Non-Native Plants in the GSMNP

Much like the non-native animals that have made their homes in the Smokies, there are many non-native plants that are now trying to thrive and in some cases take over forest lands in and around the GSMNP.  The trouble with these types of plants is that they are coming into a system that has been protected since the creation of the park.  All of a sudden there are non-native plants invading the area that are not only fighting for nutrients from the soil, water and other resources but they are changing the makeup of the lower levels of the food chain.

Princess TreeThe Princess Tree (Paulowina Tomentosa) is one of those non-native plants.  You will see this fast growing tree in many modern landscaping designs.  It is popular not only because of the beautiful flowers that it produces but also because of the fast growing nature of the tree itself.  It is possible that this plant was transported into the park on the clothes of visitors or by birds and other animals bringing seeds into the GSMNP.  Though this plant is not immediately hostile to other plants, it is a fast growing tree that is taking over areas that have traditional just been full of plants that have been in the Southern Appalachians for thousands of years.

KKudzuudzu (Pueraria Lobata) is one of the biggest non-native plants in the southern United States.  If you have driving through any part of the deep south and noticed the bright green vines growing on everything from other trees to power lines along the road, you have seen kudzu.  Kudzu has long been a problem in the south and it is inching ever northward.  It grows very quickly and covers everything that it can climb.  People laugh that you can lose a car to the kudzu but it is true that cars that sit derelict in yards can be consumed by this ever growing vine.  Though it is edible and goats have even been used to combat it in some areas, herbicide is usually used suppress kudzu.  It has not made a huge impact in the GSMNP yet but it is headed that way and needs to be kept out at all cost.

Firewood Ban
If you are camping in the Smokies, you will notice when you sign in for your camping spot that there is a firewood ban in the Smokies.  You cannot bring outside firewood into the Smokies.  You can buy firewood at the campground stores or you can use wood that has fallen naturally in the park but bringing in any outside firewood is prohibited.  This is for two reasons:  1)  Insects come in on firewood and these non-native species can wreak havoc on the environment & 2) The firewood might have seeds or spores on it that could bring in a non-native plant species that could cause problems for the ecosystem.

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