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Winning the Privet
Wars (FNPS News, Nov., 2003)
By Candyce Scherer
In the war against invasive exotic pest
plants, Bill Fontenot is fond of saying that you have to pick your battles.
But it's hard to know what battle to pick, especially when I see the dense,
lush thicket of Chinese privets that have taken over the back of my property.
The land back there floods whenever the river takes a notion to rise a
few feet. Some of the bigger floods do give the privets a beating. But
they never stay down for long and they seem to come back stronger than
Out of sheer cussedness, I have been whacking away at the thicket during
the last couple of winters. It's away to get some outdoor exercise in
the good weather. I realized that I wasn't making much progress against
the privet invasion. But I also started to notice that there were some
native species that had not given up the good fight - river birch, water
oak, streamside grasses like the spangle grass (Chasmanthium latifolium)
even some shrubby St. John's wort were struggling to re-establish
themselves. So I decided to focus my energy (and my cussedness) on seeking
out these little native volunteers. When I found one; I would cut back
as much of the privets in the immediate vicinity as I could manage, and
then see what the natives-could do by themselves if they had a little
more light, more room to grow, and a chance to do some self-seeding.
Well, I'm beginning to notice some improvement; The little oaks are shooting
up instead of being swallowed up and shaded out. The tiny tufts of spangle
grass that I "rescued" are now big clumps, and after last year's
river flooding they have spread and are actually choking out some baby
privets. All I can say is, Hallelujah.
So these are the battles l have chosen in the great privet
1. Every chance I get, I cutback those pretty blooming branches so they
don't go to seed. Birds love those berries and spread them everywhere.
2. I pull up the little privets and cut back the fluffy ones, to the best
of my limited ability.
3. When I see native volunteers trying to come up near a privet patch,
I get serious and cut the privets way back to give the natives more light
and more room to grow.
We may never eliminate the privets from our woods and stream sides, but
there is a chance that the native plants can claim back some of what is
rightfully theirs, with a little help from their friends.
For more drastic measures in the constant battle with invasive species,
read Jim Russell's article entitled, "Stump Removal"
in the April, 2006
(PDF Format) newsletter.
For more information about Invasive Exotic Plants check out the following