Tom's Blog

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Buckthorn: what will mowing do?

At Pleasant Valley Conservancy we have been dealing with buckthorn for over 15 years. During that time, we have probably tried every technique mentioned in the scientific literature. One method frequently mentioned is mowing, which appeals to those opposed to herbicides. Some sources state that if you mow three times a year for three years you will get rid of it.

I don't think so!

Kathie has been mowing our ridge-top trail for at least 15 years, at least three times a summer. She points out that despite this, small buckthorn can still be seen. The photo here is an example. There are at least three shoots that are connected. When you pull up plants like this, you find a massive fibrous root mass, with woody roots extending out in several directions. If you look carefully, you can generally see two or three cut stems left over from last year's mowing.

Buckthorn shoots (not seedlings!) in an area that has been mowed about 3 times a year for the past 15 years.

Although these are tiny plants, if you stop mowing this area, these plants will get large, send down extensive root systems, eventually reproduce, and within 20-30 years there will be a new buckthorn forest. (This is what was here when we started 15 years ago.)
According to my tests, a brief spritz with 2-3% Garlon 3A, glyphosate, or 2,4-D will fix these plants so they won't come back.


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