Driv­ing out the in­vaders

Rappahannock News - - NEWS - BY LARRY “BUD” MEYER Spe­cial to the Rap­pa­han­nock News

The en­emy goes by de­cep­tively pleas­ing names: Tree of heaven, au­tumn olive, mile-aminute, mul­ti­flora rose, wineberry and Ja­panese stilt­grass.

But in the war on in­va­sive species, harsher terms de­scribe what it takes to keep these in­vaders at bay: Hack and squirt. Kill it first. Go af­ter the fe­males. Man­age the big thugs. Burn the field. The key to vic­tory? “Have pa­tience,” said Amissville’s Bryan Lilly, a habi­tat man­age­ment spe­cial­ist and a pre­sen­ter at a work­shop Satur­day staged by the Rap­pa­han­nock League for En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion. “Any time you’re deal­ing with in­va­sives, you’ve got to have pa­tience.”

Some 50 par­tic­i­pants showed up at the The­atre in Wash­ing­ton for pre­sen­ta­tions by a pair of front-line habi­tat ex­perts. The work­shop in­cluded a muddy-boots tour of the town’s demon­stra­tion but­ter­fly trail led by mas­ter nat­u­ral­ists Jack Price and Jenny Fitzhugh.

While the Pied­mont is home to di­verse na­tive plant life, un­wel­come in­va­sive species are the bul­lies on the block, push­ing out na­tives and com­pro­mis­ing lo­cal fields, forests and gar­dens. Re­moval is costly, time-con­sum­ing and frus­trat­ing, even for back­yard gar­den­ers.

But both pre­sen­ters said con­trol is both pos­si­ble and prac­ti­cal.

Lilly, a cer­ti­fied ar­borist and owner of Nat­u­ral El­e­ments, drew on his plant man­age­ment ex­pe­ri­ence at the Na­tional Zoo to de­scribe the worst of the in­vaders.

In­va­sive species come in all shapes and sizes, he said. There are an­nu­als like mile-a-minute and Ja­panese stilt­grass, bian­nu­als like gar­lic mus­tard, herba­ceous peren­ni­als and wood­ier foes like ailan­this (also called tree of heaven) and au­tumn olive. Each re­quires dif­fer­ent tech­niques and sea­sons for re­moval. It’s not as sim­ple as get­ting out the chain saw.

“You can cut ailan­this, cut it down, and it comes back 10 times worse,” said Lilly. “You’ve gotta kill it first.”

Brian Morse, a wildlife bi­ol­o­gist work­ing with the Vir­ginia Forestry & Wildlife Group, agreed, call­ing ailan­this “the worst in­va­sive tree species in Vir­ginia.” In Rap­pa­han­nock, Morse also sees au­tumn olive, mul­ti­flora rose, bit­ter­sweet and Ja­panese bar­berry “on ev­ery prop­erty.”

Morse de­scribed se­lected case stud­ies of ef­forts to re­move such in­va­sives as fes­cue and John­son grass and re­place them with na­tive plants and grasses. He ad­vises clients to de­cide what their land-use goals are first and take a phased ap­proach.

Ef­fec­tive re­moval of­ten comes down to pa­tient, hands-on work, care­ful spray­ing with her­bi­cides like glyphosate or Gar­lon, and know­ing what sprays work when.

Morse of­fers these tips for clients: • Scout for prob­lems. • Man­age ex­pec­ta­tions. • Be pa­tient and per­sis­tent. • De­cide what re­ally both­ers you.

• Use adap­tive man­age­ment and long-term think­ing.

The new­est se­cret weapon in the war, ac­cord­ing to Morse?

“Goats!” said Morse, show­ing a slide and draw­ing a laugh. In fact, he’s ex­per­i­ment­ing with us­ing goats in pre­scribed graz­ing to help con­trol non-na­tive in­va­sives.

Morse rec­om­mends www.in­va­sive.org as a re­source for in­for­ma­tion on in­va­sive plants and in­sects.

The tour of the but­ter­fly trail project on the cool, drippy morn­ing gave at­ten­dees an up-close look at the newly planted host and nec­tar plants used to draw but­ter­flies in the gar­dens near Avon Hall. The mas­ter nat­u­ral­ists guides de­scribed plans for care­ful re­moval of in­va­sives to make way for na­tives.

Price, a cer­ti­fied Vir­ginia mas­ter nat­u­ral­ist and pres­i­dent of the Shenan­doah Na­tional Park As­so­ci­a­tion, said many in­va­sives have names start­ing with “Ja­panese” or “Chi­nese” be­cause they come from the same lat­i­tudes as our re­gion. “These con­di­tions are just what they’re used to.”

His an­swer? “You can do a lot of hand work, you can use Roundup to spray. But you’re not gonna elim­i­nate in­va­sives. The best you can hope for is con­trol.”

The work­shop was the third in RLEP’s ed­u­ca­tion se­ries this year. Pre­vi­ous work­shops fea­tured nat­u­ral­ist Bruce Jones and a pre­sen­ta­tion on ticks and Lyme dis­ease. This fall, RLEP plans a pro­gram on bears.

Larry “Bud” Meyer is an RLEP board mem­ber.

Photo by Kaye Kohler

From left: Jack Price, Brian Morse, Jenny Fitzhugh and Bryan Lilly pre­sented most of the in­for­ma­tion at the RLEP in­va­sive plants work­shop. Sam Quinn, right, is the bi­ol­o­gist at the Farm at Sun­ny­side and the RLEP board mem­ber who helped or­ga­nize the...

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