As I have written about the past couple of blogs, fire is a real danger around this area lately. The local news last night confirmed what I suspected. The golf course fire in north Raleigh over the weekend was mostly Bermuda grass burning and spreading the fire. The report even mentioned that fescue stays green for most of the year and isn’t likely to burn. But still, someone will ask me if I will plant bermuda for them and I will have to tell them no.
Which brings up a point that I often make. Man has brought in a lot of invasive plants into areas they don’t belong in and then has to deal with the consequences. Kudzu is a vine in our area brought over from Asia years ago. It climbs up and over everything looking like cloth covering over unused furniture in the attic. You can’t even see what is underneath it. It was brought over with the intent to be used as cattle feed. It grows so fast that some people swear that after a summer thunderstorm, you can watch it grow. Life is a little slower in the South and when it’s hot, you may want to do nothing more than watching paint dry but I have yet to watch kudzu grow. It needs to be eradicated but there is always a vacant property or unused country land that still has some.
English Ivy is another invasive quite common in our area. It too grows everywhere in the shade. (Kudzu likes sun) It carpets the ground and climbs tree trunks. When you walk through it, you stir up the mosquitoes who seem to love the protection it gives. Nothing but the trees and hardiest plants can survive it’s onslaught. Japanese privet is found everywhere in the woods. So is Japanese honeysuckle. One estimate is that 20% of the plants you find in natural areas are actually exotic invasive plants. If you add in the ones not yet considered invasive, the number goes up to 30%.
Now I will admit to planting many non-native plants. However, once I realize that a plant may be invasive, I plant it only with extreme care. Birds and insects native to a region, depend on the native flora for food and young. The more we upset the native balance of plants, the less the native fauna has to survive on. We need to look at the planting mistakes of the past and learn from them so that today’s cool new plant isn’t tomorrow’s kudzu. Every week I have to educate a customer on why a certain plant should not be used based on it’s invasive tendencies. We all need to educate ourselves. Look up online to find plant lists of exotic invasive plants for your area and refrain from using them. In many cases, it may actually be against the law to use them any way.
I know I recently wrote about the fire dangers of pinestraw year round and bermuda grass in the winter. Just this weekend, a grass fire broke out in Wakefield Plantation, which is a upper end neighborhood on the north side of Raleigh near Wake Forest. I have done work in this neighborhood but have not been over to see the fire damage. I have watched news reports though and believe what I saw on TV backs up what I have been saying. The golf course has a lot of bermuda grass as many of them do in this area. Most of the lawns at the homes around the golf course have fescue. Homeowners fought off the flames with garden hoses. But it was also obvious that they had green lawns. The green grass helped keep the fire from spreading and burning their homes. The bermuda grass is totally brown this time of year and the fire spread quickly. I do not recommend planting bermuda grass any where but especially near a home.
A couple of summers ago, Raleigh had a major fire near some town homes. Many people lost everything. The fire spread there with help from dry pinestraw. Raleigh has since banned the use of pinestraw near residences. I would not use it either even if it is allowed in my area. We have had droughts several times over the past few years. I would rather save my house rather than saving a little money on landscaping.