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More than Bradford Pears: These are invasive trees to watch out for in your NC yard

Bradford Pear trees may have a lock on publicity among invasive plants, with their stinky blooms drawing attention annually, but there are other problematic trees found in North Carolina too, wildlife experts say.

In addition to being a nuisance to gardeners and homeowners, invasive trees can also damage ecosystems and pose health risks. But there are also steps you can take to clear your space and help control the spread if you spot an invasive tree on your property.

Here’s what to know about invasive trees found in North Carolina and what to do about them:

What is an invasive species?

Invasive species are defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as “plants, animals, and other living organisms” that are introduced to ecosystems where they are “non-native” or “alien,” which “causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.”

Invasive trees in North Carolina

In addition to the Bradford Pear, there are other invasive trees that threaten North Carolina, the state Forest Service says, including:

  • Tree of Heaven, AKA Ailanthus altissima: Native to China, this tree has “aggressively naturalized in many parts of the USA and all areas of North Carolina,” the NC State Extension says. “The leaves are the best way to identify this tree as the large compound leaves have a glandular, notched base on each leaflet and the serrations or tooths on the margin appear toward the base of the leaf,” per the extension. “In spring large clusters of yellow flowers appear above the trees that are followed by winged fruits that are dispersed by the wind or water.” You should try to pull them up “when they are young before they flower, identifying them by the serrations near the base of the leaves.”

  • Silktree or Mimosa, AKA Albizia julibrissin: This tree is also native to Asia but has been in the U.S. since the 1740s, per NC State. They’re a “fast-growing, short-lived, small to medium size deciduous tree” and are “typically found along roadsides, grasslands, vacant lots, clearings, or flood plain areas.” “It grows vigorously and can displace native trees and shrubs,” the extension says. “It produces a large number of seeds and it will resprout when cut back or damaged. It is a strong competitor for native species in open areas, along roadsides and forest edges due to its ability to grow in different soil types and its large production of seeds.”

  • Chinese Tallowtree or Popcorn tree, AKA Triadica sebifera: This tree, native to Asia, was first found in South Carolina in the 1700s before spreading to other parts of the South, including North Carolina. “The flowers are monoecious, long yellow-green catkins and are followed by fruits that split open to reveal white seeds that resemble popcorn,” the extension advises.

How to stop invasive species

If found early, NC State professor Kelly Oten previously told the Observer, “response programs” can be launched that could potentially eradicate invasive species before they do major damage to the ecosystem.

To assist with that process, Oten recommends, you should take a picture of the pest or plant you spot and report it to the proper authorities, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and poolsidepests.com. You can also email badbug@ncagr.gov.

You can also look into invasive plant removal services, such as the NC Bradford Pear Bounty.