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"It's been a fabulous year for ...
"It's been a fabulous year for blueberries," said Chris Ulrey, botanist for the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Hemlocks | FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway
"All of the park's hemlocks are now infested," says BRP plant ecologist Chris Ulrey.
The park's highest concentration of hemlocks occurs between Grandfather Mountain and Linville Falls and in isolated patches south of Asheville.
Hemlocks north of Boone are not being treated "because those trees are too far gone"-already dead or nearly so.
The treatments, in which adelgid-killing chemicals are injected around the trees' roots, are conducted from mid-April to mid-June, "because that's when they seem to work best."
Most of the $40,000-50,000 the park receives annually from the US Forest Service to fight HWA
will go to treating trees at Linville Falls (MP 316.4) and an old growth forest just north of Sims Pond (MP 295.9), Ulrey
At Linville Falls, some trees treated the first year will be retreated.
The chemical seems to protect trees from HWA
for 3-4 years.
Treated trees are "looking good," he
says, while untreated ones-and there are legions of them-are dead or dying.
Priority is given to Linville Falls' Carolina hemlocks, a rare species that occurs only in isolated places in the Virginia, Georgia and North and South Carolina mountains, and to hemlocks in developed areas-along roads, trails and in campgrounds and picnic areas.
The funding the park receives allows Ulrey's
crew of 2-3 seasonal employees to treat about 1,000 hemlocks annually.
WNC Green Building Directory | Articles
But with the help of National Park Service plant ecologist Chris Ulrey, they're steadily trying out different types of native plants - such as the sun-loving prickly pear cactus - that will sustain themselves with minimal spot watering.
CITIZEN-TIMES.com: Spray takes on mountain tree pest
Chris Ulrey, botanist with the National Park Service, will speak about how hemlock adelgids are attacking hemlocks in this area and what can be done about it.
Chris Ulrey, a plant ecologist for the National Park Service, said park officials have been addressing the problem on a limited basis, but now are approaching the issue as a ,major impact., The plan will address which species should be a focus for control or eradication, how they should be controlled and ways the parkway can be protected from further invasion.Ulrey
said there were about 100 non-native species in the 469-mile park that extends from western North Carolina into Virginia.Only a dozen or so of those are causing the most concern.Among them are kudzu, garlic mustard and Oriental bittersweet, according to Ulrey
, which are posing what he
calls ,a huge problem.,
Currently, much of the non-native plant invasion is clustered around urban areas such as Asheville and Boone, Ulrey
said.Typically, the plant is an ornamental shrub that has spread or whose seed has been carried by birds into the parkway habitat.The non-native plant often has a biological advantage over the native plants because it has no natural predators or controls.
,They,ve had controls in their native setting, but they are out competing species here,, Ulrey
said.Some species create their own advantage, such as Oriental bittersweet, which can grow up and cover a tree, adding weight that makes it more susceptible to falling.Once the tree falls, more light reaches the forest floor, enabling the vine to grow even better.
Even a plant with such potential to infiltrate an ecosystem doesn,t always get ostracized.Ulrey
said an effort to limit cultivation of Oriental bittersweet was resisted by the Christmas tree industry, which uses the vine in wrapping wreaths, so it remains commercially available.Ulrey
said other invasive species are still available in the commercial horticulture trade, which makes it more difficult to combat them in the wild.A species like garlic mustard is often considered attractive by the casual observer, but quickly takes over, Ulrey
said.It also releases a chemical into the ground that inhibits the sprouting of native plant seeds, further gaining a competitive advantage.
Another factor in the battle is the terrain and map of the parkway. ,It,s a long, skinny land mass,, Ulrey said. ,Even if we get rid of everything, it wouldn,t take long for it to come back.It,s going to take cooperation from adjoining areas.,Ulrey
said a park like the Great Smoky Mountains is easier to protect because the park is large and doesn,t have long boundaries.Even then, fighting off invasive species can be difficult.Ulrey
said some plants can be easily eradicated by digging them up, but that takes workers and volunteers, as well as persistent effort of monitoring.Though some can be hand cut, most of them require herbicides.Ulrey
said it,s a high-priority issue requiring a creative approach.With the park service budget remaining relatively flat, money for chemicals and equipment will have to be used wisely.Priority will be for those areas with the most rare native species.Ulrey
said while botanists look at a wide range of pests, each type of threat has its own plan, and he
said most of the input on the plan is from those knowledgeable about the problem.He
said it,s also an educational issue, because most people aren,t aware of the threat some ornamental, imported plants have on the habitat.
,It,s far more than an aesthetics issue,, Ulrey said. ,It,s a biological issue.There,s still a lot of education to be done.Just in the last five years, there,s been a lot of media exposure for the problem.,
said even with a sound management plan, it might be a losing battle. ,If the trend continues, we,ll probably have to throw in the towel,, he
said. ,Whether it,s five years or 50 years.You just can,t work on your land with blinders on.