Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October 19, 2011

Hard-to-kill 'beach kudzu' threatens sea turtles, native plants

Funding may doom war on leafy invader

By Bo Petersen

Less than a decade ago, very few people had heard of beach vitex. But it infested the Lowcountry [of South Carolina].

The ornamental planting was carpeting dunes like kudzu, sending runners down the beach where the tide could pick up tens of thousands of seeds and move them somewhere else. Vitex was eroding dunes and killing sea turtle hatchlings and native plants, such as sea oats and seabeach amaranth.

The stuff had infested more than 200 spots along the length of the coast, including the dunes of homes on Isle of Palms, Sullivan's Island and Folly Beach. Its purple flowers are gorgeous. It smells like eucalyptus. So even the people who were planting it as dune landscaping had no idea anything was wrong.

Beach vitex is now under control but not eradicated. The task force created to do that job, though, has run out of funding and effectively will cease at the end of the year. In the spring, sprouts will turn up on some dunes, even on beaches where the plant has been cleared. What happens then nobody can say for sure...

Read the full story at link.


No comments: