The Wise on Weeds! program provides businesses and non-profits with technical advice to help them remove invasive plants from natural areas and landscaping. These “demonstration sites” reduce invasive plants and seed sources form Vermont, and boost public awareness of the issue, serving as an inspiration for citizens to engage with the issue.
Smugglers' Notch Resort
Southern Vermont Arts Center
Montshire Museum of Science
Branch Out Burlington
North Branch Nature Center
Clarendon Elementary School
Champlain Valley Co-Housing
Charlotte Wildlife and Recreation Park
Jeffersonville Town Triangle
Richmond Floodplain Forest
Vermont State House
High up in the Green Mountains, Smugglers’ Notch Family Resort is working hard to protect the forests they cherish. After learning that some invasive plants get their first foothold in an area through landscape planting, owner and manager Bill Stritzler resolved to take action. As a result, the resort will be removing and replanting over 200 Japanese barberry, burning bush, and Amur maples from their gardens and landscapes.
Tucked into the side of the Mt. Equinox lies a southern Vermont treasure. The Southern Vermont Arts Center (SVAC) is a 407 acre visual and performing arts campus in beautiful Manchester, Vermont. The museum hosts a 28 room Georgian mansion, filled with the art of more than 600 artists. The Boswell Botany Trail winds through rich northern hardwood forests. In the spring, visitors enjoy Bloodroot, wild ginger, yellow lady’s slipper. Over the years, however, buckthorn, honeysuckle, Japanese barberry and Asiatic bittersweet had grown in, making it difficult for native species to thrive.
In 2008, SVAC partnered with the Wise on Weeds! program to develop a plan for managing the invasives, and hosted several work days with Burr & Burton students. Over time, with persistent effort, the natives will slowly gain a foothold and return to the beautiful site.
The Montshire Museum has long been an educational resource for families and science lovers in the Connecticut River Valley and far beyond. In an effort to highlight the trails that wind through their fields and forests, they have recently embarked on developing a native plants trail. Unfortunately, buckthorn and honeysuckle have become a nuisance, reducing the quality of the natural communities found in this riverside property. In the fall of 2008, the Museum became a Wise on Weeds! demonstration site. Students from the Hartford Technical Schools natural resources program have helped the Montshire get a leg up on the problem. Fifteen students and their teachers came wearing chaps and wielding chainsaws, clearing a large field of mature honeysuckle and buckthorn. In Spring 2009, TNC will lead workshops at the site, and museum educators will develop a “Living Display”, explaining to visitors why invasives are a problem and what plants they can use in their gardens to replace nuisance invaders.
Healthy Living is a premier natural foods store, serving thousands of customers daily from its Dorset Street, South Burlington location. Many of their products are from local farms and producers, and their beautiful landscaping includes many natives and is invasive free! However, invaders have encroached in the buffer along the parking lot. Store staff and WOW! are working together to remove invasive buckthorn and honeysuckle from the natural areas surrounding the park, using a method that does not include herbicides. WOW! staff will give a Wise on Weeds! educational presentation at the store’s educational room in 2009.
The Hunger Mountain Co-op is a community gathering spot, perched along the Winooski River in downtown Montpelier. In addition to selling high quality, often local food, members attend dozens of educational and community events each year. In the fall of 2008 it became a WOW! site, committed to removing invasive buckthorn and barberry from the landscaping, and honeysuckle and buckthorn from the buffer between the co-op and the river. Trout Unlimited and UVM”s rain garden program have become part of the action, and plans are underway to turn some of the invasive-filled landscaping into rain gardens. WOW! will also host public workshops at the coop in 2009.
The award-winning organization dedicated to planting and caring for the street trees of Burlington has stretched its limbs to protect Vermont's forestland too. Branch Out Burlington!, which manages the Burlington Community Tree Nursery and Perkin's Point gardens, is committed to growing and planting non-invasive street trees such as hackberries, littleleaf linden, and Japanese zelkovas. Now Branch Out Burlington! volunteers and Burlingtonians who participate in the group's Annual Tree Walk will also hear about Wise on Weeds! and learn how they can select aesthetically pleasing and environmentally suitable street trees.
Just a few miles up the North Branch of the Winooski River in Montpelier lies a "small preserve with a big heart" known as the North Branch Nature Center. With the help of the University of Vermont Extension Service's Master Gardener Program, the Center boasts a garden full of colorful wildflowers and shrubs that looks beautiful and provides food and habitat for a variety of wildlife. These gardens are a wonderful place to visit in the early spring when migrant birds are feeding on the last of the winterberry holly berries, in the late summer when butterflies visit the joe-pye weed and black-eyed susans, or anytime in between when you wish to see how gorgeous a Wise On Weeds! garden can be.
The 4th and 5th grade students at Clarendon Elementary School are learning more than just reading and writing. Each spring the students, with the help of their teacher Jan McCoy and the Wise On Weeds! program, pull garlic mustard from the forested area behind the school. The students learn about the threat of invasive plants to Vermont's native plant communities and why it’s important for people to remove invasives from their own. After several years of committed effort, students are stunned by the results – spring ephemerals, including Dutchman’s breeches and trout lily, have returned!
Nestled within 125 acres of field and forest in Charlotte, VT the CVC community is living up to its mission of stewarding its natural resources mindfully. The new residential neighborhood, where members design their own community values and atmosphere, has become Wise On Weeds! by prohibiting the planting of invasive plants like burning bush and Japanese barberry in their newly constructed yards and gardens. Additionally, the group is creatively tackling invasive plants growing around the site. In fall 2008, they began removing common buckthorn growing along the outskirts of their clayplain forest and using the cut stumps as fence posts and firewood!
What do you get when you have enthusiastic town residents and The Nature Conservancy’s Wise on Weeds! Program? A forest floor that has native tree seedlings that can finally photosynthesize! The Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge is 290 acres of open fields, forests, wetlands and streams. Red cedar, sugar maple, shagbark hickory, bitternut hickory, swamp white oak and paper birch are found throughout the forested areas. Like much of Chittenden County, the forest understory and hedgerows have become heavily infested with honeysuckle, common buckthorn, Japanese barberry and Asiatic bittersweet. If you are not on maintained trails, it is nearly impossible for people or large mammals to move through the tangle of shrubs. In 2007 the park committee became a Wise on Weeds! Demonstration site. Conservancy staff provided guidance on where to focus volunteer efforts and which techniques would be the most appropriate, given the species present and available resources. Since then, the park has hosted over a dozen volunteer work days. In 2009, The Conservancy and the UVM LANDS team developed a Weed Management plan for the park. The Conservancy also brought Vermont Youth Conservation Corps,school crews, and town volunteers together to conduct removal work. In late October, close to twenty people spent five days and 160 acres clearing three acres of honeysuckle and buckthorn. You can finally see through the forest and walk between the majestic sugar maples growing throughout the parcel. The mature oaks and maples have been dropping acorns and samaras, for a healthy crop of native tree seedlings next spring. Read the story in the Charlotte Citizen.
The home of the Lincoln family has long been a popular destination for history buffs and outdoor lovers alike. Not just a historic site, Hildene offers miles of walking trails that traverse farm and forestland at the base of Mt. Equinox. In preparation for a new nature trail that will be built around a beautiful wetland on the property, Diane Newton, Lead Educator at Hildene, realized that invasive plant species were taking over the forest and wetland, compromising the environmental health and aesthetic look of the area. The forest contains a swath of invasive species, including buckthorn, honeysuckle, Japanese barberry, Amur maple, garlic mustard and purple loosestrife.
To control the invasive plants along the new nature trail, in 2007 Hildene staff and first-year students from Southern Vermont College joined together to clear five acres of invasive-riddled forest land. In 2008, after the hubbub of the foliage tourist season was over, staff members got out in the woods for a full day of invasives removal.
Down the mountain from Smugglers’ Notch Resort is the town of Jeffersonville where the town’s triangle greens the roadside for travelers driving along Vermont Route 15 and Route 108. Thanks to plant donations and volunteer staff from Smugglers’ Notch Resort, the town triangle will become an invasive-free site when two large Japanese barberries are pulled from the middle of the landscaping.
Along the Winooski River, forces are converging to control Japanese knotweed and goutweed. The beautiful floodplain forests in Richmond are some of the few remaining large, in-tact parcels in the state and they are losing ground to growing populations of invasive plants. In spring 2008, over 30 community members came together on a beautiful spring day to collect data and map the location of invasive plants on both sides of the river. Throughout the summer, UVM students, Boy Scouts, Vermont Youth Conservation Corp crews and other volunteers whacked back the knotweed. The Richmond Land Trust, Town of Richmond and the Conservancy are now working together to develop a weed management plan that includes additional public outreach and work days in the future. The Richmond Land Trust has also applied for WHIP funding to help deal with a patch of invasive Phragmites.
Tucked behind the Vermont State House in Montpelier, just outside the windows of the cafeteria where legislators, staff, and visitors dine, is a forgotten garden that is now being brought back to life. A three-way collaborative between The Nature Conservancy’s new Wise on Weeds! program, the State of Vermont’s Department of Buildings and General Services, and Vermont Master Gardeners, is working to rehabilitate the garden for the enjoyment of the more than 150,000 visitors who pass through the State House each year.
Once resplendent with hostas, spring wildflowers, ferns, and other native species adapted to the shaded space behind the capitol, the garden is now overrun with invasive species like bishop’s weed, a plant that can invade and take over natural habitats. In early July, more than a dozen volunteers gathered to remove these multiplying weeds and cover the soil with black plastic in preparation for a fall 2008 replanting. Since these invasive plants are so hardy and persistent, the soil will need to remain covered for a year to ensure they will not resprout.
Posters in the State House cafeteria will update visitors on the garden’s progress and provide information on how to recognize, remove, and replace invasive plants.
Wake Robin residents and staff have combined their efforts to decrease the invasive plants found in their community’s gardens and woods. The Nature Committee, concerned about the planting of invasive species on their neighbors’ properties, distributes WOW! brochures to residents, advising them to stay away from culprits like Japanese barberry and burning bush. Grounds Manager, Peter Hausermann, is taking a holistic view of invasive plant management by writing specific guidelines for invasive plant management on the property. This spring he will begin removing buckthorn and bush honeysuckles from the natural areas between buildings and Japanese barberry from landscaping in front of buildings and replanting with non-invasive alternatives.