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The Search for Natural Enemies of the Tallow Tree

Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

In the Mississippi Valley the tallow tree is a serious invader. The USDA is searching for biological controls to slow the spread of this tree.

Although tallow trees threaten native plants in certain parts of our state, the problem is drastically more dangerous in the Mississippi Valley region. Ben Powell, our state pollinator expert, said that the US Department of Agriculture is doing research to find biological controls that might slow the spread of this serious invasive species. After extensive study, experts have found two insects from the native range of tallow trees that could help slow its spread. One is a Lepidoperan for whom tallow is the only larval food source and the other being a leaf beetle. Neither insect feeds on any other plant at all. Powell explained that if released, they will in no possible way eliminate tallow trees from the ecosystem, but by reducing the vigor of plants, hopefully slow down their growth and seed production, preserving space for native beneficial plants.

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Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.