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Flora

The deer eat the berries off the winterberries, robbing the robins of a spring snack. But on a rainy day last week, the white-throated sparrows jumped up and down under the agastache to get its seeds to fall and seemingly had a treat. They have not returned on dry days, although the agatache still have lots of seeds that could be consumed. The rain made picture taking impossible, but today I photographed the agastache themselves.

With more than a week of unseasonable weather, the pile of stems and roots keeps growing. The next dump run will require 2 trips. In addition to what’s in the photos, shed #1 and the back seat of the Saab are also storing bagged clippings.

In the south eastern corner where I could not spray without collateral damage to desirable plants, the stems are thick and the long. This are has been mowed annually but the stems close to the ground don’t seem to be disturbed. A good deal of thatch has built up as well. I mostly cut the stems to the ground.

A patch closer to the bee hives has been mowed more than once a year because it is mostly grasses where the bittersweet has not killed them off. Here, with the killing power of the herbicide, I could pull up some root.

In either case, it is satisfying to remove long stems or trailing roots. It is not so satisfying to realize that the ground if full of bittersweet root.

In the mid section of the meadow, to the south of the new septic field, the task of snipping bittersweet was entangled — literally — by dewberry. Dewberry roots along its stems but at a distance that is, distressingly, just longer than my reach. My wrists are dotted with thorn wounds and my back aches from the long reach that each stem requires. The dewberry leaf is colorful this time of year. And each stem is firmly rooted. I think dewberry goes on the herbicide list next year, even if the Indians did raise it for its fruit. I have not noticed that my dewberry fruits, but I’ll pay more attention in the spring.

Each night for the past week, deer have been in the garden. Their roof prints in newly reseeded patches in the lawn and growing numbers of piles of glistening scat in the meadow would be enough to give them and their repeat visits away. But I’ve seen them too. Late one afternoon, while raking leaves, I thought I was being watched. A doe and two fawns were deciding whether I posed a threat to them as they pass though the meadow. Jiff saw the same troika one morning.

The hoof prints and the scat might be a tolerable nuisance. But not what they’ve done to the shrubs is most dismaying. First they ate the leaves off the oakleaf hydrangeas. Then they eat the leaves of the button bushes and the blueberries. I covered these with black netting. They moved on to chomp away at the viburnum denatum and the dogwoods up to the height they can reach. They nibbled off the tops of all the day lilies in the bed in front of the guest house. They eat half of the autumn joy plants in that garden as well. But worst of all: they striped the winterberry bushes of leaves and berries.

Earlier this month, the lawn reseeders had remarked on the handsomeness of those winterberries.

Come winter, when snow might make foraging hard, the birds for whom the winterberries were intended, will have to keep flying if they are looking for sustenance.

I’d take a photo but it is too depressing. It’s not only the bittersweet that’s out of my control.

Yesterday I cleared the bayberry heath of bittersweet and dewberry. The latter is alive and well as it ha not been a target of my spraying. The bittersweet was not thriving but is also not completely dead. I found one egg case for a mantis and a mushroom. Here are before and after photos.

 

In an area along the southern border of the meadow where the Monarch caterpillars had been chewing the different milkweed, I cut bittersweet. Much of it is so dead that only bear stalks remain. And of course, root. It was easier just to tug on the dead stems and sometimes root came out as well. The root I could pull easily is not healthy. This praying mantis was in the area. I have come upon 5 egg cases for mantises.

Today I worked in the switchgrass section off the path to the beehives. The switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), planted in 2006, has overrun the little bluestem although the B. Trefoil, a legume and not a native, remains in the understory. Bittersweet has not been able to get established in this section but the dewberry has. The B. Trefoil, at the same level as the dewberry, seems at risk for being choked out. So I clipped dewberry.

I also cut to the ground as many bittersweet stems as I could in an area adjacent to the switchgrass where I had pulled bittersweet by the root in the early spring before the herbicide plan took shape. Dewberry came out with the bittersweet wherever they were intertwined.

Its hairy racemes are red now. It must be fall. Its flowering stalks, anchored to its tufted base, blow in the breeze. Its the star of the meadow — food and cover for the Field and Song sparrows throughout the winter. Nothing, not even snow, will bend its upright form until the mower comes in early spring.

The video has other stars as well. In order of appearance: Little Bluestem, Switchgrass and Broomsedge.

On a still Sunday morning no less famous than September 11th, with a photographer in tow, I sprayed the bittersweet emerging in the paths after the mowing and some overlooked black swallow wort. I also sprayed for the first time an area in the eastern corner of the field near the bee hives. Total application: 8 gallons.

The photos show grasses, milkweed, dock, deer’s tongue, the gear involved and the herbicider. Note the absence of large patches of bittersweet!

Still, sunny, not too warm and no house guests. It was a day to spray more herbicide on the meadow.

The Black swallow-wort does not seem to have responded as well (meaning that its leaves have not shriveled) as the bittersweet, although large patches are now dying. It seems some of the bittersweet, maybe where  I did not cover enough of the leaves, is growing again. The sprayed poison ivy is dead.

I went back over a few parts of the front of the meadow, especially where I had missed BSW, knot weed and bittersweet. In 4.5 hours, I sprayed 16 gallons of herbicide getting me almost the the very back of the meadow.

It is hard to believe but the Triclopyr does not seem to bother the insects. Monarchs, white and black butterflies were visiting plants. I saw at least 3 different dragon flies and the grass is hoping with grass hoppers.

Herbicide impact

The bittersweet on east-facing rises where the strength of the sunlight is diminished in the hottest part of the day by aspect and shade from an evergreen hedgerow has successfully outgrown meadow grasses. The soil in this western-most portion of the meadow holds some moisture that the mint and the plant with leaves pierced by its stem also seem to like.

The bittersweet vegetation is about a foot deep in this area. Its leaves are large and deeply green. Its stems are an 1/8 to a 1/4 of an inch thick and 4 to 6 feet long. Each outcropping may have half a dozen stems. This year’s growth lies on the debris of previous seasons’ growth.

I sprayed this section of the meadow with the herbicide in the first application in July and then touched up places I had missed earlier this week. While the sprayed Bittersweet seems not to be growing anymore, its leaves have not yellowed and shriveled the way they have in other parts of the meadow. Read More

It’s after 4:00, and it has not rained. The 11 gallons of herbicide that I applied today to parts of the meadow will have a chance to work. I mixed 4 ounces of Triclopyr to each gallon of water. With the previous application, I have now put about 16 gallons in the meadow. We calculated that an acre would need 28 gallons at the practice rate of application. Since parts of the meadow don’t need treatment, I might be about finished. But I am not. I apply the herbicide more slowly and probably also more generously than in the test on bare concrete. For one thing, I have to keep an eye out for plants I don’t want to hit. It is not as simple as the concrete test area.
And it is hard to be methodical. The ground is uneven and the meadow was never planted in rows. The target plants of bittersweet and Black swallow-wort know no boundaries!
Maybe I should have set up string boundaries and moved them along as I sprayed.