Category Archives: invasives


By Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post for Nov. 3-9, 2018

As invasive burning bushes (also called winged euonymus) turn red in fall, we can see how pervasive they are in our campus gardens and landscaping, and how they are invading our woods, reducing wildlife.

Several years ago, this hedge behind the Cranberry Houses was over run with bittersweet, whose red berries show up in late fall.

Since 2013, we’ve been removing burning bushes from our “free fifty” invasives-free wooded acres on both campuses, turning our forests back to native plants. Burning bush wood is great for turning on a lathe, so, from our largest cut-down bushes, resident Doris Atkinson has turned out beautiful Christmas tree ornaments.  A goal of Lathrop’s landscape policy is to steadily turn our campuses into more wildlife-friendly places, without invasive plants, so Doris will have to turn to another source for her turning wood.


What a Beautiful Sight!

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post September 29-Oct. 5, 2018

Bright orange bittersweet berries in this photo taken in 2014 on Cranberry Lane may look beautiful draping our trees in fall. But the the really beautiful sight is the DEAD vines of Oriental bittersweet, as shown at the top of this article,–same patch of bittersweet, after we killed the vines.

Alien invasive oriental bittersweet vines smother a tree and weigh it down, often killing it.  Native grape vines do the same.  Grape used to thrive only at the edges of large contiguous forests, but these days, since our forests are so cut up, edges–and grapes–are everywhere.  It’s a native acting invasive.

Vine fruits feed birds, but alien and invasive vines also harm wildlife by killing trees and shrubs and forming a monoculture.  For example, an oak tree supports the larvae of 518 species of native butterflies and moths.  Maple supports 287. Continue reading What a Beautiful Sight!

Packing Material Gone Rogue

By Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post of Sept. 4-11, 2018

Having arrived in the U.S. as packing material for porcelain, Japanese stilt grass now invades river banks and forests, smothering native plants, including tree seedlings; secreting chemicals toxic to other plants; and significantly reducing wild life, except a type of invasive rat, which loves it.

We’re Trying to Prevent This: Japanese stilt grass has taken over this forest (not ours), smothering natives and reducing wild life.

Seeds arrive in streams and animal hooves, and are viable in the ground for 5 years.   Japanese stilt grass has newly come to Lathrop’s campuses, but WE’RE ON IT!

It’s an annual, with shallow roots.  Small invasions can be pulled by hand in late summer, before the plants set Continue reading Packing Material Gone Rogue

Sneaking in the Woods

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post of Aug. 25-Sept. 3, 2018

By Barbara Walvoord

Last week I wrote about our wonderful success in removing invasive plants from our north campus woods.  More broadly, we’ve removed invasives from fifty acres of our forests on both campuses.

The bad news: Alien invasive ground covers like vinca (also called periwinkle or myrtle), pachysandra, English ivy, ajuga, and snow-on-the-mountain are sneaking into the woods from surrounding gardens or arriving when residents throw plant parts into the woods.  Continue reading Sneaking in the Woods

Lathrop’s Invisible Project

By Barbara Walvoord

On July 9, nine residents trekked through fields and woods to the far north section of the east campus along Bassett Brook. This land is largely invisible to most residents.  It lies beyond our trails and beyond the “Free Fifty” acres of forest from which we’ve removed invasives in the past.

Jeff Allen leads residents to see where he has been removing invasives

It’s still a basically healthy forest, quiet and beautiful, with maples and pines on rolling slopes along the multi-channeled Bassett Brook and its wetland.  But scientific research shows that the increasing presence of invasive plants like multiflora rose, shrub honeysuckle, and oriental bittersweet could significantly reduce the wildlife our land can support (

So we’ve begun a project to remove invasives, following science-based guidelines recommended by experts.  Resident volunteers Continue reading Lathrop’s Invisible Project

What’s Wrong with this Picture?

by Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, May 12-18, 2018

Walking along Mulberry Lane on the east campus this week, the unexpected patch of green (right side of the photo) might warm our hearts, when other shrubs are still brown, or just beginning to leaf out (left side of the photo).  In a few weeks, the green shrubs on the right will burst into fragrant white blooms.  Later, the red berries will attract many birds.

But in fact, the thicket of green shrubs on the right is very wrong.   The shrubs are invasive honeysuckle from  Asia—so invasive that it is now illegal to import, propagate, or sell them in Massachusetts.  The Indiana DNR reports, “Asian bush honeysuckles grow so densely they shade out everything on the forest floor, often leaving nothing but bare soil. This means a great reduction in the food and cover available for birds and other animals. Serious infestations can inhibit tree regeneration, essentially stopping forest succession. Higher rates of nest predation have been found in Amur honeysuckle than Continue reading What’s Wrong with this Picture?

Lathrop’s Landscaping and Gardens: What’s Our Goal?

By Barbara Walvoord

Originally printed in the Lathrop Lamp Post for March 10-16, 2018.

Why are we at Lathrop considering planting native plants rather than alien plants in our landscapes and gardens?  Our goal is NOT to restore some imaginary pristine past.  The futility of such a goal is emphasized in journalist Emma Marris’ The Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World (2011).

Instead, Marris suggests, we need to save nature by juggling seven possible goals: (1) protect the rights of other species; (2) protect Continue reading Lathrop’s Landscaping and Gardens: What’s Our Goal?