River cane eradication digs into third year

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The joint project to eradicate Arundo donax, also called river cane or giant cane, is going into its third year along Barons Creek and Town Creek in and around Fredericksburg.

The project combines Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Department of Transportation, City of Fredericksburg and the Hill Country Alliance in an effort to rid the area of the invasive and fast-growing plant in river basins.

The program aims to improve the health of the local creeks. Daniel Oppenheimer, Hill Country Alliance land program manager, and Monica McGarrity, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department aquatic invasive species biologist, presented the program to landowners in Fredericksburg on Saturday.

“When these riparian zones are healthy, a diverse plant community made up of different species and sizes of native plants is allowed to grow along the creek,” Oppenheimer said. “This buffer zone provides tremendous benefits for people, wildlife and livestock in the Hill Country. The wider the riparian zone, the greater the benefits.”

Degradation of riparian zones from the river cane can lead to erosion from flood waters, poor water quality and the loss of the ability to retain flood waters for recharge, Oppenheimer said.

McGarrity said the method they are using to control the river cane, involves applying a mix of herbicides by a licensed and trained applicator. The process was developed with years of experience in eliminating the weed in the Nueces River. Cutting, burning or digging up the plant is not effective, she said.

McGarrity warned that burning the plant could be dangerous. The waxy plant burns much bigger than reasonably expected and the plant will grow back the following year from the surviving root.

Attempts to manage the cane by landowners are seldom successful and are more likely to result in further spreading the plant, she added. Landowners who believe they have river cane on their property are urged to contact the TPWD team by email at healthycreeks@tpwd.texas.gov for further discussion about eradication. The program is provided at no cost the landowner.

For more information, Oppenheimer can be reached at 210-287-0478 or at daniel@hillcountryalliance.org.