Cherokee rose, the state flower of Georgia, can’t call Georgia its native home.

Volunteers learned this fun fact Thursday at the first official Weed Wrangle held locally at Altama Plantation Wildlife Management Area.

“It’s not from here. It’s from Asia,” said Eamonn Leonard, a wildlife biologist for the Department of Natural Resources.

Leonard, who helped lead the Weed Wrangle, ran through the list of invasive species that can found at Altama Plantation with a group of nearly 20 volunteers who took part in the event.

The volunteers spent most of the morning hand pulling big-leaf periwinkle, or “Vinca major,” which covered portions of the state-owned property.

The Weed Wrangle, hosted in Brunswick by the Coastal Georgia Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area, is a national initiative led by the Garden Club of America. Coastal Georgia CISMA hosted the event in conjunction with National Invasive Species Awareness Week.

Periwinkle is a common landscaping cover, Leonard said, but the plant does not provide any benefit to the natural environment in Georgia.

“Not many people know that it’s kind of invasive,” he said. “There are worse things out there, but it is one of the plants that we can probably pull very easily with a large crowd of volunteers.”

Removing the invasive species on the property ultimately benefits the native plants. Native plants promote healthier ecosystems and wildlife habitats.

“Do y’all know what an invasive species is?” Leonard asked the volunteers. “OK, so basically it’s a species that’s not from here. … It has negative impacts on natural environments, native plants, nutrient cycling and sometimes it can have an issue with human health.”

He later demonstrated how best to identify and hand pull the periwinkle, before sending other volunteers to map out additional invasive species on the property.

“Nothing’s eating it, which is the problem with non-natives,” Leonard explained. “… They don’t add any sort of functions to the environment.”

The volunteer event aimed to bring attention to the importance of removing these invasive species from native environments, Leonard said, which is work anyone in the community can do to improve local natural areas.

More information about invasive species can be found at coastalgeorgiacisma.org.

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