(Originally published in Lathrop Lamp Post, June 10-16, 2017)
I’m not talking about humans. In fact, Lathrop has recently joined with other Valley residents to help welcome immigrants fleeing danger and oppression in other countries.
But illegal alien PLANTS are a different story. Some alien plants, having left behind the enemies and competitors that control them in their native lands, have overtaken woods and fields throughout the U.S., and have shoved out our native plants. This is bad because these aliens did not co-evolve with our native wildlife, so they do not as fully provide the food and cover that our native birds and other wildlife need. Because these plants threaten our native plants and wildlife, many states, including Massachusetts, have declared certain alien invasive plants illegal to sell or propagate.
For example, Lathrop’s landscaping has many (now illegal) burning bushes, also called winged euonymus (Euonymus alatus). Their seeds are sprouting in our woods on both campuses. This internet photo shows a woods taken over by winged euonymus. The second photo shows winged euonymus coming into our Lathrop woods in 2014. Since then, the Land Conservation Committee, with grants, resident donations, and thousands of hours by resident volunteers and by our Continue reading Illegal Aliens at Lathrop→
(First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, Dec. 16, 2016)
Autumn and winter are good times to remove invasive shrubs, so resident volunteers have been out with loppers and pruners. Among the tangles of invasive multiflora rose, Oriental bittersweet, and shrub honeysuckle, we often find the native red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), its bright red branches twisting and leaning to find the light or to escape the smothering thicket of invasives.
It’s always a great pleasure to find, and free, this lovely, useful native plant.
Native Americans used red osier dogwood in many ways, peeling the bark for a tooth brush; eating the berries to treat colds, bleeding, or diarrhea; making tools, bows, arrows, baskets, and red dye; and mixing it with other plants forsmoking.Continue reading Liberating Lathrop’s Red Osier Dogwood→
(First published in Lathrop’s Lamp Post, Nov. 10, 2016)
November is a month of truth for a forest. Most native shrubs have lost their leaves or turned to muted colors. But some very dangerous invasive plants are still going strong, their vibrant colors now highly visible, as they crowd out native plants but fail to provide the food that native wildlife needs: 96% of birds need insects, not just nectar and seeds, to raise their young; 90% of insects eat only native plants (Douglas Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home).
Lathrop’s “Free Fifty” Forest project has been removing invasive plants from 50 acres of forest on both campuses. These before-and-after photos, taken 2 years apart in the same spot, tell the story of our amazing achievement. The top photo, taken in November of 2014, shows red leaves of invasive burning bush and yellow-green leaves of invasive honeysuckle invading our forest on the east campus. The bottom photo, taken two years later in Nov., 2016, shows all the invasives removed. Now the native winterberry (center left in the photo), as well as native high-bush blueberry and others are thriving in our woods, supporting more wildlife than before.
The next photo, taken April, 2014, shows invasive Japanese barberry coming into our north campus woods along the stream. The photo below it shows two years later, 2016, a bit later in the season, where you can see the dead barberry in the middle, and other plants thriving around it.
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 Continue reading The View from the Porch→
Our meadows at Lathrop are a mixture of native plants and alien plants. Scientific study shows that the more native plants we have, the more bees, butterflies, birds, and other wildlife our meadows can support.
Experts have a number of methods to reduce alien plants and increase natives. We are not destroying everything with Roundup, burning the meadow, or tilling it repeatedly over an entire season. Instead, we’ve chosen overseeding, plugging, and smothering.
Barberry is a dangerous invasive. It can take over a woods, as this web photo shows, forming an impenetrable barrier that fails to support wildlife, but does increase the tick population.
Lathrop’s north campus have a lovely forest full of native plants, but in spring 2014, we noticed barberry coming in, because it greens up before most native plants do. Virtually all the light green in this photo is barberry:
So we got to work, with resident volunteers and funding from the Kendal Charitable Fund, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, and the Northampton Community Preservation Act. Our wonderful contractor, Polatin Ecological Services, used the most environmentally friendly methods to remove the invasives. Below is what the same spot looked like in 2016, but a bit later in the spring, so you can see that the barberry has not leafed out, and native ferns and other plants are now taking its place. Scientific studies suggest that our forest now supports more native wildlife. Hooray!
See for yourself–on the north campus, take the right-hand path, cross the bridge, and then turn right along the brook about twenty yards until you see this bent tree. Both campuses–look for dead bushes throughout our forests.
We now have about 50 acres of forest on both campuses that are free of invasives or in process of being treated.
On Thursday, June 2, 2016, in a celebration here at Lathrop, 1,000 beetles will be set loose into our wetlands, hired to do a very specific job–eat our invasive purple loosestrife, which creates an ecological wasteland by choking out the native plants that provide food, nesting, and shelter for our native insects, turtles, salamanders, and birds. In this photo, purple loosestrife waves threatening arms over native boneset.