by Barbara Walvoord
(Originally printed in Lathrop Lamp Post, June 22, 2017)
Lathrop’s “Free Fifty” is 50 acres of forest from which, in the past 3 years, we’ve been removing invasive plants in order to increase native plants and the wildlife that depends on them.
Our achievement is visible as we compare two sections of our forest–one where we have removed invasives with one area where we have not (Photos June 19, 2017).
The contrast is stunning. On the north side of the Farmer’s Field, where we have not worked, huge invasive multiflora rose bushes, now in bloom, “exclude most native shrubs and herbs…and may be detrimental to nesting of native birds” In the background,invasive Oriental bittersweet vines are strangling the trees.
On the south side where we’ve worked for three years to remove invasives, you’ll see piles of dead multiflora rose and bittersweet vines. Among them, native plants are arising, like the native gray dogwood pictured above. It delights us with its lacy white blossoms, and it hosts the larvae of 115 species of native butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera). These caterpillars are a large part of the diet of many baby birds. (http://www.nhm.ac.uk/our-science/data/hostplants/.)
Gradually, we are making our land most hospitable to the birds and other wildlife we treasure
To see this area of the Farmer’s Field, start at the end of Bassett Brook Drive by the blue shed, then walk to the right behind the Teaberry Lane houses, out to the field, and turn left on the mowed path). (Trail map: https://lathropland.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/trail-eh.pdf)(https://www.nps.gov/plants/ALIEN/PUBS/MIDATLANTIC/romu.htm).”