Removing invasives shows benefits

Fall came late and lovely to Central Georgia. As much as possible, I am spending time in the wooded area behind our house.
First I am seeking to deliver on a promised tree house before my daughters go off to college. And, second, I am simply mesmerized by the splendid array of color, especially from the maple trees.
For three and a half years, I have been slowly but surely thinning out the area and removing invasive plants that threaten the natural habitat.
Non-native plants, I learned from reading and talks with a neighbor on the same mission, threaten the species that have have long made their home in this area. So I have been eliminating them — mimosas, English ivy and Chinese privets — along with the ever-undesirable poison oak and ivy.
Other unwelcome, invasive plants include kudzu, Chinese wisteria and the fast-reproducing tallow trees that experts blame on Ben Franklin for sending seeds to Georgia in 1772.
Early on in my quest, I noticed several small dogwoods and red maples were being crowded out of the landscape and competing for sunlight and nutrients. So I began pulling, cutting and spraying for their freedom.
The results of this fall season have more than rewarded me for my labor.
Of course, there is a broader application to life here. For we tend to allow lesser things to invade and grow in our lives at the expense of better things.
In a recent issue of Christian Century, Barbara Brown Taylor said: “Learning to say no is how we clear space for a few carefully planted yeses to grow. Saying no to lesser gods is part of saying yes to God.”
I’ll let each of you take the sermon, lesson, application from here.


  1. John, I attended a lecture at Rice University a few years by a professor there. He was talking about how nature responds to a foreign invader–in this case the Chinese Tallow. His conclusion was that the tallow that we have in Texas is a mutant and it does a lot “better” and grows a lot larger than the originals. He had run tests comparing the tallow to the local trees that were in its “class”–fast growing and prolific–and the tallow was far superior in that sorry group. He was proposing that he would take some seeds/seedlings to China and plant a grove of the Texas trees and some local trees to remove the variable of location from the growth equation. I have no idea if he ever did this or not and am mildly concerned that he was about to get even with the Chinese for the tallow being here–or maybe it was just a junket with some purpose.

    They are the dominant tree here in land that has been cleared. They are also our source of (a little) fall color since most sweet gums and maples just drop their leaves here without ever turning. (We are on the Gulf Coast.) They are a pain.

    I remember fall fondly when I was in Atlanta (1962-65) and hope to make a fall color tour when I retire again. After 40+ years of no color, I have forgotten what it is really like. Best wishes on your woods.

    Bennett Willis

  2. Thanks, Bennett. I saw some photos online of piles upon piles of tallow being cleared and burned near Orlando. I want to make sure my mere acre avoids such domination.
    My father, who had a rural upbringing and was not a formally-educated man, never referred to “a tree.” It was always “a tulip poplar” or “post oak” or “sweetgum.”
    I believe my appreciation for the beauty and variety of trees came from his interest that was passed along. I’m grateful.

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