Those battling against invasive plants taking root in Terry Hershey Park won another round recently when a group of volunteers dug in to give native plants – and the species they support – some breathing room along Buffalo Bayou.
Volunteers with the Bayou Preservation Association joined the Harris County Sheriff’s Clean and Green inmate crew at the southwest corner of Eldridge to continue their attack against invasive trees, shrubs and flowers that are crowding out the native diversity essential to a healthy bayou ecosystem. Some 40 cubic yards of invasive Ligustrum, Chinese Privet and Nandina were hauled out that day.
It’s an ongoing effort to restore native habitat in Terry Hershey Park in The Energy Corridor. A variety of volunteers visit the area regularly to combat the spread of invasives in our bayou systems, says Steven Hupp, Water Quality Director of the Bayou Preservation Association. Over the past five years, volunteers have helped restore native habitat to about 15-20 percent of the park, Hupp says.
“We’re marching along trying to knock it out,” Hupp explains. “It’s all volunteers, though recently the inmate crews have been helping. We take out whatever doesn’t belong there – invasive plants, litter, illegal dumping. Once, we took out a golf cart.”
Ligustrum and Chinese Privet, popular landscaping plants, make up about 90 percent of what is removed along Buffalo Bayou. The invasive plants have proved devastating to native trees and shrubs, crowding them out at a rate the Bayou Preservation Association calls epidemic.
The list of invasive plants tackled is long, including the prolific Chinese Tallow, along with Chinaberry, Macartney Rose, Golden Rain trees and even Crape Myrtles. The “Dirty Dozens” list of local invasives can be seen at bayoupreservation.org.
In their place, native plants are being replanted to help restore the riparian ecosystem.
“We strive to put diversity back in there,” Hupp says. “We’re putting in natives that belong there, that are in the range (of this ecosystem).
That includes stately Bald Cypress and Southern Magnolia trees, Texas Buckeye, Mexican Plum, Red Salvia and a variety of native grasses and wildflowers. Care is taken to replant native species where they belong on the banks of the bayou. Some belong on the high banks. Others, like the Bald Cypress and Indigo bush, help hold the bayou’s banks. The flowering Canna, says Hupp, even helps clear the water of nitrates, chemical runoff from fertilizers and sewage that can deprive waterways of life-giving oxygen.
“Most of the time, if you just take out invasives, there is a native seed source that will often repopulate the native conditions, if the introduced cultivar species are kept out and not allowed to be reintroduced,” explains Robert Rayburn, Landscape Architect for The Energy Corridor District. “Restoration and protection is the key to a healthy riparian system that could support both the wildlife and the needs of those seeking outdoor recreation in The Energy Corridor District.”
Rayburn, a certified ISA arborist, landscape architect and President of the Bayou Preservation Association, oversees The Energy Corridor District’s ongoing efforts to beautify the area by planting native trees and understory shrubs along roadways, parks and trails.
“By restoring native habitat, the volunteers are helping to make Terry Hershey Park one of Houston’s greatest natural areas,” says Rayburn. “Removing invasive species helps brings back the wildlife, along with the beautiful plants that belong here.”