Beach commission talks solutions, hears from experts on invasive vine along Bogue Banks dunes

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Dale Suiter gives an virtual presentation Monday on beach vitex during the Carteret County Beach Commission meeting. (Mike Shutak photo)

EMERALD ISLE — An invasive species of dune vine, beach vitex, may grow back along the Carteret County coast if not kept in check.

During Monday’s Carteret County Beach Commission meeting, held in the Emerald Isle boardroom and online via Zoom, the board held an informational forum with guest speakers U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Dale Suiter and N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regulatory weed specialist Jarred Driscoll to discuss the invasive species.

County Shore Protection Office manager Greg Rudolph said the commission touched on beach vitex at its Aug. 23 meeting, including discussing how to get rid of it.

“We thought it would be a good idea, before we go to those next (management) steps, to get some expert help,” Mr. Rudolph said.

Beach vitex isn’t a new development along the North Carolina coast. Mr. Suiter said the USFWS Raleigh office staff has spent a lot of time working on the issue.

According to both guest speakers, beach vitex is an invasive vine that grows along dunes. The vine, identified by round or oval-shaped, leathery leaves, can crowd out native species, like sea oats.

Mr. Suiter said this is a problem for coastal resilience because sea oats have better root systems for securing dune sand from wind and wave action.

“Vitex root systems don’t secure dune sands like sea oats do,” he said, also noting the vine can threaten protected species, like crystal skippers, a butterfly native only to Bogue Banks, and seabeach amaranth, a threatened plant species known to grow on Bogue Banks, especially in Emerald Isle.

“It (vitex) can grow quickly in ideal conditions,” Mr. Suiter said. “It’s a prolific seed producer.”

Beach vitex is enough of a threat to beach resilience and protected species to warrant government action. In 2004, a North Carolina vitex task force formed, consisting of more than 50 partners, including local governments, state and federal agencies and universities.

“I’d like to say we accomplished a lot,” Mr. Suiter said, “but there’s so much more to do.”

According to Mr. Suiter, the task force got state officials to classify vitex as a noxious weed in 2009, allowing them to treat up about 800 known sites where it was growing. However, he said some of these sites are growing back and more are being discovered.

“These sites require multiple treatments,” he said.

Due to the time-consuming nature of treating vitex, among other factors, funding for the task force ran out.

Mr. Suiter advised the commission update local surveys to identify existing locations where beach vitex has spread.

Mr. Driscoll, meanwhile, said he thinks it’s important to advocate for local task groups to tackle sites. He also advised not to use spray herbicides, instead using scrape-and-apply methods to avoid wind spreading weed killer where it’s not wanted.

“It’s a really bad plant that needs some sort of control,” Mr. Driscoll said. “It’s woody and low to the ground, it’s not sensitive to many chemicals.”

Commission member Larry Corsello asked if there should be anything planted to replace removed vitex, and Mr. Suiter indicated planting native species in the place of vitex is advisable.

The following also occurred at the Monday commission meeting:

  • Moffatt & Nichol representative Nicole VanderBeke gave the commission a report on the Bogue Banks Beach & Nearshore Mapping Program. Ms. VanderBeke said according to the 2020-21 surveys, there was little erosion to the shorelines of the island, with most accretion due to beach nourishment projects.
  • The commission unanimously went into closed session to discuss personnel matters.
  • The commission unanimously approved minutes from the Aug. 23 commission meeting.

 

Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email mike@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.

(6) comments

David Collins

So , we introduced Beach Vitex , sort of like Kudzu for the sand dunes . Attaboy , way to go scientists . Now that you created this monster , you want to spend more treasure to “eliminate “ it , just like you have eliminated Kudzu .

Sounding like the only way to do this is to use chemicals . Yes those awful chemicals . The power companies use something to clear the right of ways and by golly it works . Even kills trees . Would love a tank of that stuff but I digress . Gotta do what you gotta do or do nothing . Time is wasting and talk is cheap .

noitall

Appears that the Beach Commission BC has enough manpower o go pull the stuff up by hand. Would be good experience for these neversweats.

the secret life of man

Put oleanders on this list,non native to North america,America, will damage water pipes extremely toxic

the secret life of man

Vitex was a bad choice.This county needs a qualified botanist that can't be swayed by money or politics.

noitall

Those that caused this mess should fix it with their own sweat. Money and funds not needed - expert botanist is not needed, If you see one - destroy it with your bare hands. 100% effective.

David Collins

A good hose down with herbicide followed by a thorough hot burn for the seeds would be the best bet . Any new shoots that pop up should get a double dose . Good job for the turtle people to help with .

Welcome to the discussion.

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