Riparian Buffer Management – Control Invasives, Encourage Natives
As summer moves closer to autumn it seems there are more native plants in the various riparian buffers we have around the farm. Butterfly weed, jewelweed, wingstem, purpletop, and many other plants are in bloom now. However; there are many invasive, non-native plants in bloom as well.
Invasive Species Control – Vital to Riparian Buffer Program Success
I have written on these pages many times about the importance and benefits of excluding livestock from riparian areas. But we cannot exclude livestock from these areas and just walk away. Management of riparian buffers is vital for not only the quality of wildlife habitat but for the acceptance of this practice in the community. Tree shelter maintenance, vole control, and invasive species control are all vital management strategies for a successful riparian buffer. This post is about invasive plant control and highlights some of the native plants thriving in our riparian buffers.
Nothing unsells riparian buffer programs quicker than an area full of invasive species. Quite frankly, it turns farmers off. We must do a better job of managing riparian areas.
Invasive Species Control is a Never Ending Job
We fight invasives year-round. Musk thistle, Canada thistle, bull thistle, carpetweed, teasel, and cocklebur are the main ones we have in our riparian buffers here in Swoope. There are many others including tall fescue, autumn olive, Japanese knotweed, Japanese hops, multi-flora rose, creeping Charlie, prickly lettuce, Bradford pear, tree of heaven, and wineberry. We use hoes, mowers, herbicides and hand pulling as necessary to suppress their growth.
Jeanne and I spent a couple hours the other day in one of her mother’s fields where we fenced the cows out of a pond and wetland. Our job was to cut the seed heads off of Bull Thistles and then cut the plant down. It was too late to use a herbicide, that’s why we were cutting the seed heads off. We cut the seed heads off the plant to prevent the seeds from reproducing. After we cut them off we put them in a container and transported it to a burn pile.
Bull thistles have very long thorns that will readily go through leather gloves; we had to wear two pairs of gloves to complete the task.
Bull thistle, Cirsium vlagare is a biennial and native to Europe, Western Asia and Northeastern Africa. Hard to believe but it’s the national flower of Scotland. Although the plant is not native here and is invasive, American Goldfinches eat the seeds and use them for nesting material. Butterflies, moths and flies seek its nectar and pollen. But, it does spread, taking the space other more beneficial plants could have and it’s offensive to farmers. So, we take it out.
Let Native Plants Prosper
As we worked I was amazed at all the native plants and pollinators. This particular riparian area was full of butterfly weed, Asclepias incarnata which attracts many pollinators; it’s in the milkweed family.
Another native plant in bloom this time of year is Purpletop, Tridens flavus. This perennial warm-season grass is also known as grease grass because the seeds are oily.
Riparian areas are also great places to let Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca prosper. We trim a portion of milkweed in riparian areas in July so it will re-sprout with tender leaves. Monarch’s are more attracted to the tender leaves than the older, tougher leaves.
One of our favorite riparian shrubs is Button Bush, Celphalanthus occidentalis.
Riparian buffers help improve water quality in our streams and wetlands. These buffers are vital for restoring stream health and the Chesapeake Bay. They also are the best landscapes for wildlife because they provide food, shelter and water. To be successful though we must control invasive species and let native plants prosper.
To learn more explore my website, send me a message or contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District, USDA office or any of the organizations in the resources tab on this site.
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