Brazilian Pepper Tree Removal at Paradise Pond

Scott and Joan Holt provided the following information regarding the Brazilian Pepper Tree removal process at Paradise Pond, Port Aransas, Texas.

Paradise Pond was dedicated in 2002 as a community effort supported by private donations of land, foundation funds and teamwork.  What is now known as Paradise Pond has long been an important resting and feeding site for migratory birds because it is a rare freshwater wetland, surrounded by large Black Willow trees and a diversity of understory plants in an area otherwise largely lacking in woodlands.  The trees that were recently removed on the west side of Paradise Pond, first by AEP (under their power line right of way immediately adjacent to the water and beyond that by the developer of the housing project, were invasive Brazilian Pepper trees that have taken over and killed the native Black Willow trees that once surrounded that side of the pond. Both entities agreed not to cut down any willows during the process but only 2 were found there and both were saved. While we would not have promoted this drastic action to control Pepper trees, we are trying to turn it into an opportunity to bring back the Paradise Pond that once was.  We are working on a plan with the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, the developer and the city to plant willows and other native vegetation to recover the back side of Paradise Pond.  It will be a long and expensive process to regrow the native vegetation and keep the Pepper trees at bay, and will require substantial community support and involvement.  We will keep you updated on our progress.                                                                                                        Additional information:  Brazilian Pepper Trees are native to South America and were introduced as a landscape ornamental plant.  They become invasive in subtropical areas in Texas, Florida, and coastal California. They do not tolerate freezing weather; freezes regularly occurred in our area in the past, but changing climate has led to much warmer winters over the last 30 years, thus the Pepper trees have persisted and taken over more and more habitat. The red pepper fruits are eaten by birds, mammals, and ants, who are primarily responsible for their dispersal and spread. Once established, Brazilian Pepper trees  quickly displace the native vegetation, often forming dense monocultures that reduce the biological diversity of plants and animals in the invaded area. Most of the Texas coast, from Galveston to Brownsville, the California coast and southern Florida are fighting these invasive trees that have taken over the native vegetation.  Native vegetation is most valuable because it is highly diverse and supports large numbers of animals and plants.