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Task Force History

In the 1980s, the woody shrub beach vitex (Vitex rotundifolia) was imported from the Pacific Rim by the North Carolina University Arboretum for use as a beach stabilization plant in the southeastern US. In the early 1990s, it was planted for erosion control on South Carolina beaches, but by the mid-1990s plant specialists began to notice beach vitex spreading on state beaches where it was crowding out native species like Sea Oats. This invasive species appears to have spread from original plantings on or near North and South Carolina beaches by both vegetative growth and by seeds.


In 2003, after discovering thick mats of beach vitex descending down the base of sand dunes, volunteers with the South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts (SCUTE) expressed concerns about the possible impacts of the plant on loggerhead sea turtle nesting habitat and behavior. To address concerns about the spread and impacts of the plant, a workshop on beach vitex was hosted by the North Inlet-Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. This workshop brought together private citizens, personnel from state and Federal agencies, and representatives from non-profit organizations, resulting in the formation of the South Carolina Beach Vitex Task Force.

In 2004 the task force received a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant to begin removal of the plants.  After experimenting to determine the best pesticide and application method, Clemson University personnel began removing vitex and replanting dunes with native vegetation. In 2005, North Carolina joined the effort and the name was changed to the Carolinas Beach Vitex Task Force.

In the six years since that first workshop, the Task force has celebrated many accomplishments. In 2008, the Task Force received its fifth National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Pulling Together Initiative Grant. Ordinances banning beach vitex have been passed in a number of NC and SC beach communities including Bald Head Island, Ocean Isle Beach, Kure Beach, Carolina Beach, Emerald Isle, Oak Island, Surf City, Wrightsville Beach, Pawleys Island, Georgetown County, Isle of Palms, Kiawah Island, and Folly Beach. Recently, the NC Board of Agriculture listed beach vitex as a Class B State Noxious Weed which bans the sale, transport and possession of beach vitex by nurseries, garden shops and private property owners.

Information about beach vitex has appeared in over 85 local and national newspaper reports, magazine articles, and television shows. The Task Force also holds annual symposiums where task force partners, state agency personnel, local officials, researchers, and concerned citizens share information and form collaborations to reach the goal of the total eradication of beach vitex.


Although beach vitex has been rapidly disappearing from the southeast coast due to the efforts of the task force, long term vigilance will be needed to detect seedlings and re-growth.

Participating Agencies

BASF Corporation
Clemson University
North Inlet-Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
Natural Resources Conservation Service
North Carolina Coorerative Extension Service
North Carolina and South Carolina Sea Turtle Networks
Town of Pawleys Island
Gaylord and Dorthy Donnelley Foundation
SC Department of Health and Environmental Control
Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management
SC Department of Natural Resources
SC Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism
SC Native Plant Society
US Army Corps of Engineers
US Fish and Wildlife Service
US Geological Survey

2004

beach vitex grown onto the beach

erosion caused by beach vitex

2005

beach vitex on Pawleys Island

2006

2007

pawleys island after beach vitex removal

2008

 

 
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healthy dunes with sea oats