Controlling Buckthorn and Honeysuckle

Controlling Buckthorn and Honeysuckle

Part of Ep. 1706 Weeds, Wine and Chocolate

Shelley Ryan travels to Pardeeville to learn how to control the noxious weeds buckthorn and honeysuckle. Neil Diboll, owner of Prairie Nursery, shares his methods.

Premiere date: Aug 26, 2009

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
We are standing in the middle of a jungle, and it's a jungle of buckthorn and honeysuckle.  Well, actually, we're in Pardeeville, and I'm with the owner of Prairie Nursery, Neil Diboll. Neil, this is a real problem for almost anybody who owns land.  Honeysuckle and buckthorn.

Neil:
Yes, these are two invasive, non-native shrubs that were planted as ornamentals, and they become highly invasive, predominantly in our oak hickory woodlands where there's enough sun in the understory for them to grow and prosper.  And over the last 50 years or so, they've invaded vast areas.  And the problem is that not only they're invasive, but they shade out our native wildflowers and shrubs because they come out early in the spring, they shade the ground, and as you look here, everything you see underneath here...

Shelley:
Is more buckthorn and honeysuckle.

Neil:
More buckthorn and honeysuckle.  Almost nothing of any native wildflowers, grasses, sedges, etc.  because of these incredibly aggressive shrubs.

Shelley:
So these are bad, we don't want them because they're destroying the beauty that we should have in this kind of surrounding.

Neil:
And the biodiversity, they're just wiping it out.

Shelley:
Okay, how do we identify this so that we're not worried about the wrong thing?

Neil:
It's pretty simple to tell these different species.  The buckthorn has very attractive foliage, you can see it has this glossy green look when the leaves first come out and the nice little striations.

Shelley:
You can see why people might plant it.

Neil:
Exactly.  And it's not uncommon for it to get these dots of orange rust.

Shelley:
Oh, okay, yeah.

Neil:
It's not indicative of the species but it's fairly common.  And it is aptly named buckthorn because it has these very nasty thorns.

Shelley:
Look at that, yeah.

Neil:
And not only do those thorns hurt, but when you stick yourself with one, these must have some kind of chemical or something, 'cause you'll feel it for days.  Because it will be painful, even after the thorn is removed.  And here you can see one of the berries, this is a little bit old, but they're blueish black berries in large clusters, usually produced in late summer, early fall.

Shelley:
And they hang on over winter, because I've seen them sometimes all dried up.

Neil:
Yes, they will.  Of course, the birds are gonna get after them because they love them and that's a big problem because the birds are a vector for spreading both the buckthorn and the honeysuckle.

Shelley:
And you've got honeysuckle right here, too, how convenient.

Neil:
Yes, we have everything right here that's invasive.  And the honeysuckle has more of a yellowish, lime green.

Shelley:
Very bright green.

Neil:
Yes, very attractive.  And you'll see kind of a reddish twig, in the new growth.  And these will produce red berries, usually in groups of two, in late summer, early fall, and of course, the birds will eat those, too.

Shelley:
And then spread them that way, too.

Neil:
Spread them all over.

Shelley:
Well, we've got the tall jungle behind us, but it looks like, when I look in front of us here, we are just surrounded by babies of both the honeysuckle and the buckthorn.

Neil:
They're prolific seeders, and I should also point out, these buckthorns that we've seen here, these are babies.  These are small.

Shelley:
These are babies?  The ones in front of me...

Neil:
Those are baby babies. Yes.  But the buckthorn can get up to 12 inches in diameter and 35 feet tall.

Shelley:
Wow.

Neil:
It is something else.  The honeysuckle tends to stay fairly low.

Shelley:
More shrubby.

Neil:
Usually not much more than ten feet.  But both of them are highly invasive, and they shade out our native plants.
Shelley:
So we need to learn how to get rid of them.

Neil:
We can do that.

Shelley:
Let's do that.

Shelley:
So Neil, what is the best time of year to be getting rid of honeysuckle and blackthorn?

Neil:
Well, if you're gonna physically remove it, like pulling it out of the ground.

Shelley:
Ripping the roots and all?

Neil:
Exactly.  You can do that any time of year you can actually get in there to pull it out.  Okay?
Now, this is about as large a size as you can physically remove by pulling.  Anything smaller than this, pretty easy.  But if it's larger than this, you can use a piece of equipment called a "weed wrench," which will take shrubs up to two or three inches in diameter, and it works.

Shelley:
Wow.

Neil:
Yeah, it's pretty amazing.  It uses the principle of leverage.  It grips around the stem, and you have this big arm that literally lifts the root right out of the ground.

Shelley:
It rips it out.

Neil:
Yes, very gratifying.

Shelley:
That would be!  Can't I be lazy and just cut it?

Neil:
You could, you could take a pair of loppers to this and cut it at the base.

Shelley:
Especially if I have a lot.
Neil:
Yes, however, if you do that, it's just gonna re-sprout, and you're gonna get ten new stems that are gonna be even more difficult to deal with than your original one.  However, we have ways to deal with this if you don't mind using herbicides.  So especially if you're dealing with a larger shrub, a larger buckthorn, like this one here, which I cut last winter, you're not gonna pull this guy out by hand.

Shelley:
Oh, I'm catching on.

Neil:
I took my chainsaw, cut this down in winter during the dormant period, and then I applied Round Up herbicide immediately after cutting it.  And any time you use herbicides, make sure, read the label, follow directions, and take the necessary precautions.

Shelley:
And you said winter then, if you're doing this particular procedure?

Neil:
You can do this any time from late summer into late winter.

Shelley:
Okay.

Neil:
The time you cannot do this is when the sap is rising in spring and into the middle of summer, you have to wait until August, September.  And all the way through winter.

Shelley:
So what are you gonna do?  You've read the label, you've got your gloves on, it's August or September.

Neil:
And I've got my Round Up in a container that's not an open container.

Shelley:
I see that.

Don't take a tin can and a paint brush and paint it on, because what happens if you knock that over?  Trouble.  But if this knocks over, nothing comes out.

Shelley:
Few drips if anything. So really minimizing the impact.

Neil:
Exactly.

Shelley:
Just make sure you label the bottle.

Neil:
Make sure and label the bottle.  And then I can just drip, drip, right where I need it, which is in the first half-inch in from the bark.  This is the only living part of the shrub.

Shelley:
So just a whole lot of edges, you're not wasting any in the middle.

Neil:
And you're not spraying it in the environment, you're not using large quantities, you're using localized, minimal impact, right there where you want it to kill the shrub and it will not come back.

Shelley:
I noticed already, just from the few you've cut in this area, you've got dappled sunlight coming through.

Neil:
We've got more sunlight, and interesting, look who's coming up.  A little burr oak seedling.  The next generation of oaks, this is an oak woods.  With more sun, now the oak's gonna regenerate.

Shelley:
It's got a chance.

Neil:
Under the buckthorn they never stood a chance.  And I just noticed this, we have a little Jack-in-the-Pulpit seedling.

Shelley:
So you've already made the environment better.

Neil:
We're getting there, but we're not done because the bad guys are still here.  Buckthorn.

Shelley:
Baby buckthorn.

Neil:
Garlic mustard, the bad guys are here, we have to control them.  Get rid of the bad guys, favor the good guys, and you can restore the environment.

Shelley:
It's a lot easier to control it at that size than this big size.

Neil:
You got it.

Shelley:
Great, thanks, Neil.

Neil:
Thank you, Shelley.

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