by Dona Weifenbach
ANPP is working with Moncus Park groundskeeper Mark Hernandez to develop a plan to identify and remove invasive species located in the 23 acre undeveloped forested area behind the pond and the Great Lawn. The park's master plan designates the area to remain undisturbed as an arboretum and a ravine garden accessible by soft surface trails. We have begun a vegetation survey to identify the native vegetation in the area. While mature trees were recorded early in the park's development, the understory trees, shrubs and the herbaceous layer have not been catalogued. As a Horticulture major attending USL in the mid 1970's, I and others in our group attended plant identification field trips in the horse farm ravine lead by Dr. William Reese in his Louisiana Native Plant senior level biology class.
The initial field trip was held March 21, 2021. The goal of this visit was to establish a consistent method to canvas vegetation in the forested area around the ravine, to identify invasive species for removal, and to identify existing natives for protection. As we entered the shady ravine south of the bridge I was immediately struck by the difference in the plant composition in the 45-year interval since my last visit. Several very large trees had come down in the hurricanes of 2020, a massive cherrybark oak (Quercus pagoda) and a large black cherry (Prunus serotina) lay across the steep banks of the coulee. The tallest canopy was mostly water oak (Quercus nigra) and hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) with a few other native shade trees, like sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) and cherry laurel (Prunus caroliniana), but instead of native understory, there was an abundance of invasive ligustrums: European ligustrum (Ligustrum vulgare) with 3-5 inch diameter stems standing 25 feet tall. Dominant in the shrub layer was Japanese privet (Ligustrum sinense). A few native yaupon hollies were scattered throughout. The herbaceous level has been overrun with coral berry (Ardisia crenulata) in large areas. We flagged representatives of the invasive species we encountered with orange flagging.
Our plan is to develop a base map for existing trees and those taken down in recent storms. The map will be used to direct both the vegetation survey and the removal effort. When vegetation to be conserved is located, we can place the plant’s location on the map as well (e.g., pawpaw stands). ANPP will develop training materials to help trainees to differentiate the native cherry laurel from the invasive ligustrum, the native yaupon from invasive privet, etc.
Moncus Park and ANPP hope to recruit other civic and non-profit organizations to assist in this effort. Volunteer support from the Lafayette Master Naturalists, the Boy Scouts of America, Lafayette Master Gardeners and others will assist in meeting the goal of removing every individual of these invasive species. When competition for sun, water, and nutrients is reduced, native species present in the forested ravine and in the seed bank will have the opportunity to thrive once again. Utilization by native insects, birds, and other animals will increase over time.
Invasive species of top priority to be removed (note how many jumped from traditional nurseries/gardens):
Ligustrum sinense Japanese privet (abundant)
Ligustrum vulgare European privet (abundant)
Ardisia crenata Coralberry (abundant)
Sapium sebiferum Chinese tallow (abundant)
Ulmus parvifolia Chinese elm, Drake elm, Lacebark elm
Other invasive species noted of lower priority for removal:
Koelreuteria paniculata Golden rain tree
Ilex rotunda Chinese holly
Nandina domestica Nandina
Eriobotrya japonica Japanese plum/loquat
Cyrtomium falcatum Holly fern
Elaeagnus augustifolia Russian olive
Native species for protection: Visit Plants of Louisiana for details and images
Quercus virginiana Live oak
Quercus nigra Water oak (abundant)
Quercus macrocarpa Burr oak
Quercus pagoda Cherrybark oak
Nyssa sylvatica Black gum
Celtis occidentalis Hackberry
Ilex vomitoria Yaupon holly
Prunus caroliniana Cherry laurel (abundant)
Prunus serotina Black cherry
Juniperus virginianus Eastern red cedar
Magnolia grandiflora Southern magnolia
Sambucus nigra Elderberry (abundant)
Liquidambar styraciflua Sweetgum
Cornus drummondii Rough leaf dogwood
Carya spp. Native pecans
Asplenium platyneuron Ebony spleenwort
Sanicula canadensis Canadian Black snakeroot
Mysotis verna Spring forget-me-not
Smilax rotundifolia Common greenbriar
Parthenocissus quinquefolia Virginia creeper
Vitis rotundifolia Muscadine
This is an amazing opportunity for the public to not only help with the transformation of this forested ravine ecosystem in the park back to its natural state, but to witness the species transitions over the next few years and beyond. Getting involved is a great way to learn not only the native and invasive plants but to understand the ecological processes that happen we aren't paying attention. Stay tuned for ways to help, but if you are an experienced plant ecologist or trainer and want to help us on the front end, email us at email@example.com.