In early 2007, the Tallow Tree Removal Project began, spearheaded by resident volunteer, Ann Fenstermacher, with the goal of controlling this Priority One Invasive non-native species which threatened the diversity of Skidaway Island’s maritime forest. The project has grown from a handful of committed people to an estimated 1600 involved residents.
What started with the help of two boy scouts, and an education blitz about the issue, became and continues to be a multi-pronged community-wide effort. Ann Fenstermacher led spring and fall work parties of “hack and squirters” who penetrated the woods, killing trees to die in place using hatchets (hack) and herbicide applicators (squirt). Several times Student Conservation interns joined this effort. The Tallow Terrors, under the leadership of Don McCulloch formed in 2009. Now Ed Conant leads these 6-20 volunteers wielding chainsaws and herbicide on Monday mornings, resting only for bird nesting season and extreme summer heat. Over 47,000 trees have been cut down to date by the Tallow Terrors.
In combination these efforts have rid the island of more than 75,000 tallowtrees, with untold more trees removed by Club and Association maintenance staff and private residents, now alert and vigilant to the presence of this invasive.
“The easiest time to remove a tallow is before it gets established,” as Ann often states, “and seedlings are easy to pull up.” Each seed-producing tree killed prevents a potential 100,000 seeds from sprouting which, each in turn produce more seeds in only three years. ”This is a fight to preserve the diverse beauty of this island,” she continued, “and clearly, the community thinks it’s worth the fight…. one tree at a time”.
The Georgia Urban Forest Council selected Skidaway Audubon to receive the 2012 Outstanding Civic Organization Grand Award for the Chinese Tallowtree Removal Project.
Skidaway Audubon provided financial support and a framework for community collaboration. That collaboration continues with the Landings Association, the Landings Club and Utilities Inc of Georgia, our water provider, as well as resident volunteers. The Tallow Terrors are still at it and will remove tallowtrees from private property when possible.
Chinese Tallowtrees are now prohibited at The Landings. The newly revised Landings Association Architectural Design and Development Guidelines 2016 lists the Tallowtree, commonly known as Popcorntree (Triadica sebifera), as one of six invasive trees. These are prohibited and must be removed immediately upon discovery in order to preserve our maritime ecosystem and help sustain the landscaping value of our homes and community.
If possible pull up any small seedlings, but if the tree can not be pulled up do not cut it because it will grow back. Instead contact Ed Conant at email@example.com, leader of the Tallow Terrors, for help in cutting it down and applying herbicide (Clearcast) which will kill the tree.
Vigilance and action are constantly needed to control the spread of tallowtrees
The two spray fields have many Tallows, and that is where the Tallow Terrors are doing most of the Tallow removal. On the other hand, Tallow trees on private property within The Landings community have become difficult to find. That is good news and a measure of our success over the years eradicating Tallows. We are soliciting everyone's help in identifying Tallows in the community and request that you notify us or Public Works so we can remove them. The attached photo shows a Tallow leaf on the right, and an Eastern Redbud leaf on the left. They are similar in shape, but the redbud tree is much larger as you can see. Let us know if you see Tallow leaves on a tree.
This picture is one of our Tallow Terrors John Taylor holding up a recently cut Tallow stump. You will see a medium sized stump with ten or more much smaller trees growing out of the stump. We call this a hydra, and it is the result of a Tallow that was cut and not treated with the proper herbicide. It is part of the insidious nature of Tallows that they can re grow after being cut down. The message here is property owners should not cut down a Tallow they find, but notify Public Works or the Tallow Terrors so we can take it down and spray the stump with herbicide...that will kill them. If a seedling is small enough to pull up easily, property owners can do that themselves.