Latta Park Invasion
Dilworth, as a community, offers its residents an infinite list of quality assets making it an ideal neighborhood to call it home. One of these assets is Latta Park…a centrally-located space used for working out, family time, dog walks, birthday parties and much more. However, the park has seen a decline in maintenance causing several invasive plants to take over and choke out the native plants and trees of the park’s natural area. As a small business owner, I understand the ebbs and flows of budgetary needs and know the county cannot handle all necessary items. As a community though, we can do our part for our home. I and my business, Myron Greer Garden Design, are partnering with Nancy Nicholson and Ruth Ann Grissom on this effort and I am providing a design of native and non-invasive plants for the park. Additionally, I hope to have Dilworth United Methodist Church’s outreach program join our endeavor on this project as they are active in many areas in our community.
The first priority is to identify and remove the current invasive plants in the park. These countless plant species have the potential to cause significant damage to habitats, ecosystems and native species. Economic costs are also associated with the attempt to control these plants (some estimate millions are spent annually across the country). After these plants have established themselves, they can continue to decrease native plant diversity and the actual value of our natural spaces. Removing these plants from Latta Park is crucial to regain this park in its entirety. A few of these invasive plants are explained in greater detail below.
Honeysuckle, a plant that is an evergreen climbing vine or extensive ground cover, is the first of these invasive plants overtaking Latta Park (In addition, Honeysuckle is a native plant as well but left unattended can become harmful to its environment). Unfortunately, we do not always understand the “power” of Honeysuckle as it is a deceiving plant. Honeysuckle provides a beautiful bloom and fragrance that most are familiar with from their childhood. However, it produces unhealthy berries for wildlife and due to the fact that the leaves remain much longer than most, it creates a shelter of shade which can cause native wildflowers to not thrive. Several species of Honeysuckle were not invasive until they were introduced outside their native range, particularly in the U.S.
Privet is another invasive plant in the U.S. and of course, in Latta Park. Originally from Asia, Privet is an evergreen to semi-evergreen shrub that can grow to thirty (30) feet in height. Privet is considered a seriously invasive plant because there are very few native competitors and it is therefore, making the most of an open “niche” in the Southern U.S. Prior to the Privet overtaking much of the land in the South, these lands were clear and open. Now the Privet forms thickets which work to choke out native plant life.
Third on our list of Latta Park invaders (and also a native plant) is Wisteria, a woody vine with purple flowers and a sweet scent. Wisteria’s incredible ability to grow in wet or dry sites makes it a highly invasive as it has really no barriers. Wisteria forms dense thickets on the ground and can easily cover trees. This plant produces a seed pod that when it bursts, will throw seeds onto the ground as well as be carried away by the wind. Once one of those seeds established itself and is left unattended it can produce vines that spread out hundreds of feet on the ground and climb mature trees which can girdle and choke the tree causing it to die.
Each of these and so many other invasive plants must be controlled and removed to preserve our local greenspaces and native plantings. As a part of the Latta Park rejuvenation, I will be proposing they install several native plants, such as Clethra, Anise, Fothergilla and Itea. These noninvasive natives will thrive in our clay soils and transition well into the park’s new garden spaces. As a community, we must work together to ensure the longevity of spaces which we use and share on a daily basis…Latta Park should be no exception.