The View from the Porch

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post August 18, 2016

The Land Conservation Committee, on the ad-vice of consultants, is removing invasive plants from 50 acres of Lathrop land that are most intact, most connected, least invaded, and farthest from mowers and roads that will bring in more invasives.

However, behind some cottages are smaller forested areas, more heavily invaded, more disconnected, and more open to human activity. These areas offer corridors and habitats valuable to wildlife, yet the land committee does not have the resources to attack them.

But residents have to look at them. I know 11 residents on both campuses who have gotten tired of sitting on their patios or porches and looking at invasive vines choking trees, invasive garlic mustard displacing native wildflowers, or invasive multiflora rose forming impenetrable thickets behind their cottages—and decided to do something.

In the past, some of us (including me) have taken actions that, in retrospect, could have been more effective. We have cut down invasive shrubs and vines without poisoning the stumps, and watched the invasives grow back stronger. We have tackled more than we could handle and felt hopeless. But we have also learned, from our experience, and from our reading, how to take a manageable action that does some good.

For example, Eleanor and Richard Johnson recently asked me and Sharon to help them assess the mass of invasives behind their cottage on Huckleberry Lane, where multiflora rose, honeysuckle, bittersweet, and buckthorn were choking out native plants.

The Johnsons made a realistic plan for the removal of the worst of the invasives, and hired two woodsmen to spend half a day at the job (photo at the top of this page). They limited their area to the thicket below the porch and to several large trees that were being choked by bittersweet. The two men concentrated on removing the most dangerous invasives—bittersweet vines and multiflora rose–and coating the stumps with herbicide.  Cut branches were left on the ground or gathered into a brush pile to shelter wildlife, and the vines were left to die hanging in the trees.

The Johnson’s view has been transformed, and several small trees that had been struggling against the invaders have been freed: native black cherry, which hosts 456 different species of butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera); red maple (297 species); mulberry (9); grey dogwood (118); and crab apple (308). Alien invasive plants host few or none of these species. (

This photo shows a native tree bent over by invasive bittersweet and multiflora rose, which the workers removed.johnson-2-11-4-16-img_2425

The next photo shows invasive Oriental bittersweet vines choking a native tree. The vines were cut at the ground, and their stems coated with herbicide.



The next photo shows the cleared area behind the Johnson’s house, where native plants will be added or nurtured as they appear, and new invasives will be removed, to make a native garden that can support much more wildlife.johnson-5-11-4-16-img_2444

All those residents who have attacked invasives behind their cottages have given an inestimable gift to Lathrop and to all its creatures—and improved the view from their porches and patios.


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