Alien Invaders at CEC!
Thanks to all the volunteers that joined CEC staff on September 29th in the removal of honeysuckle from and around the trails! CEC would especially like to thank ‘support’ volunteers: David Garman, Marvin Esham, Chris Harms, and Mandi Rice.
Honeysuckle is an invasive species whose real home is all the way on the other side of the world — all the way in Asia! It grows incredibly quickly, so fast, in fact, that native species can’t catch up. Honeysuckle overtakes an area by crowding out other species and hogging resources like sunlight and nutrients. Also, the small, bright red berries that honeysuckle grows late in the year remain easily visible in snowy winters, making them common food for animals like birds who will eat them and then spread their seeds across an even wider area. Unfortunately, a lack of natural predators in this region means that it’s up to us to protect native species from this alien invader!
After learning how to recognize honeysuckle, our volunteers split into two groups. One group focused on uprooting relatively new honeysuckle growth, ranging in size from flimsy weeds to small trees. The key to preventing the honeysuckle from coming back is making sure that once the plant has been pulled up, its roots don’t make contact with the soil again. The volunteers accomplished this by hanging small honeysuckle plants from tree limbs and building strategically angled piles of the small honeysuckle trees.
The second group focused on older honeysuckle growth, most of which easily rose to heights of more than ten feet. They used saws and machetes to cut it down and hack it into smaller pieces. These pieces had to be dragged along the trails in order to be added to a small mountain of similar tree debris. Chemicals were applied to the remaining stumps to ensure that the plant would not grow back.
I worked with both groups, and I can say with confidence that these separate tasks are equally important. Group two worked to clear growth that was an existing threat to the plants around it. The danger of honeysuckle became obvious once I saw the before and after: the volunteers made an entire forest clearing! And they didn’t even get to finish! Jared Patton, a senior at Earlham College, says that’s the beauty of doing work like invasive species removal: “You really get to see what you’ve accomplished.” Group one may have plucked small sprouts in comparison to chopping down towering trees, but the sheer quantity of what they removed is truly eye-opening: honeysuckle was scattered everywhere through the trails. Also, by targeting new growth, group one helped prevent more large trees from surging up, which would create more labor-intensive removal work down the road.
After working up an appetite, both groups reunited for a pizza party, where we discussed our observations. What really inspired me was how one day at CEC made most of the volunteers want to come back for more — and bring their friends!
If you weren’t able to join us this time around, but are still interested in helping out, here are some other volunteering opportunities at CEC!
- Desk Sitter Needed! Do you have a cheery personality that carries through both in person and on the phone? CEC is in need of a desk sitter to man the phones from 9AM-5PM, Monday- Friday. Hours are flexible!
- Fall Foliage 5K! Help volunteer at CEC’s Fall Foliage 5k Saturday, October 20th, 2012. Volunteers are asked to report at 8:00AM.
- Honeysuckle Haulers! Would you like to remove invasive species in good company? Join this dedicated group of volunteers every Monday afternoon from 2:00-3:30 as they work to increase biodiversity on CEC’s property.