Thursday, July 14, 2011

Out damn Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle removal team
The other night I had the opportunity to spend several hours with some fellow Master Gardeners and the Park system's stewardship coordinator, cutting and pulling bush honeysuckle from one of the Wood County Parks.  In just two hours, the five of us were able to make quite a pile of cuttings.  We used loppers to cut the large stems down near the ground.  The following day, Bryan was going back with his team of Park employees to put the cuttings through a chipper.  Then they would apply a chemical brush killer to the stumps.  Had we just cut the branches and left the stumps, they would sprout and rejuvenate.    Each area of the country has their own invasives to deal with.  Honeysuckle is one of the top 10 invasive plants in Ohio.  Like so many invasive species, the honeysuckle was imported to the US to use for ornamental landscaping. 

So....What's the big deal.  Let nature take it's course.  That's what I used to think.  Turns out that's what we should have done and not brought in these plants.   Using the honeysuckle as an example of just one invasive, here's the problem.  The honeysuckle is aggressive and grows rapidly, crowding out our native plants.  It doesn't have much in the way of pests or natural controls, so it continues to spread.  The berries look pretty to us and are attractive to birds.  The birds eat the berries and spread the seeds around with a little extra fertilizer.  The honeysuckle is the first bush in the spring to leaf out and green up.  With this early shade, our own native plants don't get that early spring sunshine to get going strong.  Thus the Honeysuckle wins.   Last year Eileen Metress, Ph.D. Emeritus Professor,The University of Toledo, gave a talk to the local Wild Ones group where she compared a bird eating a honeysuckle fruit to us eating Twinkies.  In other words, the honeysuckle doesn't provide the nutrition the birds need.  Furthermore, as with most exotic invasives, the honeysuckle doesn't provide the other natural requirements for our local wildlife.  It's great in Asia, but not here.  

By the way, I was surprised but shouldn't have been, to find out some of our plants have been exported to other parts of the world where they have become invasive.  Makes sense, but I thought it was only happening to us.  The Wild Black Cherry tree is a great tree in the US, supporting a lot of wildlife, but a real problem in Europe.

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