Trees in danger

By CRAIG KLEIMEYER

Edgewood Garden Club members Chris Underwood and Anlie Greene cut down vines near the Shades Creek Greenway. Photo courtesy of Chris Underwood.

Beautiful, old trees fill our neighborhoods, but some homeowners might not realize that many of those trees are in eminent danger. The trees are shrouded in wisteria, ivy or kudzu vines from head to toe. Once vines cover a tree, it starts to die because its leaves can no longer receive sunlight.

Sallie Lee, Urban Regional Extension Agent at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, emphasized that invasive species like kudzu and wisteria out-compete the native plants and can harm them.

“Every time you see a vine, kudzu, or wisteria, it doesn’t mean that it will kill the tree, but it’s a good idea to get it out because in some cases it will strangle the tree and the tree could eventually die,” she said.

The two main species of native trees that are prevalent in the forest throughout Homewood are the Post Oak and the Blackjack Oak.

Two years ago, Homewood resident Chris Underwood noticed that kudzu was all over the trees next door to her condo. She clipped the vines low to the ground, and the next year, some smaller trees that had been shaded out by the kudzu were able to get sunlight and grew.

Since then, Underwood has been cutting on Shades Creek Preserve behind Homewood High School with her friends, Anlie and James Greene once a week.

“We cut the vines at the base, which kills them for another two years,” Underwood said. “Anyone who is able should come and help.”

Fellow Friends of Shades Creek member Henry Hughes, who serves as education director at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, said that kudzu was introduced for erosion control, but it takes over all landscapes.

“We don’t want it to grow any more in new locations, so we try very hard to get rid of it,” he said. “It has large root systems underground and produces some seed that can produce new plants. We pull it out so that it doesn’t expand to new locations.”

Lee and Hughes both said that urban trees like Homewood’s often don’t have enough room to grow when they are planted in the wrong places. For example, the roots of trees near sidewalks don’t have enough space and can’t get the tree the air that it needs.

“I encourage citizens to plant trees on their own property, where they have more room to grow,” Hughes said. “We need to take good care of our native trees and not cut them down.”

If you are interested in joining Friends of Shades Creek and helping preserve the beauty of Homewood’s trees, the group meets at the Homewood Library on the second Thursday of each month. Or, to help Chris Underwood’s group, email her at chrisunderwood@bellsouth.net.

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