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12/30/17- Winter Creeper

By Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist

What better way to start off the New Year than with another invasive species! Although time keeps rolling on, these invasive species keep persevering and making a huge impact on our environment. Today, I stumbled upon one that is very common, but also commonly mistaken for another, non-invasive species. Winter creeper, also known as climbing euonymus or gaiety, is all around us in the woods and possibly even in neighbor’s flower beds.

This invasive species was introduced from Asia in the early 1900s and is commonly found in this region as ornamental ground cover. Unfortunately, it has left its ornamental roots behind and can now be found as an evergreen vine that can reach heights of 70 feet! The leaves of Winter Creeper are very thick and dark green, but variegated (green and white combined) combinations can also be spotted. While the vine is young, it climbs into the tops of trees and goes through a flowering phase which burst open in the fall. Once mature, the vine remains evergreen and thrives in the crowns of trees. The stem of the vine is lime green and hairless, but the color begins to fade as the vine matures. The leaves themselves are perfectly opposite (opposite the stem from each other) and can be glossy. The flowers that burst open from May to July are small, yellowish flowers and have about five petals. Elongated fruit soon follows the flowering phase. In the fall, reddish pods split open, revealing many seeds. Unfortunately, Winter Creeper is cold AND shade tolerant making it very hardy. It forms dense thickets that climb trees and/or form their own shrubs that can grow up to 3 feet tall. The seeds that are inside the pods give birth to many more colonies of Winter Creeper because those seeds are dispersed by birds, mammals, and water. This invasive species will not survive in wet areas (this is probably why this species is not found in LA). The rest of the states in this region experience high infestations of Winter Creeper.

Unlike Kudzu, this invasive species only gets stronger in cold weather, but don’t let that dishearten you. Let 2018 be the year you start maintaining your land and exterminating any and all invasive species! It’s not too late to put a habitat management plan together and get your land back to its native vegetation. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

By: Meaghan English

My name is Meaghan English, a wildlife specialist with TrueSouth. I graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Ecology and Management and I have grown up with a passion for hunting. I knew from an early age that I was not only interested in the harvesting of wildlife, but I was also very interested in their biology and management. I decided that I not only wanted to be a wildlife enthusiast, I want to be an educated wildlife specialist. I will be using that grand education as a member of the TrueSouth team contributing wildlife blog articles!

My first hunting memory flashes back to when I was six or seven years old. Like any other Saturday during deer season, my dad had told my mom to get me ready because we were going hunting. Of course I was ecstatic! I was not ecstatic about the hair bow my mom made me wear with my camouflage (she wanted everyone to know I was in fact a fashionable girl). The entire way to Perdue Hill, Alabama, my dad told me that today would be the first day I would actually shoot my first deer and I knew I was ready. We pulled up to the camp, unloaded, and fed all the “camp cats”. Before we headed to our stand, I had spotted three kittens that I simply could not leave behind so I stuffed them in my jacket. After walking what seemed like five miles, we finally made it to the “Pressbox stand” (with my smuggled kittens) and sat down. Dad continuously pestered me to be quiet, but I wasn’t that worried about shooting a deer, I had kittens! Eventually, the sun began to sink behind the trees and a spike (without olfactory senses) entered the field. When it was safe to quietly move, dad handed me the gun and I handed him my three kittens. I slowly pulled the gun up and placed my cheek against the stock. Dad told me to breathe slowly and pull the trigger when I was ready. Sure enough, I pulled the trigger and the spike hit the ground. We high-fived, exchanged kittens again, and climbed down to see the kill. It certainly was not a wall hanger, but a huge chapter in my life was started that night. My dad and I still hunt together to this day and we practice quality deer management at all times.

My ultimate goal is to provide clients with a survey of flora and fauna that currently inhabit a specific tract of land and, if desired, how to properly manage that land for the species that are found there. All feedback is greatly appreciated and I look forward to working with you!

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