Saving our Lovely Woods on the North Campus

by Barbara Walvoord

This is a woods when invasive glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) takes over.

buckthorn rhafra_dense_stand01

It suppresses the growth of tree seedlings, so threatens the life of the forest . Its berries give birds diarrhea, so they excrete the seeds with a nice plot of fertilizer (very clever of the buckthorn), but the diarrhea weakens birds just as they prepare for migration.

The photo at the top is Peter Vantini, of Polatin Ecological Services, removing glossy buckthorn from the woods on the north campus this past week. This work was supported in part with funds voted by the Northampton campus Residents’ Association, by Lathrop Community Fund drive this past spring, and by parts of two other grants.

The Polatin workers also removed Japanese barberry, locust, burning bush, privet, and other invasives that threaten our woods.

“It’s so good to work in a woods that is so lightly invaded,” said our Polatin team. “Now these woods have a fighting chance.”

The workers used a combination of hand pulling and “cut-stump” treatment, in which the shrub is cut down and the stump painted with an approved herbicide (glyphosate) that makes its way to the plant’s roots and interferes with its metabolism. The Northampton Conservation Commission has approved our project.

This is the first stage of a three-year process, at the end of which Polatin guarantees 95% success in removing the target invasive species. After that, it’s much easier to monitor for new plants and pull them up.

Our forest is part of the Fitzgerald Lake Conservation area, a high priority for the city of Northampton’s conservation efforts. Our trail is the “loop trail” at the bottom of the Fitzgerald Lake trail map, so you can see how to walk to the Fitzgerald Lake trails (


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