Friday, 12 June 2020

Buckthorn Blaster Rocks Brush Clearing

Image of Buckthorn Blaster with gloves, loppers and pruners

Meet a revolution in cut stump treatment … in a 4 once bottle.

Some ideas are incredibly obvious, once you see them. The four once Buckthorn Blaster is just that kind of product. This simple herbicide applicator will change the way you cut and treat invasive brush on your land. If you are like me, you hate using spray bottles to apply herbicide to the cut stumps of wood brush. Most of us use the best two dollar squirt bottle we can find and curse a few weeks or months later when it quits working. I hate going home at with blue fingers on my gloves. I swear under my breath too many times every day when I pull the trigger and nothing comes out only to have the next pull shoot a stream of chemical out; most of which misses the stump. Expensive pressurized sprayers are bulky and must be frequently pumped up. The Buckthorn Blaster is a simple four ounce plastic bottle with a dense foam stopper that applies chemical to cut stumps much like a liquid shoe polish applicator. If you can polish you shoes, you can treat stumps with the Buckthorn Blaster. I use a 1:3 tryclopyr to bark oil mix, which is hotter than some folks but not as strong as others prefer. Both the herbed and bark oil are expensive. A 24 ounce spray bottle of cut stump mix cost around $10.00. It is common to go through half of that bottle during the course of a day. During the two hours I used the Buckthorn Blaster, I used just two ounces of chemical mix. The Buckthorn Blaster reduced the chemical use by one third. The number of stumps increased at the same time. Again, because the chemical only lands on the target stump I got more stumps treated between refills. More stumps with less chemical means 2-3 better invasive control in the woodlot. My spray bottle will often drip a little, especially when it tips over on uneven ground. The Buckthorn Blaster never drips. It only puts chemical on the stump where it is pressed. That means no off-target damage of nearby native plants. The small four once size makes it easy to carry in one hand while wielding a hand pruner in the other. When using loppers, I can hold the bottle while simultaneously cutting brush. Being more efficient means clearing more brush in less time. The bottle comes with three dense foam tips and a tool for changing tips.  Removing the tip to refill the bottle takes some care and can be a bit messy. That is my chief complaint but paper towels make the job fairly painless. The Buckthorn Blaster can be used with any cut stump liquid herbicide mix. I intend to use it with Milestone to treat black locust later in the season. I keep my bottle in a ziplock bag and toss it in my daypack, along with hand pruners, whenever I walk the property. What could be more convenient for taking care of that nasty shrub that pops up along the trail?

“More stumps with less chemical means 2-3 better invasive control in the woodlot.”

Finally, while the $8.49 price tag is a bit steep for what it is, the money goes to support the work of a really great organization. The North American Invasive Species Management Association (NAISMA) supports those battling invasive species of all types. They are a key sponsor of the Play, Clean, Go program that educates boaters about aquatic invasive control. For private landowners, Play, Clean, Go provides boot cleaning stations at public trailheads; encouraging hikers to clean their boots. That helps prevent the spread of garlic mustard and Japanese hedge parsley seeds. The NAISMA biennial conference brings together academics, practitioners, landowners and land managers to share the latest information about invasive plants and animals across the US and Canada. Consider joining NAISMA when you buy your buckthorn blaster. Tap into their deep well of conservation management experience.

[Update 6/19/2020] NAISMA now sells five packs of Buckthorn Buster replacement tips. I don’t know about you, but I treat hundreds of stumps from large boxelder to tiny buckthorn sprouts during a single day. the rough surfaces and jagged edges take their toll on the foam. The Buckthorn Buster ships with three tips, however, I find myself replacing tips one a week when I’m working every day. Fortunately replacement tips cost $3.99 for a five pack.

May 2020

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

A spring morning amble

Image of woodland in the early morning light

View from the front porch of the squirrel farm.

It is about time that I acknowledge maybe the biggest difficulty I have writing, especially about land stewardship; particularly living on the squirrel farm. My office has a large window behind which sits my desk. The heating vent sits on the floor in front of the window. I am sitting here at my desk hot air blowing at my feet staring out the window with geranium plants flanking my face, competing with me for the precious light outside. How can I sit here on such a beautiful spring morning when all I want to do is go outside?

The last frost date for this part of the state is right around May 15th, so it should be no great surprise that the air outside this morning is a frigid twenty five degrees. That same air is really dry, so dry that while we are getting a hard freeze, there is no frost. The sun has risen high enough over the south ridge that at 7:15 am, we are fully bathed in that rich golden sunlight that photographers call the golden hour.

When I am walking the land and losing myself in the small and infinite world around me, I have no notebook to record the experience. Even if a notebook is tucked under my arm, I have no desire to pull it out and lose the moment trying in vane to capture it. This is the paradox of the naturalist, of every erstwhile wander and those watching the robin and peewees plying their trade just outside the window.

Out the door

I am not, by nature, a particularly literate person. I am a landowner who wants to give back some of what the Wisconsin outdoors has given to me. Today, that means pouring another cup of coffee, showering and spraying down my cloths with permethrin before heading out the door. Two days ago, while digging a trench, I acquired my first tick of the season. While that critter was a dog tick, the unwanted harbinger put me on notice that tick season is here. As the mercury climbs, the ticks will become active … and hungry.

By 9:15 am on this spring morning the temperature has climbed to 38 degrees with bright sunshine and little wind. The first bloodroot make an appearance just north of the driveway. Their leaves, nearly three inches across, spread out to grab sunlight and power the impending flower production sure to arrive in a matter of days. Boxelder and buckthorn leaves are opening. The spring sap flow halts dormant season cutting and stump treatment. While dormant trees readily take herbicide like Garlon 4 down into their roots, the emergence of leaves means flow will be moving away from the roots. Any chemical applied now will be pushed right back out.

For the next two six weeks, the only hope of preventing this year’s seed crop will mean cutting the stumps at waist height. I will need to return later in the summer to remove the trunks and treat the stumps once the normal leaf out period is over and the roots are once again ready to take nutrient downward once again.

Image of rock wall viewed from atop the wall

Rock wall marking the section line is nearly wide enough for a cart.

Surprise me

The aim this spring morning is to take a slow stroll through the woods to see what spring on the squirrel farm wants to reveal about itself. I make my way north from the driveway along an old stone wall. It is only 3-4 feet high, but for most of its length, the wall is wider than it is tall. The road we live on begins to veer away to the west less than 200 feet past the driveway. The area was platted and parcels sold off thirty years ago, but this wall is much older. There are red oak trees growing out of it flanks that first sprouted nearly a century ago.

Making my way deep into the woodland, the wall stays on my left hip. I turn to look over my right shoulder I look directly at our living room window and am reminded that homes and roads here no longer obey cardinal compass directions, as farmers who settled this land did. I pull out my smart phone and open the compass app. Sure enough, that rock way runs directly north and south, and it suddenly clicks in my mind that this is no random wall, it marks the section line that once would have declared the boundary between two settler farmsteads.

Not all surprises are welcome

There is so much more to learn; nearly every step reveals something new. Depending the slope along the wall, my way is blocked by dense black locust saplings. I will need to cut, stack and burn them this fall. Black locust are native to Wisconsin. Oak and hickory savannah covered this land prior to settlement, and black locust were not typically food there. Farmers planted them to harvest as supply of young trees for fence posts. Fast growing, rot resistant and straight, locust posts filled an important need.

Today, their nasty thorns and prolific seed production make them most unwelcome. Because black locust is a legume, nearly every tool I have to control locusts comes with its own drawbacks. Fire stimulates seed germination. Pulling saplings out by the roots opens the soil (encouraging erosion) and causes locust seeds to germinate. Mowing kills top growth, but the black locust simply re-sprout. Most effective herbicides persist in the soil and kill nearby native plants. Getting this problem under control will be a long and unpleasant slog.

Back on what was once a trail leading to the house, nuthatches flit from trunk to trunk, feeding on the newly emerging insects. A pair of wood thrush hop across the lawn near the house. Every walk in the woods so far is a new adventure. I cannot wait to see how the land responds to its new steward. Perhaps the care I provide can begin to match the wisdom the it will impart in exchange.

Monday, 11 May 2020

common buckthorn

Rhamnus cathartica L.

Description:

Leaves & stems: Ovate or elliptic, with prominent veins curving toward tip. Mostly opposite leaves, 1-2.5” long, with tiny teeth. Leaves remain on plants and stay green into fall. Bark is gray to brown with prominent light-colored lenticels. Cut bark exposes an orange inner cambium layer.

Flowers: Inconspicuous, small and clustered in leaf axils. Fragrant, greenish-yellow, 4-petaled flowers that bloom in spring.

Fruits & seeds: Abundant clusters of round, black, pea-sized fruit. Ripen on female plants in late summer. Dispersed by birds and mammals. Fruits remain on plants into winter after all the leaves have fallen.

Roots: Extensive, black fibrous root system.

Similar species: Glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula; invasive) is similar to common buckthorn. Leaves are mostly opposite, with greater number of veins. Upper surface of leaves are shiny with undersides dull.

Alder buckthorn (Rhamnus alnifolia; native) is under 3’ tall with thornless twigs. Lance-leafed buckthorn (R. lanceolata; native) is less than 6’ tall, found in wet areas and on dry limestone slopes, and has alternate leaves, 2-6” long, gradually tapering to a point at the tip. Carolina buckthorn (R. caroliniana; native), found in the southern Midwest, is 10-30’ tall with toothed, mostly alternate leaves, 2-3” long.

Source:  Wisconsin DNR Invasive Species website.

Locations:

Found in woodlands, wetlands and prairies.

Impact:

Creates dense thickets where nothing can grow beneath it.

common buckthorn

USDA Symbol Common Name Scientific Name
RHCA3 common buckthorn Rhamnus cathartica

ITIS TSN: 28573

Category: Dicot

Taxonomy

Kingdom: Plantae

Subkingdom:

Super Division: Spermatophyta

Division: Magnoliophyta

Subdivision:

Class: Magnoliopsida

SubClass: Rosidae

Order: Rhamnales

Family: Rhamnaceae

Natural Community: Array

Coefficient of Conservation:

Duration Growth Habit Native Status
Perennial Tree, Shrub L48(I)CAN(I)
MECHANICAL:

For very small patches of very young seedlings; pull, bag and remove.

CHEMICAL:

Garlon 4 is the most common chemical used. Most effective when sprayed in 1:1 concentration to cambium layer of cut stumps. Garlon 4 should not be used in temperatures above 80 degrees.

Glyphosate may be used in 1:1 concentration to cambium layer of cut stumps. May be used in temperatures above 75 degrees but is not effective in temperatures below 40 degrees F. Avoid treatment during spring as sap flow is moving in the wrong direction and chemical will not be carried to the roots where it does its work.

BIOLOGICAL:

There are not effective biological controls for Common buckthorn.

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