Burning my 'woodland'

ahughes798(z5 IL)December 20, 2005

I have a one tree native plant woodland garden. It has been in existence for about 2 full growing seasons, this year will be it's third. Should I do a burn this Spring? If so...will the burn kill all the danged buckthorn seedlings? Thanks! April

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ladyslppr(z6 PA)

There is no need to burn an eastern decidous woodland garden. Unlike a prairie, which is adapted to fire and thrives partially because of fire, woodlands typically don't burn. In Illinois woodlands historically occurred in locations that didn't burn.

Some types of woods are adapted for burns, such as many types of pine woodland. Also, I think that many prairie-edge woodlands and savannahs may have historically burned and the plants there may be adapted for burning.

So I think it depends on what you are growing. Most of the plants that occur in woodlands here in PA aren't adapted for fire, and the woodlands here don't burn. If you are growing typical eastern woodland plants then I wouldn't burn the garden. On the other hand, if you are growing prairie-edge and savannah species, then you might want to burn.

What find of tree do you have?

    Bookmark   December 21, 2005 at 9:18AM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

It's a very large silver maple. The reason I ask is that the local state park does burn their woodland. OTOH..the understory is so heavily grazed by too many deer and infested with garlic mustard, it must not matter.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2005 at 7:55PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Yes, burning will help stunt the buckthorn. But burning also will "control" (damage) small trees. Maples are more susceptible to fire damage than thick barked hardwoods.

If you feel pyromania-ish and want to burn, you can minimizee fire damage to the tree by protecting it from the fire. Rake away from the base and make sure your burn is low and controlled.

The park district is burning their woodland to control invasives (sugar maples, buckthorn, garlic mustard) and stimulate understory growth of natives.

If your garden is real small, you probably could just mow it and hand pull invasives to simulate a fire. Mowing isn't as effective as fire for warmth and native stimulation, but it certainly would be safe for the maple.

Whether fire is appropriate or not depends upon how one defines a woodland. In Illinois most wooded areas do have historical evidence of periodic fire. But that depends upon geography. Wetland areas would only burn in dry years, thus would be predominately maples, cottonwoods, bulk seed producers that were susceptible to fire.

Upland wooded areas (Savannah) would burn more frequently and at higher intensities, thus would consist of predominately oak, hickory, and walnut; mass producing, thick barked, trees adapted to withstand fire.

True forest, deep woods with minimal understory is an unnatural condition in the northern 2/3 of Illinois. The soils have a hard time supporting such a vegetative condition.

Whether to use fire or not depends upon your site and what conditions are you trying to mimic.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2005 at 12:18PM
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waplummer(Z5 NY)

What is a one tree native plant woodland garden? Woodland suggests trees. Shade garden, maybe? And why would you want to burn?

    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 11:16AM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

It was a joke, walplummer, hence the single quotation marks around the word woodland in the original post. And if you count the hundreds and hundreds of buckthorn seedlings, and the non-native mulberry saplings, it is indeed a woodland. I want to turn it back into a shade garden, actually.

I wanted to burn because the rangers at the state park burn the woodland. I also want a way to easily get rid of the buckthorn seedlings that come up every year. Can't do round-up in this small area unless I time it exactly right, because I have lots of spring ephemerals there, some rare.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2006 at 2:51PM
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nativescaping(z5a IL)

Buckthorn seeds can lay dormant in the ground for several years, waiting for an opportunity to sprout. It would be best to get the "weed" species under control before planting desirable plants in an area. Burning a woodland would be a good management practice, burning a native shade garden IMO would not be beneficial to the plants - many of which,if not ephemeral, are semi-evergreen, such as Hepatica and Phlox.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2006 at 2:07PM
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nyssaman(Z6 ON)

Ah the wonderful buckthorn, such a blessed tree from hell. The latest in buckthorn removal technology apparently is a little lever like tool that wraps around the base of the tree - then like a wine cork remover the handle is pushed toward the ground and the buckthorn is pulled out by the roots - Works on trees up to 2 inches. Now I heard this from one of the conservation authority people here and found it extremely hard to believe. I have tried to pull these out with a tractor and a chain and broke the chain....lol. The other alternative is to cut the tree and do a basil application(painting of herbicide on the cut) Less messy with regard to overspray on things you want to keep.. There is also a gun that you point on the cutting and it fires the herbicide into the tree??? not really sure how that works... The second option is probably the one you want to use the herbicide may have to be painted on 2-3 times. If there are alot of trees I would spray them with a little orange paint after you cut them, they may be hard to find when you need to do the basil application again if you dont..lol.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2006 at 12:02AM
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nyssaman(Z6 ON)

The lever like tool is called the "WEED WRENCH" just google that and it comes right up


    Bookmark   January 17, 2006 at 1:06AM
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nyssaman(Z6 ON)


    Bookmark   February 14, 2006 at 4:06PM
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The Weed Wrench works great. I had few buckthorn, but a bazillion honeysuckle, some with 3 or 4" trunks. I have the large version, for trunks up to 2 1/2", and it will yank those right out of the ground, root and all. Spring moisture makes it especially effective.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2006 at 9:29AM
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birkie(z4 WI)

I'm a firm believer in using only mechanical methods in clearing woodlands. As someone mentioned, ephemerals are very early and would be scorched, all the mulch on the ground would be removed, and any creatures that hibernate in that debris (such as the big silk moths, overwintering butterflies, etc. etc.) would be killed. Fire to be effective against any woody weed-types must be very hot and could have all sorts of ill effects.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2006 at 3:59PM
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