Archive for the ‘Mitigation Strategies’ Category

Assumption: Most plant diversity in Missouri is near the ground

Assumption: Recent invasive species (Asian Bush Honeysuckle, Winter Creeper/ Climbing Euonymus, Bradford pear…) have severely transformed our natural landscapes, especially at the ground level.

Assumption: The expanding saturation frontier of several invasive species shows no sign of being stopped or reversed.



Assumption: Eventually only areas of active restoration and prevention will maintain traditional natural landscapes

Assumption: People are starting to become more aware of the problem and are fighting back

Assumption: Lots of urban acreage currently is lawn. We have an enormous potential to restore and landscape traditional plant communities.

Refugia: Ecological enclaves that preserve threatened or relic species.

YES REFUGIA!!! Why not!!!!!! 
Because it is labor intensive, refugia should be done in urban areas. Cities and suburbs are where people can easily work on preserving our natural heritage while also beautifying their communities.

Replacing lawns that are not actively being used for recreation or transportation offers an enormous potential.

Community civic groups, gardening clubs, nature enthusiasts and hobbyist can cultivate the preservation of native and relic ecology.

Here are some ideas:

Urban restoration areas in parks and common ground – Such efforts should be publicized and used to educate the public

Native Garden clubs – Organizations can aid gardeners and promote native plants. They can showcase native landscaping. Gardening groups can catalog and distribute gardening advice and field notes

Native garden contests / promotions / photo contests. Native gardens can be showcased thru contests, calendars, websites and videos

Cultivating and distributing local native cultivars – Native plants and seeds can be collected and distributed from natural areas before they are developed. Nurseries can offer local varieties of native plants.

Partnerships – Universities can collaborate with landscaping companies in order to develop ecological restoration business models. Public land managers can work with academic and corporate sponsors to promote restoration efforts. Schools can give students opportunities to volunteer and learn about careers in ecology, land management and landscaping.



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Traditional Missouri landscape

Refugiaan area where special environmental circumstances have enabled a species or community of species to survive after extinction in surrounding areas.


Traditional Missouri landscape

Invasive species threaten our traditional natural environments.


Areas set aside as ecological preserves and wilderness are generally areas where human interference has been restricted or limited.



Traditional Missouri landscape

Wilderness has been traditionally defined as undeveloped or free from human management


Traditional Missouri landscape, diverse but at risk!

Invasive species challenge this “hands off” approach. By leaving the land alone, nonnative species completely transform traditional landscapes.


MKT trail – With green Honeysuckle infestations out to the horizon


Unfortunately, by introducing exotic species, merely protecting traditional landscapes from development is no longer enough. With invasive plants, we risk losing the ability to have large scale areas that are easy to maintain.


Honeysuckle removed (foreground)

In the face of multiple invasive species infestations, an active long term commitment to preventing and removing introduced species is required.


Severe Infestation of Asian Bush Honeysuckle. The entire area is saturated with it!

Sadly, what was once generally self-sustaining if left alone, now requires a well organized labor intensive intervention that, at best, can only be effective in a few select areas. In other words: Refugia.



Traditional Missouri landscape

In the face of multiple infestations of exotic invasive plants, establishing and maintaining refugia is our best hope for preserving our traditional natural environments.



Traditional Missouri landscape – Open with a view to the horizon

In other words, areas actively maintained to be free of invasive infestations will function as a refugia for traditional landscapes, while most other locations become severely degraded.


Severe Asian Bush Honeysuckle infestation

Refugia for future generations.





Refugia could be anywhere. It could be your backyard or a group of neighbors who only plant native gardens.




It could be local parks and wooded common ground areas and it could be areas within our parks and wildlife refuges.


Traditional Missouri landscape

Larger refugia in high quality areas need to be carefully selected because of the long term systematic labor intensive efforts required.


Area where Asian Bush Honeysuckle has been removed

An example could be a state park located near an urban area.



Traditional Missouri landscape

Often such areas are already at risk because disastrous landscaping decisions found in adjacent suburban gardens.


Bradford Pear, another landscaping menace!

An organized intervention/maintenance program will be necessary

For example, a state park could create an adopt a spot system. Such a program could educate, supply, coordinate volunteers.

A state park with 2,000 acres and 500 volunteers could create a program where each volunteer is responsible for 4 acres. If each volunteer could locate 4 additional volunteers to assist, effectively the program would have an acre per person responsible for maintaining refugia.


Honeysuckle stump: Unfortunately chemicals will be needed to kill it!

Also needed would be buffer zone program around the state park. Such a program would inform landowners of invasive species problems in the area. Landowners would be offered various incentives to participate in keeping their land free of invasive infestations.


Asian Bush Honeysuckle and Winter Creeper infestation

Some possible incentives for landowners: Property tax reductions, sponsorship for invasive removal and maintenance on their property, some type of recognition for keeping a traditional environment on their property.

Please consider volunteering to support our traditional landscapes and diverse natural environments!


Traditional Missouri at risk! May Apples in spring time.


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Anyone who has traveled abroad knows that cities in the United States are not as densely populated as cities in Europe, Asia and Latin America. By design, we do not use our urban space efficiently.


Colonia Del Valle, Mexico City


This is especially true in our suburbs. We love our lawns and even bland commercial developments have large mowed grassy areas with a few trees. The result: our cities take up much more space than they need to.



Also modern cities are unusually large, historically speaking. It used to be that a city with a million inhabitants was considered significant. Now mega cities of over 10 million are found throughout the world and cities with one or two million people are common. The amount of land that has been urbanized, even in densely populated cities is unprecedented.


Avenida Revolution, Mexico City

Sprawled out cities, therefore, make a bad situation worse… but do they have to?


Asian Bush Honeysuckle degrading an area set aside for recreation

Could a sprawled out city be landscaped to be more ecologically sound? Could the space between roads and buildings be transformed into gardens based on ecological considerations?  Can we preserve native plant communities, water quality, and species diversity, while at the same time improving city life with more interesting landscaping?

In other words, can we manage our cities to enhance ecology by transforming our lawns and gardens?


Here in the heartland of North America, our sprawled out cities have created an ecological disaster.

Presentation 3-page-001


Not only has sprawl inefficiently taken up a lot space, but urban landscaping has created a situation where the disastrous landscaping decisions in the city have actually damaged distant areas.


Climbing Euonymus or Wintercreeper, another invasive mess


Imported invasive plants flourishing in our neighborhoods have spread into areas designated as natural habitats. These invasive species have devastated our parks, conservation areas and wild lands.


Asian Bush Honeysuckle smothering an urban park


Bad landscaping decisions have become a form of pollution that continues to reproduce itself far beyond the degraded areas where these bad decisions have been made. Such “pollution” continues to replicate into ever expanding areas of monotonous monoculture.


Asian Bush Honeysuckle covering everything that is not paved or mowed


The responsibility of making informed decisions concerning urban landscaping, therefore requires accepting the consequences of introducing nonnative species. At the very least our gardens should do no harm.


A control burn area in a state park: a traditional landscape


Our responsibility within a sprawled out city is to dedicate as much land as possible to restoring natural ecosystems.   Imagine an urban landscape where pockets of native plant communities are restored in such a way as to enhance the aesthetics of the city.  Lawns and gardens would be transformed into showcases for native plant environments. Beatifying the city could help preserve our biodiversity.


When it comes to urban landscaping, our priorities need to change. Gardening for a purpose would go beyond having a nice bed of flowers or a rich green lawn. Instead we would concentrate on making our urban outdoor space a valuable refuge for at risk plant communities.  By using such plants as a palate, we can enhance areas that are nowhere near reaching their aesthetic potential in contemporary suburban settings.

Photos courtesy of Nadia’s Backyard

Your backyard can be a breeding ground for invasive species or a refuge that serves as an example of what makes our part of the world beautiful and unique. The challenge of limiting your garden to native plants can become a celebration of creativity with a purpose: Preserving our natural heritage.




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Taking responsibility?  

Well why not!  Why wouldn’t you change your landscaping plans to preserve Missouri’s unique natural heritage and traditional appearance?

Picture 175

Ancient white Oak

As is often the case, doing something worthwhile requires a worthy sacrifice. Unfortunately we’ve ignored the invasion of Asian Bush Honeysuckle (ABH) for a long time and many locations are now heavily infested.

Picture 158

As you can imagine, removal creates massive brush piles with large branches.

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Still growing

Other areas are difficult to access…  such as cliffs and drainage areas….

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Can you find the creek?

…and then there is all that ABH spreading seeds in your neighbor’s yard.

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The neighbor likes all the pretty flowers!

Drastic changes to our natural landscape have occurred without notice or reaction.

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Most people (maybe even you?) will marginalize all this as just some sort of surface fabric issue…

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Eye level!

Our natural environment…  is it merely an abstract background?

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Large areas have light infestations – mostly small plants in isolated locations.

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Typically nothing is done while these windows of opportunity for mitigation is lost.


Get ’em young!



Levels of Infestation

Do you want to help preserve Missouri’s unique natural heritage and traditional appearance?  Well the first you have to access the damage and identify the level of infestation.

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It’s everywhere over his head – another oblivious citizen visiting a park


Heavy Infestation: Strategy – restoration for isolated refugia.*  You might be looking at a huge brushpile of biomass and the application of stumpkiller before you are done getting rid of it.  Often Burning is not a practical option, so turning it into mulch will complicate things.


Picture 147

Underneath a honeysuckle canopy – there’s about 4 to 5 feet  of space below the branches

Moderate Infestation: Strategy – restoration for refugia. If you are lucky and in a recently infested area, brush piles might be manageable. Fortunately Asian Bush Honeysuckle has a shallow root system, so pulling out fairly large plants in saturated soil is an option.


This is moderate, only because it gets much worse!


Light Infestation: Strategy – maintenance / vigilance / prevention. Hopefully restoration work is not necessary yet.  Priority must be on areas that are about to produce fruit and seed.  Locating the frontiers of moderate/heavy infestation is helpful because that’s where the birds will be actively spreading seedlings.

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Can you see one?

To remain at this level, the whole neighborhood must be involved.  Otherwise proactive interventions to maximize refugia is an option.

Picture 177

Ancient White Oak, Outer Ozark Border

Remember: Asian Bush Honeysuckle (ABH) can be easy to identify early in spring and late in autumn, since it becomes green earlier and remains green later in the growing season.


The green bushes are Honeysuckle that are beginning to infiltrate a state park


*Refugia: an area where special environmental circumstances have enabled a species or a community of species to survive after extinction in surrounding areas

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Fighting Back!

After you have determined your level of Honeysuckle infestation, the next step is to begin the process of removal and long term maintenance.  Unless you have a light infestation, you have your work cut out for you.  Expect to get scratched, sweaty, dirty and irritable to any loved ones nearby… In other words, for your own mental health, you should approach the task with humility and with an eye on the ultimate prize: A restored vision of a traditional Missouri landscape.

Picture 243

Choked with infestation

Light Infestations: Getting rid of a light infestation requires locating seedlings and isolated older infestations – mostly it’s all about maintenance.  The trick is to get rid of plants before they are big enough to produce fruit. Vigilance and persistence are required because Honeysuckle seedlings can lurk just about anywhere birds hang out – basically all unmowed or unpaved areas are at risk.

In wet soil, Asian Bush Honeysuckle’s shallow root system allows small plants to be easily pulled out of the ground.  You want to make sure you pull out as much of the root system as possible and keep in mind that disturbed soil is at risk for resprouting.

Larger plants can be cut with loppers, then apply stump killer.  Hopefully any brush piles will be manageable.

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ABH are the lighter green bushes

Moderate and Heavy Infestations:  Before you even start, you will need a plan for removing all the brush you are about create.  Yes the corpses pile up fast and just a small area of moderate infestation can leave you with a large pile of brush.  Here in Columbia, Missouri, we have a mulch drop off site.  All you need is a pick up truck,  some heavy-duty gloves and a couple of hours to untangle and transport the mess.

Out in rural areas, burning all the brush piles would be the easiest way to get rid of them.

Since plants can grow up to 20 feet and are difficult to access, care must be taken to remove large branches.  Chain saws, of course, will put them in their place quite nicely.  For smaller plants, loppers work well, though don’t be surprised if your lopper gets dull after a few days of removal.

Picture 116


Killing the Stumps

After you have decapitated the larger plants, some kind of stump killer is necessary because Asian Bush Honeysuckle will vigorously resprout from stumps.  Missouri Department of Conservation recommends applying a 20% solution of glyphosate (Roundup) to kill the stumps.  I buy a Roundup formulation that recommends applying the chemical at full strength to stumps. You can use a paintbrush or a sponge applicator to apply the chemical.

Although I have never tried this, an alternative to using chemicals would be to cover the stumps with a plastic bag that is secured to the ground or a tin can during the summer, in order to bake the plants to death (see Rodale News: http://www.rodale.com/tick-prevention?page=0%2C0).

After Removing the Big Ones

After the brush is removed and stump killer has been applied, you will still need to remove a lot of seedlings.  Foliar applications of Roundup can be used, although keep in mind, such spraying will effect any surrounding plants that have managed to hang on after the Honeysuckle invasion.  Otherwise you will have to pull out seedlings or cut them and carefully apply stump killer to the shoots.

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Prescribed Burning and Honeysuckle

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, in fire adapted areas prescribed spring burning will kill seedlings and the tops of mature plants. Since Honeysuckle likes to resprout, repeated annual burns for five years or more will be necessary.

After You Are Done You Are Not Done

Unfortunately, after all that work you are not done!  After you have cleared an area, seedlings will continue to be a problem. Either the birds have no respect for what you have done and continue to deposit seeds or all the seeds from past years will  continue to germinate for a while.  Also I have seen stumps resprout after chemical applications.  Without constant maintenance, the Asian Bush Honeysuckle will return.


Traditional Missouri landscape – worth preserving!

Missouri Department of Conservation Fact Sheet

Here is the Missouri Department of Conservation recommendation for managing Bush Honeysuckle:  http://mdc.mo.gov/landwater-care/plant-management/invasive-plant-management/bush-honeysuckles

Be sure to use chemicals only as directed and take care not to spill chemicals on any native plants that survived the Honeysuckle infestation but possibly not your efforts to get rid of it.

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May 25, 2011 – Currently much of the state has saturated soil.  Right now would be a great time to pull up small Honeysuckle bushes and seedlings.  ABH has a shallow root system and with soil moisture levels so high, small plants can be easily and cleanly pulled out of the ground.

Plants bigger than this can be easily removed under current conditions

Get rid of them when they are small and easy to remove!

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