Tuesday, March 25, 2014

When is "Wild" not "Natural"?

Feeling a renewed proprietary interest in my little Wild Place, I am considering a plan to make it a bit more natural, if not wilder, than it is now.

The little bit of wood at the pointy back end of our wedge of land has little of beauty although the neighbors have a few nice trees.  Without any fence or other visible boundaries, I can enjoy the neighbor's trees almost as much as my own, they lending character simply by their nearness.  But two of the prettiest of these, twin red oaks of respectable size for the city, died some years back and both have fallen, leaving the lot more bush or scrub than woods. 

So I have decided to take it in hand.  Although the very definition of a Wild Place is one which is unkempt--not planted, landscaped, mowed or even raked--I think I can make a good case for intervention.  I reason thus: although Wild, my wood is no more than half native, being choked by at least three species of invasive alien plants. 

Norway Maple (Acer plantanoides)

First, there are the Norway maples, of European origin, first imported as street trees and still valuable for that purpose.  Norway maple (Acer platanoides) has three characteristics that make it dangerous in a wild setting: it casts very deep shade, so seedlings of other trees find it hard to get enough sunlight to survive; its roots are so close to the surface of the ground that they hog all the surface water, leaving too little even to grow grass; and it is prolific in reproduction, sending its children spinning down on their little wings to establish themselves in practically any environment.  Together, these talents spell TAKEOVER.  And that's pretty much what it has done on my land: many--especially of the younger--trees on my land are Norway maples.  I don't quite hate them.  No, not quite. 

English Ivy (Hedera helix)

The forest floor is dominated by English ivy that is as prolific in its way as A. plantanoides.  I first dealt with it by heroic efforts when we first bought the house.  This is the ivy whose climb up the brickwork of the hallowed halls of academia make them "ivy league."  If it simply stayed there, all would be well, but it has been spreading through the woods like Tolkien's goblins in the days of seeming peace, when I am lulled into a false sense of security.  English ivy (Hedera helix) also resembles A. platanoides in the depth and permanence of its shade: the plant has thick, dark green leaves that are evergreen. so that even the early wildflowers, with a strategy to emerge to capture sunlight through plants still bare of leaves, cannot get enough light.

Vinca minor

Another ground cover invading my land along a a broad front is Vinca (Vinca minor, I think).  It is coming in from the north edge, and is now advancing into the wood.  But it also got into my meadow garden, where I have worked each year to pull out any vines that dare to show.  I cannot eradicate it completely, since some of the plants are rooted in the middle of bunch grasses such as my big blue stem (Andropogon gerardii)--very secure hiding places, since I love my grasses.

European Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula)

Finally, I recently realized I have a good many invasive buckthorn (Rhamnus) bushes in the woods.  Long ago I had misidentified it as a species in the Dogwood genus.  [Wrong again: it is in fact Gray Dogwood.]  I didn't paid much attention to them until I correctly identified it elsewhere as part of a biology review project, and then found it popping into my consciousness here at home.  I haven't yet tallied the number I have to deal with.

No comments:

Post a Comment