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.

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