To bring everyone up to date on our project, we assembled a crew of six on Columbus Day and pulled most of the JKW out of our “cut, cut, cut” area (to the east of the mid-section planted in grass). Not all of it could be uprooted, but I would say that 75-80% of the plants came up with at least 3-4” of root mass, in some cases much more. About 10% of these uprooted plants showed visible signs of the white fungus I documented earlier. Where the plant could not be uprooted, we simply broke off the stems at ground level. The removed plants were left in piles on-site to compost. There are obviously still root masses and rhizomes deeper underground from which the uprooted plants were growing. It is my educated guess, however, that the rhizomes won’t long survive, and that they will soon succumb in their entirety to the fungus and rotting process we have observed.
The plants which could not be uprooted, and which were broken off at stem-level, will certainly continue to generate plant growth next year, but I expect it will be at a much-reduced level. The plan will be to continue to cut these plants periodically, with the expectation that they will eventually succumb to the same fate as the rest. If this “cut, cut, cut” methodology does prove to be successful, we may attempt to continue the eradication eastward down the bikeway. The goal would be to accomplish the maximum destruction of JKW with a minimum of effort and investment. – JB
In case this didn’t sink in the first time, let me try again. We really seem to be at a turning point on the JKW project!
I stopped by at the site again yesterday evening and reconfirmed what I had experienced the week before. On the east side of the grassy area, it is now possible to remove much of the JKW (about 60-70%) that has been subjected to repeated cutting simply by giving a firm grasp to the plant close to the ground and pulling it up in its entirety, roots and all. Significant chunks of rhizome come out with the plant. In about a half-hour, I was able to clear out as stretch of bank about ten feet wide and almost all the way down to the bottom of the bank. Again, I added significantly to the waste pile.
I bet we could easily clear out most of the bank this fall. I suppose I can do all the pulling by myself, a little at a time, but if anyone else wants to join me or give it a try on their own, the help would be welcome. If enough native plants grow in to hold the soil, it won’t be necessary to plant special grass.
I haven’t tested the JKW on the west side of the grassy area, but since that has been repeatedly cut also, albeit by a different method, it might be in a similarly weak condition. – JB
I am pleased to report, based on a couple of evening visits to the JKW site this week, that the “cut, cut, cut” method finally seems to be producing some very positive and encouraging results.
Focusing on the area at the top of the bank between the area we reseeded two years ago and the waste pile, I found that with relatively little effort I was able to pull up by the roots a number of the JKW plants that had re-sprouted since our last cutting in early August (ranging from about 6” to a couple of feet in height). For about 50-60% of the plants, a reasonably solid tug brought up not just the stalk but also five to eight inches of very weakly rooted root or rhizome mass. The remainder of the plants remain more solidly rooted and can only be broken off at the surface. In the space of about a half-hour each time, I was able to clear out a very substantial quantity of JKW plants and add significantly to the waste pile. (Warning: The waste pile contains a sizeable hornets’ nest, so don’t get too close.)
Clearly, the repeated cutting of the JKW drastically weakens the root systems. Although the rhizomes still have life in them, and the capacity to send up new shoots, they just don’t have the resiliency of those in a healthy plant. In many cases, you can actually see rotted and decaying rhizome masses and pieces of dead root in the ground. The relatively wet condition of the soil this fall (like last fall) also makes it easier to uproot the plants.
To capitalize on this situation, I suggest we organize a “pulling party” later this fall, perhaps at the end of September or in early October, before the most recent growth dies back. I would bet that with three or four volunteers we could clear out most, if not all, of the area to the east of the plot in the middle that we re-planted with grass two years ago. If the 50-60% uprooting rate that I experienced at the top of the bank prevails farther down, there should still be enough JKW root systems left in the soil to prevent bank erosion, so I don’t think we need to worry about replanting this fall. We should have significantly less JKW in the area the next year, and I assume that other plants will naturally start to fill in the gaps.
As I had promised Don, I spent several hours at the site this past Sunday afternoon, focusing primarily on the eastern side. On the top, flat part of the bank, I pulled by hand virtually all of the JKW that was growing among the other weeds and wildflowers, which have become very thick now. I added quite a bit to the big pile on the corner. Reaching through the weeds and finding the JKW stalks can be a bit of a challenge. However, I was encouraged to find that over half of the stalks came up by the roots – in some cases fairly easily, and in others only with a strong two-fisted tug and a little back strain. The remainder were more deeply rooted and had to be snapped off.
Where the JKW came up by the roots, the root systems seemed weak, a bit rotten and sometimes a bit mouldy, so I think our cut-cut-cut method really is showing some promise. The fact that the soil has been quite wet from the continuous rains probably did not hurt either. (In fact, in the middle of the work I was caught in a sudden, unexpected downpour, typical of this steamy and stormy summer, which I had to wait out in the trees for about twenty minutes.)
After finishing off the top part of the bank, I weed-whacked the bottom part. Although the JKW there was not extremely tall, it was very thick and this was a strenuous job. Then, because the horseweed (I believe this is what Don calls it) at the top of the bank, about six feet high, was still blocking most of the view, I went ahead and chopped most of that down, leaving the wildflowers and the lower growth.
I took a few photos showing the conditions before, and then stopped by again this morning, as Don, Sandra and Dave were finishing up their work on the west side, to get some “afters.” At some point when I have more time, I will try to cull out the best ones for possible addition to the web site. (One particularly good picture of Don is attached.) JB
A few days ago I visited the site and did some work, mostly on the west side. Here are my observations.
On the west side, the “upper half” (the half of the plot closest to the bikeway) is mostly free of JKW, and the JKW stalks that were there were small in size and often pullable, as John reported. The upper half is quite thick with other plants, some native, many not. One particularly tall species (horse weed, I think) is beginning to block the view somewhat, and I have been pulling out the tall ones. I think of this as “managing the view” in addition to removing JKW. I will also continue to manage the rag weed, which is not too easy to identify until its flower clusters form. (Note: I hear that rag weed’s allergens can be transmitted to people through the skin when they pull it out with bare hands.) And I’ll manage the sumac plants that are coming in robustly. They are easy to cut when 3′ or so.
The “bottom half” of the west side has more JKW, but almost all of it is smaller than in past years and easier to subdue. I will work some tomorrow to the extent my leg will allow and hope to make some more progress.
JOHN, I think I will be able to manage the remaining JKW on the west side with some help from a few others, so please don’t weed-whack the west side, even though I raised that possibility in my recent discussion with you.
Regarding the east side, John, some tall plants are beginning to obscure the view there, too. Also, sumac plants of 2′ to 4′ are coming in and need to be stopped at some point. I don’t know what to suggest, for you may not want to manage for specific species. Weed-whacking the whole east side is certainly a possibility. DM
Four willing Lexington High community service volunteers joined David White, John Bartenstein and Dave Pearson at the JKW site on a Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to 12 noon to continue the JKW clearing effort. The team concentrated primarily on digging out more of the JKW plants and deeply rooted rhizomes in the area immediately to the west of the black plastic, using shovels and pick mattocks. While the digging was tough and the going was slow, by the end of the morning the team had succeeded in expanding the thoroughly-cleared area another ten or twenty yards along the top of the bank and adding significantly to the pile of composting rhizomes . A good deal of deeply rooted JKW still remains to be cleared further down the bank in this area, but we are steadily making progress. At the end of the morning, John revved up the weed whacker and did the first thorough cutting of the JKW on the east (cut-cut-cut) side for the season which, by this time, had already grown two or three feet high. The high school volunteers also cleaned out new JKW shoots in the central area planted in grass, which continue to emerge from remaining root fragments despite many rounds of weeding, but seem to be becoming sparser. This photo shows the area, and its steadily improving appearance, after the work was done. JB
We had a great day out in the JKW plot yesterday and it actually looked pretty good I thought, but I realize it is early in the season to tell. I had a stalwart crew digging up the JKW rhizomes on the west side and Don had a mixed group of enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts working on the garlic mustard on the east side. Thank you all for the support. Don it was great to have you working with us and inspiring the students to carry on. David, thank you for coming to start us off and for the great candid’s. John covered the other end and stopped by just as we were finishing and took some group pictures. Mike dropped off the tools beforehand, so everyone had a finger in the pie. I think that it was great for the students to see that there was so much interest in their work and in this area. – SR