SC Forest Resource Assessment and Strategy

Protecting South Carolina’s Forests from Harm

This section addresses issues such as wildfire risk, forest pathogens, invasive species, and forest pests that threaten the health of South Carolina’s forests.

Wildfire Risk

The South Carolina Forestry Commission is responsible for protecting 14,291,320 acres of forest land in South Carolina from wildfire. This total area protected is based on the 2006 Forest Inventory Analysis data with 10 percent added to cover adjacent non-forest land. This figure includes 101,320 acres of federal land protected under special contract, such as the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge and the Corps of Engineers land around Lake Thurmond, Lake Hartwell, and Lake Russell. Also included is forest land protected by Mutual Aid, which is approximately 824,801 acres of additional federal land, such as the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests, National Park lands, and lands owned by US Fish and Wildlife Service (SCFC 2008).

South Carolina has a large percentage of land that contains fuels2 that are highly flammable.  These fuels ignite easily and burn with high intensity when the relative humidity is low and winds are high.  These weather conditions occur many times during the year.

Wildfire Risk in South Carolina

The five-year fire occurrence average from 2004 through 2009 is 2,791 wildfires that burn 19,826.8 acres annually.  The average fire size is 7.6 acres.  This average fire size is higher than that of previous years due to an exceptionally large fire that occurred in April, 2009 (the Highway 31 Fire near Myrtle Beach).

In Fiscal Year 2008-2009 wildfires destroyed 100 homes and damaged 109 additional homes.   In addition, 45 other buildings were destroyed and 19 buildings were damaged.  Eighty-six (86) vehicles were damaged by fire. Below is a summary of wildfire damage during the past five years (see Table 2).

Table 2:  Property Damaged or Destroyed by Wildfire

Fiscal Year Homes Destroyed Buildings Destroyed Homes Damaged Buildings Damaged Vehicles Damaged
2005 19 45 30 37 113
2006 40 67 17 28 72
2007 31 13 62 27 57
2008 35 103 48 41 103
2009 100 45 109 19 86
5 Yr Avg 45 55 53 30 86


The number of homes and buildings damaged or destroyed by wildfire is increasing because of the rising number of wildland urban interface (WUI)1 areas.  The conversion of forest land to residential development has also increased wildfire risk in many areas of the state.

To combat this trend, the SC Forestry Commission actively promotes the FireWise Program ( throughout the state (SCFC 2010). This national initiative encourages homeowners and developers to make neighborhoods more resistant to wildfire through practices such as the use of less flammable landscaping, trimming lower limbs on yard trees, and removal of flammable material from roofs and under decks. Eight communities across the state have been recognized as FireWise Communities/USA

The Forestry Commission also develops Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) in partnership with local fire departments (see  Through this proactive approach, the agency works with homeowner associations, fire departments, and other organizations to write plans that, when implemented, will reduce the number of homes  damaged or lost to wildfire. Initially, SCFC field personnel developed CWPPs for communities in high risk areas, based on the history of wildfire occurrence and local knowledge of risk factors (bay fuels, complex WUI, lack of infrastructure). When it was developed, plans were initiated in communities with high or moderate risk, as identified by the Southern Wildfire Risk Assessment. 


FireWise Communities/USA and Communities at Risk from Wildfire


The two largest causes of wildfires in South Carolina are escaped debris burns (44 percent in 2009) and incendiary (23 percent in 2009). These causes are consistent over time as evidenced by the following data (see Table 3).

Table 3: Wildfires by Cause

Data Campfire Children Debris Equipment Incendiary Lightning Misc. Railroad Smoking Fiscal Year
Year Burning  Use Totals
2005 Fires 12 156 1,062 156 549 40 229 17 62 2,283
Acres 50.1 502.8 5,206.20 904.3 4,784.40 322.4 1,258.90 54.3 394.7 13,478.00
2006 Fires 16 185 1,400 227 685 67 292 29 116 3,017
Acres 25.7 391.5 7,616.60 664.2 5,098.30 876.1 1,019.60 83.8 549.9 16,325.70
2007 Fires 26 197 1,303 269 733 102 254 22 66 2,972
Acres 645.1 443.4 5,888.90 1,006.30 5,766.20 1,925.50 1,009.90 62.1 255.7 17,003.10
2008 Fires 34 186 1,557 373 800 253 355 38 82 3,678
Acres 83.1 443.7 8,600.80 2,152.80 5,320.70 2,515.80 2,231.00 239.4 334.2 21,921.50
2009 Fires 11 101 874 176 454 104 219 17 45 2,001
Acres 386.9 290.7 23,469.40 722.1 3,616.20 1,267.20 802.2 63.3 121.6 30,739.60
5 Year Fires 20 165 1,239 240 644 113 270 25 74 2,790
  Acres 238.2 414.4 10,156.40 1,089.90 4,917.20 1,381.40 1,264.30 100.6 331.2 19,893.60

As the data above shows, the vast majority of wildfires are human-caused.  Consequently, the SC Forestry Commission actively promotes fire prevention through its Think Before You Burn Campaign (see and by vigorous enforcement of state fire laws.  Wildfire prevention efforts have been implemented to help increase the public’s awareness about outdoor burning, especially in regards to escaped debris burns.  These prevention efforts highlight the proper way to conduct such burns in a safe manner.  The Think Before You Burn Campaign has resulted in a slight decrease in the percentage of debris burns over the last five years.  A significant element of the agency’s wildfire prevention program is the prosecution of burning law violators.  South Carolina Forestry Commission law enforcement officers investigate wildfires of suspicious origin and regularly make cases under the Notification and Precautions Law and other statutes.  The five-year average for the number of fire investigations conducted is 1,458.

The peak fire season in South Carolina is February through April, but wildfires occur in all months of the year (see Table 4).

Table 4:South Carolina Wildfires by Month 2005 -2009

  July August September October November December January February March April May June Total
2005 Fires 84 48 22 18 39 180 352 302 679 384 129 46 2,283
Acres 269.3 106.5 26.5 18.3 63.4 692.6 1,596.00 1,851.00 5,215.00 2,701.00 665 272.6 13,477.20
2006 Fires 40 30 204 130 256 127 231 241 781 642 201 137 3,020
Acres 234.6 61.2 655.6 228.6 673.6 361 784.1 1,138.90 5,575.20 4,836.30 974.8 770.3 16,294.20
2007 Fires 184 86 39 70 101 190 119 425 709 573 339 137 2,972
Acres 969.2 536.3 86.1 183.5 386.5 789.8 362.9 2,228.90 4,536.40 3,669.40 1,409.90 1,518.20 16,677.10
2008 Fires 169 349 246 192 312 368 180 449 536 188 191 498 3,678
Acres 764.5 1,970.70 1,062.30 534.6 1,156.30 2,217.90 622.3 4,193.30 4,000.90 921.7 976.6 3,500.50 21,921.60
2009 Fires 214 117 56 42 108 98 118 545 387 215 44 57 2,001
Acres 942.2 899.8 90.9 96.7 270 309.3 351.4 3,645.00 2,595.00 21,323.70 75.7 139.9 30,739.60
5-Year Fires 138 126 113 90 163 193 200 392 618 400 181 175 2,791
Average Acres 636 714.9 384.3 212.3 510 874.1 743.3 2,611.40 4,384.50 6,690.40 820.4 1,240.30 19,821.90


As shown by the map below, wildfires occur most often in the Coastal Plains and Sandhills portion of the state, but do occur in every county of the state.  Some areas historically have high fire occurrence because of a high concentration of flammable fuels.  In addition, long-time residents in the Coastal Plain of South Carolina have a tradition of using fire for land and wildlife management purposes.

Five-Year Wildfire Occurrence (FY 2005 – 2009)


Topography presents challenges for wildfire suppression in many parts of the state.  In the mountains and foothills, steep terrain makes access difficult and contributes to high rates of spread since fires generally move more quickly up slopes than on flat ground.  Much of the Piedmont of South Carolina is plagued with deep gullies which can be troublesome for foot travel as well as for equipment.  In addition, the soils below forested vegetation in low-lying areas in the Coastal Plain are often wet, causing firefighting equipment to get stuck; thereby, hindering suppression efforts.  The agency addresses these challenges by providing specialized training for firefighting personnel and maintaining equipment adapted to these areas.

To fight these wildfires, the SC Forestry Commission maintains approximately 160 tractor plow units and 24 trucks outfitted with water handling equipment.  From ten to fifteen years ago, over 200 units were deployed by the Commission and forest industry. The recommended replacement cycle for the tractor plow units is 15 years.  A backlog of units beyond the 15-year replacement cycle is building rapidly, such that 26 units are over 15 years old and nine units  are over 25 years old.  Eighty-six units (60 percent) will be over 15 years old by 2011.  Currently, there are no funds available to purchase replacement units.  Equipment replacement funding has been zero in the last five years and inadequate in the last ten years even though the complexity of wildfires has continued to increase as more rural areas are developed.  The SC Forestry Commission asks for state funds each year to replace the units.  The agency has sought additional sources of funds with no success to date.  As units age and become unreliable and unsafe, they will be removed from the fleet; thereby, reducing overall firefighting capacity even further.

1989 Suppression Unit Still in Use by the Agency

1997 Pickup with Pumper

Reduction in firefighting capacity has occurred as a result of budget reductions.  Currently, the Forestry Commission has 69 fewer units than it had in the early 1980’s.  In addition, the forest industry has divested itself of the majority of its landholdings.  In conjunction with these land sales, they eliminated 34 industry-owned tractor plow units and four air tankers which had formerly provided significant support for wildfire suppression.  Having fewer resources decreases the number of units available for immediate dispatch.  This reduced number of resources has the potential to increase response time and increase losses due to wildfire.  The growth of rural fire departments has helped with the initial attack on small fires and with protection of structures from wildfires, but they have limited staff and are not adequately trained or equipped for fighting wildland fires.

The consolidation of forest industry, coupled with transfer of forest industry land to Timber Investment Management Organizations (TIMOs), has also decreased the number of acres treated with prescribed fire.  These new owners have neither the personnel nor the technical expertise to continue the prescribed burning regime that the forest industry had established.  To help fill this void, these landowners now rely on the SC Forestry Commission’s prescribed burning services.  However, the agency has less equipment and personnel available to perform these services than in the past.

Priority areas for fire prevention, suppression, and FireWise education efforts are in the areas of highest fire occurrence, areas of large fires, areas with high fire occurrence, and communities at risk.  These areas are indicated in the Priority Area Maps in Appendix 2 (page 178).

Prescribed Fire

The use of prescribed fire in South Carolina has a long and valued tradition.  Prescribed fire is most often applied in pine or pine-hardwood types, which exists statewide.  Prescribed fire is a very cost effective, multi-beneficial tool.  One of the benefits of prescribed burns is reduced wildfire risk through the removal of flammable fuel buildup.  Wildfires that occur in areas that have been prescribed burned are less likely to cause damage than those that occur in unburned areas.  By controlling brushy hardwoods, prescribed burning also reduces competition for resources such as moisture and nutrients and provides more suitable growing conditions for certain desirable tree species.  Many types of wildlife benefit from prescribed burning.  These fires make travel easier by removing thick underbrush and encourage the growth of legumes and nutritious food plants.  Finally, prescribed burning helps forest managers maintain the open, park-like stands that many forest visitors find attractive.  One of the more noteworthy aspects of prescribed fire is that a single burn can provide several of these benefits (SCFC 2009).

In 2009, fire managers conducted 15,339 prescribed burns which treated a total of 543,950 acres (SCFC 2008).   As evidenced by the following data, this level of prescribed burning has been consistent over the past five years (see Table 5).

Table 5:Prescribed Burning by Year

Fiscal Data Total
2005 Number of Prescribed Burns 16,359
Acres Burned 531,306.70
2006 Number of Prescribed Burns 15,404
Acres Burned 513,986.50
2007 Number of Prescribed Burns 16,890
Acres Burned 538,736.90
2008 Number of Prescribed Burns 15,464
Acres Burned 518,640.10
2009 Number of Prescribed Burns 15,144
Acres Burned 533,525.00
5 Year Average Number of Notifications 15,852
5 Year Average Acres Burned 527,239.00

The SC Forestry Commission estimates that 950,000 acres should be burned each year in South Carolina to achieve landowner management goals (SCFC 2010). This estimate is based on carrying out prescribed burns on a 4-year rotation in pine and pine-hardwood stands that are old enough to be burned.  Accomplishing this objective will be challenging.  Obstacles include:

Threats to Forest Health


The health and productivity of South Carolina’s forests have historically been threatened by insects, diseases, and plants.  These threats can cause significant economic and ecological damage such as tree mortality, loss of tree growth, tree deformity or other reduction of quality, loss of native species, loss of species diversity, or a change in forest composition.  Often, native insects cause damage on a cyclical basis, and losses can increase through either improper forest management practices (such as planting of species off site) or lack of forest management.  Additionally, some pests react to weather events such as drought, lightning, ice storms, or hurricanes.  They also can spread following man-caused disturbances like prescribed fire or wildfire, poor forest management, soil compaction, and timber harvesting.  Non-native threats have the potential to cause much harm due to the trees’ lack of natural defense mechanisms.  In their native ranges, these threats have predators, parasites, pathogens, or plant defenses or adaptations which keep them in check.

The threats to the health of forests in South Carolina include native, non-native but naturalized, and non-native plants, diseases, and insects.  The threats that are looming are termed Early Detection Rapid Response (EDRR).  These threats are not yet present in South Carolina, but may exist in adjacent states or have the ability to spread or be moved long distances via anthropogenic movement.  Examples of potential vectors are firewood, infested plant material, and solid wood packing material.  These threats require detection or survey to determine their existence in South Carolina, and once discovered, will require a rapid response for eradication or containment.

Other categories of threats that exist in the state have been labeled Major Threats, Moderate Threats, or Low Threats.  The primary focus is on the threats that were determined to be EDRR or Major Threats.  Moderate and Low Threats are briefly mentioned, but these threats will likely cause little damage or cause damage only on a cyclical basis.  They also may be native, naturalized, geographically restricted, or so geographically widespread that control or containment is not feasible or warranted at this time.

The threats discussed in this assessment are not the only potential threats to forests in South Carolina.  Due to increased trade and shipment of goods from foreign countries, experts anticipate an increase in the number of threats to forests in the United States and in South Carolina.

The three most significant threats to South Carolina’s forests currently are southern pine beetle, Sirex woodwasp, and cogongrass.  They are important because of their potential economic, aesthetic, and ecological impact.  In particular, the effects of the southern pine beetle and the Sirex woodwasp effects are primarily economic; however, both can cause ecological damage as well as having negative aesthetic effects.  Cogongrass, an invasive species, is feared because of the potential for enormous consequences in all three categories.

Sirex Woodwasp (Sirex noctilio F.)
Sirex woodwasp, the most frequently detected exotic woodwasp at United States ports of entry and associated with solid wood packing material, was found in a New York forest in 2005.  Since then this species has been found in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Vermont, and Ohio.  Sirex noctilio is a member of the family Siricidae and it is the only species of the woodwasp family that can kill relatively healthy pine trees.  Females carry a fungus, A. areolatum, which is deposited in trees when they are ovipositing.  The fungus
and the mucus, injected by the wasp, rapidly weakens and kills host trees, and the developing larvae feed on the fungus. The native range of S. noctilio includes Europe, Asia, and North Africa, where it is a minor pest.  Sirex noctilio is a serious pest of Monterey pine plantations in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile.  In Brazil, loblolly pine is the primary host of S. noctilio.  Both pines are North American species.  Pest risk analysis indicates a high risk factor for this insect pest and the associated symbiotic fungus, Amylostereum areolatum.  Indications are S. noctilio could pose a serious potential economic threat to the United States forestry industry.  Climate does not appear to limit distribution of S. noctilio in the United States so projected colonization will depend on distribution of pines, which have the highest concentration in the South.  The potential distribution of this insect in South Carolina is all pine and pine-hardwood stands which occur in every county of the state.


Haugen D.A. and E. R Hoebeke. 2005. Sirex woodwasp—Sirex noctilio F. (Hymenoptera: Siricidae).  USDA Forest Service, NA-PR-07-05.



 Southern Pine Beetle

The native southern pine beetle (SPB) is one of the most destructive insects in the southern United States. Southern pine beetle outbreaks occur every 5 to 7 years in trees that are weakened due to drought and other environmental stresses.  Preferred hosts are shortleaf, loblolly, Virginia, and pitch pines.  Current range is throughout South Carolina, although activity levels have historically been low in Aiken, Barnwell, Allendale, Bamberg, Orangeburg, Calhoun, Sumter, Clarendon, Lee, Darlington, Florence, Marion, Dillon, Marlboro, and Chesterfield Counties.  The southern pine beetle introduces a blue-stain fungus into trees.  This fungus blocks the water movement of the tree, causing the tree to die.  Outbreaks have been responsible for millions of dollars of tree loss in South Carolina.  The last outbreak occurred from 1998 to 2002.  Native predators, such as clerid beetles, and good forest management, including reducing stress on trees through thinning, low density planting, and prescribed burning, have proven successful in reducing the impact of SPB.  There has been some level of activity since the last outbreak ended in several counties in the Piedmont and small outbreaks in restricted areas in the Coastal Plain.  The South Carolina Forestry Commission administers a SPB prevention and restoration cost-share program.  Approved practices include thinning young stands to help reduce southern pine beetle susceptibility, planting less susceptible species, such as longleaf pine, and non-susceptible species (hardwoods), and planting pines at low stocking (less than 500 trees per acre).  Control of outbreaks includes salvaging affected stands or cutting and leaving affected trees and small buffers to prevent spread.

Southern Pine Beetle Hazard Map for South Carolina


Price T.S., C. Doggett, J.L. Pye  and T.P. Holmes, eds. 1992. A history of southern pine beetle outbreaks in the southeastern United States. Sponsored by the Southern Forest Insect Work Conference. The Georgia Forestry Commission, Macon, GA. 65 pp.

Thatcher R.C. and P.J. Barry. 1982. Southern pine beetle. USDA Forest Service, Washington, D.C. Forest and Disease Leaflet No. 49. 7 pp

Thatcher R.C. and M.D. Conner. 1985. Identification and biology of southern pine bark beetles. USDA Forest Service, Washington D.C. Handbook No. 634. 14 pp.

Thatcher R.C., J.L. Searcy, J.E. Coster and G.D. Hertel, eds. 1980. The Southern Pine Beetle. USDA, Expanded Southern Pine Beetle Research and Application Program, Forest Service, Science and Education Administration, Pineville, LA. Technical Bulletin 1631. 265 pp.





Cogongrass is a nonnative clumping grass species that is aggressive and grows in a circular pattern.  The seeds are wind dispersed and each plant is reported to produce 30,000 seeds per seed head.  This plant can also spread by rhizomes that can increase ten fold each year.  Cogongrass first arrived in the United States in 1911 near Mobile, AL as packing material. In the 1920’s this grass was planted in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi as livestock forage.  This plant forms dense stands over large areas that easily choke out native plants.  By the 1970’s tens of thousands of acres were infested across the South, including Florida which has almost one million acres of cogongrass.  As of the 2009 Cogongrass Survey, this species has been found in Pickens, Greenville, Anderson, Aiken, Williamsburg, Hampton, Allendale, Beaufort, and Charleston counties.  This species is highly flammable and can change the fire ecology of a site.  Cultivars include Red Baron and Japanese Blood Grass.  Both are banned from being sold in South Carolina.  This plant is a federal noxious weed.  Currently, a cogongrass task force is working to search for this species across the state to perform EDRR.

Distribution of Cogongrass by County in South Carolina





The rest of the Forest Health section is organized in the following manner:

Major Threats
Moderate Threats
Low Threats
Major Threats
Moderate Threats
Low Threats
Major Threats
Moderate Threats
D.Low Threats


Early Detection Rapid Response

Asian Longhorned Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis)

Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) is a large wood-boring beetle 1 to 1.5 inches long which attacks many hardwood tree species including maple, elm, willow, birch, poplar, ash, horsechestnut, and hackberry.  Larvae feed on vascular tissue, thus weakening and killing trees.  First found in Brooklyn, New York in 1996, ALB spread to Long Island, Queens, and Manhattan.  It was also found near Chicago, in New Jersey, and recently in Worcester, Massachusetts.  If ALB becomes established, this beetle could become one of the most destructive and costly invasive species ever to enter the United States.  Threatened are urban and suburban shade trees, recreational and forest resources, maple syrup production, nurseries and tourism.  The USDA and the states with ALB infestation are working together to eradicate this pest.



Asian Longhorned Beetle - A New Introduction, USDA Forest Service; Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, NA-PR-01-99, 2008



European Gypsy Moth/Asian Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar)

Gypsy moth was accidentally introduced and was discovered to be highly destructive pest of trees.  Larvae in large numbers feed on over 500 species of trees and shrubs and constitute one of the most destructive defoliators of hardwood and softwood trees.  The European Gypsy Moth, introduced into Massachusetts in 1869, is established in Wisconsin, Michigan, and the entire Northeast, as far south as Virginia.  Asian Gypsy Moth is not known to occur in the United States.  Temperate, hardwood growing areas are at risk from Gypsy Moth.  The gypsy moth has been highly successful in range expansion despite all attempts to prevent its movement.  This species now occurs in all or parts of 19 states.  More than 78 million acres have been defoliated by gypsy moth since 1970.  Gypsy moth defoliation causes tree mortality, reduces property values, adversely affects commerce, and creates health problems for sensitive individuals who may come in contact with the caterpillars.  Asian Gypsy Moth is considered to be a major threat to United States forests.  This species has a broader host range than European Gypsy Moth which includes some evergreens. The female Asian Gypsy Moth is an active flyer with a range of up to 25 miles.  A significant Asian Gypsy Moth pathway is via ships and cargo from the Far East.



Liebhold, A.M. et al. 1995. Suitability of North American tree species to gypsy moth: a summary of field and laboratory tests. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-211. U.S. Department of Agriculture,   USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station.

McManus M., N. Schneeberger, R. Reardon, and G. Mason.  Rev 1989. Gypsy Moth. USDA Forest Service, Washington, D.C. Forest and Disease Leaflet No. 162.



Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis)

Emerald ash borer (EAB) is an introduced insect pest of Fraxinus spp.  Identified in 2002, this insect was causing ash tree mortality near Detroit.  Since then EAB has moved rapidly killing ash by the tens of millions.  Emerald ash borer is prevalent in 13 states (IL, IN, KY, MD, MI, MN, MO, NY, OH, PN, VA, WI, and WV).  The EAB is a huge threat and is a very aggressive killer of healthy and stressed of ash trees.  An initial eradication plan has changed to a management approach due to the pest pressure.  Emerald ash borer changes the forest ecology and affects wildlife, causing billions of dollars in loss.  This pest has no known natural enemies in the U.S., and consequently no effective control options.  If not contained or mitigated, EAB will continue to infest and kill all species of Fraxinus spp.


McCullough D.G. and N.F. Schneeberger, Emerald Ash Borer, United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, NA-PR-02-04, 2008



Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana)
Light brown apple moth (LBAM), a tortricid, was first found on the United States mainland in 2007 in Alameda County, California.  An intensive survey revealed LBAM was located in 15 additional California counties.  Light brown apple moth is of considerable concern because of its potential to damage a wide range of crops and other plants.  Some hosts include cypress, redwood, oak, pine, grapes, citrus, and stone fruit.  The host list includes over 2,000 plant and tree species and over 250 fruits and vegetables.  An assessment in 2007 indicated light brown apple moth could become established through the majority of the United States with the southeastern states being among the highest at risk.  An analysis of light brown apple moth threat concluded the following:

1) Significant potential crop production and market losses, ranging from $0.5 to $1.0 billion across 33 states that have a climate and hosts predicted to be suitable for the  light brown apple moth’s establishment and survival;

2) Potential impacts associated with threatened and endangered species that are hosts as well as negative impacts linked to potential increases in pesticide use;

3) Phytosanitary trade barriers and restrictions for US commodities that are hosts of light brown apple moth among U.S. trading partners (as high as $9 billion annually); and

4) Increased costs due to restrictions on the interstate and intrastate movement of nursery plants.



Sirex Woodwasp (Sirex noctilio F.)  - See description at beginning of this section

Major Threats

Southern Pine Beetle – See description near the beginning of this section


Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

Native to Japan, hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) is an exotic destructive pest of Eastern and Carolina hemlock trees. This species was first detected in South Carolina in 2001.  Since that time, HWA has been detected in all South Carolina counties with hemlock trees (Oconee, Pickens, Greenville, and Spartanburg Counties).  The insect feeds from fall through spring at the base of needles, causing them to desiccate and which inhibits new growth.  Tree death can occur within a few years of being infested, although trees have survived 10 or more years with HWA infestation.  Hemlock trees are an ecologically important component to both forest and riparian habitats.  These trees provide cover and forage for mammals and birds.  Hemlocks also provide shade for streams which promotes aquatic organisms, such as trout, insects, and salamanders.  In addition, they provide shade for recreation activities such as hiking, biking, and camping.  The loss of hemlocks due to this invasive insect has been devastating to the forested riparian ecosystems.  Control of HWA has been via systemic insecticides in urban areas, forest trees of high aesthetic, ecological, or historical significance, and  recreation areas at state parks.  Releases of biological control beetles (Sasjiscynmus tsugae and Laricobius nigrinus) have also been made in South Carolina (beetles reared and released by Clemson University HWA predatory rearing lab).

Hemlock Wooly Adelgid Potential in South Carolina

Godman, R. M. and Kenneth Lancaster. 1990. Tsuga canadensis (L.) Carr. Eastern hemlock. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America.

Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 604-612.

Hemlock Woolley Adelgid Pest Alert, United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, NA-PR-09-05, 2005

McClure M.S., S.M. Salom and K.S. Shields, Hemlock Woolley Adelgid, Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team, United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, FHTET-2001-03, 2001


Redbay Ambrosia Beetle (see laurel wilt disease)


Moderate Threat 
Black Turpentine Beetle

Nantucket Pine Tip Moth

Pales/Reproduction Weevil

Pine Sawflies


Low Threat
Black Twig Borer

Cactus Moth

Eastern Tent Caterpillar

Fall Webworm

Forest Tent Caterpillar

Locust Leafminer


Early Detection Rapid Response
None currently


Major Threat

Cogongrass – See description near the beginning of this section.

Chinaberry (Melia azedarach L.)

Chinaberry is a deciduous tree that has a mature height of 50 feet and a diameter of two feet.  The tree has dark, musky leaves and blooms in spring with clusters of lavender flowers that yield numerous poisonous yellow berries.  The bark is dark brown with fissures on older trees. This plant is common around old homesites and roadsides.  Chinaberry was introduced in the 1800’s from Asia and planted as an ornamental around homes. This tree can now be found in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.  Chinaberry is spread abundantly by birds and also forms colonies from root sprouts.  It forms dense thickets that crowd out native vegetation and is most invasive in riparian and disturbed areas. Leaf litter also changes soil pH which can completely alter the make-up of the native plant communities.  The South Carolina Exotic Pest Plant Council considers this plant a significant threat in South Carolina.


Range map:




Chinese Tallow (Triadaca sebifera)

Chinese tallow was introduced to South Carolina in the late 1700’s and has spread south to Florida and west to California. This tree was primarily cultivated as a seed oil crop and used for fuel, candle making, and soap.  It is well adapted to a variety of habitats and soil types and appears to thrive with site disturbance.  Currently, tallow is found in Chesterfield, Calhoun, Horry, Georgetown, Charleston, Dorchester, Colleton, Jasper, Beaufort, Berkeley, Hampton, and Allendale Counties.  Tallow spreads quickly and displaces native vegetation. This tree is unattractive to all types of wildlife because the plant sap and berries are extremely toxic. It also excretes toxins that change the soil chemistry around the tree and discourages any native species plant growth. This tree is especially troublesome in waterways and bottomland hardwoods.  Chinese tallow is considered a severe threat by the South Carolina Exotic Plant Pest Council.

Range map:



Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)

Japanese honeysuckle is the most commonly occurring invasive plant.  This plant is an evergreen woody vine that typically grows up to 80 feet long.  The white or yellow flowers are tubular and fragrant.  This plant is spread by rooting at vine nodes and dispersed by animals spreading seeds.  Introduced from Japan in the early 1800’s, it is widely used and planted as deer browse.  Japanese honeysuckle occurs across the southern United States, from California to New England and the Great Lakes region.  Escaped populations also occur in Hawaii.  Japanese honeysuckle has few natural enemies and forms dense infestations and arbors in forest canopies which can kill plants by not allowing them access to sunlight.  This plant can also creep along the ground smothering large areas of native ground cover.  Japanese honeysuckle is considered a severe threat by the South Carolina Exotic Pest Plant Council.

Range map:



Kudzu (Pueraria montana)

Kudzu is a twining, trailing leguminous vine that can grow 35 to 100 feet long.  The vine has three leaflets and tuberous roots reaching up to 16 feet.  Lavender pea-like flowers occur in June through September.  Kudzu most often spreads by runners and rhizomes, but can be spread by seed.  Kudzu was introduced in
1876 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from Japan. This vine was promoted for use as forage in the 1920s and during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Soil Conservation Service promoted kudzu for erosion control.  Common throughout the Southeast, kudzu destroys trees by preventing them from getting sunlight, uprooting them from the weight of the vine, and girdling trunks.  This plant also occurs frequently along stream banks and rights- of-way, often taking over dozens of acres.  Kudzu is also unaffected by most common herbicides.  The South Carolina Exotic Plant Pest Council considers this plant a severe threat in South Carolina.


Potential Data Sources:
Richardson Robert J., Aquatic and Non-cropland Weed Management, Crop Science Department, Box 7620, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC  27695-7620

James H. Miller. 2008. Kudzu Eradication and Management. USDA Forest Service.  Southern Research Station.  Auburn University, Auburn, AL.

Range map:


Japanese Stiltgrass, Nepalese Browntop (Microstegium vinimeum)

Microstegium is an annual grass with a sprawling habit. This grass germinates in spring and grows slowly through the summer months, ultimately reaching heights of 2 to 3½ feet.  The leaves are pale green, lance-shaped, asymmetrical, one to three inches long and have a distinctive shiny midrib.  Flowers are produced in late summer (August to early October) and dry fruits are produced soon afterwards.  This grass can produce up to 1,000 seeds per plant per year.  Microstegium threatens native plants and natural habitats in open, shady, and moist or dry locations.  When this species spreads, it forms large patches, displacing and outcompeting native species.  This plant is found in all counties west of Calhoun County and in Berkeley County.  This species may impact other plants by changing soil chemistry and shading other plants.  Soil disturbance increases the rate of spread.  The South Carolina Exotic Plant Pest Council considers this species a severe threat.

Range map:




Privet (Ligustrum japonicum, L. sinense, L. lucidum)
There are currently three Ligustrum species that are widespread, presenting the greatest threat in South Carolina.  These plants are typically woody stemmed, semi-evergreen shrubs that can grow up to 20 feet in height.  The trunks are usually multi-stemmed.  Flowering is extremely abundant with white flowers appearing on the ends of the branches.  Each cluster of flowers produces numerous dark purple fruits that readily germinate in a variety of soil conditions and are easily spread by birds and other types of wildlife. Chinese privet (L. sinense) has small leaves around one inch in length.  Japanese privet (L. japonicum) and glossy privet (L. lucidum) leaves can be three inches in length with glossy privet having slightly larger (up to six inches) shiny leaves.  Privet was introduced through the landscaping industry for use as hedging due to its hardiness and ease of care.  This shrub is highly aggressive, often displacing native vegetation in a matter of a few years.  Privet can be especially damaging and prolific along streams and bottomlands.

Range maps:



Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis)

Chinese wisteria is a deciduous woody vine that can grow up to 40 feet in height with single stems growing up to 10 inches in width.  This vine was first planted in 1816 as an ornamental plant and has become naturalized since this time and is widely sold by the nursery industry because of the large inflorescences.  Primary means of reproduction is by vegetative spread, but it can spread by seed.  Wisteria is found extensively throughout central and eastern South Carolina.  This plant is especially troublesome because it is long-lived (50 years), an aggressive grower, displaces native vegetation, and kills trees by girdling.  Wisteria changes the composition of the forest floor by destroying trees and allowing sunlight to reach the ground, essentially inhibiting succession from occurring.  The South Carolina Exotic Plant Pest Council lists this species as a severe threat.  Disturbance increases the rate of infestation.

Range map:




Moderate Threat 

Japanese Climbing Fern

Multiflora Rose


Sericea Lespedeza

Tree of Heaven

Tropical Soda Apple


Low Threat 
Bradford Pear

English Ivy

Garlic Mustard

Japanese Knotweed






Early Detection Rapid Response

Sudden Oak Death, Ramorum Leaf Blight, Ramorum Twig Blight or Dieback

The fungal-like organism, Phytophthora ramorum, causes the forest disease termed Sudden Oak Death.  The disease currently results in widespread dieback of several tree species in California and Oregon forests.  Sudden oak death is considered a threat to the nation’s oak woodlands, urban forests, and the ornamental nursery industry as the cause of ramorum blight of common ornamentals.  Trade in nursery stock resulted in movement of this pathogen from source populations on the West Coast to locations across the United States, thus risking introduction to other native forests.  Infested areas currently include 14 California counties and a portion of one county in Oregon.  In addition, diseases caused by P. ramorum have been detected in 11 states (CA, OR, WA, AL, GA, MD, MI, NJ, NC, PA, SC) at 30 sites (24 nurseries and 6 in the landscape).  Pest risk assessment is based on the following risk elements: climate-host interaction; host range; dispersal potential; economic impact; environmental impact; and pest opportunity determined the risk presented by P. ramorum to be high in South Carolina.  Phytophthora ramorum infects leaves and twigs of common ornamental plants, for example, rhododendron, camellia, pieris, and kalmia, which can serve as vectors for pathogen dispersal.  Currently natural hosts are expanding and 35 families, 70 genera, and over 109 species are now documented. 


O’Brien J. G., Manfred E. Mielke, Steve Oak, and Bruce Moltzan. Sudden Oak Death. USDA Forest Service, NA-PR-02-02, 2002.

APHIS List of Regulated Hosts and Plants Associated with Phytophthora ramorum, (Revision dated 5 May 2008 (corrected 30 May)), this list is updated often. The most current version is posted at:


Major Threat

Annosus Root Rot

Annosus root rot, caused by the native fungus Heterobasidium annosum, can be very destructive to pines located in areas of risk.  The fungus primarily infects loblolly, slash, shortleaf, white, and longleaf pines, but also can infect eastern red cedar.  The fungus enters a stand when airborne spores land on and grow in a freshly cut stump or wounded roots.  The fungus causes the roots to rot and can spread into nearby healthy trees through root grafts.  The result in healthy trees is loss of growth, susceptibility to blow over, increasing susceptibility to pine beetle attack, or mortality.  Pines growing in sandy or sandy loam soils are susceptible to root rot, especially if thinning occurs during the winter months when the spore-producing conks are most active.  Additionally, trees that are planted on old field sites are more susceptible than trees planted in a historically forested situation.  Each year losses due to annosus root rot are observed throughout the high risk soil types.  Losses statewide can be as high as over 10,000 acres affected annually.
Hazard Map:


Robbins, K. 1984. Annosus root rot in eastern conifers. Forest Insect & Disease Leaflet 76. USDA  Forest Service.

Insects and Diseases of Trees in the South. 1989. R8-PR16. USDA Forest Service - Forest Health Protection.


Fusiform Rust

Fusiform rust is caused by the native fungus Conartium quercuum f. sp. fusiforme.  This fungus primarily affects loblolly, slash, and to a lesser extent, longleaf pines.  The fungus primarily enters a tree through wounds, branch scars, or needle scars, and causes cankers.  If the fungus grows from an infected branch into the main stem, the resulting canker is a point of weakness/breakage and can lead to mortality.  This disease can cause serious losses in nurseries, reduce tree growth, increase susceptibility to pest problems, and result in stem breakage.  The potential distribution of this insect in South Carolina is all pine and pine-hardwood stands which occur in every county of the state.

Fusiform Rust Hazard for Loblolly Pine


Fusiform Rust Hazard for Slash Pine



Insects and Diseases of Trees in the South. 1989. R8-PR16. USDA Forest Service - Forest Health Protection.


Laurel Wilt Disease (vectored by redbay ambrosia beetle)

The redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus) is a non-native ambrosia beetle which was first detected in the United States near Savannah, Georgia in 2002.  This beetle is responsible for vectoring the laurel wilt fungus (Raffaelea lauricola) into the sapwood of redbay (Persea borbonia) and other trees in the laurel family (Lauraceae).  The beetle is native to Southeast Asia (Japan, Taiwan, Myanmar, and the Bonin Islands). Laurel wilt has caused high levels of redbay mortality in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.   The current range of laurel wilt disease in South Carolina is in the following counties: Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Orangeburg, Colleton, Dorchester, Charleston, Berkeley, and Horry Counties.  Laurel wilt has the potential to threaten redbay (Persea borbonia), swampbay (P. palustris), sassafras (Sassafras albidium), spicebush (Lindera benzoin), pondberry (Lindera melissifolia), pondspice (Litsea aestivalis), avocado (Persea Americana), and possibly other species in the Lauraceae family.  Lindera melissifolia is currently a federally endangered plant, and Litsea aestivalis is currently a multi-state threatened plant.  The female X. glabratus beetle carries fungal spores on her mouthparts.  After the female beetle bores into a tree, she makes tunnels in the sapwood in which she will lay eggs.  During this boring process, the fungal spores are released from the mandibles, and the fungus grows in the tunnels.  The fungus blocks the movement of water, causing the tree to wilt and eventually die from lack of water.  This fungus is extremely fast-acting and trees typically die within a month after being infected.

Redbay trees are of high ecological value.  Songbirds, bobwhite quail, and turkeys often feed on the fruit, while deer and bears frequently feed on foliage and fruit of redbay and sassafras.  Palamedes swallowtail butterflies rely on redbay trees for completion of their life cycle (larvae feed on the redbay leaves).  Additionally, spicebush swallowtail butterflies complete their lifecycle on sassafras and spicebush (both in the Lauraceae family).  This exotic pest can spread to new areas through the movement of infested wood, such as firewood or dead wood being transported for disposal.

Officials estimate that natural spread is about 20 miles per year, but movement of infested firewood, wood chips, and logs may be a major factor in spreading the disease into new locations not contiguous with the main area of infestation.

Distribution of Counties with Laurel Wilt Disease by Year of Initial Detection


Various sources at

Oak Wilt
Oak wilt, a vascular wilt disease of white and red oaks, is caused by the fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum.  Oak wilt was first identified in Wisconsin in 1942 and although this disease has been found in 21 states (Starkey, USFS), it is responsible for severe mortality of live oaks only in central Texas.  The Oak wilt fungus causes affected trees to wilt and usually to die. Oak species in the red oak group (northern red, scarlet, and black oak) are affected more frequently and die more readily than oaks in the white oak group (white, post, and chestnut oaks).  Once a tree is infected, the fungus spreads via roots grafts to adjacent trees, thus resulting in infection centers.  Additionally, sap feeding beetles can spread the spores to nearby healthy trees and over long distances.  Control strategies in the forested landscape consists of killing infected trees; control strategies in the urban landscape consists of removing infected trees and trenching between diseased and healthy trees which will eliminate root grafts and prevent tree-to-tree spread.   In South Carolina, Oak Wilt has been identified in 7 counties (Aiken, Chesterfield, Kershaw, Lancaster, Lee, Lexington, and Richland) from one live oak (Aiken County), scrub oaks, and water oaks.

Counties in South Carolina where Oak Wilt Disease has been Identified

Range map: L.Reid 2009, based on Dale A. Starkey 2006.


Insects and Diseases of Trees in the South. USDA Forest Service - Forest Health Protection, R8-PR16, 1989  Starkey, Dale A., USDA Forest Service 2009, Personal communication.

Moderate Threat 
Oak Decline Complex

Littleleaf Disease

Hypoxylon Canker

Sycamore Anthracnose


Low Threat
Brown Spot Needle Blight

Pitch Canker

Dogwood Anthracnose

White Pine Decline

Pine Needle Cast




Priority Areas

For Priority Area Maps, see Appendix 2 (page 178).


SC Forest Resource Assessment Page