Invasive Species Spotlight: Japanese Barberry

You can often find Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) right in your own yard or nearby, as it has been a popular landscape plant for many decades. It is now banned from being sold in Maine, however, as it is highly invasive in our forests and can form dense stands that prevent trees and other native plants from growing. As deer and other herbivores prefer other plants, it gets a competitive boost from our large deer population. Fall is a good time of year to see the bush, as it is sporting many tiny, oblong red fruits hanging along its thorny branches. It also has very small, teardrop-shaped leaves (see photo). Barberry has also been implicated in increased incidence of tick-borne Lyme disease–see this video for more information: https://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/Expert-Suggestions-for-Removing-Japanese-Barberry–448183243.html.

If you own forest or fields, taking time to survey your land for this noxious bush and removing it is worth the effort before it becomes a big job to get rid of it. The plant can be pulled by a tractor with a brush chain, or dug out by hand, which is best done after cutting it just above ground level with a brush cutter or loppers to avoid handling the thorny branches. It is also easily killed by a foliar application of herbicide (Follow directions on the label and applicable laws when using herbicide).

Related plants such as reddish cultivars of barberry and common barberry (Berberis vulgaris) are also considered invasive and are banned from being sold in Maine.

If you want to replace barberry in your landscaped area, many attractive native bushes offer color and interest similar to barberry, including American cranberry, also called highbush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum) and Virginia rose (Rosa virginiana).

For more information, visit the Maine DACF website, which includes a Japanese barberry identification guide as well as tips and videos on how to get rid of it:  http://www.maine.gov/dacf/mnap/features/invasive_plants/berberis.htm. 

Japanese barberry can dominate a forest understory.

Planting Chestnuts in Waldo County

WCSW has joined the effort to support the work of the American Chestnut Foundation to develop a hybrid chestnut tree resistant to chestnut blight. This summer, our interns and a volunteer planted four trees which will be carefully monitored for health and resistance in the coming years. To learn more about the project, check out the American Chestnut Foundation in Maine.

Resources for Delayed Mowing Hayfield Management

For farmers interested in preserving wildlife habitat in their mowed fields, Ag Allies offers many resources. For more information, visit this link:
http://somersetswcd.org/ag-allies/On-Farm Delayed Mowing Program and incentive for active farm fields: We work with interested farmers and landowners to provide safe habitat for grassland bird nesting. This process involves on-farm assessments to identify fields in use by bobolinks and other grassland birds. Every situation is different, so we work with farmers and landowners to assess their grassland management and find the best options to make some room for the birds. Strategies include more intensive management of the most productive fields while delaying cuts on other fields or the establishment of un-mowed blocks within key nesting fields.
In addition, the program provides some incentive funds to encourage program participation and reduce the initial cost of management changes. If applicable, we will also direct farmers to the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), Grassland bird management practice; which is another option that provides an incentive payment for delayed mowing on fields for the 65 day period needed for bobolinks and other grassland birds to raise young.

Announcing Working with Your Woodland Series

Waldo County Small Scale Forest Stewardship Field Tours

Join us for a fun and practical series that will offer many ideas for enhancing and caring for your woodland. Waldo County Soil and Water Conservation District and Maine Forest Service are co-sponsoring a series of short field tours to highlight forest stewardship and conservation practices of private landowners, beginning in July. Many landowners have quietly been implementing a wide variety of careful, long-term management activities and techniques for years, to enhance their woodlands’ productivity, habitat, and beauty for decades to come. Some activities require considerable labor and resources, but others do not. These short tours are open to landowners, foresters, loggers, and others interested in the stewardship of small woodlands. The tours will provide a brief, two-hour introduction to the landowners and their goals, often with the forester and/or harvester working with the landowner. They will offer participants a chance to see some of the interesting work they have done, ask questions, and gather ideas for how to manage their own woods.

The next events in our series will continue beginning in late October, with fun events through the winter. More information will be posted on our home page blog soon!

(more…)

WCSW Interns Join the NRCS Earth Team

This summer, our Community Conservation Corps program has created a unique opportunity to enhance our partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through shared training and volunteer work. WCSW interns participated in a learning session with NRCS District Conservationist Brittany Hummel and dairy farmer Sue Hunter to learn about nutrient management and the NRCS’ role in helping farmers. They also had an opportunity to assist with soil sampling after training with Megan Facciolo, NRCS Soil Conservationist, after which they completed soil sampling on their own at two other farms.

Learning about nutrient management
Soil sampling