Fighting Chinese Privet and Other Invasive Woody Plants in Arkansas

In well-functioning ecosystems storms renew by creating space and light for young native plants. In disturbed ecosystems storms can speed the conversion from a native dominated ecosystem to an invasive dominated one. In Arkansas and the Southeast, for example, instead of young native pine and deciduous trees, you might see Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) and Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) thriving in openings created by bad weather.

Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) growing in woods disturbed by a storm.

This is what Cara, one of our customers from Arkansas, faced after a storm downed trees on her property – lots of privet and non-native honeysuckle. Some of the privet were 15-20 feet tall and up to 8 inches in diameter. Sizable! These species provide terrible habitat for native wildlife.

When Cara tackled these invasives, there are several things she did that should guide us. First, she picked out small areas to focus her efforts. On the privet shown below, she used her loppers to top several of them. Doing your work in stages like this means you can keep the loppers in your hands instead of switching to other tools. Then she hauled away the tops. This gave her a nice, easily accessible area to finish the work. You don’t have to follow this preliminary cutting immediately with herbicide treatments. For example, you can top the invasive shrubs or trees in spring to prevent them from going to seed (one stem of privet can yield thousands of seeds). Then, in fall or winter you can do the weed killer treatments. Having defoliated the shrubs during a period of peak potential photosynthesis you have also weakened them, making them more susceptible to the herbicide.

Chinese privet that have been topped in preparation for an eventual herbicide treatment.

Cara did her her first treatments during the winter of 2022-23 using our small Green Shoots Foam Herbicide Dispenser as seen in the photo below. She did two key things here. She cut the stems low to the ground to make the treatments more effective (and to reduce the tripping hazard). On the bigger stumps, she just treated the outside perimeter of the cut stump which is where the live tissue of the inner bark is located.

Cut stumps that were treated with Green Shoots foam herbicide technology.

Cara informed me that she has seen no sprouting from the stumps she treated. Yes, she still has lots of other areas to clear, but in the meantime she has created an oasis where native plants can survive.

One thing Cara plans to buy is an electric chainsaw, primarily for doing the final cut on the stem at ground level in preparation for the herbicide treatment. I can attest that electric chainsaws work great for this kind of work where you are constantly stopping and starting the saw.

Wild Things 2023 Conference – Booth and Presentation

Green Shoots operated a booth at the Wild Things 2023 conference in the Chicago area on February 25, 2023. Over 2,000 people attended the conference. There were 125 sessions. It was an excellent conference.

I also presented. The title of my talk was Kill Tough Weeds; Not Prized Plants! The talk had four key elements: first, how to target just the weed; second, how to keep the herbicide on the weed, third, how to enhance uptake by the weed; and, fourth, how to enhance translocation of the herbicide to the proper sink. The presentation weaves in lots of new research. For example, humidity is increasingly seen as necessary for good uptake of herbicide by weed foliage. Using foam herbicide can increase moisture on the leaf surface and thereby increase humidity because foam can take more than twice as long to dry as a spray.

Quantity Discounts for Small Foam Herbicide Dispensers

Many of our customers have crews who use our Small Foam Herbicide Dispenser. This includes volunteers at nature centers, invasive plant removal teams, landscapers, and gardeners.

We just ordered a large quantity of components for the Small Dispenser and can pass on those savings to you.

Units PurchasedDiscountRegular priceDiscounted priceSave

Contact me at if you would like to order!

Entering Retail Stores 2022 – Precision Foam Weed Killer Kit

We are excited to announce we will be selling the Precision Foam Weed Killer Kit (Small) in retail starting in 2022. The Kit will be sold in selected retail locations in 9 Midwestern states – Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Look for this poster. Ask for the Green Shoots Kit if you don’t see it in your store! If you are a retailer and want to start selling the Kit, contact Prince Corporation: 800-777-2486 or

For example, the Precision Foam Weed Killer Kit is available at Beisswenger’s in New Brighton, Minnesota. Beisswenger’s is a classic hardware store with wide and deep selection of products and incredibly knowledgeable staff.

New Review Article on Using Tarps to Control Invasive Knotweed

Here’s a new review of the literature on using tarps or coverings to block sunlight and control invasive knotweeds (Reynoutria spp.or Fallopia spp.). Dusz et al 2021 (link to abstract and access to free article).

The authors state: “based on the bibliography and survey work, we propose practical recommendations including covering the entire stand, extending the tarping up to 2.5 m beyond its edges for a period of at least six years, and ensuring regular monitoring. Even though tarping does not seem to be a one-size-fits-all solution to eradicate knotweed, it could still be a useful control method once knotweed has become a critical management issue.”

New Stake Sharpener Added to Green Shoots Product Line

Instead of burning your woody invasive brush, turn it into stakes using this new tool. Use the stakes for field research, gardening, landscaping, etc.

I sharpen the stakes out in the field. The nice thing about this – you don’t need a vice to hold the stem. Just sharpen the stem while it’s still in the ground. Cut the weed-tree to the proper height, and then use the stake pointer to sharpen the top.

You will get a nicely sharpened stake like the one below. It’s just like a big pencil sharpener!

You can either leave the bark on the stakes:

Or you can remove the bark. (Presumably, the stake will last longer if the bark is removed.)

Check this product out at our web store.

Prairie Restoration in Oak Savanna

Clearing Brush for Prairie Restoration with Brush Mower

This is a prairie restoration that we started a while back. The first thing we did a few years ago was girdle the big pine trees. You can see some of the remaining snags in the photos below. This opened up the canopy but also spurred the growth of lots of small woody species that we had to deal with.

Before Photo: Looking south in February 2021

With any of the brush that was over 2 inches OD, we did cut stump treatments in late winter. The small pine trees, of course, we just cut down and did not stump treat. The stump treatments were low enough to the ground so we could come through with a brush mower about a month-and-a-half later without hitting the big cut stumps.

After Photo: Looking south in early April, 2021

Using the walk-behind brush mower was slick. It chopped most of the brush into small pieces, so we didn’t have to haul it to burn piles. It also shatters the stumps (much like a forestry mower). This will reduce the vigor of the cut brush.

Driving through thick brush with the brush mower

We will have lots of re-sprouts from the brush that we did not treat. We plan to mow again later this spring after the cool season plants (mostly non-native) have started growing vigorously but before the warm season plants (mostly native) are very high. This second cutting will also cut the woody species that have re-sprouted. Then, in the mid-summer and fall we will treat the perennial weeds and the woody plants. Since this area has a native seed bank, we’ll see next year how much of the area we will have to seed.

Cut stump treatments near a large red oak using the Small Foam Herbicide Dispenser

How to Control a Large Stand of Invasive Knotweed

Controlling a large stand of invasive knotweed can be a daunting task.  We just finished this document: Green Shoots Guidance on Controlling a Large Stand of Knotweed. This


Knotweed Monoculture

document complements our video: Knotweed Control: 3 Simple Steps for the Non-Professional which is intended for those controlling a small knotweed colony.

In our new piece, we synthesize much of the latest research on and our experience with controlling knotweed.  The approach solves several problems confronted in controlling a large infestation: First, how to do you ensure coverage of the entire stand when applying herbicide?  Second, how do you accomplish the first objective without introducing excessive amounts of herbicide into the environment?  Third, how do deal with the few surviving knotweed crowns that are often difficult to kill.

In short, the approach is to make a broadcast application of herbicide to the knotweed colony in the first year.  This is done in such a way as to maximize herbicide effectiveness and minimize harm to neighboring desirable species. Thereafter, we use a targeted approach that combines: spot treatments with herbicides; mechanical control – cutting or digging to remove the surviving knotweed plants; and the introduction of competition from native plants.

The three most common species of invasive knotweed in North America are: Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica or Polygonum cuspidatum); Sakhalin knotweed (Fallopia sachalinensis); Bohemian knotweed (Fallopia×bohemica).

Whatever You Do This Spring, Don’t Plant Bradford Pear Trees!

You see those trees with white flowers in the drone photo below from early spring 2020?


Those are pear trees growing in a southern Indiana plot where oak and pecan trees had been planted in previous years.  As the owner of that land will attest, however, those pear trees were not planted as part of his reforestation project.

In fact, as best owner Jerrod Carlisle can tell, those pear trees likely spread from two “dwarf pear trees” included with a “postage stamp orchard” he had bought by mail several years ago.

That postage stamp orchard turned out to be a really bad deal for Jerrod.  He soon found the dwarf pear trees produced no fruit any human could eat.  Even worse, the pear trees spread into his forest.  Only after the timber harvest and some research did Jerrod learn of the full scope of the problem he now faces.

Jerrod found out these were Callery pears (Pyrus calleryana).  The story of the Callery pear and why it was brought the U.S. is a fascinating one.  Originally, botanists collected its seeds in China to help buck up resistance of pear fruit trees in the U.S. to fire blight.  However, John L. Creech, who headed the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., saw the Callery pear’s potential as an ornamental, and that’s how a variety of this species gained its fame under the name, the “Bradford Pear.”

The Bradford pear arrived on the market in the 1960s with fanfare.  According to January 5, 1964 edition of the New York Times: “Few trees possess every desired attribute, but the Bradford ornamental pear comes unusually to [sic] close to the ideal.”

But, why is this “ideal” ornamental trying to take over Jerrod’s forest?  If you read that New York Times article, many of the attributes that made it a good ornamental back in the day also make it a formidable invader today.

  • The Callery blooms early in spring, and its leaves stay green late in fall.
  • The abundant fruit are eaten by birds and squirrels.
  • It grows under a wide range of soil and climatic conditions.
  • It resists disease and insects.
  • Its deep taproots help it survive dry periods.

To tackle his Callery pear problem, Jerrod purchased our Large Foam Herbicide Dispenser Package in December 2019.  He started doing cut stump treatments this past winter.  As you can see from the area marked in red in the photo below, Jerrod has already made progress.  There are no blooming pear trees on the part that he treated.


Jerrod has several goals with his work.  He wants to ensure the property serves as good wildlife habitat.  Jerrod is a hunter who enjoys spending time out in nature.

But if you talk with Jerrod, you quickly realize he also wants to raise awareness of the threat posed by the Callery pear.  As Jerrod noted, Interstate 69 was recently renovated near his home.  During construction, the right-of-way had miles of bare soil for extended periods of time.  Now Callery pear blanket miles-long stretches of that major highway.

And, all the while, more Bradford pears are coming on the market.  On March 30, 2021, I did a search online.  Here’s what it produced:


A first step in saving uninvaded natural areas is not paying good money to plant this horrible tree.  As Jerrod can attest, you will regret it if you buy it, but you will regret it even more if you plant it.

For further reading: