reforest and briar

wkdwichJanuary 16, 2010

Just acquired 4ac south west VA that had been partially logged about 6 years ago. We have built on the property and at my request they left as many trees as they could that were left.. about 1ac in the front and east side are now grass (I will deal with that down the road I dont want any grass..) across the back of the house maybe 100ft to the north better than 150ft wide is also grass, again I will deal with that later.. we put in almost 20 2-15ft trees, assorted oaks, maples, crape myrtles, weeping willow, redbuds, blue spruce and a white birch, mostly in the front, a few in the back, all are doing well.

North beyond the grass area behind the house, we made a circular drive, leaving almost 1/3ac open in the center that has 8 really nice trees.

West side from the edge of this drive to the forest line is about 20-50ft deep heavy with saplings and LOTS of briar and wild blackberry..

Across the north side beyond the drive is about 75ftx100 grass to the treeline of heavy woods, same with the east side, grass then heavy woods.

The ground is 99% heavy red clay.. stuff grows, sun, shade everywhere.. its horrible to work, completely different from the Yankee Long Island dirt I was born and raised with. The woods are hardwoods, oaks, maples, lots of tulip poplar, redbud, dogwood, hickory and other nut trees. Some "scrub" pine, I am not sure what exactly they are, but they are pines for sure.

Along the woods edge is briar, horrible poke you right through your jeans, make you run to Walmart for a pair of kneehigh rubberboots horrible. In the 2 years we own the property (we're not here full time just yet) the briar along the woodlines are getting worse.. Oh yes also throned wild blackberry - "the sweetest in the county" they tell me, yes nice, they got to go... there is also a decent amount of thorned locust trees. The briar is stalks not vines, heavily thorned, will whip back and grab your hair with no warning, when cut invariably attach themselves to your gloves, shirt jeans..

I have sprayed the briar with the regular bought at Lowes Roundup, waited a week, it laughs at me. I now have the commercial concentrate of Roundup. We were here for a week in Nov and I walked the tree line with a pair of lopers and the Round up mixed at 4oz/gal.. I loped the briar stalks and locusts that the lopers would cut close to the ground, many were still green inside, and sprayed the cr@p out of them.. not sure if anything thats going to do until spring arrives, today there is still some snow on the ground..

In the middle of the circle drive also there are many nice saplings emerging. There is some briar in there but it is manageable with the Roundup and some pulling of crowns.

I have 2 visions for the back.. the grass area north beyond the circle and area to the west & east of the drive to reforest. In the center of the circle drive - wild flowers, an arbor/gate with ivy, some shrubs, ornamental grasses that sort of thing and path ways.. we have been rock foraging and making the pathways.

I just ordered 2lbs of NE wild flower mix that I will mix with 2lbs of "low meadow grass" (3-5" growth) that I will put in the circle drive area and in the west of the circle from the drive to the tree line.

I am hoping to order several saplings from the VA Forestry place and have a friend put them in the grassy area north of the circle drive.. I have several stands of daffodils spotted around in the woods that all came up nice last year.. (this city girl is learning fast) the deer and other critters all feasted on the tulips and other assorted things I brought down from my NY gardens. (Hubby says I need to stop putting out the smorgasbord for the deer!).

I don't really want to brushog either area because I want the saplings to grow.. I don't really want to disc the circle area to prep for the wild flower seed because of the saplings, my neighbor came in Nov and helped me plant several varities of corn flowers in the circle and I have established some strawberries already back there... I was thinking to either put straw down after seeding like they did when the grass seed was put down, or maybe a very light cover of mulch over the seed..

Am I on the right track with this project?? I plan on every trip down to lop whatever briar I can get at and heavy selective spray allowing nature to do it's thing.. hehe according to my rules :)

If I see progress with these 2 areas, I have another area along the woodline I want to wild flower, then in the woods to the north continue attacking the briar and re-establish the walk paths that you cant walk on now because of the briar..

Any comments or more ideas from anyone who has been through this??

you can see the front well and get a small idea of the back in the link below


Here is a link that might be useful: the property

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An old timer once told me that the best way to handle briars is to keep cutting down, many years in a row, and that eventually they would not have enough of a growing season to survive. That has worked for me with Smilax, but not as much with blackberry, which I leave in some spots.

Other friends say you have to dig them out, which I am too old to handle now. I tried the Round-Up route, but that did not work very well...same with Privet, which is bad on my property. It may help if you could ID the briars, since different plants respond to different treatments.

I have had no luck with establishing a prairie type flower area in my clay soil.

I have no more suggestions, but I agree that you have lots of work in front of you.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 9:18AM
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thanks for the NOT encouraging words!! :)

I did have the VT extension guy here last summer. He walked the property and had no real answers except time and perserverance to battle the briar.. the reforesting he told me I am not out of my my mind, it was just going to take time.. It will be 4 more years until we are here full time, the problem is we are here long weekends and a few odd weeks during the year so it's hard to do what needs to be done especially like today I lose the whole day cause it is too cold and raining to get out there..

Last year I did toss out some Lowes bought bags of wild flower seeds and seeds I brought from NY.. most did take and I KNOW I way under seeded the circle area, many flowers did come up, so I know it is not an impossible thought process :)

I am going to email the company ( I got the seeds from and ask them about the possabilty of covering the seeds with straw or a light layer of mulch in the areas I can not propery prep according to their instructions:
To prepare the seed bed, rake or lightly till the surface of the soil to a maximum depth of one inch. Shallow soil preparation will limit the disturbance of dormant weed seed.

I have already been diligent about Roundup on the known weeds and offenders.. I can maybe rake the large area.. maybe.. but disking or tilling will be a chore working around what already is there. My husband wants to buy me a cultivator.. but I am not sure it will do what needs to be done..


    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 2:39PM
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been searching online for pics to identify..

It is not Smilax

Leaves looks very similar to sweet briar, rose briar and wild blackberry but I have never seen flowers or berries of any kind on them

It is a cane, can be upwards of 6+ft high, maybe 1/2" thick on the older higher canes. The canes range in color from bright green to almost a purple on the bigger older ones

The closest pic I could find so far is at:

oh wait I found one I posted n my facebook:

rhizomes is the root system

As a side note I did identify what I thought was Mimosa tree spalings as sensative briar..

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 3:27PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Your last picture linked to looks like a Rubus sp. I think most likely blackberry. The wild blackberries are very good eating. Beautiful flowers too. See the picture below for blackberry flowers:

I guess I'm not understanding. Why do you need to do battle with the "briar?" Can it stay where it is? Can you do your plantings or why ever you want it cleared in another location on your property? Edges of woodland are often populated with various vines and brambles. It is natural for them there. If your war succeeds, know that your victory will be short-lived. Birds will "plant" seeds for brand new "briar" plants in those areas.

As far as heavy clay soil, I live in Western NY State and have heavy clay soil. It has advantages and disadvantages like all soil types but from experience I would advise to do any real digging in the early spring and later fall. I also would advise for best results use plants that are native to your region. They will tolerate the weather, winter as you have it in your location, wildlife, and if chosen correctly, the clay. Grow anything that requires "good drainage" in your garden beds that has other soil in them.


    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 4:07PM
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Yes the blackberries are delicious, but these are not blackberries.. I have both.. there are distinct but very small differeces.. these have no flower, berry or fruit that I have seen. they are about the same size.. the stalks are a different color in the winter and I think these others are much more purple especially this time of year.. If I remember the thorns are placed different also.. The leaves are extremely similar.. if they were growing now I would take some pictures..

The area in the center of the circle drive was specifically created for the wild flower garden, the briar and other weeds are not really bad in there.. I have been spraying and pulling the growths there with success.

The briar and blackberry are overtaking the areas west north and east of the circle drive along the woods edge, more on the north and west where they get much more sun. I have virtually no vines on the property.. Kudzu is prolific in the region, but I have none on the propery or the surronding properties. Once you get past the briars, it is lovely to walk in the woods.. it's getting in there that is the problem, so no I do not want to just let them stay there.. I am attempting to reforest these areas all the way to the drive.. there are many nice saplings in these areas but the briar is choking them out.. The VA extension person told me, and I can see this myself, that this particular briar loves the sun and is really only growing where the area had been logged some 6 years ago.

When I plant the wild flower and low growing grass seed in there it "should" take over and allow the saplings to flourish.. I discussed with the people I bought the seed from about slightly over seeding to make sure I get real good cover.

My base question is can I get away with not tilling or cultivating these large areas (because I dont want to mow down the saplings) and just rake the seed in as much as possible and maybe a light cover of either hay or mulch???

    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 9:59PM
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Please be aware that many "wildflower" seeds that are sold are wildflowers in the rest of the world and not native if planting native is important to you. Look at ingrediants and check where the plants originated.

You may have raspberries rather than blackberries. There are many other types and hybrids of both but the way I tell between the two is that Raspberries send up a new shoot in the late summer early fall with the old canes dying. They also fruit on the new wood. Blackberries send up new shoots early summer late spring. Those shoots will have berries next year. Except at the very edge of the woods accross from me raspberries rarely have berries. They do provide a place for birds to catch bugs and to nest.

The briar is probably not choking the saplings out but rather protecting them from deer. If you remove all of the briars the only thing left will be the saplings with a nice straight path to midnight brunch. I would suggest removing some so you can have an entry into the woods and leave the rest until you can be there during all the months in the year. In trying to clear the area you may be destroying some of the plants that are most wanted. Without being there and walking the area every day you can not know what is actually there that you could enjoy.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 2:04AM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Agreed - the thorns are most likely protecting the plants and trees they are growing around. The deer certainly will appreciate your efforts and the flora on the deer's buffet not so much. By the way, some of the weed killers that you are spraying may stay in the ground for sometime and hamper desired plant growth as well.

And yes, there are raspberries and blackberries that grow wild in my and most likely your part of the country too. Both are good to eat, both are Rubus like I said the plant was, and if I remember correctly produce fruit on second-year canes. So you may not have seen fruit on the plant this past year if the canes were cut recently and had to regrow. The fruit is the second year *after* the cane grows.

The last picture looked like a blackberry to me and that would be consistent with the thorniness you described but young plants can be difficult to ID.

I guess I missed you had a question about planting wild flower seed with so much written about your "briar war." The site linked below has much information on wildflower seeding - which I hope you are NOT trying in the areas you were spraying weedkillers in. They also sell lots of native plants, seeds, and even wildflowers mixes that are all native varieties. I've been very happy in ordering from them.


Here is a link that might be useful: Prairie Moon Nursery

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 9:07AM
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civilengr3(6a NE.TN)

The briar you speak of is multiflora rose. I live in NE TN, which is very close to where you are, and I live in the same situation: old woods which no one has tended in about 50 years, and these briars are huge and ugly and have very mean spikes for thorns. I've attached a link which doesn't do justice to what these things look like when let go in the shade. They are a sun-loving plant, so they have lots of flowers and leaves and berries when inthe sun, but in the woods/shade, they grow into these huge stalks which climb the trees, have few leaves, and almost never blossoms or berries. I've cut some out that were well over an inch in diameter, and 30' long! It's an invasive so it must go.

Hate to tell you this, but roundup won't do a thing to it. Need something more for woody plants and saplings, like Crossbow, applied during the winter. I try to pull the roots if possible; if not, I apply the Crossbow after cutting.

Most of it you cut will come back if not treated well, but if it's in heavy shade, a couple of times cutting back will kill it. If it gets sun, you can fight it for 10+ years without any progress by just cutting it back.

Hope this helps. Leave the blackberries; get righteously indignant on the MFR.

Here is a link that might be useful: pics of immature MFR

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 11:33AM
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ladyslppr(z6 PA)

One challenge in removing the briars is that they are growing at the forest edge, where there is sunlight and probably the woodland soil is disturbed. Both of these factors mean that the area is perfect for brushy, dense vegetation. If you could remove the briars, something else would have to be planted, or something wild like more briars will volunteer to take their place. I'd first figure out what you have, then if it is native think about leaving some of it in place at first - take on part of it at a time. When you remove some of the briar, you have to put something else in its place - thick mulch will work near the paths, but some sort of dense vegetation is needed elsewhere. I wouldn't count on a wildflower mix to keep the briars at bay - those mixes have mostly smaller, annual plants, many of htem not even native. I'd focus instead on finding nice-looking wildflowers that seem to do well in similar soils and sunlight near your house. Find ones you like, that seem vigorous, and plant those.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 12:20PM
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We have had luck removing invasive Common Buckthorn from our woods with Roundup Poison Ivy & Brush Killer. It is important to cut the woody plant in the fall and apply RU then when the plant is taking up nutrients.
We probably will have a battle for years as new plants keep popping up, but it is nowhere near as bad now as when we moved here 4 years ago. Our neighbors do nothing with theirs in an abandoned pasture so the birds will keep on seeding new ones.
We just let the Blackberries grow in their areas and hope for a summer without drought that we can pick some.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 3:19PM
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I am dealing with English ivy and multiflora rose and have been told to cut it down as close to the ground as possible, repeatedly, everytime you spot a leaf, and eventually the roots will give up and die. Where I have poison ivy to which I'm allergic, I cut it down and cover it with an old telephone book or heavy brick for a couple of years!

I agree that in woodland areas you must plant something native immediately when you take something out and mulch heavily with leaves...replacement with a tenacious plant that loves the area crowds out the one you don't want.

Check out the wintersowing forum and for an easier way to start native perennials from seed and native shrubs from cutting, then start wintersowing your favorite native perennials now to have replacements to plant quickly where you need them as you get the invasive roses out.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2010 at 1:35PM
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Multiflora rose can indeed be difficult to deal with. I have elimated it with brush and stump killer (triclopyr), by cutting down the canes to the ground and putting it directly on the cut surfaces, full strength, with a brush or small squirt bottle, being careful not to get it on anything I don't want to kill. It may be a little more labor intensive but it is very effective, being absorbed into the root and killing it. You should be able to get it at any garden center.

Unfortunately, to be effective, Roundup needs to be sprayed directly on green, growing leaves, as it is systemic, and will have little or no effect at all sprayed on roots or trunks. It may be mixed with other chemicals in some applications but is still not strong enough to kill poison ivy and multiflora rose.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 4:13PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I have killed large amounts of poison ivy and multiflora rose with glyphosate (active ingredient in RoundUp) with very good results. If glyphosate isn't doing the job, something is wrong. Either you aren't mixing it strong enough (I usually mix it about 1.5 times as strong as is recommended for brush) or you aren't applying at the right time of year. Triclopyr can also work well, but there is not reason that glyphosate, properly applied, won't do the job just as well. It certain does, and does so consistently, for me.

BTW, plain glyphosate can work better than some RoundUp formulations. There are a number of different versions of RoundUp, and some do have disadvantages when it comes to killing some types of woody or brushy plants. Generic glyphosate can be considerably cheaper than RoundUp and is widely available at any farm supply store.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 8:44PM
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