quoted from a Great Smoky Mountains National Park News Release by Bob Miller, February 5, 2009

On January 22, 2009, two North Carolina men were convicted and sentenced in Federal Court in Bryson City, NC, one for illegally digging American ginseng and both for a failure to obey a lawful order given by a U.S. Park Ranger in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Jeremy Farmer, 24, of Canton, NC and Larry Johnson, 46, of Clyde, NC were both found guilty, fined and sentenced to jail terms.

Each defendant pled not guilty to the poaching and failure to obey lawful order charges. A bench trial was held and Johnson was found guilty of digging ginseng and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $500 for the offense. He was also found guilty of failing to obey a lawful order from a law enforcement officer and sentenced to 15 days in jail and fined $500. Farmer was found not guilty on the ginseng charge but guilty of failure to obey a lawful order and sentenced to 15 days in jail and fined $800.

In July 2008, Johnson and Farmer were detected in the Cataloochee area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in an area little used for hikers. A Ranger observed Johnson digging ginseng and when Johnson and Farmer left the woods heading for their truck he ordered them to stop. Instead they continued to their truck and drove away. The Ranger was able to apprehend them a short distance away but did not find ginseng roots in their possession. He was later able to back-track their movements and find 12 discarded ginseng roots and 50 holes with ginseng tops in the area in which he had detected the pair. This offense carries a maximum misdemeanor penalty of up to 6 months in jail and/or fine of up to $5,000.

Illegal harvest of plants is a serious problem in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, particularly ginseng, a favorite target of poachers for its high profit margin in the black market. Illegal digging has increased over the years and has put pressure on the plant’s survival. In the international and domestic legal trade market, wild ginseng can bring between $500 and $800 per pound of dried roots. The larger and older the root, the more profitable it is.

Park Rangers are encouraged by the sentence handed down to these two individuals to include active jail time. “We hope that this will be a strong deterrent and discourage this illegal practice,” said Chief Ranger Bill Wright. “Ginseng is now becoming rare in the wild, with the possibility of extinction, so the protection of these resources becomes ever more critical. Many areas that used to sustain patches of wild ginseng have been harvested to the point that the more mature plants (five years of age and older) that normally reseed the populations are totally gone, and the younger plants are not mature enough to reseed. ”


Last updated: April 14, 2015

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