Norman Wilder Forest Project


Since February 7th, 2011, the PAC “Kudzu Warriors” have been meeting every Monday for a two hour eradication effort of the non-native and invasive Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) taking over the native flora of the PAC protected Norman Wilder Forest.  There has been a huge improvement in the area where Kudzu and thick, massive mats of Kudzu vines have been removed.  In fact, after removing the mat of Kudzu in one area, this spring we were greeted by Sweet Betsy Trillium, Solomon’s Seal, and Jack-in-the-pulpit (to name a few) that had been waiting in the soil for the opportunity to emerge from the ground!

Initially, the vines were loaded into a trailer and hauled to the dump. However, because of the enormous amount of old Kudzu vines at the site, we have decided to pile up the vines and leave much of it to decompose naturally, providing nitrogen to the soil and perhaps providing shelter for animals in the meantime.

There have also been efforts to eradicate Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense), Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), and Princess Tree (Paulownia tomentosa) from the site, as well as some of the Poison Ivy from along the trail edge.  Several trailers full of Tree-of-Heaven have also been hauled away, but many of the trees are going to be left in piles to decompose on site.


Below is a photo history of the eradication efforts starting in January 2011:


The location where eradication efforts will begin (north of the parking lot off of HWY 176).


The site after eradication efforts began; approximately one month in.


The site two months in! Note all of the new growth–Sweet Betsy Trillium, Solomon’s Seal, and Jack-in-the-Pulpit!


Some of the “Kudzu Warriors”…still smiling after three months of work! (Must be smiling because of the great progress and native growth coming up in the area without Kudzu!!!) Way to go TEAM! (Left to right: Greg Miner, Bill Jackson, Alex Salley, and Pam Torlina. Not pictured: Barbara Hall and Mary Savard.)


Note all of the new, native growth!


PAC Kudzu Warriors uncovered an old rock wall along the trail that was buried beneath the Kudzu! We can’t wait to see what else we find!

Pictured from left to right: Mary Savard, Moreen Morello, Barbara Hall, and Greg Miner (not pictured: Pam Torlina)


You may notice that the Kudzu Warriors have gotten pretty far up the hill on the right.

The Warriors have been battling other non-native and invasive species on the site too, like Chinese Privet, Tree-of-Heaven, Mahonia, Nandina, English Ivy, Bittersweet, and Japanese Honeysuckle!

The scene is definitely different! We are looking forward to seeing what comes up this spring!!

This Sweet Betsy Trillium is an early bird and an indicator of what’s been hiding below the Kudzu!!!


Bill Jackson and Alex Salley are hard at work, removing old Kudzu vines. Note the pile of Tree-of-Heaven logs!

Greg Miner gets into his work…and keeps smiling!

Bill Jackson points out the sentiment of the Kudzu Warriors, “Think Good Thoughts”.

Sweet Betsy Trillium is emerging where Kudzu used to dominate…”Think Good Thoughts,” need we say more?


Hard work does have its rewards!

See the difference a year makes:

1/28/11 2/20/12

1/28/11 2/6/12

Or, the difference a week (day) makes!


2/6/12 2/20/12

Here’s what the above three locations looked like on 7/16/12:

The site, formerly matted with Kudzu vines, is lush with native vegetation!



The trail head, once covered with Kudzu and lined with Tree of Heaven (both non-native and invasive species from Asia), is now lush with native vegetation and wildlife!


This area was once a thick mat of Kudzu and is now lush with native vegetation and healthy trees.


By eradicating Kudzu, it has allowed the native vegetation to re-establish itself, increasing not only the diversity of plants, but also increasing the diversity of insects…birds…reptiles, and mammals! The pyramid of life – the ecosystem – is being restored!


What was once open and uninviting is now lush, shaded, and draws you in!


The area to the right of the trail has recently been cleared of Kudzu, saving the trees. In the next year, or so, the understory should fill in with native herbaceous plants.


This area was also cleared recently…look at all of those happy trees! Once the trees get bigger, the Kudzu won’t be able to climb them and they will provide enough shade that the Kudzu won’t be able to grow…we can hardly wait for that day to come!

IMG_2199 IMG_2155 IMG_2154 Mind you, the fight against Kudzu is not over, but it just goes to show that little by little, if we work at eradicating the non-native and invasive plants in our area, natives will come it and the ecosystem can be restored…but if we do nothing…the Kudzu (and other exotics) will most certainly win…and we will be left with a landscape that looks like this, with very little diversity:


Due to the hard work and dedication of just a couple of people, several areas that were once covered with and dominated by Kudzu are being used as native plant restoration sites!

First, on Saturday, February 7, 2015, The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) directed a memorial planting of four potentially blight-resistant American Chestnut trees at the PAC protected Norman Wilder Forest, in an area that had formerly been COVERED in Kudzu. This planting is a living memorial to Mara Smith, local photographer and writer, who died February 5, 2014.

by Patrick Kennedy_1Tom Saielli of the Southern Regional Science Coordinator for the American Chestnut Foundation “digging” a hole for and American Chestnut at Norman Wilder Forest.

This is a partnership between Ford Smith & family, The American Chestnut Foundation, Harmon Field/The Town of Tryon, and the Pacolet Area Conservancy.

Then, on May 6, 2015, (part of) the PAC Education Committee planted a Monarch Butterfly habitat at the PAC protected Norman Wilder Forest.  This certified Monarch Waystation and Garden and contains native plants that provide nectar to attract and fuel adult butterflies, including milkweeds that provide food for the Monarch caterpillars and shelter for adults during their annual migration.

P1110317Carole Bartol, Edith Castello, Liz Dicey, Nadine Naujoks, Marie King, and Judith Gosser planting the first of PAC’s Certified Monarch Gardens in Polk County.

This Monarch garden was made possible by a grant from Loti Woods.


The Kudzu Warriors continue to battle Kudzu every week, on Monday, from 9-11.  They are rewarded with every visit and these restoration projects make the work even more rewarding!

Thank you to the few and the proud Kudzu Warriors – Greg Miner and Ford Smith!

Join the PAC “Kudzu Warriors” to help eradicate Kudzu (and other non-native and invasive species) at the PAC protected Norman Wilder Forest located off of HWY 176! Contact PAC to see how you can help!