Along the Natchez Trace

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Endangered? Invasive?

I don't know about you, but if I find a plant that I just can't identify I take a sample of it to the local State Extension Agent.  What is the "Home Extension Agency"?  Well, it seems that every State has one...  it's an agency in your county (sometimes the agent services more than 1 county) that you can get help from everything from canning peaches to planting crops.  When my kids were young, they belonged to 4H...  a youth program that does everything from help a youngster raise pigs or chickens to learn to sew a dress or bake a cake.  In Ohio, Ohio State University, in Columbus, Ohio, is the main headquarters.  Here, in my home county of Athens, we share an extension agent with neighboring Meigs County.

About OSU Extension

Ohio State University Extension brings the knowledge of the university directly to you. We fulfill the land-grant mission of The Ohio State University by interpreting knowledge and research developed by Extension and other faculty and staff at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Ohio State main campus, and other land-grant universities – so Ohioans can use the scientifically based information to better their lives, businesses and communities.
The Extension system is the world’s largest non-formal educational system. Extension’s hallmark is programming delivered by professionals to address the needs of the local community while also addressing state, national, and global issues. Our practical educational programs combine the needs of local citizens and communities with new research and technical information.
No matter which county you visit, you can find people who are helped by the four major OSU Extension program areas: family and consumer sciences, 4-H youth development, community development, and agriculture and natural resources. These program areas – and many other special topics – are continuously being evaluated and updated to meet the changing needs and issues facing each community.
Extension provides practical advice, sensible solutions, and realistic down-to-earth answers for ALL Ohioans.

When we were living in Somervell County in Texas, (which is the next to smallest county in all of Texas) I'd take my problems to the Hood County Extension Agent, because that's the closest office.  Usually my question would be "What is this species of....  tree?....  flower:....shrub?"  We got so we kind of knew the agent on a first name basis because of my never-ending curiosity.

My latest problem has been a shrub-like tree that seems to have grown in many places on our farm since we left in 2001.  It's actually quite lovely...  at least this time of year...
It first got our attention when a flock of Cedar Waxwings descended upon it early one morning when we first arrived here.  The whole "herd" of them arrived....  fluttered around the top area of the tree...  ate their fill, and about 20 minutes later flew off again.  We haven't seen them since.

I didn't think any wild grapes grew in that area...  nor did I think any Virginia Creeper was there.  I knew that the Japanese Honeysuckle grew there, but in the past, the berries of both weren't eaten until later in the winter... possibly when all other fruit supplies had been diminished.

Hmmm...  opposite leaves...  red, succulent berries...  hmmm...  sort of like a dogwood... but not really.  Sort of like a honeysuckle...  but berries are red, not blue...  hmmmm....  what is it?   I took a sample to the local Extension agent.  What!  The office is closed on Fridays.  Went back the following Monday...  the agent is working in Meigs Co. today.  Went back a couple of days later...  this time he was called out for some other problem.  I kind of put the problem on a back burner after 4 trips to the office.
This afternoon, he phoned us...  apologizing for the delay in getting back to us.  But...  he had an answer.

The plant in question is.... Amur Lonicera...  Lonicera maackii...  an Asian and Chinese honeysuckle that is actually on the endangered species list in Japan, but since being brought to the USA as an ornamental has spread so rapidly that it's now banned in at least 3 states and now on the Invasive Species list in several others.
Birds are the biggest "carriers"...  they ingest the seeds...  then poop all over the place...  The Extension Agent told me that the seeds aren't as nutritious as the "native" plants.  So these prolific honeysuckle plants are taking over the "good" stuff and crowding it out...  but they don't provide the wildlife the quality of food they need.

Having worked to help control Purple Loosestrife and Salt Cedar, among others, Bill & I know what damage invasive species can do...  and in a short time.  We're here in Ohio for such a short time we know we can barely make a dent in the progress this species of honeysuckle has already made. 
Isn't it amazing how quickly a new species (plant or animal) can be introduced...  take over...  and completely change the whole picture?  I know... we're not to that stage yet here on the farm, but as I walk around, I see this plant flourishing where  it's never been before.

Looks like pruning shears, maybe a bow saw and a lot of Round-up are going to be needed soon.

That's All For Today!


  1. Too bad this honeysuckle is invasive. Hard to control something that is spread by birds.

  2. I love the extension folks. When I owned my previous house I knew nothing. I captured a big fat bee that was boring into my deck rails, put him in a little plastic box and mailed him off. It was a carpenter bee, and they told me how to deal with it. Hooray.

  3. Interesting. I remember visiting the State of Virginia many years ago when the kudzu was growing over almost everything. It was scary to see the damage that could be done by a plant species out of control. I'm headed to the east coast so will check to see how things are now - almost 30 years later.
    Your Asian / Chinese honeysuckle is very pretty; but that doesn't make it good for the ecology.

  4. I emialed a picture of hundreds of holes in the bark of tree to the extension office and got an answer that way. They provide a great service, for sure.

  5. At our first house in Las Vegas, the gardens had been neglected for a few years, which meant in that desert climate that there was a lot of dead stuff. There was, however, one gloriously full and robust flowering bush about 8 feet table and wider. We didn't know what it was but thought it might be worth planting more since it thrived with no water and no care. We took a cutting to our local nursery to see if they recognized it. I don't now remember what it was, except that it was an invasive dessert weed that took over and killed off anything around it. The city had an eradication policy!

  6. There was an elaeagnus bush in my parent's yard when I was young. I remember that the berries were starting to ferment when the Cedar Waxwings descended on it. When done, they flew away in a manner like Woodstock from Peanuts, giggling the whole way. Thanks for retrieving that memory for me.

  7. Yup - better get rid of it. It seems the invasive species of things can gain a foothold so quickly!

  8. yes... liked kudzu... that's stuff'll take yer young and you won't even know it! reminds of that Little Shop of Horrors... feed me Seymore ... scene