2017-08-17 / News

Invasive plants to be removed at sanctuary

By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer


A sign at East Point Audubon Sanctuary in Biddeford details a project by Maine Audubon Society to remove invasive species of plants that have become overgrown. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) A sign at East Point Audubon Sanctuary in Biddeford details a project by Maine Audubon Society to remove invasive species of plants that have become overgrown. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) BIDDEFORD – Invasive plants have been an issue in the state for many years but several organizations hope to address the root of the problem in Biddeford Pool this September.

Maine Audubon Society has hired Massachusetts-based Vegetation Control Service, Inc. to remove invasive plant species from East Point Audubon Sanctuary. The project began in 2015 when Vegetation Control Services ran a pilot program on 3.5 acres of land in the Audubon sanctuary at the end of Fletcher Neck off Lester B. Orcutt Boulevard. After the pilot was deemed successful, workers returned in late February to begin mowing invasive plants before an herbicide is applied in September. The total cost of the project is expected to be about $17,000, paid for by Maine Audubon Society.

Peter Baecher, properties manager for Maine Audubon, said mowing was done during winter to help get the plants to a manageable size. The selective herbicide will then be absorbed into the roots of the plants and ultimately kill them. Baecher said prior to the mowing, the sanctuary was well over grown.

“Bittersweet vine and honeysuckle shrub are public enemy number one and two for us,” he said.

No other invasive species are of concernt regarding the project. Invasive plants outcompete native species by spreading more seeds and taking up more space in the sun. Baecher said the invasive plants eventually grew into a thicket, which left a space through the trail only 18 inches wide. Native plants, such as goldenrod flower, aster flowers and staghorn sumac, play an important role in the local food web but Baecher said they were being choked out by invasive species.

“A lot of wildlife benefit from bringing back native plants such as birds, small mammals and insects,” Baecher said.

Many invasive plants have been in Maine more than 100 years, and Baecher said many were brought intentionally. People didn’t realize some would escape cultivation and start competing with local plants. Birds continued to spread invasive species by eating their berries.

“The state has a list of 30 plants that can no longer be sold and an invasive plants list as well,” he said.

Sections of East Point Audubon sanctuary will be closed while workers spray the invasive plants with herbicide. However, the process shouldn’t last more than a few days. Maine Audubon will evaluate the site from year to year afterward.

“Spot treatments of the herbicide in following years will generally be done in the fall,” Baecher said.

Jeff Taylor of Vegetation Control Services said there are no major safety concerns with the herbicide. He and three other workers will wear backpack sprayers, and Taylor said his biggest concern is tripping or falling. Deer ticks are another concern. The herbicide application is scheduled for after Labor Day to coincide with reduced public activity at the sanctuary. Workers will apply the herbicide directly to the plants and avoid disrupting any wildlife.

“A very small amount of herbicide mix will cover the plants,” he said. “Drying takes only a few minutes, it’s a low volume application.”

Taylor said people will not likely notice which plants have been sprayed as most plants’ leaves naturally turn brown in the fall.

“Next spring the plants we treated will fail to leaf out,” he said.

Taylor said the other benefit to managing the invasive species is the improved aesthetic of the sanctuary. After the 2015 pilot program, he said Abenakee Club members were able to see the ocean again. The herbicide is also supposed to help reduce the amount of poison ivy along the trail.

“Once this treatment is done it will help control it will keep things from resprouting and blocking the trail again,” Taylor said.

When staff began mowing in February, Taylor said they had to crawl on their hands and knees to navigate the heaviest patches. He said the honeysuckle was 10 to 12 feet tall in some areas and walking through would have been impossible without mowing first. According to Taylor, they used a tractor with a front-mounted mower to shred the invasive plants like a wood-chipper.

“Mowing first helps reduce the size and use less herbicide to control the plant,” he said.

Taylor is semi-retired and has specialized in invasive plants for the past 47 years with the same company. He and his team work throughout New England to help different conservation agencies combat invasive plants. He has completed work in Falmouth and Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth as well.

“I enjoy helping organizations manage their landscape and contain invasive plant species,” Taylor said.

Contact Staff Writer Grant McPherson at news@inthecourier.com

FMI

The purchase, sale, import or export of the following 33 invasive plants is illegal as of January 2017: Amur maple, Norway maple, bishop’s weed, tree of heaven, garlic mustard, false indigo brush, porcelain berry, common mugwort, Japanese barberry, common barberry, Asiatic bittersweet, Autumn olive, winged euonymus, cypress spurge, Chinese bindweed, Japanese knotweed, glossy buckthorn, dame’s rocket, ornamental jewelweed, yellow iris, common privet, Japanese honeysuckle, amur or bush honeysuckle, Morrow’s honeysuckle, Tatarian honeysuckle, purple loosestrife, Japanese stilt grass, paulownia princess tree, mile-a-minute, amur cork tree, white cottonwood, black locust and multiflora rose.

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