Tag Archives: Barberry

Yaaay! Look at those Dead Bushes!

by Barbara Walvoord

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.  


Where Do Camels Belong?

by Barbara Walvoord

Where Do Camels Belong? a 2014 book by Ken Thompson, tries to correct the oversimplifications of the movement to control invasive plants. At Lathrop, we are not guilty of the oversimplifications he discusses. We take a scientifically sound, reasoned approach.

Thompson points out that there used to be camels in the U.S. So to determine what is “alien” and what is “native” is tricky. Further, some alien plants provide benefits, and most do not become invasive. It’s oversimplistic to hate all alien plants or try to restore a pre-colonial ecology.

But some aliens are highly invasive and seriously harmful, and these, he says, we must attack. “Am I suggesting that we should stop trying to slow the spread of alien species, or trying to control or eradicate the small minority of species that do cause serious problems? No, I’m not.” (p. 220).

So here at Lathrop, we are targeting that small minority of alien invasive species that are causing serious problems, not because we hate all aliens, but because these particular invasive plants pose very serious threats to the birds, bees, butterflies, and other creatures that we love, and to the food chains that sustain our land’s creatures–including us.

For example, research has shown that 96% of birds need insects, not just seeds and nectar, to raise their young. And 90% of insects eat only native plants, because they have the specific mouth parts and body chemistry to use the plants with which they co-evolved. (Douglas Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home, pp. 21-24, 58)

So at Lathrop, our chickadees, our bluebirds, our wrens and cardinals need a diverse environment including many native plants.

The first photo below, from the web, shows Japanese barberry completely taking over a forest.


The second photo shows invasive barberry coming into Lathrop land.

Invasive barberry coming into Lathrop land
Invasive barberry coming into Lathrop land


When these alien invasives such as barberry, Oriental bittersweet, multiflora rose, and others take over, it means fewer native plants, fewer insects for our birds, disruption and destruction on our land. But if we act now, we can get these dangerous invasives under control. Continue reading Where Do Camels Belong?

Progress Against Invasive Plants

-Barbara Walvoord

Yikes! This fall, you can clearly see how Lathrop’s woods are being invaded by alien shrubs and vines: the bright red of burning bush, the yellow-green of bush honeysuckle, the prickly multiflora rose and barberry, the orange berries of Oriental bittersweet vine. These plants still have leaves in fall when natives have gone dormant. They have left behind the competitors and enemies that control them in their native lands, so they can take over a woods, creating an impenetrable mass that supports many fewer insects, birds, and other wildlife than native plants.

We’re making progress against these invasives! The Land Conservation Subcommittee, working with Lathrop management, has a plan, a set of priorities, some money, and a contractor. Here is what is happening now: Continue reading Progress Against Invasive Plants