The folks at Save Buffalo Bayou send over some before-and-after photos of the Memorial Park boat launch and companion drainage structure just east of where the stream crosses beneath Woodway Dr. The group says the canoe and kayak put-in spot, on a 30-acre section of the park once used as an archery range, had been slowly greened back up by native river plants following the area’s multi-year closure and workover by the Uptown TIRZ, which involved some de-treeing work and the planting of some contractor-friendly non-native grasses on the newly reshaped slope.
Memorial Park director Jay Daniels told the group that the mowing was not planned, as park groups are currently trying to promote native plant growth in the park. Daniels said that he talked to a work group clearing some bayou access paths this weekend about removing some invasive Johnsongrass at the site; the conversation apparently led to some confusion, which led to mowing, which led to many folks being given a stern talking to.
Here’s a post-op look from July 2014 at the drainage setup (also intended to control bank erosion), partially covered in what appears to be eroding dirt and deposited sediment:
Making its debut last night at the Sabine Promenade downtown: The Buffalo Bayou Invasive Plant Eradication Unit, equipped with gardening tools, microscopes and plant presses, and a taco-truck style ordering counter where you can report or learn about the latest local vegetation battles. The food-truck-style mobile exhibit and lab is the work of New York artist Mark Dion, commissioned by the Houston Arts Alliance and the Buffalo Bayou Partnership. Next stops: the Holly Hall Retirement Community Plant and Bulb Mart at 2000 Holly Hall St. (on Friday) and the Native Plant Symposium at the Omni Hotel at Eldridge Parkway and the Katy Freeway (Saturday). Look for the converted Ford van with the skull and crossed pitchfork and shovel.
Sure, Benjamin Franklin started the whole Chinese tallow tree thing in the U.S. when he sent a few seeds to friends in Georgia in 1772. But don’t blame him for the great Gulf Coast tallow invasion. Rice professor Evan Siemann and 2 other researchers found that the tallow trees crowding out what’s left of coastal prairie grassland from Florida to East Texas didn’t come from the seeds Franklin sent. The descendants of Franklin’s gift have stuck around an area of northern Georgia and southern South Carolina, according to genetic tests. Other tests traced the problem-causing tallows to seeds brought to the U.S. a little more than 100 years ago, likely from around Shanghai, by federal biologists.
The researchers also brought samples of the these trees back to China, and in controlled tests found the U.S. trees grew and spread much faster than the Chinese trees they descended from.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: YOUR LOVELY NEW HOME IN TALLOWOOD “. . . I was in Dallas this weekend and while flipping through channels in the hotel room, I came across one of those Sunday morning suburban real estate infomercials where they showcase a single builder in one neighborhood that is under construction. During a testimonial from a recent homebuyer, the guy lauded the ‘acres of beautiful forests’ surrounding his new home. As the camera panned the landscape, I saw nothing but 10 foot tall invasive mesquite trees as far as the eye could see.
Seems like our Houston realtors should start cashing in on the ‘aesthetic value’ of the ‘tallow forests’ – especially emphasizing the ‘fall color’ and its function as an ‘environmentally friendly privacy screen.’ Most homebuyers would have no idea what they’re looking at. Carefully rewording reality is usually what realtors do on HAR, anyway!” [Superdave, commenting on What Happens If You Don’t Garden the Wild]
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T GARDEN THE WILD Starting from her own back yard, Lisa Gray tracks the local Chinese tallow invasion: “They breed explosively — one tree pumps out around 10,000 seeds — and they grow much faster than trees native to Texas. In China, moths and other predators keep them in check. But here, native animals and insects don’t eat them, and neither will cattle. Grasslands, wetlands, established forests: Tallows devour them all.
Forget the Piney Woods. More likely, you’re in the Tallow Woods. Around here, if you leave a piece of land alone — don’t mow it, don’t burn it, just let it go — tallows will probably blanket it within 10 years. Within 20, you’ll have what ecologists call a ‘closed-canopy tallow forest,’ a single-species ecodisaster unfriendly to birds, bugs and animals. Drive from Houston to Galveston, and most of the woody areas you’ll see are covered in tallows. Around the Addicks and Barker reservoirs, the woods are almost all tallow.
According to the Texas Forest Service, Chinese tallows account for an astounding 23 percent of all trees in the eight-county Houston area.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot]
“You are the first line of defense against these deceptively beautiful, but deadly invaders in our midst,” warns the Bellaire Examiner.
Who is this evil interloper? The Chinese Tallow Tree. Don’t get caught harboring one of these nasties on your property.
Yeah, it’s a bad tree. Because it takes over and forces out other plants, right?
Chinese tallow alters light availability for other plant species. Fallen tallow leaves contain toxins that create unfavorable soil conditions for native plant species. Chinese tallow will outcompete native plant species, reducing habitat for wildlife as well as forage areas for livestock.
This alarming description is from a website on invasive species put together by the Houston Advanced Research Center and the TCEQ’s Galveston Bay Estuary Program. But read carefully between the lines and you’ll realize that to the authors, the Chinese Tallow isn’t just an alien invader—it’s proof that Houston needs land-use controls:
Chinese tallow will transform native habitats into monospecific (single species) tallow forests in the absence of land management practices.
Do these folks realize what they’re advocating? Let’s hope they stick to gardening and stay out of urban planning. No telling what they’d do if they got hold of Houston’s development regulations.