Helping Native Plant Species Thrive
Tackling invasives the community way
If you spend time in Vermont, you’ve probably seen knotweed. This broad-leaved plant is ubiquitous, producing white blooms that made it popular at nurseries for years. Unfortunately, it can also grow up to three inches a day and has taken over many riverbanks and roadsides.
Knotweed is one of the world’s worst invasive species. Like all invasives, it outcompetes native plants for sun, water, and food. In Vermont, invasives threaten the state’s sugaring, forestry, and recreation industries—and even our health.
“Invasives like barberry and honeysuckle can cover a forest floor, preventing native trees from regenerating, and providing cover and conditions that favor mice and the ticks they carry—ticks that carry Lyme and other tick-borne diseases,” said Jennifer Garrett of VLT.
Outreach is critical, so that community members can learn about invasives and coordinate their efforts to control them. “Invasive plants don’t know the difference between boundary lines,” said Sam Schneski, Windham County’s Forester. “Involving and educating the community is the only way to truly have a positive impact.”
VLT is helping to establish a Cooperative Invasive Species Management Association (CISMA) in southeast Vermont, using land it owns in Brattleboro to demonstrate management approaches. The team is experimenting with controlling knotweed using wire mesh that will (ideally) starve the plant’s root system. Results won’t be in for three to five years, but members are in this for the long haul.
“The biggest thing I have learned is how pervasive the challenge of invasive species can be when a site is allowed to develop naturally,” said Cory Ross, of the Windham Conservation District. “The fields and the woods on this site all have robust populations of invasive plant species. It demonstrates how important it is that landowners be aware of invasives, how to identify them, and what to do to remove them safely.”
Both Sam and Cory are members of the newly formed CISMA, which is holding online workshops this fall. The webinars will cover identification, mechanical removal, chemical removal, backyard and woodland invaders, and—yes—the dreaded knotweed.
By involving the community, VLT is increasing the odds that the state’s native species will thrive for the benefit of all.
Story by Rachel Mullis. Photos by Ben Kimball. This story appeared in our 2019-20 Year in Review.