Invasive plant species spread trouble to trails
(Note: Catchy as it's worded, the author fails to mention that the U.S. Soil Conservation Service and Extension Service -- now a tentacle of the the USDA known as the Natural Resources Conservation Service http://www.nrcs.usda.gov -- offered multiflora rose to farmers as an alternative stock-proof fence. "Beginning in the 1930s, the U.S. Soil Conservation Service promoted it for use in erosion control and as "living fences" to confine livestock. State conservation departments soon discovered value in multiflora rose as wildlife cover for pheasant, bobwhite quail, and cottontail rabbit and as food for songbirds and encouraged its use by distributing rooted cuttings to landowners free of charge. More recently, multiflora rose has been planted in highway median strips to serve as crash barriers and to reduce automobile headlight glare. Its tenacious and unstoppable growth habit was eventually recognized as a problem on pastures and unplowed lands, where it disrupted cattle grazing. For these reasons, multiflora rose is classified as a noxious weed in several states, including Iowa, Ohio, West Virginia, and New Jersey." Source: http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/romu1.htm )
June 3, 2005
Sandy Moy, executive director of Tarrywile Park, examines autumn olive, an example of a non-native, invasive species of plant in Connecticut. - Autumn Pinette photo.
By Robert Miller email@example.com or 203-744-3130
333 Main Street
Danbury, Connecticut 06810
203-744-5100 or 203-731-3362
To submit a Letter to the Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Danbury, Connecticut - "Horse High. Bull Thick. Hog Tight" was the way they used to advertise multiflora rose. It was going to be the ideal hedge, the "living fence" for penning livestock in a field. They forgot to add "Spreads Like a Rumor" to the copy.
What horticulturists of the 1930s failed to realized was that multiflora rose wouldn't stay put. Its heavily thorned stalks were soon forming thick clumps in the middle of meadows across the Northeast.
Today, multiflora rose is high on the unwanted list of non-native, invasive species, along with phragmites, Oriental bittersweet, garlic mustard and autumn olive — plants that have escaped into the wild and are taking over.
"People are beginning to understand," said Helen Pritchard. "These plants come with hardy roots. When you get a plant like Japanese barberry into the understory of a forest, it chokes out native plants like lady slipper that aren't strong enough to compete."
Pritchard, a long-time member of the Danbury Garden Club and of the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group, will spend part of National Trails Day on Saturday telling hikers at Tarrywile Park about the noxious pests blooming along the paths and highways.
After her talks, those attending can go out into the park and see for themselves the damage invasive plants can do.
"We have plenty of species to look at," said Sandy Moy, the park's executive director.
Pritchard's talk will touch on some of the species on the state's invasive plant list. She'll also talk about the problems they cause -- especially a reduction of biodiversity -- as well as how to control the invaders and how to avoid their spread by buying native species.
"The nursery industry is now starting to market some alternatives," she said.
Moy said the park's staff decided to invite Pritchard to speak in part because of the new management plan for the park, drawn up by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
That plan looks at seven areas of importance in the park, including studying the diversity of the park's field species and the need to educate people about the park. Moy said having Pritchard teach people about invasive species addresses those two areas.
The Yale plan lists eight non-native invasive species at Tarrywile: Japanese honeysuckle, Japanese stilt grass, reed canary grass, cypress spurge, multiflora rose, autumn olive, burning bush and dame's rocket.
Like multiflora rose, many of these plants were once touted for their practicality. People planted groves of autumn olive to stabilize land against erosion. Landscapers still use burning bush because it can thrive in many soils and climates and because of its colorful fall foliage.
And there are always new plants coming into the state and getting loose. In 2002, the state discovered giant hogweed growing along the side of the road in Litchfield County. It's now been found in seven of the state's eight counties.
And there are pests like kudzu -- a vine that has blanketed the South -- that can't survive in the colder New England weather. But if the plants begins to adapt to colder weather, it could be a huge problem, Pritchard said.
All this underlines the seriousness of the invasive plant problems the state and the region face.
"The whole point is education," Pritchard said. "It's the best way to get people involved."
Helen Pritchard will talk about non-native, invasive species at Tarrywile Park in Danbury on Saturday at 10 a.m., and noon as part of the park's celebration of National Trails Day. For more information, call the park at 203-744-3130.
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Copyright 2005, The News-Times.
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