Tom's Blog

Friday, October 21, 2011

Buckthorn: late fall reprise

After a big push, we have finished with sumac for the year, and have turned to buckthorn.

This is a good time of year to attack buckthorn because most of the native vegetation has senesced and turned brown, but buckthorn retains most of its dark green leaves and can be easily detected. Since most of our buckthorn plants are small, they are really hard to spot during most of the growing season.

Those following these posts know that buckthorn is a demon to eradicate. Although we have no large buckthorn plants left, new shoots keep coming up from dormant root masses. These root masses are widespread but remain invisible underground. Only when they send up shoots do you know where they are. Generally, each root mass sends out several shoots.

How many dormant root masses are left after a buckthorn grove has been cut and treated? In some areas at Pleasant Valley Conservancy I have counted dozens. Unfortunately, they all don't come up at once either. In one area where I have been doing intensive work, I am still counting lots even after more than ten years of initial clearing. (And this is an area that has been burned every year.) But we are optimistic that eventually we will exhaust the area. We know already that we are getting ahead of the game.

The procedure is basal bark treatment with Garlon 4 in oil. The basal bark technique is ideal since it can be used any time of the year.

Our crew is using backpack sprayers for this job. But a hand sprayer can also be used, as the photo here shows. I pull back the stem and give the area at the base one brief "spritz". The red dye helps to control where the herbicide is going. If a few leaves get sprayed, that helps, but the important area is the base of the stem.

We have about a two-week window now when even small buckthorn plants will be visible. After that, we'll move on to other things, perhaps prescribed burns!


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