How to remove invasives

Asked May 9, 2019, 8:25 PM EDT

Hello, I am living on 2.6 acres of forest retention. I have found an Autumn Olive that's about 6 feet tall, a honeysuckle the same height, a non-native beautyberry bush, possibly a Chinese elm (maybe 16 ft tall), and a few white mulberry. All except the beautyberry are on a slope that gets a lot of rapidly flowing run-off during heavy rain. This website recommends herbicide for invasives, but I'm not sure what kind or how to keep it from harming any other wildlife. We have a lot of birds and insects and I don't want to poison anything useful. What do you recommend? So far our most abundant understory growth is blueberry bush, sweet gum, and black gum, which we have a huge amount of and which is probably keeping other stuff from growing. But I understand we don't want these invasives spreading seeds elsewhere. What do you recommend? Thank you,

Cecil County Maryland

1 Response

Blueberry, black gum and sweet gum are great! You are fortunate.

A thick woods normally does not have loads of groundcover plants. (It's too shady and there is too much root competition.) The tree roots hold soil pretty well combined with all the leaves and branch debris that builds up. If you feel like a particular area is somewhat bare, move fallen branches sideways across it.

All these invasives can be cut down and their fresh-cut stumps sprayed immediately with glyphosate or triclopyr. The amount of herbicide used will be very small. The more you mash up the stumps and slash at the bark, the more herbicide will get in and it will struggle to resprout. Regrowth should be minimal and you can target it without getting spray on other plants. If valuable natives are nearby, you can easily use a makeshift shield of cardboard or plastic to keep spray off of them.

Be sure to get these thugs out before they fruit/berry, even if you can't dig or respray right away.

Look at your local woods and notice what understory plants grow commonly. Some woods are full of spice bush (which the birds spread). Others have ferns, mountain laurel, dogwoods, or maple leaf viburnum.

You are doing great to identify these invasives! If you are ever uncertain about an id, send us a photo in one of these emails.

Also, for ideas of what grows well in forests and various ecosystems in Maryland, a terrific online publication is "Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping." Besides the individual plant profiles, see the lists in the end.