Why Native Plants Are Best

This article was written to celebrate Native Plant Month in Arkansas. It was originally published in Our Ozarks. In 1733, Peter Collinson, a botanist and cloth merchant, walked with great excitement to the ship docks in London. He picked up two boxes of seeds from an American farmer named John Bartram. With these exotic seeds,…  More 

Closer to Understanding Enigmatic Mussel Declines

Just by existing and eating, mussels improve water quality. They are filter feeders, which means they eat small pieces of organic matter that float past them. But mussels are dying, often in streams that otherwise seem healthy. Many streams that formerly supported diverse mussel communities now are essentially defaunated. These events are enigmatic because other…  More 

Laurel Wilt Disease and the Endangered Pondberry Shrub

Pondberry (Lindera melissifolia) is a rare, federally endangered shrub that’s found scattered around bottomland forests of the southeastern U.S. In late summer, the shrub produces spicy, crimson-colored fruits. Like other native Lauraceae species, its leaves give off a sweet, citrusy scent when crushed. And, like its Lauraceous brethren redbay and sassafras, pondberry is susceptible to…  More 

Uncovering Urban Forests

The scope of forest-pest risk analysis research is often limited to natural forests. Neglected are those tree communities called urban forests: trees within the boundaries of a city or populated area. Urban trees see a significant proportion of the impacts from invasive pests. Their unnatural distribution and close proximity to transported goods and other means…  More 

Effects of Forest Fragmentation and Restoration on Invasive Species

Managing invasive species is one of the largest challenges that land managers face. They threaten the health of natural ecosystems, prevent the growth of native species, and leave landowners with significant amounts of damage. “More than 4,300 exotic plant species and 66 foreign pest species that can cause negative effects on forest ecosystems and economies…  More 

Research for Mississippi and Beyond

Water defines the Mississippi Delta, an alluvial plain in northwest Mississippi. The Delta is sandwiched between the Yazoo and Mississippi Rivers, and a network of levees and pumps aim to keep the land dry enough for habitation and agriculture. In 2019, however, historic flooding left fields inundated for months. USDA Forest Service scientists have served…  More 

How Tree Diversity Affects Invasive Forest Pests

“Invasive insects and diseases pose both ecological and economic threats to our forest ecosystems,” says Qinfeng Guo, USDA Forest Service research ecologist. Guo is the lead author of a broad-scale study of U.S. forest data that examines the relationship between the number of native tree species and the number of nonnative forest pests. Across their…  More 

Study Supports Single Introduction of Laurel Wilt Pathogen in the U.S.

Laurel wilt has devastated plants in the Lauraceae family – redbay, sassafras, pondberry, avocado, and others – since it was first detected in the southeastern U.S. around 2002. The disease is caused by the pathogen Raffaelea lauricola and carried by the redbay ambrosia beetle – and by humans moving infested wood. There is no widespread,…  More 

Hemlock Seedlings Released from Shade

Eastern hemlock typically grows in shady environments, but its world is now infested by hemlock woolly adelgids (HWA). The miniscule sap-sucking insects can kill mature trees in less than five years. “Eastern hemlock is a shade-tolerant species,” says USDA Forest Service research entomologist Bud Mayfield. “But extra sunlight may help it survive HWA infestation.” Extra…  More 

A Hemlock in the Town Square

This summer, I joined USDA Forest Service scientist Andy Whittier for a day of field work as a part of my internship with SRS Public Affairs and Science Communications. We traveled to Green Mountain, NC to check up on an experiment led by research entomologist Bud Mayfield on hemlock trees. Throughout the eastern U.S., the invasive…  More