Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Photinia Spreading in Princeton's Woodlands

Asian Photinia (Photinia villosa) is a shrub that land managers in the Princeton area are targeting for removal from natural areas. It was sold by Princeton nurseries many decades ago, and has begun invading the local woodlands. Why are we so worried about this shrub that turns a pretty golden color in the fall, with bright red berries?

There are many reasons. For one, the shrub appears not to be edible for wildlife, and 2) the shrub has shown a capacity to out-compete the native shrubs and forbs wildlife do use for food. The spreading monoculture of Photinia in the forest understory is rendering the landscape less and less hospitable for the native diversity we seek to nurture.

An additional reason for focusing on Photinia is that it has yet to spread across New Jersey. Action now in the Princeton area could prevent Photinia from becoming a statewide pest.

This is a typical sight under berry-producing Photinias: a dense clustering of seedlings that leaves little or no room for native species to survive.

Photinia is very easy to spot this time of year. Nearly all native species have already dropped their leaves, making the woods a color coded picture of various invasive species. Honeysuckle shrub leaves are still bright green, Photinia's are golden yellow.

Here's what the woods looks like after a very dense patch of Photinia has been cut and stacked. Not as pretty, to be sure, but it's the first step in restoring a more edible native landscape for wildlife that will also be pleasing to the eye.

Homeowners are encouraged to identify and remove Photinia. Though it may be appealing from the standpoint of its deer resistance, the spread of the berries threatens the ecological balance far beyond the boundaries of one's backyard.

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