Tom's Blog

Saturday, December 8, 2018

How long does it really take to get rid of invasive brush?

We first cleared the South Slope of Pleasant Valley Conservancy in 1998-1999. We instituted an annual burn program almost immediately, although some of the areas were hard to burn  (not enough fuel). Also, lots of brush that had been suppressed because of the deep shade popped up almost immediately. Brambles, buckthorn, and honeysuckle were the worst, although sumac was bad in some areas. The annual burns kept the shrubs fairly small, but did not eradicate them. We kept cutting and treating, and burning and burning.

The two photos shown here are interesting. They were both taken from about the same location, looking down from the top of the slope. When I took the 2003 photo it was a photo point as part of a series I did every year. It's hard to believe, but I thought the area was in pretty good shape. (It's also hard to believe, but this photo was taken with a Nikon "film" camera!)

The second photo was taken last summer from almost the same location. What a difference! Visible in the photo are Echinacea pallida and Silphium lacinatum. And of course, prairie grasses to carry a fire.

View from the Far Overlook (Leopold bench) in early September 2003

View from the same location at the end of July 2018. All the woodies visible are bur oaks!

The moral of this story? The restoration ecologist needs patience!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

What happened to our fall burn weather?

At Pleasant Valley Conservancy we have been doing major burns in both the spring and the fall since 1999. Here is a link to the complete burn record.

I just went through the history and found that we have burned in the fall 16 years, every year since 1999 except 2009, 2013, and 2015. Most of our fall burns have been North Woods burns, but for various reasons we have occasionally done some prairie burns.

We were all set to do another North Woods burn this fall, but the weather has not cooperated. I haven't looked at the weather  bureau  data, but I am certain that this has been the coldest October and November since we have started  doing restoration work.

Although the fall burn season is always shorter than the spring, we have always had at least a few days of favorable burn weather. October 1999 was the warmest and driest on record, and we had a fantastic North Woods burn on Hallowe'en when the temperature was in the low 70s and the R.H. % was in the upper 20s.

Recently, 2014 and 2016 were great years for fall burns.

Nov 5, 2014 Vahldieck photo

Note how well the oak leaves are burning! Vahldieck photo

Hopefully, we will be able to get our planned North Woods burn done this next spring. We'll see!


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

October is a great time to basal bark buckthorn in prairie and savanna remnants!

Even a single stem of buckthorn stands out among all the brown senesced native species.

Killed yesterday

Killed in 2013

Killed in 2015

Killed in 2008
If it's green this time of year, it's probably bad.

It may be too late for a foliar spray, but basal bark with triclopyr works all year long. Use 20% Garlon 4 in bark oil (20 parts  Garlon 4 plus 80 parts bark oil). If you don't have bark oil, use diesel.

Even a natural area where buckthorn has been eradicated will always have a few new shoots. If  they are not treated NOW, they will be bigger next year! We always budget time in the fall for control of invasive shrubs. Not only buckthorn, but also honeysuckle, sumac, and brambles, all of which are easy to spot.

In a tour of known buckthorn areas at Pleasant Valley Conservancy yesterday, we found only two stems. It took less than a minute to basal bark each one.

Monday, October 22, 2018

How viable are our hand-collected seeds?


Kathie and I often discussed the quality of our collected seeds. Would they grow when planted? Would the seeds germinate?

Seed germination tests are not that hard to do and in early January 2008 I set up number of tests.

Most prairie and savanna species need a period of cold moist conditions to overcome dormancy. I used conventional petri plates with warm absorbent paper (filter paper) in the bottom. 25 seeds were placed in each plate, which was wrapped in Saran and placed in the back of the refrigerator. In early January 2008 the plates were placed under lights (16 hours light; 8 hours dark), rewatered when necessary, and observed daily for germination.


Petri plate with germinated seeds of purple milkweed. The root comes out first. All the seeds have germinated. 2/15/2008

Seed germination tests


Species


State-listed
Seed Year
% germ #1
% germ #2
% germ both plates
Aureolaria

2007
20%
12%
16%
Butterfly MW BE

2007
60%
80%
70%
Butterfly MW PVC

2007
76%
92%
84%
Cacalia tuberosa
X
2005
11%
0%
3%
Cacalia tuberosa PVC
X
2007
8%
0%
4%
Eupatorium sessilifolium
X
2005
0%
0%
0%
Eupatorium sessilifolium
X
2007
4%
0%
2%
Eupatorium sessilifolium Parrish

X
2007
4%
0%
2%
Green MW BE

2007
96%
72%
84%
Indian grass

2007
56%
60%
58%
Little bluestem

2005
16%
16%
16%
Little bluestem

2007
12%
12%
12%
Napaea
X
2005
4%
0%
2%
Napaea
X
2007
4%
8%
6%
Poke MW PVC

2007
80%
92%
86%
Prairie dropseed forbs garden

2007
24%
20%
22%
Prenanthes crepidinia
X
2005
0%
0%
0%
Purple MW
X
2005
100%
Purple MW forbs garden
X
2007
100%
84%
92%
Sweet Indian plantain
X
2005
28%
28%
28%
Sweet Indian plantain
X
2007
12%
32%
22%
Taenidia integrifolium

2005
0%
0%
0%
Taenidia integrifolium PVC

2007
0%
0%
0%
Wood betony Mark

2007
0%
0%
0%
Yellow hyssop
X
2007
60%
44%
52%
BE: From Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie
PVC: From Pleasant Valley Conservancy

As the table shows, the milkweeds germinated very well, as did the grasses, but some of the other forbs germinated poorly or not at all. We confirmed some of these data with greenhouse studies in future years. Obviously, if the seeds do not germinate, the chance of getting plants from planted seeds is not good. However, with most species we generally plant a lot of seed, so if the % germination is only 1-2%, there is still chance of getting some plants started from seed.

The best approach for those poor germinators was to use the greenhouse. We planted large amounts of seeds in flats and put them under lights after cold, moist stratification. We transferred the few plants we got to tubes and raised plugs. Most of the plugs we transplanted to the field grew, and became established. This worked especially well for E. sessilifolium, one of the state-listed species.

Of course, every year will be different, depending on conditions at the time seed formation is taking place.

Friday, September 28, 2018

New England asters and Monarch butterflies

This is the time of year when the last brood of Monarch butterflies is stoking up for their long journey to Mexico. Asters and goldenrods are the principal nectar sources, but by now most of them have stopped flowering. Fortunately, New England aster is still flowering and this is what the Monarchs are using. Often considered a weed by purists, it has the good graces to hang on longer than anything else.

A few years ago at Pleasant Valley Conservancy a butterfly watcher about this time of year counted 43 Monarchs on a single NE aster plant.



Although both of the above photos are from restored savannas, you can find New England aster as a volunteer in old fields and roadsides as well. I've been watching one of my neighbor's fields since it was last cropped four years ago and have been fascinated at how quickly "weedy" prairie species from PVC have moved in.

Last year it was old field thistle that had moved in. See this link.

This year it is New England aster, as the photo below shows.

New England aster growing in an old field adjacent to PVC that is gradually being colonized. Two plants of old field thistle can be seen in the background. The seed source is our East Basin prairie which is about 100 feet away. This field has been fallow for only four years. The small white flowers are probably frost aster. The goldenrod is (predictably) Canadense.