The loss of our wildflower-rich grasslands due to development, herbicides, climate change, and competition from introduced plants are impacting native bees and other pollinators, now experiencing simultaneous dramatic declines. Because native wildflower seed banks may no longer exist on their former sites, everyone should help bring back lost native plant species, which is what we are attempting to do at Carpenter Farm Park.
Viable food webs: Native birds and other wildlife specialize in insect diets often consisting of native butterflies and moths. For example, eighty percent of a humming bird’s diet consists of insects, and ninety percent of our bird populations rear their young on insects such as lepidoptera (caterpillars) and arthropods (spiders), which in turn raise their young on lepidoptera. Finally, the butterflies and moths that survive the birds and spiders go on to pollinate many of our native wildflowers.
Ninety percent of the insects that eat plants can only eat those with which they co-evolved. So what are the best plants for our native butterflies and moths to eat while in the larval stage? Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, has a list: The number following the plant(s) represents the number of lepidoptera species that feed upon that host genus.
September 2, 2015: As we entered through the gate at the lower fence we counted eight Freeman maple trees growing along the north side of the fence. These trees are especially prolific and are unwanted in a native grassland.
The lateral roots of this tree species can be especially long — up to 7 feet in this case. The trick to uprooting: First, saw through the soil to cut the roots around the stem, then uproot the tree with a large weed wrench. Finally, using a weed wrench and large pliers, extract the remaining laterals.
The most exciting event this season was having 10 Boy Scouts of Troop 474 join us to remove invasive woodies (sapling tress and shrubs) from the lower meadow. The crew eagerly snipped, cut and pulled roots using pruners, loppers, small limb saws, large pliers, and weed wrenches.
Kudos to Nick Borina, Ryan Borina – he is not in troop but wanted to help — Luke Zarko, Joe Sierra, Nick Serra, Tom Serra, David Burg, Rob Gonzalaz, Luke Kowalchuk, Brendan Kossman, Russel Mitard; and special thanks to Scout Mom, Michelle Mitard.
September 15, 2015: Here are the before and after pictures of the 8 multiflora rose shrubs and 8 silver maple saplings removed by the boy scouts plus helpers, using the above technique, all accomplished within three hours.
After the hard efforts of the working crew a section of the meadow is open and ready to seed with native grasses and wildflowers that will provide food and shelter to pollinators, birds and other wildlife.
August 1, 2015: Judy, Kate and I decided it was time to remove multiflora rose and several species of invasive vines from a large red maple on the north side of the lower fence. The maple leaves of this tree are excessively small, a sign that it is under stress.
We used every tool in the box for this job: folding limb saws, large weed wrench, loppers, pruners and even sheets of corrugated cardboard to step on and crush massive volumes of thorny canes of multiflora rose.
Everyone cheered when this large old red maple tree was released from the vines, which would have eventually killed it.
Crab apple and mulberry trees are also under stress from invasive vines…
Along the fence lines and in the lower meadow are crab apple trees planted generations ago. Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, reports these trees host over 300 species of beneficial moths and butterflies that in turn are an important food source for birds.
Farmer Jim cut and hacked away at the huge vines that had rooted beneath the canopy at the foot of this apple tree. Once the leaves of the dying vines — now turning purple — drop off, the tree will have access to the light it needs to survive.
Porcelain berry, closely resembling our native wild grape, is one of the more invasive vines climbing the trees we worked on. It is also very difficult to uproot…
It took five of us using a shovel and pulaski axe to dig up this tenacious porcelain berry root at the lower fence line. Unfortunately, any part of the root or vine left in or on the ground will regrow.
This is an earlier, before picture of the south side of the lower fence showing a row of ubiquitous autumn olive shrubs in the foreground and invasive vines covering both the fence and a large mulberry tree (possibly native) in the center back.
As seen in this after picture… we cut and removed the invasive shrubs south of the lower fence, and uprooted most vines covering a mulberry tree during the first two weeks in August. This was done to prepare the ground for seeding native warm season grasses and herbaceous wildflowers.
We also wanted to prepare the ground to plant a garden inside the double fence line. One of the species being considered is milkweed for attracting Monarch butterflies.
July 25, 2015: Karin, Judy and I cut and uprooted six multiflora rose shrubs, which provided support for dozens of invasive vines that reached high into two large trees — mulberry and black walnut — at the far end of the fence.
After uprooting the autumn olive we stripped the mowed area south of the fence of numerous honeysuckle root crowns, and porcelain berry, oriental bittersweet, wild grape and creeping euonymus roots between the fences before laying black sheeting.
In preparation for more plastic sheeting, we pulled roots from the grassy area south of the west portion of fence that had also been cut with a brush hog and mower. This is where poison ivy, spotted knapweed and honeysuckle bushes had infiltrated the cool season grasses.
July 29, 2015: We laid and stapled black plastic sheeting over the clearing to smother existing growth by inhibiting photosynthesis. Once devoid of cool season grasses and weeds we will remove the plastic to broadcast native grass and wildflower seeds.
July 3, 2015: Various methods exist for eliminating invasive weeds from a field of tall grass. Volunteer Susan Guarlnick cut, removed and solarized invasive brown knapweed in the lower meadow using pruners.
The following day I cut and removed large clumps of brown knapweed flowers and seed heads using a sickle. Faster than with a pruner, I was still able to selectively leave wildflowers like black- eyed-susan and goldenrod untouched.
After mastering the art of cutting and uprooting a smaller multiflora rose, Michelle Mitard and her two sons Russel and Kyle eliminated a large shrub that hid the newly blazed trail.
Once the shrub was removed the trail came into view.
Russel and Kyle are boy scouts who will receive service points for their volunteer work.
July 4, 2015: A line of small autumn olive shrubs marked the outer edge of the former horse paddock. Although attractive, these shrubs are not native and are spreading by birds throughout Long Island.
Debbie Hanley and Jim Bentson cut eight small autumn olive shrubs, uprooting them with a large weed wrench. Later, lateral roots were extracted to prevent regrowth from any remaining segments.
July 8, 2015: Approaching the lower fence, I discovered a tree hidden behind multiflora rose, oriental bittersweet and porcelain berry. Wearing thick leather work gloves, I spent an hour or two cutting down the shrub and vines with long loppers.
Once freed from the tangle of invasive plants the tree turned out being native black walnut. These trees have the reputation of producing chemicals that inhibit plants from growing beneath its canopy. However, it appears non-native invasives are far from being sensitive.
The old fence with its narrow gate was an obstacle for the crew and machines that mowed the trail through the meadow. It turned out to be a double fence line where invasives had established a tangled foothold within the ten feet of space separating them.
Thanks to the powerful efforts of Karin Ralph, a twenty year landscaping professional, and farmer Jim, we cut and removed multiflora rose, oriental bittersweet, porcelain berry and a new arrival, creeping euonymus, from between the two fences, widening the meadow’s entrance.
July 2, 2015: Thank you, Shawn C., Matt, Blaise, Shawn T., Jim, Owen, and Dave from Huntington’s General Services for the great work you did cutting amazing trails at Carpenter Farm Park. And thank you Keith, Joe, David, Christian, and Margo for making it happen.
A gentle walk through this very beautiful landscape starts at the open park entrance where the trail begins.
Walk down a winding trail to this heritage crab apple tree and enjoy its shade.
This first meadow adjacent to the former horse paddock will be restored to native grasses.
Pass through this gate and discover the beginning of the greater meadow as you follow the trail down its gentle slope.
The trail along the north border meanders between the woodland and the grassland.
As the trail circumvents the meadow it switches back uphill along the south side.
This is a partial view of the meadow from the top of the hill with heritage crab apple trees in the background.
June 20, 2015: An infestation of purple flowering brown knapweed was found in an open area between the paddock and lower fence. Marion Cristie, Deborah Hanley and Judy Lom pulled and cleared out this highly invasive plant species.
According to Wikipedia, the roots of brown knapweed exude an herbicide to inhibit competition by a wide range of other plant species. Consequently, when knapweed replaces native grasses, soil erosion and surface runoff increase.
We soon discovered a large patch of Japanese stiltgrass growing behind the area cleared of knapweed. Most commonly an invader of forested floodplains, Japanese stiltgrass is found in ditches, forest edges, fields, and trails.
Because we needed a hidden yet convenient spot to solarize the clear bags of knapweed, we attempted to smother out the stiltgrass and cook the knapweed by spreading the bags over the patch of grass.
June 26, 2015: We uprooted this multiflora rose shrub growing into the trail, plus five additional shrubs to the right of the photo.
Judy Lom and I cut the canes above the ground high enough for the weed wrench to grab. Then we sawed a circle in the ground around the stub to sever the lateral roots. The large weed wrench uprooted the plant, and we pulled the remaining laterals.
Once all the shrubs, poison ivy and English ivy were gone I sowed the open ground with Indian grass seed. This area receives plenty of morning sunlight for growing native grass.
June 27, 2015: Barbara Wildfeir worked on the multiflora rose, Oriental bittersweet, porcelain berry and maple trees east of the trail and north of the upland fence, and opened up this impassible area.
Still need to remove English ivy from along the ground before sowing seed. Looking good.
Along the fence that transects Carpenter Farm Park’s upland trail, millions of garlic mustard seedpods were ready to disperse their seeds when volunteers with the Invasive Plant Sub Committee of Huntington’s Conservation Board set to work.
June 10, 2015: Volunteer Kate Levine is one of several who helped pull a large section of non-native, highly invasive garlic mustard. Many herbaceous plants, including garlic mustard are edible, which accounts for this European invasive being here.
Pictured is the south side of the fence after removing the stand of garlic mustard. Eventually the entire infestation, running several hundred feet long and roughly 50 feet wide on both sides of the fence, was cleared of this highly invasive plant.
The stand of garlic mustard north of the fence was removed by Denise Harrington and her daughter, Jenna. This biennial herb flowers and produces seeds only at the end of its second year when it uproots easily, but the seeds must be bagged & solarized.
After pulling the garlic mustard we discovered the English ivy hidden beneath. Removing that, however, can wait until late fall when vines are easier to reach. And since English ivy doesn’t produce its toxic berries until December, there’s no rush.
June 12, 2015: Anne Meyer (pictured) and her husband Rich uprooted over 100 seedlings and small saplings of Freeman maple (hybrid of red and silver maples) with the use of weed wrenches. The largest sapling was nearly 12 feet tall.
Pictured here in the meadow adjacent to the old horse paddock are the remaining maples after the first pull of Freeman maples. There’s another 100 or so in this field and a whole lot more plus invasive shrubs in the larger meadow further down the trail.
Can you find the trail? This is what remains of the upland trail when woody and herbaceous plants take over. The invasive multiflora rose out-competes native raspberries, and mugwort out-competes native goldenrod; but native poison ivy is also an issue on the trail.
June 19, 2015: Multiflora rose is widespread throughout this park. The week before this picture was taken these very sharp, thorny shrubs were covered in white flowers. Now, millions of small red berries will grow to disperse new seed.
The path opened up once the multiflora rose was cut to the ground and removed. We seeded the bare soil with native warm season grasses to prevent invasive woody plants and other weeds from reseeding. Eventually the trail will be routinely mowed.
June 20, 2015: Poison ivy was found in several places along the upland trail; their white flowers had already grown and died. Now they are producing small green berries, which will ripen to off-white.
Cautiously covered from head to toe I uprooted all the ivy along the upland trail.
We are the only known species allergic to poison ivy. Birds especially enjoy the berries, which is how the plant spreads.
Poison ivy is a native Long Island plant species and grows best along our woodland edges and trails where it climbs trees to reach sunlight at the top of the canopy.
Today, the upland trail at Carpenter Farm Park is less obscured by shrubs and poison ivy — at least for now — due to the efforts of its dedicated volunteers.