Local News

Volunteers urgently sought for exotic weed removal

— Highlands Hammock State Park is sending out an urgent call for more volunteers to join Florida state park staff for a second exotic removal workday Aug. 21 at Lake June-In-Winter Scrub State Park.

A group of 17 joined forces Aug. 14 in an initial effort to remove patches of the exotic invasive species commonly referred to as balsam pear or balsam apple. Park staff from Highlands Hammock, Kissimmee Prairie Preserve, Hillsborough River, Oscar Scherer and District IV biologists were on site working with volunteers from these parks and other organizations including the Ridge Rangers and AmeriCorps. Explosive growth of this plant followed prescribed burns that were conducted this past winter and spring.

Balsam pear, which is native to Africa and Southeast Asia, is recognized by deeply lobed leaves, a yellow- orange fruit and pulpy red seeds.

Plants which are flowering now will be fruiting within the next two weeks, hence the urgency to get them removed. The plant is small and pulls up easily. Lake June is located at the end of Daffodil Road in Lake Placid. Volunteers should meet in the picnic area at 8:30 a.m. Long pants, hiking shoes, work gloves, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, cold drinks and water are recommended. An hour or two of volunteers’ time is appreciated, park officials say.

For more information, call 471- 5324.