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Hurricane weeds: How Michael changed the landscape of Bay County

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Despite all of the destruction left behind by Hurricane Michael, many panhandle locals believe it may have also stemmed new growth.

Bay County residents are discovering new plants, new trees and a lot more weeds in their yards they say were not here before the storm.

Bayou George resident Chris Roman said her yard used to be an open field full of sand.

“Since the hurricane, for one thing, I’ve had no vegetation here at all, never able to grow anything. And now, I probably have fifty of these Elderberry bushes. The grass, I have never had a blade of grass for twenty years that I’ve been here,” Roman said. “You can see now, I have no grass issues.”

News13’s Amber Spradley took this to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) to learn more. According to Julie McConnell, the Chinese Tallow tree – or Popcorn Tree – Air Potato Vein, Torpedo Grass and Chamberbitter are a few invasive plants in the area.

“We do have a lot of invasive species,” McConnell said. “I think that got spread a lot during the storm because at that time of year, they had seeds set. And then also, just pieces of plants will grow when they get relocated.”

Roman was forced to get rid of her horses due to her yard’s uncontrollable growth of poisonous Elderberry bushes. She is still working to identify many more her new plants, which McConnell says is critical. And UF/IFAS can help.

“The most important thing is to identify what you have, and you can contact our office for that,” McConnell said. “I mean, the simple thing with plants is usually you can if you see them young, pull them. Hopefully before they flower and set seed because if that’s how they reproduce, then you’re gonna have more the following season once they set seed. There are a lot of plants, though, that will reproduce by just tiny little fragments, so pulling those.. if you don’t get every single bit of the plant out, it can still sprout back from maybe just a little bit of a root or a little bit of a runner.”

She also advices to pay close attention to where your plants come from before you buy them, and only purchase from reputable nurseries.

If you need help identifying new growth in your yard or tips on how to remove it, UF/IFAS in Bay County is ready to assist.

UF/IFAS Extension Bay County
2728 E 14 St., Panama City, FL 32401-5022
Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
(850) 784-6105

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