FAIRHOPE, Ala. (WKRG) – They may look harmless, but plants like the camphor tree and the tallow tree, known as the “popcorn” tree, are creating problems in Fairhope. They’re spreading at a rapid rate taking over parks and affecting the growth of native plants.

“If you don’t think about it you’re going to be in trouble and spend a whole lot of money from the taxpayers dollars trying to correct that situation,” said Councilman Corey Martin.

The invasive species have continued to grow with the help of animals and wind-carrying seeds to other areas of the city. Now, places like the Triangle Property nature site and Knoll Park are being invaded. Patrick Waldrop is a forester studying the problem.

“We can’t go in on people’s private property and say hey you’ve got to take that tree out, particularly if it’s a tree they really like so education is key,” he said.

But, that could change next year when the City of Fairhope votes on a resolution allowing residents to cut these trees on their property to help stop the spread. Volunteers would also be tasked with locating and identifying the plants in other areas as they pop up.

“What we want to do is have citizens call the horticulturist and we establish that it is an invasive tree and then that citizen is able to cut down the tree and for that the incentive would be for us to replace that tree with some type of native species,” explained Martin.

The city could make a decision by the first half of next year. The topic has already been discussed during the last three city council meetings.

“Whenever something comes up like that the priority is usually pretty high,” said Martin.

The public works department is already removing camphor trees on the Triangle Property that have reached adult height. They also plan to educate the community during Arbor Day events.