Lathrop’s Quaker Battle Plan

Despite our Quaker anti-war heritage, we’re waging a battle–against alien invasive plants on our land. The battle is inspired, in fact, by Quaker values that call for us to nurture our precious environment.

Alien invasive plants pose a huge threat to wildlife across the world. Having left behind their natural enemies and competitors, they form monocultures, crowd out native plants, and change the chemistry of the soil. Here’s our killer statistic: 96% of birds need insects, not just seeds and nectar, to raise their young. 90% of insects eat only native plants (Douglas Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home) . Invasives are cited by government sources as the second most important cause of species extinction across the world (development is the first).

So we’re not talking merely a preference for native flowers, here; we’re talking the survival of many species, including, eventually–us.

So, under the tight scrutiny of the conservation commissions of both towns, and with the advice of experienced consultants, we have a battle plan.

We are taking a conservative approach, attacking only the most destructive invasive plants–the ones that even Ken Thompson, author of Where Do Camels Belong, wants to remove because they do so much damage–plants like Oriental bittersweet, multiflora rose, smooth and glossy buckthorn, bush honeysuckle, Japanese barberry, burning bush, purple loosestrife, and garlic mustard. Further, we have prioritized the most ecologically important parts of our land.

Our battle plan includes these methods, all recommended by experts:

  • Cut-stump: For large bushes, vines, and trees, cut the stump at the ground and paint the stump with the safest possible herbicide.
  • Foliar spray: For large bushes with many stems, like multiflora rose, cut down the plant and, when the new shoots come up again, direct a targeted spray, from a wand, onto the new shoots, using a collar to prevent drift of herbicide onto nearby plants. We don’t use foliar spray on tall plants because the spray would have to spread too far into the air.
  • Torch: Use a directed stream of flame to scorch the plant.
  • Biological control: Already on our land is a beetle that eats only purple loosestrife and that has been extensively tested and widely used. Residents will move some beetles to our other stands of loosestrife. If necessary, we’ll buy some (they’re about 7 cents per beetle) and, accompanied by a stream of government paperwork, we’ll transport them here from New Jersey.
  • Weed whacking. Used for stilt grass, an annual, to cut off its flowering heads before it sets seed.
  • Mowing: Last fall, Lathrop’s landscaper, Spring Valley, brushhogged some of our fields that were being overrun with huge multiflora roses and small trees. Now annual mowing, with no use of herbicides, will protect potential future organic farming and, in the meantime, grassland birds.
  • Good old-fashioned hand pulling. Small plants are pulled by hand.

Hand pulling is the method we’re aiming for. At the end of its three-year plan, Polatin guarantees nearly 100% destruction of the targeted invasives on those parts of our land they have treated–about 35 acres on the east campus and 5 acres on the north campus. (We’ll start more acres as we have the money.)

Thereafter, invasives can be managed by trained residents and professionals who walk the land periodically to identify small new plants and simply pull them up–a gentler, more Quaker way to do battle.

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