SOLF battles invasive species

If you walk the stonewall-lined lane that skirts former pastureland in Southborough’s Beals Preserve, you’ll come across a great white oak standing alongside the path. The trunk of the oak — more massive than any of the surrounding trees — splits into two huge branches that reach for the sky.

As impressive as it is today, the tree used to be even more so. A third main branch of the tree has cleaved off and is now lying on the ground in a tangle of bittersweet, the invasive vine that literally pulled it to the ground.

When the Southborough Open Land Foundation, which maintains the Beals Preserve, undertook a massive cleanup of the preserve last fall, they decided to leave the tree where it fell as a dramatic reminder of the damage invasive plants can do.

SOLF has been fighting a battle against invasive plants not only at the Beals Preserve, but also at the other properties around town that it helps to maintain, like the Breakneck Hill Conservation land.

Freddie Gillespie, a consultant to SOLF, said the approach to dealing with invasive plants has changed over the years. “The battle cry used to be eradicate,” she said. “But now it’s control and manage because invasives have such a strong foothold.”

On a recent walk through the Beals Preserve, Gillespie and SOLF president Sally Watters pointed out a number of invasive plants, including garlic mustard, Japanese barberry, buckthorn, honeysuckle, and bittersweet.

The infestation of Japanese barberry is particularly bad in sections of the Beals Preserve. Gillespie said invasives like the barberry plant leaf out earlier in the season and prevent sun from reaching native plants. Others have aggressive root systems or easily dispersed seeds so they propagate more readily than native plants.

SOLF has applied for several grants to help manage invasive species on their land. They’re also hosting a workshop on Saturday to train volunteers on how to identify new species of invasive plants. (There are still a few spots left in the workshop if you’re interested in signing up.)

Many of the invasive species in the preserve were once common garden plants that are now banned by the state. “Almost all of these plants have escaped from gardens,” Watters said.

Gillespie said home gardeners can do their part by removing invasive plants in their yards and replacing them with native or noninvasive species.

Below are photos of invasive plants found at the Beals Preserve. Click any of the thumbnails in the gallery to enlarge and view as a slideshow.

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Freddie Gillespie
14 years ago

Hi Susan,

Thank you for the great story and pictures detailing invasives species on the Southborough Open Land Foundation’s Beals Preserve.

I need to make a correction though; The Southborough Open Land Foundation (SOLF) has not been a part of the maintenance of the Breakneck Hill Conservation Land, which is town-owned, and under the jurisdiction of the Conservation Commission.

The Southborough Stewardship Committee (a subcommittee of the Conservation Commission) has worked tirelessly for many years dealing with the invasive species that had engulfed the old apple orchard. SOLF would not want to be mistakenly credited for the hard work of the Stewardship Committee. I suggest that a future article might highlight the sucess of the Stewardship Committee’s work at Breakneck Hill.

SOLF is a nonprofit organization and not associated with any town commission or committee. I make the point because sometimes there is confusion.

The underlying issue is that invasive species are a major threat to our native plants and wildlife habitat no matter who owns the property. The good news is that here in Southborough, both the non-profit organizations and the town entities are pitching in to control the problem on their properties. Individuals can get involved in the battle against the invasive plants by attending this Saturday’s workshop. Click on the link in the main story for more information and to sign up

Thank you

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