Townsend River Walk & Arboretum Joins with Community Partners for FINAL Invasive Removal Day!

On February 26, Tuckaleechee Garden Club hosted the final workday committed to invasive plant removal. Club members were joined by community partners Keep Blount Beautiful, the Little River Watershed Association, Blount County Master Gardeners, Girl Scout and Community member volunteers for this final push to remove invasive plants.

Can a gardener ever conclude that invasive plants are gone for good? Of course not! However, after 17 years of invasive removal workdays, the non-native invasive plants are now in control – that is, with routine checks and removals of small new invasive plants, the River Walk is finally free of the towering giants and tangles of vines that stole light, nutrition, and growing space from native plants. The most difficult non-native invasive plants the club battled over the years include several plants from the Tennessee Invasive Plants Council list, including:

Winter Creeper, Euonymus hederaceus
English Ivy, Hydera helix
Multiflora Rose, Rosa multiflora
Chinese Privet, Ligustrum sinense
Bush Honeysuckle, Lonicera maackii
Princess Tree, Paulownia tomentosa
Mimosa, Albizia julibrissin

Through years of invasive plant removal efforts, club members learned several valuable lessons, such as cutting an invasive plant back seems to only make the plant come back bigger and stronger. Club members are certain they have cut back the same plant several times over the years, only to see it grow back again.

In the last 3 years, the club adopted more aggressive techniques to control invasive plants including using pullers and selective use of herbicides. We don’t endorse products or represent any specific companies, but in case your organization faces the same dilemma with invasive plants, we want to share exactly what we used for more aggressive invasive plant control. The club purchased several Puller Bear tree pullers and tree wrenches to begin removing invasive plants by the roots, rather than cutting them back. These products are large, heavy, wrench-style tools that are highly effective, but take strength to use. If the entire root of the invasive plant is not removed however, the plant will likely grow back. The club also began carefully and selectively using herbicides where plants could not be removed by the root. To avoid spraying chemicals where drift can cause damage to beneficial plants, the club adopted the product, Buckthorn Blaster, a small bottle with a felt-top dauber top to apply the herbicide only to the cut stem of the invasive plant. A dye marker is added to the liquid herbicide to ensure application to the specific cut stem. With this approach, there is no chemical run-off, no spray drift, and a minimal amount of chemical is used to treat the invasive plant.

Townsend River Walk & Arboretum Chair, Mark Seder, will now lead the strategic plan to focus on replanting native species, repurposing spaces, and hosting educational events. We are hopeful for a spectacular native wildflower season for 2022, as we say goodbye to invasive, non-native plants!