Alien Invasion: Deer Woods Under Attack By Buckthorn

I really hate to admit this, but in certain areas of my deer woods I’m observing little green monsters that upon first sight now send a shiver up and down my spine.   That’s right, I’m not talking about little green Martians, mind you…nope, instead I’m talking about another foreign nemesis that’s very real and oh, so aggravating to manage.   I’m talking about common buckthorn—a plant that seriously has to be one of the deer hunters’ worst nightmares.

I first noticed it several years back when a plant started showing up here and there that retained its green leaves well beyond when much of the other native foliage lost its leaves.   Of course, this should have been my first sign alerting me to possible trouble, but in my plant identification naivety I simply took note of the occurrence and that’s about it.   Eventually, that trouble blossomed into a problem of massive scales.

That’s the thing about buckthorn.   If the plant is first making its appearance in your woods the smart property manager will act quickly to avert a larger problem that surely will develop a few years down the road.IMG5__00314

Think of it this way.   If your tooth develops a cavity it’s just prudent action to see a dentist now and get the problem fixed.   Left unchecked, the cavity grows and eventually it could abscess causing a major body infection.   Consider the presence of even a few buckthorn plants in your favorite woodlot to be much like that cavity growing in a tooth.

Oh, sure, hindsight is always 20/20 and I certainly wish I had acted much sooner.   I have a few acres of prime, hillside real estate that the deer used to just adore.   It contained several great hunting spots, but thanks to my negligence in no time the land became virtually choked out by buckthorn.   Even if the deer still roamed the hillside—and they certainly did—it was too thick and gnarly to even identify their movements no matter what hunting season was underway.

So, now the work begins.   Last spring I took some radical action in an effort to reclaim the land by first hiring a bulldozer to clear some lanes.   The network of trails not only facilitated my movement throughout this tangled parcel of property, but it also opened up some great shooting lanes that immediately came in quite handy during the hunting seasons.

No doubt about it pulling buckthorn by hand and/or using approved herbicide applications for control is not a fun land management task.   Once established in an area, the seeds can remain viable in the soil for up to 5 years so management really becomes a continuing effort to accomplish control.   Moreover, if you have buckthorn in certain areas of your property the primary goal should be to prevent it from spreading to other areas.

Buckthorn removal assistance comes in several forms.   For additional information on specific techniques and the proper use of chemicals, contact the DNR or your local extension office.   Another option is to seek assistance from private companies that will assist you on a fee for service basis in managing your land.   Several companies exist, such as Prairie Restorations, Inc., who will consult with you and/or actually provide the manpower assistance required to get the job done.

Take a lesson from me.   Don’t let your precious property become overrun by the creepy green alien invader called buckthorn.   Even though this creature may not be from another planet, if left uncontrolled the damage this plant can inflict to the quality of your woodlot will leave you screaming for mercy.

© 2009 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.