Weed Management for Natural Areas

Natural areas are areas of land that either retain or have had reestablished the characteristics of natural communities and provide environmental, scientific, or aesthetic benefits. Millions and millions of acres of state lands are publicly owned conservation lands under local, state, or federal stewardship. These natural areas provide recreation, protect fresh water supplies, protect biological diversity, buffer the effects of draught, flooding, and natural events, and contribute to the public wellbeing. “Weeds” are defined as plants growing in areas where they are not wanted and have required efforts to control them for thousands of years. Weed control has evolved from hand-pulling and cutting with primitive stone tools to today’s use of sophisticated machines and scientifically advanced organic herbicides that are safe and effective. Control of “weeds” is therefore essential to protect natural areas and the many benefits and functions they perform.

Of more than 4,500 plant species that reproduce on their own with no help or assistance from man are almost 1,300 which are considered naturalized nonnative (exotic species). Many of these are considered very invasive. Some of these nonnative invasive species invade natural areas and alter the natural communities by competing with native plants, changing the hydrology and fire ecology, and even hybridizing with native species. Invasive plant species must be controlled in order to maintain – or, in some cases, restore – natural communities in conservation lands and other areas. The Lake Doctors, Inc. has been a key player in helping to control invasive nonnative (exotic) weeds, scrubs, and trees for more than 25 years.

The Lake Doctors, Inc. has the specialized equipment, experience, training, and best herbicides to perform invasive weed control. Additionally, all personnel who participate in this type of activity are required to have a specialized license issued by the state under the category “Natural Areas Weed Management,” which required passing a state exam and including continuing education for maintenance of an active license. A few of the more troublesome weeds and trees that The Lake Doctors, Inc. is involved with controlling are listed below:

  • Air-Potato
  • Cogongrass
  • Japanese Climbing Vine
  • Old World Climbing Vine
  • Melaleuca
  • Brazilian Peppertree
  • Chinese Tallow
  • Tropical Soda Apple
  • Australian Pine

Brazilian pepper tree is related to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Brazilian pepper is native to Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. It was brought to Florida in the mid-1800s as an ornamental plant because of its bright red berries (hence the nickname Florida Holly) and brilliant green foliage. It is extremely aggressive and devastates many native plant communities by completely taking over.

Another serious invader of natural areas is the Melaleuca tree, also known as the paperbark or punk tree. The tree is a native of Australia, but in the United States it is an aggressive pest, especially in areas like the Everglades, where it established huge “monocultures” where nothing else can grow. Plus, Melaleuca can grow in terrestrial or aquatic situations. This fire-resistant tree can grow to 80 feet tall and produces fire-resistant seeds. It can be effectively controlled, but years of follow-up treatments are required to prevent reestablishment.

Cogongrass is a perennial grass that has light green leaves, with older leaves becoming orange-brown in color. It produces long fluffy white seedheads and rhizomes whose sheer mass and persistence make it necessary for control efforts to continue over several years to prevent reestablishment. These rhizomes also produce a substance that makes it impossible for other plants to grow in the immediate area. It is also inedible to deer, cows, and other grass-eating species. Finally, its resistance to complete control by most herbicides make it tricky to control and oftentimes a variety of methods are employed including burning and plowing under. Cogongrass is a native of Asia, where nearly 500 million acres are infested. In the South, it infests ditch banks, pastures, road sides, and forestland.

Tropical soda apple, known as the “weed from hell” is a weed native to Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil. It was first reported growing in Florida in 1988, and by 1993 had already spread to more than 300,000 acres. A lack of natural enemies, ingestion, and dispersal of seeds by cattle and wildlife and favorable environmental conditions has allowed it to spread far and wide in a short period of time. It takes over many natural areas and encroaches on pastures where cattle are grazing, effectively reducing the acreage that can be used by cattle. Fortunately, a persistent program of initial herbicide treatment followed by additional spot-treating of regrowth can effectively control this noxious weed.

Kudzu is a climbing super-aggressive vine than can cover native trees, shrubs, and vegetation, effectively killing them. It covers almost two million acres in the United States. It was introduced to the United States at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, and it was intentionally planted widely for erosion control. Individual vines can reach 100 feet in length and have been reported to grow up to 12” per day. An aggressive control program that targets the leaves, vines, and roots can control it.

Whether it be a park, a preserve, a ranch, or any area where it is necessary to control invasive nonnative plants and trees, The Lake Doctors, Inc. can provide a prescription for effective, environmentally sound control with a minimum of impact on native flora and fauna. There are many types of control available with a variety of safe herbicides and for varying lengths of time. Let The Lake Doctors, Inc. visit your natural area, ranch, farm, park, or other upland or wetland area and design the best possible program for you.

Contact us for more information on our weed management for natural areas. We serve clients in Florida, Ohio, and South Carolina.