Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council

August, 2015
Our Mission

To protect Tennessee's unique natural heritage from the ecological and economic harm of invasive plants through research, education, and policy. 

Kitty McCracken, Interim TN-EPPC President
Letter from the President

Summers in Tennessee are gloriously beautiful and brutally hot and humid, and this year is no exception. Week after week of temperatures in the 90's makes efforts to control invasive pest plants very challenging on multiple levels. First of all, these conditions are ideal for rapid growth, and exotic invasive plants have had a banner year in that respect. More importantly, anyone outside working to control the spread of these fast-growing, fast spreading plants should be taking steps to ensure that they are prepared to work under these conditions. Following herbicide label instructions often means wearing long pants, long sleeved shirts, shoes, socks, and gloves while spraying. Whether it is for your personal yard or for larger landscapes, such as parks, greenways, and power rights-of-way, it is important to stay hydrated and take frequent breaks to handle working conditions. Also familiarize yourself with different heat stress signs, and stay safe out there.

There is an upcoming BioBlitz in Knoxville, with details given elsewhere in this newsletter. This is a great way to become involved locally with urban wilderness areas, greenways and parks and learning about which native plants are present, as well as identifying invasive pest plants and determining the extent to which they impact our public areas. We encourage you to volunteer!

The TN-EPPC Board of Directors will be meeting August 13th in Knoxville, and one of the primary items on our agenda will be discussing partnering with Garden Clubs in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville, as well as other locations in events such as Weed Wrangles and workshops. More information on these activities will be sent in future TN-EPPC newsletters. In the mean time, we hope you enjoy the summer.

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News and Resources


Citizen Science & the invasive Fig Buttercup

Fig Buttercup (Ficaria verna, formerly Ranunculus ficaria) is an early-blooming perennial with origins in Europe and northern Africa. It is also called Lesser Celandine, and it is sometimes confused with Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris). Because of its showy yellow flowers, it has apparently been enjoyed in gardens for many years, mostly in the Northeast.


Tiny moth keeping invasive plant at bay in Florida

If it weren't for the diminutive bella moth, many more natural habitats in Florida might be overrun by rattlebox plants, a poisonous invasive species. The small orange and black moths have an affinity for the seeds of the plant.


Using 2014 Farm Bill programs for pollinator conservation 

With the 2014 Farm Bill, Congress again recognized that pollinators are a crucial part of healthy agricultural and natural landscapes. The 2014 Act retains all of the pollinator conservation provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill and adds targeted support for the creation of honey bee habitat.


Planting native plants may reduce risk of West Nile virus 


A recent study by INHS graduate student Allison Gardner, INHS Medical Entomologist Ephantus Juma Muturi and their colleagues found that leaf detritus in standing water can influence reproduction in mosquitoes.  Leaves from invasive honeysuckle and autumn olive, yielded higher emergence of adult Culex pipiens mosquitoes (the vector for West Nile Virus). Leaves of native blackberry resulted in high numbers of eggs, but low adult emergence.


 Exotic insects on lockdown at Florida research facility

The lab, which opened in 2004 at the Indian River Research and Education Center is dedicated to finding biological control agents for invasive insects and plants.


U of M researchers conduct global grassland experiment to gain unprecedented insight into differences in the way exotic and native plant species operate.

Two troublesome invasive plants are adding to the monarch's woes. Black swallow-wort (Cynanchum louisea) and pale swallow-wort (C. rossicum) are perennial vines introduced into the U.S. from Europe and Eastern Russia during the mid to late 1800s. These invasive plants are now found scattered across the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada.


Maine using website to gather data n invasive plants 

Maine is turning to crowdsourcing to chronicle the invasive plants that plague some of its natural areas. The state is gathering the data through its iMapInvasives website, which launched a year ago. The online tool allows residents to send photos of invasive plants they encounter on public or private land.


Featured Non-native Invasive Plant

Tree of heaven

Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle


Height: Ailanthus can grow rapidly to 80 - 100 geet and 6 feet diameter.

Leaves: Deciduous leaves are typically odd-pinnately compound with 11-41 leaflets, may be even-pinnate, on light green to reddish green stems 1-3 feet (30-90 cm) long. Leaflets are dark green above with light green veins and undersides and are not always directly opposite each other. Shape is lanceolate and asymmetric with long tapering tips and smooth edges except for 1-5 teeth at the base. Each leaflet has one or more prominent dark green circular glands (round dots) on the underside near a tooth apex. Both leaflet surfaces have minute hairs and glands. Leaflets are each 3-5 inches (7.5-12.5 cm) long and 1-2 inches (2.5-13.0 cm) wide. Crushed foliage has an acrid odor. Leaf scars are large and triangular with numerous bundle scars. Crushed twigs or leaves and pulled seedlings produce a foul odor.


Twigs: Light brown to reddish brown twigs are very stout and covered with fine hairs when young. Twigs are light colored lenticles (dots) and heart-shaped leaf scars. Pith is continuous and yellowish in color. Buds are finely hairy, dome-shaped, relatively small and solitary, partially hidden by the leaf base. Terminal buds are absent. Branches are light to dark gray, smooth and glossy.


Flowers: Male and female flowers are 0.25 inch (0.5 cm) long and form large, light green terminal panicles. Each flower is radially symmetrical with 5 or 6 petals. Some trees may have both male and female flowers, but most individuals are unisexual. Male flowers have a foul scent. Each tree may produce up to several hundred inflorescences a year. Blooms late May through early June.


Fruit: Produced on female trees, fruit is 1.0-1.5 inch (3-8 cm) long, dry, and segmented splitting into 2-5 winged sections, each containing a single seed. Each winged seed has a twisted tip.Seeds mature in late summer or early fall and form dense, showy pink to russet to tan clusters that persist through the winter. Each cluster may contain hundreds of seeds.


Life History

Ailanthus, also known as tree-of-heaven or Chinese sumac, is a persistent and aggressive weed throughout much of Europe and North America. It belongs to the Simaroubaceae (Quassia) family, which is primarily tropical or subtropical. Ailanthus grows quickly and can reach a height of 8 feet (2.5 m) in its first year. Seedlings can grow 3-6 feet (1-2 m) the first year, and root sprouts have been found to grow 10-14 feet (3-4 m) the first year. Vigorous growth can continue for four years or more.


Ailanthus reproduces from both prolific wind- and water-dispersed seeds and root sprouts, colonizing to form thickets and dense stands. Seeds are easily windblown and a high percentage are viable. True seedlings are smaller and thinner-stemmed than root sprouts and have trifoliate leaves. Sprouts will have a cluster of leaves with variable numbers of leaflets. When pulled from the ground, seedlings will reveal thin, branching roots while sprouts will be firmly connected to a thick, rope-like root. Sprouts may emerge up to 50 feet (15 m) from the nearest existing stem. Most stems begin to reproduce at 10-20 years, though two-year old sprouts can produce fruit, and first-year seedlings have been observed flowering. Ailanthus is intolerant of shade and floods; in natural stands reproduction is primarily by sprouting. The trees are typically short-lived (30-50 years), though some have survived for over 150 years.




Ailanthus is adapted to a wide variety of soil conditions. It tolerates drought and rocky conditions to the extent of growing out of pavement cracks. The tree is common in urban areas and disturbed sites throughout its range, and it is a pioneer in succession with limited ability to compete in a closed-canopy forest. It can, however, take advantage of forests defoliated by insects (e.g., gypsy moth) or impacted by slides, windstorms, or other natural disasters. Ailanthus forms dense, clonal thickets that displace native species. A few trees along a fencerow or forest edge can rapidly invade adjacent meadows. In addition to its prolific vegetative reproduction, Ailanthus has allelopathic effects on many other tree species and may consequently inhibit succession.


Origin and Distribution


Ailanthus, native to China, was introduced to Europe and then to the United States in the late eighteenth century. An early Chinese saying refers to spoiled children as "good for nothing ailanthus sprouts." It was, nevertheless, widely planted in Europe and North America until recently. Botanists in the late 1800s noted that it was wide-spread and naturalized in Tennessee. Other states were it is considered invasive: AZ, CA, CT, DC, DE, FL, HI, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, MI, MO, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, VA, WA, WI, WV. Federal or state listed as noxious weed, prohibited, invasive or banned in CT, MA, NH, VT.



Information on this plant page is derived from the Tennessee Management Manual and James H. Miller's Nonnative Invasive Plants of Southern Forests, USDA Forest Service. 

Native Plant Corner
by Mike Berkley

Flame On!

No I'm not talking about Marvel Comic's "The Torch". I'm talking about the fall color that comes from a group of native trees and shrubs, the sumacs. The genus Rhus is in the Anacardiaceae family, the cashew family, which also includes poison ivy. In Tennessee there are four native species of sumacs.


Three species of sumac ( R. glabra, R. typnina, and R. copallina) are small trees and in the fall they put on an amazing 'burning bush' red show of leaves. The smooth sumac, R. glabra and staghorn sumac, R. typhina, are the big boys of the group. They could top out at around 20-30'. The flame or winged sumac ( R. copallina), also grows into a small tree at 15-20'. The cultivar R. copallina 'Prairie Flame' stays around 6' with brilliant color and does not sucker.   All sumacs (with the exception of 'Prairie Flame") are colonizing which is great for filling in along fence rows where bush honeysuckle or privet has been removed.


The shrub fragrant sumac ( Rhus aromatica) is very different than the other species in that it only grows to 6'. The leaves are similar to poison ivy but not toxic. Its fall color can range from orange to reddish purple. Fragrant sumac is very tolerant of dry shade and is a favorite to use where invasive plants have been removed. Try using the cultivar 'Gro-low' sumac as a groundcover as it only grows to 3' tall with a 6' spread.


And, oh yes! Pink Lemonade? Collect the red seed heads when ripe and soak them in cold water, add honey and enjoy a tart refreshing drink.

Knoxville Urban Wilderness Project

It's time for the first BioBlitz in Knoxville's Urban Wilderness on August 22nd from 10am-6pm . Discover Life in America, UT, the City of Knoxville, and Legacy Parks Foundation are holding the event to begin to understand the conservation value of urban forests right in our own backyard, and to get local residents excited about nature and biodiversity! 


We will meet at High Ground Park in south Knoxville, then teams of experts and non-experts will disperse throughout the park (and possibly surrounding parks) to find as many species as possible. We will use an app called iNaturalist  to take photographs and create a species list, which can be added to over time. The data from this initial survey will be available on the iNaturalist website and will start a baseline of information that can be used as a jumping off point for research. The data will also be used to prioritize management, such as invasive plant removal in sensitive areas. 


The event is open to anyone 10 and older, but we are especially looking for people who can identify species (any taxa). If you have any particular critters you'd like to search for which require setting up special equipment, we are happy to work with you. We will provide some butterfly nets and glass vials day-of.


This is a great opportunity for outreach, learning about citizen science, and just having fun geeking out with other biodiversity enthusiasts! We hope you'll join us, even if you are not an expert taxonomist. 


Please register through the  Volunteer Knoxville  site under "Knoxville Urban Wilderness BioBlitz". 
Direct any questions to Dr. Emily Zefferman:

Click on the link below to learn more.

Knoxville Urban Wilderness Bioblitz Information


For sponsorship information:  Bioblitz Sponsorship


TN-EPPC supports this worthwhile endeavor. Please consider participating, especially if you have expert knowledge. It'll be fun!    

Naturalized Exotic Ferns in Tennessee


Allan Trently, West Tennessee Stewardship Ecologist 

TN Dept. of Environment and Conservation, Division of Natural Areas


Five exotic ferns have been recorded in Tennessee. Information on Tennessee observations comes from the following sources: Southeast Early Detection Network, Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS), University of Tennessee Herbarium (UT Herbarium) website, and from my field notes. The exotic ferns documented for Tennessee include Japanese climbing fern (Lygodium japonicum), sword fern (Macrothelypteris torresiana), dwarf water clover (Marsilea minuta), nardoo (Marsilea mutica), and Asian net-vein holly fern (Cyrtomium fortunei).


Japanese Climbing Fern


The only record for Japanese climbing fern in Tennessee is from EDDMapS. Scattered plants were located on the Arnold Air Force Base in Franklin County in 2010. This occurrence was never verified with a specimen or a photo. The only bordering state with a county record is from an EDDMapS report in McCreary County, Kentucky.


Sword Fern


Sword fern was first reported in the state in 1999 from the Tennessee River Gorge of the Prentice Cooper State Forest and Wildlife Management Area (Beck and Van Horn, 2007). To date, I am aware of its presence in ten counties: Dickson, Fayette, Gibson, Hamilton, Hickman, Madison, Marion, Perry, and Shelby, and Tipton Counties. The UT Herbarium contains specimens from Gibson, Hamilton, Marion, and Perry Counties. All other records are from my field notes. I located two plants at Montgomery Bell State Park in Dickson County in 2013. The Fayette County record is from William B. Clark State Natural Area, and the Shelby County records are from Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park and Old Forest State Natural Area in Overton Park. The Hickman County plants were located in 2013. Claude Bailey and I located a few plants in Pinson Mounds State Park, Madison County in 2015. Barry Hart and I located sword fern in Randolph, Tipton County in 2015. In all the locations I am familiar with, sword fern does not grow in dense colonies but is more scattered and numbers vary from less than five fronds to more than ten. To my knowledge the Tipton County population is the largest.


Dwarf Water Clover


There is a single county record for dwarf water clover in Tennessee. The record is from Hamilton County.




There is a single county record for nardoo in Tennessee. The record is from Rhea County.


Asian Net-vein Holly Fern


The UT Herbarium contains records for Bedford, Knox, Polk, Shelby and Tipton Counties. The Shelby County record is from Old Forest State Natural Area in Overton Park where ferns grow in scattered colonies of less than five ferns each. Barry Hart and I located a large population of Asian net-vein holly fern from a site on the Second Chickasaw Bluff in Randolph, Tipton County. This is the same location were the sword fern was located. I did not count the fronds, but believe there were over 20 fronds in the location.




Beck, J.T. and G.S. Van Horn. 2007. The vascular flora of Prentice Cooper State Forest and Wildlife Management Area, Tennessee. Castanea 72:15-44. 

Treatment of Invasive Plants in Fall and Winter 


Justin Coffey, Lead Biological Science Technician

National Park Service

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Obed Wild and Scenic River


As a person who works year-round in the field surveying, mapping, monitoring, and treating invasive plants, I am often asked if there are ways to control invasive plants in the fall or winter. In fact, mild days in the fall and winter months do provide opportunities to control invasive plants, especially woody species. Furthermore, during that seasonal period, plant dormancy helps reduce the likelihood of non-target plant damage when using chemicals to control invasive species, making these treatments desirable and effective. It is completely appropriate for land managers and landowners to include chemical control methods in their invasive plant management techniques when planning for fall and winter seasons.

Basal bark spray applications can be a highly effective chemical control measure for small to medium diameter stems of woody invasive plants. Basal bark spray applications consist of an oil-soluble systemic herbicide diluted in a basal oil product (vegetable or petroleum-based oil penetrant) applied to the lower 1 to 2 feet of the target plant's stems, including root-collar areas or any exposed roots. This herbicide and oil mixture is typically applied by means of a low-volume backpack or hand sprayer. Once applied, the oil penetrant carries the herbicide through the bark tissue of the target plant to the plant's cambium (vascular tissue) which transfers the herbicide to the roots causing the plant to die. Typically, symptoms of mortality in target plants may take a few weeks (depending on the chemical used). However, obvious mortality to the target plant is sometimes unnoticeable until the bark splits or sloughs, or when new leaves are lacking or fail to develop during spring emergence. Using this method in the fall and winter months allows the applicator the ease of targeting individual plants, while safely avoiding unintended application to surrounding desired vegetation. Species susceptible to this practice include Chinese privet, autumn olive, bush honeysuckle, tree-of-heaven, mimosa, callery pear, and other woody plants.

Before doing any chemical treatments, make sure other non-chemical methods are considered for the control of invasive plants. Also, instructions on all chemical labels should be followed and applicators should maintain all personal protective equipment requirements when handling chemicals and equipment.


Devil's Backbone State Natural Area hike

TN Native Plant Society - Hohenwald, TN

August 8: Contact Allan Trently at 731-512-1369 or 


Inviting the Butterflies In with Angie Luebben

Chattanooga, TN

August 10


Adult Greenline Gardens Workshop

Memphis, TN

August 15: Contact Coral O'Connor at 901-222-7265 or 


Oak Ridge Barren workday/hike

Oak Ridge, TN

August 15: Contact Jimmy Groton at 865-805-9908


Appalachian Fair

Gray, TN

August 17 - 22: Contact UT Extension


Exploring the restoration and unique flora of a Southeastern remnant prairie

Manchester, TN

August 19: Register online at 


BioBlitz in Knoxville's Urban Wilderness

Knoxville, TN

August 22nd: Contact 865-430-4756 or 


TN Valley Fair

Knoxville, TN

September 4 - 13: Contact UT Extension


TN State Fair

Nashville, TN

September 4 - 13: Contact UT Extension


The Ferns of Tennessee with Dr. Patricia Cox

Chattanooga, TN

September 14


Mountain Goat Trail by Mountain Bike

TN Native Plant Society - Sewanee, TN

September 19: Contact Todd Crabtree at 615-532-1378 or 


National Public Lands Day at the Worthington Cemetery

Oak Ridge, TN

September 26: Contact Jimmy Groton at 865-805-9908 


Membership in TN- EPPC is open to anyone with an interest in the problem of invasive exotic plants, their identification, impacts, and control. Our members include professional land managers, private landowners, individual homeowners, public and private recreation areas, educational institutions, conservation and gardening organizations, and government agencies. Join us by becoming a member online, payment through PayPal.*
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Feel free to contact any TNEPPC Board Member with questions or comments about invasive, nonnative plants.  Our contact information can be found on our website.  We'd love to hear from you!