After Clearing Out the Buckthorn...

chisueAugust 27, 2011

Today the tree guys have been here all day, cutting down all the buckthorn between our arbor vitae and the creek that runs along the east side of our lot. Now what?

What can I use to poison the stumps (cut to ground)? How can I encourage some native growth here? Remaining trees are primarily spindly elm 'volunteers' and ashes about 40 feet tall -- all probably doomed by Dutch Elm or Emerald Ash Borer.

This is a swath about 200' X 15'. I can't physically do much (arthritis, asthma), but need some guidance about what should be done.

I'm 30 miles north of Chicago, a couple miles inland from Lake Michigan.

(Oh, this is also a deer path.)

Thanks for all ideas!

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What I do is right after cutting them down, is drill a hole or two on top of the stump and pour some round up in there. I think it works better when the cut is fresh. Remember to patrol the area for the next few years and weed out the seedlings as they come up. I've learned to recognize them in all stages...even as a new 2-leaved seedling.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 6:32PM
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Poison off the buckthorn by cut stump method on fresh cuts.
Maybe grow a cover crop for a season to suppress the buckthorn seeds a bit and then mow it.
Deer don't prefer spicebush. Not sure if that grows in your area. It's one of the few natives they don't decimate around here. Same for tulip trees and sassafras trees but don't grow either of those trees near house or driveway as the wood can be brittle and drop big branches and trunks sometimes.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 10:48PM
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Thanks, Anita and Bob. I'm going to talk to our city's forestry department too.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 1:19PM
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linda_schreiber(z5/6 MI)

Do check with the city's forestry department, especially as this area runs along a creek. They may actually be able to help with more than just advice....

Re the buckthorns, if they were decent-sized trees [two inches or better diameter at ground-level trunk] then the drill-and-roundup method should help greatly. An electric drill with a medium bit. Not once down the middle, but two or three holes between the middle and the bark. You want the roundup to get into the root. Doesn't work well with just one hole into the heartwood. Doesn't need to be done on a 'fresh cut' as long as the drill bit goes more than an inch or two into the stump.

If the ashes are this large, don't worry about them. They most likely *are* native. The borer may get them. Or not. It may be a decade, or two, before they are a problem. That's for later, if sadly necessary.

The spindly elm volunteers are probably either Chinese or Siberian elms. Weed trees. Not bothered by Dutch elm disease. But they can be a pain in the derriere.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 8:54PM
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Linda -- Thanks for the drilling instructions. I'll tell our garden guy; he's doing this -- not asthmatic Sue.

Our 'volunteers' are American elms -- seedlings from our 100-year-old that we are striving to keep alive with injections every third year. Some survive. Some get the disease, get tagged by the city, and we remove them. I've experienced Chinese Elms -- ick. lol The ash borers are just starting to be found in local trees.

The forestry chief mentioned spraying the whole area with RoundUp -- maybe even next spring. Have yet to talk to him since we got the buckthorn down.

We call this waterway a creek, but it's actually a creek that was deepened into a groundwater drainage ditch -- dug around 1900. It's usually an inch deep but during storms it can rise to nine feet. It is an early feeder into the North Branch of the Chicago River. I don't want to add to the pollution in it. We'll see what the powers that be have to say.

Very nice to have the help of this forum!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 10:20AM
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linda_schreiber(z5/6 MI)

One more tip for the garden guy.... For smaller saplings, just a hatchet cut for little ones or a x-cut for somewhat larger ones will open up the right tissues. Drench well with roundup.

The drill-in-stump method, and the above, won't add pollution to the creek. But the forestry chief talked of 'spraying' the area with roundup? That's a really bad idea near any kind of waterway, even a ditch or ditch-sized marsh, if the water reaches creeks, rivers, marshes. Even near a storm drain, bad. He has to be frustrated by the weed trees, but please ask him to talk to whoever is in charge of the waterways. The one bad pollution that run-off roundup *does* do is that it has *very* bad effects on aquatic and semi-aquatic life. The spray hitting the water surface, or washed into the water, especially in spring. Not good at all....

Congrats on your American Elm! And thank you for working so hard with it. May at least a few of its seedlings live long and prosper!!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 9:22PM
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linda -- Thanks. The axe slashes would be easier to accomplish.

I talked to our Head of Forestry and we agreed NOT to put Round-Up on anything but the buckthorn stumps. I'm going to ask our gardener if he can dig up the buckthorn as it sprouts. Forestry says we might see native plants emerge by the spring -- or Spring 2013-14. Long vigil! He said we could also cover the whole bank with black plastic, but it seems to me we'd be back at the starting point again when we removed it.

Now I have to learn what IS 'native' so I can encourage that while ripping the buckthorn starters. All I remember from Camp Fire Girls (a VERY long time ago!) is trilium.

Do they make cheap floral indoor-outdoor carpeting? lol

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 9:48AM
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linda_schreiber(z5/6 MI)

>Do they make cheap floral indoor-outdoor carpeting? lol
Love it, Sue! Thanks for the big grins! If they could get it done in seriously complex 3-D, I would love some!

And sorry.... (Have had no logical and coherent brain for a week or three. Couldn't get this all together in one go.) One more thing for the garden guy. If the larger (probably 2 or 3 inches or better. The ones old enough to have developed real bark.) buckthorn stumps start growing back, and some will, at least it does not root-sprout... Thank Heaven. It only stump-sprouts. Girdling the stump really low (with that self-same hatchet) will work wonders.

Thank you! for talking with the Forestry rep, and talking him out of a wide spray of roundup near water. Excellent! And you're also right. The black plastic concept doesn't suit in shade at all. The point of that is the heat developed under the black heat-absorptive plastic in full sun, killing off everything. (Also tends to kill off everything alive in the soil. Generally not good.) In shade, it will only hold in moisture and promote lots of mold. Probably not good for someone with asthma. It will kill off some plants, but the buckthorns and seeds thereof will be back.

I was never a Campfire Girl, but I was a Girl Scout, ***many*** years ago. I think that the only native plant I learned about back then was poison ivy!

Re native plants, the forestry rep is probably correct that you will see some 'natives' coming back, but they might not be ones you will find desirable. It's possible that some good stuff will indeed pop up out of the seed bank. But there are also 'native' weeds, vines, problems. Not all natives are nice.

I really think you're going to have to put a few in. We're in similar zones in the same region. Here are a few that really give good bang for the buck. Here, I'm not talking about tricky or exotic or expensive ones. Instead, these are plants which are easy care, pretty much no care once established, will seed in some, but not aggressively, and will take to being moved easily. One plant puts out enough seeds to start another 6 or 12 plants. You let them be, or you chunk them out, and tamp each one in 20 or 40 feet away. And get a number of patches.

Just a few to get you started.

Wood poppy - Stylophorum diphyllum. Perennial native, comes up in early-mid spring and blooms yellow from mid April well into June. The foliage is lovely, both earlier and later. The descriptions say "moist woods", but they do fine in our area without watering even in drier periods. A no-fuss joy.

Virginia bluebells - Mertensia virginica. Perennial native. Comes up a little after the wood poppy, and doesn't stay quite as long, but it is very much worth it!

Wild ginger - Asarum canadense. No showy flowers, but nice patches of fairly early and then long-lasting foliage.

Black cohosh - Cimicifuga racemosa. Lovely taller foliage, with delicate white flower spikes high above the foliage, from late May into Mid July. Doesn't seed in much, but is easily divided and moved. Definitely well-behaved, and very graceful.

In your long patch, you will want some native shrubs, eventually. I have not great advice on those. You might want to hit the 'native plants' forum, and give them your location and the specs on your woodland, and see what they suggest.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 10:03PM
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Thank you, Linda. Forestry said I could expect to see wild mustard (?) that would have to be removed too. WHAT have I gotten myself into?

Are the plants you listed unattractive to deer? This waterway is part of a deerpath that probably runs from Wisconsin on south through the Cook County Forest Preserves -- and on to Southern Illinois for all I know. We have had fewer deer the last few years, but I'm not sure why. That may change since a neighbor has started shooting coyotes. Bizarre -- and he's our alderman!

I'll check with the "Native Plants" forum. Appreciate your help.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 11:01AM
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linda_schreiber(z5/6 MI)

When ya clear areas, ya gonna get weeds. That's what weeds do well. Hence the term 'weed' [very wry grin]. That's less true in shade than in full sun, but it will happen. Don't panic.

If he said 'wild mustard', that's generally not a problem in shade, at least around here. 'Garlic mustard' might be. Don't want to get started there unless the problem comes up. [See if your garden guy is familiar with it, and can spot it. But if it was there before, the buckthorns wouldn't have squelched it. Removing them shouldn't make much difference.]

As far as deer resistance, I don't know. I don't have deer problems here. I do know that groundhogs don't bother them, and they eat everything, in my experience. Would be worth a try.

I may be wrong, but I suspect that the future deer numbers won't have much to do with the valiant coyote hunter [grin]. Deer numbers are somewhat cyclical, and there are diseases that have been affecting them over some years. Not impossible that a coyote could take a very young fawn, but mostly they go after much smaller things. And as much as the alderman might not want to believe it, they're here to stay.

For a little perk-me-up come spring, think about getting some early spring bulbs in now. [Are you fully focused on natives?] Bloodroot is native, and comes up early. And as much as I love natives, come spring, snowdrops, siberian squill, species tulips, make for joy in my woodland garden.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 7:39PM
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