Several non-native plant species keep company with the sagging structures on Society Hill in Elkmont. Orange flags of Tawny Daylily wave at visitors in June and July. Some plants, like daffodils and daylilies, are a sure sign of homesteads. I’ve seen Trifoliate Orange (Poncirus trifoliata), a beastly looking thing, growing on Little River Trail in front of an old cabin. Many of these introduced plants aren’t a problem in the forest, but other species, like English Ivy or Japanese Spiraea, can invade natural areas and displace native plants. Brought in by settlers and/or resort residents, it’s touchy business for the park to tread that fine line between preserving the past and protecting the forest. Some plants won’t stay put and must be removed. Less threatening historic species get a cultural pass.
At the old Jakes Creek trailhead location past the cabins, a pink, fully double garden rose bears the fringed leaf-petiole stipules of Multiflora Rose. [That fringed stipule is clearly visible in the Avent Cabin rose photo from the previous post.] The double rose variety also grows along a stretch of Little River Trail. Park staff target the straight species for removal because of its highly invasive nature, but this unidentified cultivated variety doesn’t exhibit such aggressive tendencies. Kristine Johnson, Supervisory Forester for the park explains, “I don’t like to kill anything without a definite ID, and I’m not able to reliably identify the rose cultivars.” She would welcome assistance from a knowledgeable rosarian.
“There is a measure of caution in respect for those whose homesite it was (‘granny’s rose!’) as well as the possibility of a long lost variety someone may treasure.” However, if it shows signs of spreading or reverting to the multiflora rootstock, she shows no mercy. Japanese Spiraea got no mercy in 2011. I spotted it flowering at the Jakes Creek parking lot, and Kris had staff there within a day to kill it.
Chinese Yam (Dioscorea oppositifolia), often grown as food for its starchy roots, twines its narrow, heart-shaped leaves through the Jakes Creek rose bush obscuring much of the latter’s foliage. The sight of two invasive plants locked in battle always elicits a smile, hoping each will kill the other! Due to its twining nature, Chinese Yam is difficult to treat without damaging non-target neighboring plants. Fortunately, a fungus helps out. According to Kris, “Over the 20 or so years I’ve seen it here, it seems to die out in shady areas from a foliar fungal disease but remains a problem in disturbed sites like roadsides until a wet season does it in.” A toast to Smoky Mountain rain!
One interloper on Jakes Creek has nothing to do with the past. A small patch of Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) next to the road likely hitchhiked on gravel during road work. It has a sunny little Dandelion-like flower but is the very devil to eradicate. Kris directed park staff to stomp on that patch with vengeance. Good riddance.