Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wanted: Wisteria

A break from PCT planning for an important pubic service announcement….

Dear Readers in GA, NC, and SC,

Are you going to be visiting any of these places on this map (shown below) over the next few weeks this spring?  Can you take a few moments away from your hiking to help out a graduate student studying invasive plants?
Are you planning on going to any of these points on this map?
My friend Sandra Hoffberg is looking for volunteers to hunt for wisteria, a vine with showy purple flowers, at specific sites.  You can help her with this critical part of her dissertation research by checking out her website and contacting her.  She can’t offer payment in return, but you will get the satisfaction of being part of a very cool research project, and knowing that you got to help ‘DO SCIENCE.’  It'll be like going on a treasure hunt!
Wisteria is highly invasive vine in the southeast.
All you have to do is let her know if you find wisteria at one of these sites on her map and take a photo.  Be sure to click on the points (on her website) for the written description of the location.  Then have her enter the data on her website.  For all you wildflower enthusiasts, weekend hikers, and springtime travelers who are out enjoying the gorgeous southeastern spring, that should be easy.
Me, another grad student, and Sandra holding wisteria leaves.
All those dots on her maps are places where wisteria has been documented before in herbarium records.  But no one knows how long an invasive species can remain in the same place or at what rate invasive vines go extinct.  Everyone assumes that once an invasive plant establishes, that it’s there forever.  But Sandra’s research investigates this assumption.  Landscape changes might cause some populations to go locally extinct— she has already done preliminary surveys to show this occurs in some places.  Understanding how invasive plants get established and what happens to them over time may help (eventually) to slow their spread and offer solutions for control.
A long-forgotten cemetery teeming with wisteria.
I helped Sandra with her field work for the past few years.  Exploring the backroads (and back alleys) of Georgia hunting for wisteria and kudzu was one of the most fun parts of my job.  Since I’m heading out to go hike the PCT in less than two weeks, I’m going to miss this field season, but I can’t wait to hear about the findings! 
That’s me two years ago recording wisteria sites in Athens, GA.
Once again, please check out her website and contact her if you can help, or forward this message on to anyone you know who in the southeast.

Thank you,

Joan (Hemlock)


  1. Well, if she wanted info in Texas I could certainly help her out! I hope she's able to find some new recruits!

  2. Thanks, Misti! I'll ask her if Texas sites might help.

  3. there are plenty on the gulfcoast..I am Mobile, AL/what is it she needs?

    1. Thanks for replying, Laura, but Sandra's research project is only looking at the wisteria in GA, NC, and SC for now. But good to know there is a lot down there. I didn't know that.