- Reduce invasive plant populations to a level where natural plants can thrive
- Compare methods of controlling invasive plants to develop efficient, cost- effective techniques
- Share our findings with other landowners
Invasive plants often establish where human disturbance has given them a foot hold (or rather, a root hold). Our demonstration area is a prime example. While the vast majority of the Spitzer Forest is free of invasive plants, these species, are beginning to establish around our trailhead parking areas. The most problematic (but the best demonstration area!) is located on East Echo Lake Rd at the Wolcott Trail and Echo Shore Trail access. Current invasives include phragmites (common reed), reed-canary grass, and bush honeysuckle.
With close proximity to East Echo Lake Rd, this demonstration site has had a long history of human activity. Cleared and farmed beginning in the early 1800s, the area had reverted to conifer forest by 1942 (as seen in the earliest available aerial photos). Heavy logging occurred during the 20th century, most recently in 1985 with a liquidation cut (removal of all merchantable trees, leaving a barren landscape that takes a long time to become healthy forest again). The open area around the current parking lot was created as a log landing during that operation. Since NorthWoods acquired the property in 2009, the only changes have been the installation of the parking area and kiosk, recreational trail improvement, and the beginning stages of invasive control.
What’s so bad about invasives?
A plant is a plant, right? Well, yes… but native plant communities (groups of species found together) have evolved to co-exist in their native environment, a process that takes millions of years. When non-native plants are introduced, that balance is upset. Invasive plants can (and usually do) drive out many native plants, replacing them with fewer overall species. Diversity of the ecosystem is reduced, leading to many short – and long-term problems; loss of certain habitat and forage for wildlife, inability of forests to re-establish, and decreased ecological resilience (the ability of the forest to cope with disease and damage).
Now I have invasive plants! What do I do??
Don’t panic! You’ve already taken the first step by recognizing the invasives on your land. Now it’s time to take action… and sooner is better than later. There are many strategies for removing invasive plants, and the one you choose will depend on the species of plant, the amount of time/money you can spend, and your preference whether or not to use herbicides (chemicals used to kill unwanted plants).
The concepts of Integrated Pest Management (a strategy used in agriculture to deal with weeds and insect pests) can help guide your decisions:
Set a threshold – how far can the invasion go before it becomes a problem? Are the invasives out-competing native plants?
Identify – which species are not supposed to be there?
Monitoring – how is the invasive situation changing from year to year? Is it spreading?
Prevention – a healthy, minimally disturbed forest will naturally combat invasives.
Control – when it’s time to take action, consider the lowest-impact way to deal with the problem
- Cutting – easy to do, but most plants will grow back. It’s an ongoing battle, effective only with time and persistence!
- Pulling – something else you can do without costly tools or training. Removing the roots slows the plant’s regrowth (depending on species). Be sure to dispose of the root wads where they can’t resprout! (burn them, pile on plastic to decompose, or send them to the landfill)
- Herbicides – fast and effective, but requires special training and caution. Applying too much can kill neighboring plants and poison soil microbes. There are many types of herbicides and ways to use them; research your target species to decide which is most appropriate.
Tips For Success
Tackling a phragmites patch on your own property is simple enough, although it will take some effort!
- Remove plants around late July, when they’ve grown to full size, but before they develop seed heads
- Do it every year! A missed year allows phragmites to disperse thousands of seeds
- Prevent re-rooting by piling phragmites on a plastic sheet , or bag it and throw it away
- Try not to damage native plants that are growing among the phragmites. Native plants help fight invasives!
- Information, volunteer opportunities and the latest updates on the Vermont invasives scene: www.vtinvasives.org
- Still trying to figure out what that plant is? Visit: www.invasive.org
- And when you’re ready to take action, there’s technical assistance and federal funding to help: nrcs.usda.gov
- … and of course, we’re here to help! Contact the NorthWoods FSI Staff for a consultation: (802) 723-6551 x302
NorthWoods Experimental Phragmites Control Plots
In 2013, NorthWoods established an experimental control plot to serve two purposes: to (1) reduce the impact of invasive phragmites in the Spitzer Demonstration Forest, and (2) compare herbicide-free methods for controlling phragmites. Here’s what we found: