The Highlands Community Building was full of environmental enthusiasts last week for Qercus Circus: The Biodiversity and Ecological Value of Oaks. The program was presented by the Highlands Coalition for Non-native Invasive Plant Management (CNIPM), which is made up of a consortium of conservation-oriented groups.
The program’s name, Quercus Circus, is in reference to the oak tree’s genus, Qercus. It began with a presentation by Dr. Paul Manos, Professor of Biology at Duke University, and was followed by a field trip to Dixon Woods for a presentation about non-native plants by Kyle Pursel, Stewardship Coordinator for the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust.
Pictured below is Dixon Woods, a 17-acre property maintained by the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust. The clearing with the white tents in the video is a pocket meadow, or a clear patch of land where the sun can reach the forest floor.
Dr. Manos discussed oak biodiversity, oak biology, and oak interactions with vertebrates, insects and fungi throughout his presentation. There are over 30 species of oak in North Carolina and Manos said he wants the takeaway for the audience to be the importance of oaks to the biodiversity of other species, ecology, food webs, etc.
After Manos’ presentation he took questions from the crowd that touched on forest conservation and management in your own backyard.
Manos said it was a great crowd, hungry for interaction and knowledge.
After the presentation at the Community Building and despite a light rainfall, most of the crowd made their way to Dixon Woods, a property maintained by the HCLT minutes from town, to catch Pursel’s presentation on non-native plant species and walk through the property for some tree identification.
Pursel talked about the “Rogue Gallery,” plants he deems to be the worst invasives in the area, how to identify them, and how to get rid of them.
The top three invasive offenders on Pursel’s list are Japanese Knotweed, Oriental Bittersweet, and Japanese Spirea.
He said the knotweed is becoming less prevalent because problem areas are being treated through funding from the Laurel Garden Club and a partnership with Tate’s Landscaping.
“We’re starting to get it under control through a spraying program,” said Pursel. “And it’s working, we can see it starting to die back.”
The Bittersweet and Spirea are different stories. He said Bittersweet is difficult to treat for a couple reasons. First, it’s a climbing vine, and spraying often leads to collateral damage depending on what the vine is clinging to, and secondly, they haven’t really found an effective chemical against the invasive woody vine.
Pursel said the problem with Spirea is the speed that it spreads.
“It was much more visible last month with plumes of tiny purple flowers,” he said. “Now it’s much harder to notice, but it’s everywhere, especially around water. There’s a ton of it in the gorge and it’s spreading like wildfire.”
HCLT’s Dixon Woods is a flat, 17-acre patch of land with trails throughout the property surrounding a small pond. Near the center is a pocket meadow, where Pursel gave his presentation. He said of all the 17 acres, this is the only patch of clearing where the sun reaches the forest floor.
“A lot of species depend on open field habitats,” said Pursel. “We’re trying to purposefully seed it with showy-native flowers for pollinators, and things that eat pollinators like birds.”
Coalition for Non-native Invasive Plant Management partners include:
Town of Highlands, N.C.
Laurel Garden Club Land Stewards of the Highlands Plateau
Highlands Biological Station
Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust
Highlands Historical Society
Highlands Plateau Audubon Society
Highlands Plateau Greenway
To learn more about Dixon Woods and other HCLT properties open to the public, click HERE.