Good Oak News

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Good Oak is having its first Native Plant Sale, this Saturday, May 21st from 8am to 4pm at our Stewardship Center at 4606 Pflaum Rd. in Madison (under the big “A-Quality Printing” sign).

We will have about 45 over 50 species of native plants available, with a focus on flowering native perennials which are pollinator favorites. Our expert staff will be on hand to help you pick the right plants and give you landscaping advice. You’ll also be able to set up custom orders of native trees, shrubs and other species we don’t have on-hand at the time.

For more information and a species list, see our Plant Sale web page.

During the sale, we’ll be offering 10% off of our entire selection of books and tools. Pre-browse on our webstore.

We’ll have a second plant sale date in early-June. Date TBD.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Fig Buttercup: A New Invader to Look Out For!

I See Weeds...

I must of have looked pretty odd to anyone passing by. This past Saturday I was the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago with my daughter. We were in front of the snow leopard pen, and this rare cat was active and just a few feet away. I had my camera out, but instead of taking a picture of the fine feline, I had my camera pointed down at the ground. I was taking a picture of this:

Most people wouldn't even notice the plants on the ground in front of the snow leopard. If they did, they would probably have simply assumed these were violets or creeping charlie and not paid any attention. But as a botanist, I notice plants and I had seen this plant before. Its not good.

This is a large colony of fig buttercup, also called lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria, (formerly Ficaria verna)). In Illinois where I found this plant its listed on the New Invaders Watch Program and has recently been listed as a Noxious Weed by the State. 

In Wisconsin, it is a Prohibited invasive plant listed under the NR-40 Invasive Species Rule. This means that within Wisconsin you "cannot transport, possess, transfer or introduce" this species and that "Control is required." Wherever it is found.

There are only a few reported populations of fig buttercup in Wisconsin at the moment and its the DNR's intention to keep it that way. There are two populations near Lake Geneva. Two in the Milwaukee area. And we here at Good Oak know of two in the Madison area. One we treated at Eagle Heights on the west side of the UW campus last year (which had started to spread into the woodland at the Lakeshore Preserve!). And this Tuesday we discovered a new population, at a condominium complex near Old Middleton and Old Sauk Road on Madison's west side.

Report Fig Buttercup if you find it!

The DNR needs our help finding and eliminating any populations. If you do find this species, report it by emailing

So far we've been finding them in semi-shady sites, where perennials have been planted at some point. I suspect its being moved around as people share plants. At the Eagle Heights site it looks like it may have spread into the lawn from an abandoned edge bed. At the condominium complex, it was mixed among many "ornamental" ground covers, plants that I consider invasive like vinca (periwinkle" pachysandra, Lamium (purple deadnettle). In particular it was well mixed in with one patch of pachysandra, so I suspect it was dug from another site and accidentally moved with the pachysandra, but it has spread throughout the area, so it may have been moved there intentionally on its own.


Here are some photos I've taken of this species to help with identification. It looks a lot like early buttercup or small-flowered buttercup (which will be individual plants, not forming colonies, and only 5 petals on the flower), or marsh marigolds (which only grows in wetlands), or even common violets (which have entirely different flowers and pointed tips on the leaves). I've also noticed some variegation (lighter patches) on the leaf surfaces. Its leaves are never more than 6" tall, it has multi-petaled yellow flowers that bloom in mid-spring. Control is most effective before it flowers.

This is what it looks like early in the season, late-March 2016.

This photo was taken late in the blooming period, late-April.

This flower was getting a bit old, so the petals are more spread out and the white patches are where it has faded a little.
UPDATE: I've created a Weed Identification and Control Sheet for Fig Buttercup. Take a look, and share!

In the mean time, you can find more information at these sites:

Control Methods:

Right now, the most common and effective control methods are spot herbicide applications. Both glyphosate (Round-Up®, etc.) and triclopry (Garlon® 3A, etc.) appear to work, but the later is preferred because it kills the plants more rapidly. 

Digging may not be particularly effective since the roots are a series of bulb-like structures that would break apart pretty easily, leaving some behind. Plus, you need to destroy the plants you dig, or double-bag  the entire root and soil mass in sturdy trash bags and put it into the trash. But, if carefully monitored manual control may be effective.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

2016 Stewardship Seminars: Managing Weeds and Invasive Plants Series

We're excited to announce that as part of our expanded Land Stewardship Center we'll be offering three seminar series on ecological restoration and sustainable landscaping this spring. These series are going to give us enough time to cover each topic in the detail they deserve, teaching folks how to "save the plant" on their own property.

 The first series is coming up next Wednesday!  

 Managing Weeds and Invasive Plants Series

I've given presentations on invasive plant management many times, and never have enough time to really 'get into the weeds' so to speak. By breaking this topic down into 4 classes we'll have up to 8 hours (!) we'll have plenty of time to talk about all the common weeds and invasive plants of each type, and comp up with individualized plans for the weeds attendees are dealing with on their own property. Here are how we're breaking down this topic: 

   1.  Invasive Brush & Weedy Trees - 7pm, Wed. 03/02/16
   2.  Woodland & Shady Area Weeds - 7pm, Wed. 03/09/16
   3.  Prairie & Sunny Area Weeds - 7pm, Wed. 03/23/16
   4.  Landscape & Urban Weeds - 7pm, Wed. 03/30/16

All classes run from 7:00pm-9:00pm.
$15/class OR $13/class if you register for the entire series. 

To Register: email us, call us at 608-209-0607 or stop in at our Land Stewardship Center (4606 Pflaum Rd. in Madison)

For more information this and the rest of our series for this year, check out the 2016 Stewardship Seminars web page, or click on the flier below.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Want to Save the World?: Good Oak is Hiring

We're looking to fill a few positions here at Good Oak.

We're looking to build up our team for the season, hiring for our Ecological Restoration and Sustainable Landscaping Technician position. This is our general get it done on the ground position, working both in natural areas and residential/commercial landscaping sites.

We're also announcing our spring and summer internships. We're looking for college students that want to learn a lot about native plants, ecological restoration and sustainable landscaping. Our spring internship starts in early-March, and applications are due soon, so don't wait!

We're also looking for someone with a strong background in horticulture and landscaping for our Sustainable Landscaping Manager position. Please note that this is not a position focused on ecological restoration, and only those with strong a landscaping/horticultural background should apply.

Find out more at our new Employment page.

The Good Oak Team, summer 2015.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Beaver Blades Make Brush Cutting More Efficient

Winter is the time to clear invasive brush that chokes our woods. With snow or frozen ground, you're not going to do much damage treading on the soil and if carefully applied, herbicide will have no impact on the recovery of native flora.

I'd like to tell you about a product that we've been using for years now. Its been so revolutionary to how we work, I've kind-of tried to keep it a trade secret. But we love so much that we've decided to set ourselves up as a retailer, so we can share this product with our clients and other land managers in our region. They're now for sale in our online store, or our Land Stewardship Center at 4606 Pflaum Rd., Madison, WI.

The Beaver Blade is a replacement, and significant upgrade for those standard brush cutting blades that come with your "weed whip", "string trimmer", "brush cutter" or whatever you want to call it. It basically turns your brushcutter or heavy duty weed-eater into the best brush clearing tool available. Once you’ve used them, you’ll never go back to standard brush blades. We’ve been using them for our winter brush clearing work for over 5 years, and I really can’t recommend them highly enough. It improves on the standard blades that you get with your brushcutter in three important ways:
  1. It incorporates actual chain saw links into its design, meaning larger, stronger cutting teeth that are easier to sharpen. The design of the chainsaw teeth allows for clearing the wood chips more easily and reduce resin build up both of which can slow the cutting of traditional brushcutter blades.
  2. These teeth are, in-fact, part of a loop of saw chain that runs around the circumference of the disk blade, and are not bound to the disk directly. This allows the chain to slide around the disk when substantial force is applied, acting as a clutch mechanism. This reduces jerking when you do get the blade pinched or hit it against a hard object and also reduces vibration while cutting. This increases your safety, comfort and work endurance.
  3. The disk is made of heavy gauge steel. The mass of the disk acts as a fly wheel, it maintains momentum well and thus keeps the disk keeps spinning fast for high speed cutting. It can cut through stems up to 1.5" instantly, and quickly tears into of larger diameter stems.
The overall effect is that you can clear brush approximately 50% faster than with a standard brush blade with much reduced operator fatigue. You can easily cut large stems up to 3.5”, and can even tackle small trees up to 8” in diameter with a little care working on both sides of the trunk.

The first rule of brush-cutting: Don't drop a tree on your boss (especially when he's holding an expensive camera).

Beaver Blades are made in the USA with high quality steel and real saw chain. They can be sharpened with the common 3/16" chain saw file. Though they cut surprisingly well even when dull, they should be sharpened after 4-8 hours of use (assuming you haven't hit any rocks or the dirt) for maximum performance. When you wear the teeth down to nubs, you don't have to throw your Beaver Blade out! They can be outfitted with a new chain, a service we will be providing for about $35 (contact us directly for this service).

Brushcutters in general are better than chainsaws for brush clearing since you don’t need to bend over to make your cut. Just remember to apply concentrated herbicide to the every stump of a deciduous tree or shrub that you cut, or it will resprout.

Apply herbicide to the stump carefully, its only needed around the circumference of the stem where the live cambium is. Additional herbicide application is wasteful, or worse damaging over-spray.

The 8” Beaver Blade attaches to most mid-powered weed-eaters/brush cutters to high powered brush saws. It fits the most common 1” arbor size found on brush-cutters, and comes with an adaptor to work with 20mm arbors.
We use them with Stihl FS-130, FS-240 and FS-250 brushcutters, and they should work with any brushcutter of similar size or larger from Stihl or other brands. We've found that we've had to do some minor modification to fit it with the safety guard on our brushcutter; we need to file down the bottom edge of our safety guard just about 1/8” for the Beaver Blade to clear, since the guard is designed for the thinner blades that Stihl produces).

Are you hard at work clearing brush to help restore our woodlands and prairies? Tell us what tools you like. We've managed to gather up our favorite cutting tools in our online store, take a look.