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Skaggs: Invasive and exotic plant species pose a problem in Georgia
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Invasive weeds and exotic pest plants threaten the health of Georgia’s natural areas and forests. In particular, four invasive plant species, generally unknown to the public, are posing significant threats to the Georgia landscape and have a high potential to become widespread if left unchecked.

Japanese climbing fern (Lygodium japonicum) is being found throughout the coastal plain and southern piedmont regions of Georgia. While this plant has been in Georgia for quite a while, the population now seems to be spreading at an alarming rate. Infestations of cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica), a Federal Noxious Weed, have been found in four counties in southwestern Georgia.

The only known infestation of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) in Georgia is at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield, north of Marietta. Garlic mustard was introduced into the area sometime in the mid-1980s. The infestation is actively spreading and covers several acres near the top of Kennesaw Mountain. Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), long a problem in states to the north, is being found more frequently in northern Georgia.

The Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council is working to highlight these and other invasive plant species, raise awareness of the problem and help equip participants to deal with the emerging threat.

The purpose of the Georgia council is to focus attention on:

  • the adverse effects exotic pest plants have on the diversity of Georgia’s native plants and animals.
  • the use of exotic pest plant management to prevent habitat loss;
  • the socioeconomic impacts of these plants;
  • changes in the seriousness of the different exotic pest plants over time;
  • the need to exchange information that helps landowners and managers set priorities for exotic pest plant management.

Land managers, homeowners, gardeners, nurserymen and landscape professionals are encouraged to attend the Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council Annual Conference on Feb. 22 at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus Conference Center.

The conference fee before Feb. 1 is $40 for council members and $50 for nonmembers. After Friday, it’s $50 for members and $60 for nonmembers. To register or to find out more, call 229-386-3416 or visit www.ugatiftoncon

In addition to the conference, workshops and field days, the Georgia council is sponsoring the printing and distribution of pest alert fliers that detail identification and control of each of these species. For more information on these invasive species, visit

For specific information on cogongrass, visit www.cogon To find out about invasive species in Georgia or the Georgia EPPC, visit