Changes in the Woodlands

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March 11th, 2023 Community Workday – Plan is to continue clearing the woodlands of woody invasive plants behind the school and near Bannockburn Drive. After this event, this end of the woods is expected to be cleared of all invasive woody plants except for evergreen creeping grounding cover (I am looking at you English Ivy and Wintercreeper). The area will serve as an example of what a natural and stable native woodland ecosystem looks like, and the type of change we plan to bring to the entire 2.5 acres of woodlands around Bannockburn.

Dec, 11th, 2022 Workday – Volunteers worked to remove invasive bush honeysuckle shrubs along the path up to the back of the school staff parking lot. Clearing this area of invasives will also make it more maintainable by the school staff. In early 2024, school maintenance staff will begin weedwacking the area regularly in order to keep the poison ivy back from the walkway. Volunteers also began clearing invasive plants from the western most corner of the school grounds, near the intersection of E. Halbert and Bannockburn Dr.

April 23rd, 2022 Workday – Volunteers will continue along the edge of the BES parking lot and work to clear invasive bush honeysuckle, porcelain berry, japanese honeysuckle and oriental bittersweet. Parking in the BES parking lot will be limited so that volunteers have a safe and accessible work site. Please follow on-site signage.

Why is there green tape on plants?

Before work begins in an area, a Mo. Co. Weed Warrior surveys the work area for plants that we would want to keep. Especially ones that were currently being smothered by non-native invasives (NNIs) and are difficult for an untrained eye to distinguish. These beneficial plants are marked with green tape, to help make sure that they were saved when removing the NNIs. The green tape will be left up in an area until invasive removal work completes, to ensure that desirable plants are not accidentally removed by a volunteer. Also, the green tape helps counter the narrative that “all vines are bad.” We have multiple native vines that contribute to the balance of our native ecosystem. We will often mark these vines with green tape, to minimize the risk that a well intentioned volunteer cuts them.

Who is deciding what gets removed?

The non-native invasive (NNI) plants are being removed from the woodland areas on BES grounds. These areas are being managed as natural woodlands, and as such, we are following the same processes that Montgomery County Parks Dept. uses to identify and prioritize removal of invasive plants in our county parks through their Weed Warrior Program. Each workday at BES has a certified weed warrior leading the effort.

Why are so many plants removed?

The only plants removed were ones that are dangerously invasive in our area. Posing a threat to our local parks and ecosystems. The fact that these invasive plants are dominating so much of the understory layer is a testament to the scope and severity of the impact they hare having on our natural areas. After removing the NNIs, it becomes immediately apparent how difficult a time our native woody shrubs are having trying to complete and survive in our natural areas.

Why are many of the vines on the trees starting to die?

The most immediate and impactful damage to our ecosystem is done by NNI vines when they cause the premature death of trees. For this reason, we prioritize cutting the vines at the base of the trees, severing the plant’s climbing portion from the root system. After 1-12 weeks from when the work has been done in an area, you will begin to notice that NNI vines climbing the trees are starting to wilt. The threat to these trees will immediately begin to recede, and that NNI vine will no longer fruit and spread seed in the wider community. A good return on 10-15 minutes of work for a tree.

Why are some vines left and not cut?

There are native beneficial vines that exist in balance and are a contributing member of our natural ecosystem. Grapevine, virginia creeper, greenbrier, and poison ivy being four of the most common in this area. So if you see a vine still left in an area, PLEASE don’t rush to help and cut it down. There is a good chance that it is a native beneficial vine and a lot of effort has been undertaken to keep it alive. If it is marked with green tape, that is also an indication it is a native vine.

After you cut the NNI vines at the bottom of the trees, why do you not pull them off the tree?

Pulling off tight climbing vines (and loose ones too) can damage the tree. When the climbing portion dies and dries out, it will fall off the tree on its own and not cause harm to the tree in the process. For tight climbing vines, this process can take years, however once we cut the vine the threat to the tree has been eliminated and the ability for the vine to spread by fruit has been stopped. Additionally, pulling vines off trees is dangerous for those on the ground.

Why have the cut down NNI shrubs and vines been left on the site?

There are a few reasons for this. We must consider that these woodland areas are natural areas and we must manage them as such. In natural areas the nutrients available in the ecosystem in the near term are finite and only replenish over very long periods of time. If we cut plants down and remove them from the site, then we are depleting this natural area of nutrients. This makes it important that we leave the cut plant material on site, and allow the complex ecosystem and it’s decomposers to keep these nutrients in the Nutrient Cycle and available to participants in the ecosystem.

Additionally, if we were to remove these plants from the site, we would most likely become accomplices in assisting their spread. Fragments and seeds of the plants are often lost during the transportation process and result in establishment elsewhere.

Fortunately, many of these invasive shrubs are made of soft wood and decompose readily.

Why are some of the cut shrubs left in lines and piles?

Sometimes it is best to leave cut woody plants in what looks like a debris pile. While these piles decompose, they can serve as safe spaces for animals to find shelter. Additionally, in areas where there is a great likelihood that kids will be near, piles can deter kids from running through a recently cleared area and tripping on low root stumps.

Why have some Non-Native shrubs been left in an area that was cleared?

This is a great question! As you can see, when we clear an area of NNI shrubs and vines, it causes quite a disturbance. We can be kicking up NNI seeds that will germinate the following season. We can also cause erosion problems on slopes. For these reasons, and more, we may choose to leave some non-native shrubs whose behavior in our natural areas is observed as less invasive. These shrubs can help keep their immediate surroundings stabilized, in the face a of a lot of disruption in the general area around them. Hopefully we can come back in future years, native shrubs will have started to reestablish and then we can consider removal of these last non-native shrubs. Additionally, some plants are labor intensive to remove, and pose less of a threat. So we want to prioritize staying focused on removing the easier plants to remove that are posing an active threat to the tree canopy.

Who can I contact to get involved or learn more about this activity?

Please reach out to the PTA and we will help to answer your questions and/or assist in helping you get involved .