Tom's Blog

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Summer brush control at colorful Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie

Sweet clover control at Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie is almost finished for the summer, and we are returning to brush control activities. Yesterday was our monthly volunteer work party, ably managed by Kathie.

This year brush control work focuses on the South Unit, which was not burned. We burn each of the three units at Rettenmund two out of three years, so that each year one unit is unburned. This means that any woody vegetation in that unit is not killed and is larger and has the opportunity to leaf out, making it easier to find. This is important because we are having such good control of woody vegetation that the woodies are quite small and we need help finding them.

The volunteer group walked across the whole prairie on their way to the South Unit, pulling any scattered sweet clover plants that might have been missed (very few indeed!).

Cutting and treating
small woody vegetation in the South Unit
Our procedure for woodies is to hand clip each stem near the base, then spray the cut stem with 20% Garlon 4 in bark oil. Since each person is working alone (with clippers and spray bottle), all cut stems are sure to be treated. The cut stems are pulled out and thrown on a pile. Woody vegetation consists of gray dogwood, brambles (dewberry and black raspberry), grape, bittersweet, and the occasional small honeysuckle. Once in a while a sumac or small buckthorn is found, but not very often.

As the photo shows, this is "stoop" labor, but it is a delight to work in a prairie that is in such good shape.

Ten years ago this whole unit was shoulder-high with woody vegetation

Five years ago we started to eradicate a large sumac clone in this area (which we call the Narrows).
Today sumac is hard to find!

Verbena stricta now flowering on the Saddle
Typical prairie bunch grass, Andropogon gerardii, with butterfly milkweed and lead plant flowering
in the background. This grass is most frequent on the Saddle.


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