Briar Wars: The Invasive Empire Fights Back

by Curt Kovener Curt line

Curtailing invasive plants was the focus of weekend activity at the wilderness retreat.
Broomstick size sumac had nearly taken over the dam. While their leaves are a pretty red in the fall they shade the dam preventing grasses and other plants from growing and thus causing possible erosion problems. And trees growing on a levy can result in leaks.
Sumacs are like weeds. Cut them this year and they’ll be back. But this time I followed the moon signs which said cutting brush April 3 & 4 will discourage re-growth. Since I will try nearly anything to diminish work, I cleared the dam Saturday, even in the rain.
It was a far ranging experience as it was jacket weather when I started out in a drizzle but quickly shed the hat and jacket when the sun came out causing steam to drift up from the moistened landscape. It also caused sweat to quickly dampen my shirt.
Sunday’s activities involved woodland multi-tasking. Multi-flora rose multi-tasking to be precise.
This time of year the earliest low growing plant to green up is the multi-flora rose. Some knowledgeable old timers may recall that the multi-flora rose was touted back in the previous century as a natural fence, a way to cut down of fence repairs and keep livestock contained. It’s just that multi-flora roses just keep spreading and spreading. Let them get a foot hold and you will have a briar bush that even rabbits won’t use.
So walking along the land and lower trail, I looked for anything small green & leafy against the brown leaf woods floor.
Pruners allowed me to work quietly without a small engine noise and it made for more observances of woodland life renewing this spring.
But working with long handle pruners is not without its risks. The thorns of the wild roses as well as the green briar are treacherous as my forearms will now testify. Trying to get just another 4-6 inches closer so the pruners can do their job resulted in multiple scratches and long red marks courtesy of the falling briars after being clipped. It was rather like a final act of definace by the thorny woodland plants to inflict damage on their life ending prunerman.
And on my walkabout, I spotted some grapevine. Wild grapes might make for some romantic literary notions, but grapevines hanging from trees cause damage to valuable timber. As a result they need be cut. And at this time of year as the sap is rising, cutting a 2” grapevine runs the risk of getting the pruner wet with sap. Once separated by the pruners, grapevines run like a dripping faucet.
I wondered if collecting the sap in a bucket an boiling it down would produce some type of syrup like maple trees do.
One final task of the weekend was removing an overgrown autumn olive from near the dock on the lake.
Autumn olive is another one of those plants touted by Purdue University and the DNR as a food source for birds. And it is, except the birds spread the seeds and the seeds seemingly all germinate so autumn olive can really take over. The advantage is autumn olive doesn’t have thorns so it can’t strike back.
But a plant with a six-inch diameter truck as a lake’s edge has some weight so the tractor and some rope were put to use to drag it up after cutting. The invasive plant is now wilting away on the composting brush pile and I have a re-new view of the lake shore from the dock.
I also have sore muscles from my weekend endeavors. And Charley the yellow lab, who was with me every step of the way and then some, does too.