Mississippi is being silently invaded by several exotic plant species that are changing the way natural areas function and costing us all money. It is estimated that 100 million acres in the United States are already affected by invasive exotic plants and this acreage increases annually by an area twice the size of Delaware. Almost 20 percent of the plants species in Mississippi forests, parks, refuges and other open spaces are not native to our state. Many of these exotics meet few natural constraints and can soon dominate a landscape threatening the biological diversity that is the heritage of Mississippi.
Among the “Ten Most Wanted” exotic invasives are Kudzu (Pueraria lobata), Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense), Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica); Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense), Tropical Soda Apple (Solanum viarum), Chinese Tallow Tree (Triadica sebifera) and Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica). Affecting our wetlands are Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), Water Hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes) and Alligator Weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides).
Eradication of these plants is not feasible and probably not possible unless new methods are discovered. In the meantime, we can all play a role in controlling these exotics. Let’s start with Kudzu. For small infestations, hand removal will work. Remove the root from the soil and be careful to remove all stems as they can propagate through fragmentation. For large infestations, you will need the big guns…chemicals. Clopyralid (Transline, Lontrel, and other brands) can be applied over certain hardwoods with safety. Metsulfuron (Escort, MSM and other brands) can be applied over pines, but not on foliage of desirable vegetation. The old standby glyphosate (Roundup, Accord, etc) will also do the trick. The brand name Milestone VM containing aminopyralid and triclopyr is used by the Mississippi Forestry Association but it is expensive. Imazapyr (Arsenal), picloram, aminocyclopyrachlor, aminopyralid, and clopyralid are other ingredients that will work but be careful because they can be absorbed by roots and damage desirable trees and other broadleaf plants. Do not apply outside of the drip line to reduce injury. MSU recommends using a nonionic surfactant with all foliar applications.
One of our local residents said he used the hack and squirt method to rid his property of Kudzu. He does not remove any part of the plant. He locates the main trunks of the Kudzu vine, hacks into the vine and sprays an herbicide into the cut. James Shannon, our Extension Agent, suggested using a backpack style water carrier to hold the herbicide. Just make sure you don’t use it for water on your next hike!
If you are outside of the city limits and have a large infestation, contact our local NRCS, National Resources Conservation Service, office on Highway 15 to apply for cost sharing help.
Do you have a gardening question? Call the Pontotoc Extension Service at 662-489-3911 and ask to leave a question for the Master Gardeners. Pontotoc County Master Gardeners are trained volunteers who help the MSU Extension Service and serve the people of Pontotoc County.