Monday, December 1, 2008

Humane Heroes Battle...Invasive Plants!

One of the principals of living a humane ethic is that we don't concentrate our efforts solely on the welfare of companion animals like dogs and cats. It demands that we take a broader view of animal welfare and the environment. Which brings us to land stewardship. 

DPVHS owns the land where our shelter buildings sit in Greenfield and Leverett. Both properties are wooded and offer terrific views of surrounding conservation land. The Leverett property has a large meadow--many of you may have met your best canine friend in the giant fenced play area on that meadow. Over the years, though, our beautiful meadow has been overrun by thickets of invasive multiflora rose bushes.

So on a brisk Sunday in November, a team of intrepid briar-battlers converged upon the Leverett meadow and met head-on the multiflora rose invasion.  A big tail wagging thank you to Allison, Ann, Sue, Jan, Maida, Sherrill, and Carole for their persistence in pulling, snipping, tugging, and dragging the nasty thickets into piles to be burned later in the winter (controlled 
burning will help stop the development of new plants and seeds).

One of DPVHS's best buddies is Allison, an avid dog lover, the talented designer of things like our logo and newsletters, and an advocate for native wildflower and plant species.  Here's what Allison had to say about our multi-flora rose adventures:

"Our work on the 16th concentrated on the dense thickets of multiflora rose, and a few of the Japanese honeysuckles, which surround the DPVHS property.

"Multiflora rose and Japanese honeysuckle are non-native invasive plants first introduced to the U.S. and Europe in the mid-1800s from Japan and China. Multiflora rose was originally used as rootstock for horticultural breeding. Japanese honeysuckles were imported and planted as ornamental shrubs. Both plants became widely used. In the 1920s and 30s, they were actively promoted, along with other species such as Japanese barberry and autumn olive, by organizations such as the U.S. Soil Service (now USDA) for use as living fences, windbreaks, crash barriers (!), and wildlife food sources.

"With the decline of New England agriculture, multiflora rose and Japanese honeysuckle quickly escaped controlled plantings and invaded abandoned fields and forest edges.  Like many successful invasive plants, they have the ability to thrive in a broad range of conditions: wet meadows and dry fields, full sun to shaded forest understory. The rose hips and honeysuckle fruit produced at DPVHS not only spread new plants on that site, but are bird-borne to other properties within a wide radius.

"As evidenced at DPVHS, multiflora roses can quickly form dense, impenetrable thickets which cut off light, suck up water and nutrients, and physically displace existing native species. My quick walk around the perimeter of the property showed very few remaining native plant species in what was once a rich and diverse wetland/meadow. Low plant diversity means low diversity of insects, birds, and other animals as well. The health of one piece of property affects the surrounding areas. Good land stewardship means promoting native species and diverse habitats, removing invasive species, and monitoring for new infestations."

For more information on invasive plants, visit the Invasive Plant FAQ of the New England Wildflower Society.

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