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9/29/17- Chinese Parasoltree

By Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist

As I wondered what to write about this week, a very odd shaped leaf came to my mind. It is very common in the south, yet it goes unnoticed or identified incorrectly. That leaf belongs to the Chinese Parasoltree. While the name seems funny, once you see the leaf you will understand!

Firmiana simplex, otherwise known as Chinese Parasoltree, phoenix tree, or varnish-tree arrived in the United States around the mid-1700s and has caused havoc ever since. The tree was originally planted as an ornamental and probably for reasons that are defined by its name- to provide shade like an umbrella. Unfortunately, its cons outweigh its pros and it is a definite threat to native vegetation here in the South. The tree itself can reach heights up to 50 feet, while the DBH usually only runs about 2 feet. The parasol shaped leaves are dark green with very deep lobes. The leaf itself can be 8-12 inches long but its width can be double the length! It is a very showy tree in the fall because the broad leaves turn a golden yellow color. The trunk of the tree is a grayish-tan color and contains stripes that appear orange. In the summer months, the tree begins to put on yellowish-tan flowers that appear all over the tree. There are separate male and female flowers that are distinguished by color. The male flowers turn pink before they fall to the ground. The flowers can be mildly fragrant and they open at different times. Soon after the tree begins to flower, it produces pea sized fruits that, like the rest of the tree, are a yellowish-tan color. These pea sized fruits contribute to the numerous colonies of Chinese Parasoltrees that span across the south. The tree self-pollinates and self-seeds which means it can pretty much grow and reproduce wherever and whenever. The seeds are wind and water dispersed. Why don’t birds and other wildlife contribute to dispersal? Well, it seems that the seeds are high fat and undesirable to wildlife species here in the South.

The Chinese Parasoltree is no exception the invasive species definition; it thrives along roadsides and right-of-ways and it quickly outcompetes native vegetation. At first sight, this species is aesthetically pleasing (especially in the fall) and you may enjoy the shade it provides, however it needs to be eradicated from your property before a Parasoltree colony is born!

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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