Thursday, August 17, 2017

MORE Bad Weeds!!

       
Here We Go Again!
     As if Chamberbitter was not bad enough, there is ANOTHER bad weed popping up all over the place. It is probably right under your nose, or over your head, depending on how far along it has gotten. 
                                                  Have you seen this plant/leaf?
                                       If spotted, remove immediately!!
Photo by Darren Sheriff

It is not armed, but can be dangerous to your yard.
This plant is Sapium sebiferum, also know as the Chinese Tallow Tree, or Popcorn Tree. Why do they have to ruin the reputation of a good food by associating it with a bad plant!?!?
You can also find it still listed as Triadica sebifera, but the Sapium sebiferum is the proper name.
     The Popcorn tree is native to China and Japan where it has been cultivated for its useful seeds and as an ornamental for more than a thousand years. It is said that Benjamin Franklin introduced it into the United States in 1776 for use of its waxy tallow in soaps and candles.
It is a deciduous tree (loses its leaves) that may reach 60 feet in height. The bark is a light gray. It has heart-shaped leaves with a pointed tip. 


Photo by Darren Sheriff
Slender, drooping spikes up to 8 inches long appear from April to June. 


Photo Courtesy of Mississippi State University

In Fall the leaves turn brilliant shades of scarlet, orange, yellow and maroon.
     Popcorn Trees can invade a variety of habitats ranging from swampy to saline waters, and from full sun to shade situations. It is often found growing along roadsides, coastal areas, and streams. Larger specimens can produce up to 100,000 seeds that may be eaten and dispersed by birds, facilitating the spread. Native species are crowded out once the Chinese Tallow becomes established. The leaves and fruit are toxic to cattle and cause nausea and vomiting in humans.

     It tolerates almost any soil and can grow 5 feet tall in its first year. They are considered moderately drought tolerant. However, It was planted as a street tree in California where it apparently has not yet become invasive, perhaps because of insufficient rainfall.
      Why have they become so invasive, first off, being that they are a native of Eastern Asia, which is the same latitudes as the Southeastern U.S. they love the growing conditions here, but primarily because of the seeds that are readily eaten and dispersed by birds. The seeds also float and can be carried easily by rivers, streams, and storm water runoff to new destinations and virtually all of them will germinate somewhere. 
The seeds are in a fruit that are 3 lobed, brown capsules, 1/2 inch in diameter, when mature the outer part splits revealing 3 white waxy seeds that resemble popcorn, hence its common name. 



Photo Courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/houselogic/

They mature in late Summer to early Fall.
     If all of this is not bad enough, The leaves produce allelopathic chemicals that will change soil content and therefore making the area uninhabitable to native species.
It has gotten so bad that, the State of Florida lists the Popcorn Tree or Chinese Tallow as a noxious weed and prohibits its introduction, movement or release.
     To kill these things, cut the tree down and immediately paint the stump with a triclopyr herbicide such as Brush-B-Gon, Garlon, Pathfinder, Chopper or something like Roundup Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer. Make sure you follow the label directions or get a certified professional to apply these. Results also can be obtained by spraying the bark in a 6 inch wide band all around the base of the trunk with one of the triclopyr herbicides. I don't usually suggest such harsh treatment because of the danger it can pose to the homeowner and the landscape, BUT, tests of simply cutting down the trees resulted in extensive root and stump sprouting. Before applying any herbicide, read the label!! I can not emphasize this enough. 
This is nasty tree. Yes, it has pretty Fall foliage and can be used for some good shade. Tree species recommended that are similar in size to Chinese Tallow include Maples (Acer spp.) and Crape Myrtles (Lagerstroemia spp.). Might I also suggest to use an Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis), or a Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) instead. Even though it is considered a messy tree, at least the Red Mulberry will give you something good to eat!
If you have any questions regarding this or any of my other articles, please don't hesitate to drop me a line to TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com
Happy Growing!
Darren

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bad Weed

Weed.
NO, not THAT one!!
What is a weed?
     A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Well, I really wish that somebody would find the virtue of the plant I want to discuss today!
I have actually been asked a half dozen times in the past couple of weeks, what IS this thing!?
It seems to really be bad this year.
The plant?
Phyllanthus urinaria a.k.a Chamberbitter


     This weed is a real pain to get rid of, everyone gripes about it, there is even another common name for it....Gripeweed. They resemble Mimosa trees, which is also an invasive weed in some places.
Chamberbitter is a warm-season, annual, broadleaf weed that emerges from warm soils beginning in early summer. I am assuming that, because of the fairly warm winter last year, we are experiencing a bumper crop this year.
     It has an upright growth habit and a very well defined taproot. Being more of a tropical plant that loves hot weather and can tolerate drought conditions, it is very at home in the southern landscape. It is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family and has the sticky, milky sap like many of the different Spurge weeds that we deal with here in the south.
What makes this thing hard to deal with?
     First it is a very tough plant that grows fast, is drought tolerant, produces seed in just a few weeks and it produces an abundant amount of them. The seeds, which are found in the green, warty-like fruit attached to the underside of the branch explode, they throw seed in many directions away from the plant thus allowing it to spread over a larger area.


     Look at those little bombs, just waiting to spread themselves.
The control of Chamberbitter is through a combination of mechanical, cultural, and chemical methods.
     Mechanical is usually the easiest. Pull them by hand and do not allow them to go to seed. As soon as you see them emerging, pull them up. They will pull out easily if the soil is wet but tend to break off if the soil is too dry. Do not put these in your compost bin, it will probably not get hot enough to destroy the seeds. Burn them or throw them in the trash.
     Some of the cultural methods of eradication involve putting down two to three inches of mulch in the spring to cover seeds from the previous season. Chamberbitter seeds require light to germinate, so this is fairly effective. In your lawn, if you keep it healthy, mow regularly at the proper height, and feed it correctly, there should not be much problem there.
      Chemical control involves the use of herbicides. Both pre-emergent and post-emergent may needed if you are over run with this weed.
     In the case of a pre-emergent, timing is the most important thing. It is too late now, early August, but next spring when the soil temperatures start to rise, remember these seeds need very warm soil to germinate, you can order Bayer Advanced 704050 from Amazon if you can not find it locally.
Glyphosate (Roundup Weed and Grass Killer) will kill it but you have to be careful to keep the chemical off nearby foliage. You can paint it on with a paintbrush, wear gloves and brush it on the leaves. In a lawn, broadleaf weedkiller (Ortho Weed B Gon Weed Killer) applied twice, seven days apart, is also effective. Just be absolutely sure that you read and follow the directions on any chemical, it is the law!
     Hopefully, you do not have much, or any, for that matter, of this nasty weed in your landscape. Prevention is the best action, just keep an eye out for it, and try not to introduce it if at all possible.
     If you are not sure if a plant you are looking at is a weed or a wanted plant, just remember this quote by that famous Author, Unknown.....When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.
     As always, if you have any questions concerning this, or any of my other articles, please feel free to ask. Also, don't forget to follow me on FACEBOOK
Happy Growing!
Darren