All of the understory is buckthorn. Trees are struggling to survive and nothing else can grow within the buckthorn stand.
Aside from the flower beds, manicured lawns, the corn or hay fields that you manage, what else contributes to the flora and fauna that grows on your land?
As land managers, we all work and thrive to keep weeds and nuisance plants out of the soil, but not all bad plants are simply considered weeds. Wood County is infested with a number of plants that are labeled invasive, a term for organisms that take control of an area by rapid growth and persistence.
Invasive species can eliminate native species in an environment by stealing nutrients and moisture from the soil. Invasives have high reproduction rates in abundant amounts and a long life span. The natural biological control from diseases and insects doesn't exist in the invaded areas. Invasives contribute to the degradation of habitat and can cause soil erosion.
One of the most distinctive invasive species in Wood County is common and glossy buckthorn, initially brought over from Europe as an ornamental shrub. Common buckthorn invades drier, wooded habitats of the county, but can also invade agricultural land and disturbed areas. Glossy buckthorn is common to wetter sites with more organic soils. Wood County is prime habitat for both of these buckthorn species.
In an effort to control and ultimately immobilize the invasive, Don and Karen Haralson of Marshfield have been vigorously working since 2009 with the University of Wisconsin-Marshfield/Wood County and a number of volunteers.
Bordering their property lies the 47-acre UW Arboretum, which is home to an abundant amount of Wood County's native plants. Unfortunately, to get to the inside of the mixed forest, they had to intensively manage the buckthorn that bordered it and the trails it enclosed for the past four years.
Within the areas that have been successfully managed by the couple, vascular plants are returning that hadn't been there since the buckthorn began to take over, which include some of the most intriguing native wild flowers in Wood County. A short list includes jewelweed, anemone, jack-in-the-pulpit, trillium and wild ginger. Young quaking aspen, maple and oak saplings are shooting up toward the canopy, and other native berry-producing shrubs such as viburnum and elderberry are emerging into the understory to feed the array of birds Wood County has to offer.
Managing and controlling buckthorn is not an easy task, but the Haralsons' satisfaction of what they are doing for the forest prevails the grunt work. They have been using hand removal for the smaller plants and cutting/herbicide for the larger plants. Their efforts are commended and respected by all who enjoy the UW Arboretum.
Buckthorn control is a concern for the county and anyone who enjoys the amazing native plants it has to offer. Any questions or concerns about buckthorn or other invasive species on your property can be directed to the Wood County Land Conservation Department at 715-421-8475.