Good Oak News

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Buckthorn clearing season is here!

Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) is perhaps the most damaging exotic species in the Midwest. It can invade and destroy remnant prairies and high-quality woodlands and is quite common in fencelines and woodlots. Buckthorn grow rapidly, and a stand of them often goes unnoticed until they are large, producing dense shade and poisonous chemicals which kill all other plant life in the area. Buckthorn produce berries prolifically, which are spread by birds and other wildlife. The berries are of little nutritional value because they have a severe laxative effect, depriving the creature that eats them of nutrition and water. Additionally, buckthorn is the sole overwintering host of the soybean aphid and is also an alternative host of crown rust of oats.

If you have buckthorn on your property, and you probably do, it is imperative that you eliminate it for the sake of all of our wild plants and animals. Now is a good time of year to kill buckthorn for several reasons. First, they are easy to spot, because instead of putting on nice fall colors, the leaves stay a dull green and hang on these shrubs through November and into early December. Second, most of the native plants are now dormant so you can go in and tackle the buckthorn without hurting any of the good-guys. Third, a herbicide application can be very effective on buckthorn stumps (else they resprout in spring!) as the plants draw nutrients back into the roots for storage for the winter, thus killing the plant permanently.

To help you in this effort, I have a Weed Identification and Control Sheet for buckthorn (PDF format) for you to download and learn from. If you have any questions feel free to contact us, we want to help get rid of buckthorn anyway we can! And if you have a job that's too big for you to tackle on your own, we're offering 25% off our our usual rates for any jobs clearing buckthorn and other invasive brush job this winter. So give us a call!

-Frank