Invasive species tips

Gardeners and landscapers are already taking advantage of the mild weather to prepare their land for the upcoming planting season. But spring is also a great time to take control of invasive plants that may be creeping onto your property.

Invasive plants are almost always the first ones to leaf out in spring, according Elizabeth Spinney, the new invasive plant coordinator for the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.

“Getting rid of invasive plants makes room for Vermont native plants and helps local wildlife, and it can also make you healthier too,” said Spinney. “Areas with fewer invasive plants tend to see lower rates of infectious disease, such as Lyme disease, because rodents and ticks thrive around many species of invasive plants.”

Spinney recommends starting with a few invasives that are relatively easy to identify and manage. Asian honeysuckles, for example, are shrubs with white flowers, red or orange berries and a hollow stem. They are often found at the edge of yards or abandoned farmlands. Japanese Barberry is a shrubby ornamental plant that forms dense thickets, shading out native plants. It has spatula-shaped leaves, red fruit, and yellow flowers that hang from the stem. Both plants can be pulled with the roots when the ground is soft after a rain and hung from a branch to prevent re-rooting. They can also be cut down to the stump, with the stump wrapped in burlap or plastic, periodically cutting back any new growth.

Common buckthorn is a small tree with dark green shiny leaves, small black berries and sharp spines at the end of twigs. It can similarly be pulled and hung or cut with the stump wrapped in plastic or burlap. Buckthorn is one of Vermont’s most insidious invasives, requiring more aggressive monitoring and control over the long term as shoots continue to sprout up.

Garlic mustard is an herb with white flowers and broad leaves that are tasty in salad. It is easy to pull up like a dandelion, making sure to get the entire long, s-shaped root.

Spinney recommends people use a photo to properly identify the plant and try to minimize disturbance of other nearby plants as they’re digging up invasives. “Be sure to check back a month later to get rid of any shoots that may be sprouting, and follow up every six months after that,” said Spinney. “Controlling invasive plants is a marathon, not a sprint, but a few simple steps can go a long way towards making your yard, and you, much healthier.”

For photos of plants or tips on dealing with them, go to vtinvasives.org.

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