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The Buckthorn Removal Process

Well, it looks like fall is finally here!! If you are like me spring, summer and winter is spent in anticipation of cool autumn days and the activities that come with it. At Prairie Restorations, fall is also buckthorn over-spray season.

The initial buckthorn removal typically takes place during the winter months. The next and most integral part of the process is the follow-up maintenance. With the removal of the larger buckthorn plants, more light and nutrients become available. The buckthorn seed lying dormant in the soil now has an opportunity to germinate and grow throughout the summer months. Before you know it, the cleared area has repopulated with buckthorn seedlings. This process sets the stage for the follow-up maintenance.

There have been numerous scientific articles written about exotic invasive shrubs and the best way to combat their spread. The restoration industry predominantly utilizes follow up herbicide treatments to control the aggressively growing seedlings. This work is done in the fall when most of the native species are dormant and the buckthorn is still green and active. This process continues to be the most economical, effective and in many cases only feasible option for control. Over time, the seedbank becomes depleted and native species can re-emerge, or be replanted. Properly timed and executed sprays have yielded fantastic results on thousands of woodland acres that PRI has cut and managed over years.

Some properties can be relatively free of buckthorn after a year or two, while others may take much longer. There are many factors that can contribute to the longevity of a buckthorn infestation on your property, and almost all of them are beyond our control. Such factors include soil type, sunlight and moisture availability, pre-existing land use, duration from initial infestation, and the presence of buckthorn on neighboring properties.

Like fall, buckthorn management is about change. Our native, diverse and beautiful woodlands have been, in many cases, changed dramatically by this invasive species. We, as conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts, are working on changing it back.

Ryan Mack
Land Management Coordinator
Scandia, MN

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