The Battle Is Ongoing; The War Will Never Be Won

by Curt Kovener

The brown wilderness hills and valleys are greening up. And that is my sign to get to work.
The first plant life to leaf out in the forests after winter are invasives. The one’s that you don’t want taking over: plants like multiflora rose and autumn olive. They both turn green before the native ground level flora so they are easily seen to try to control. Wait too long then everything is green and work becomes more difficult.
In spring green up, I use my long handle loppers and a small spray bottle of herbicide. The long handle loppers keep me away from the always-prickly rose thorns. The leaves may be tender but the cat claw-like thorns are always looking for an arm, a leg, or face. So sometimes I still am successful at getting tangled in the barbed wire like strands after cutting the invasive stalk near the ground.
After untanglement, a sprits or two from the herbicide bottle on the invasive stump should curtail future growth for the coming season.
But there will be more. There will always be more. That is why these plants are called invasives.
Their origin in Indiana is interesting…though the originators don’t like to talk about it.
Back in the 1930’s multiflora rose was recommended to cattle farmers as a way to reduce fence repair and contain their herds by planting a living fence. The problem was that when Purdue University made that recommendation, they forgot to tell the multiflora rose it was supposed to stay in the fence row.
The autumn olive was promoted as a wildlife food source and a butterfly attracting plant. And it does both quite well. It was endorsed by the Indiana DNR and included in their forestry wildlife planting packets distributed by the DNR Nursery in Vallonia. That’s how I got it started in the wilderness.
Birds eat the olive size fruit and then distribute the seed wherever they roost. That explains why I see abundant autumn olive growing along the understory of trees along the edge of the forest.
So my continual battle with these two invasives will be never ending. And as I cut and sprits, I contemplate just what other ‘helpful’ recommendations Purdue and DNR have in store for us.