Thursday, January 21, 2010

Another Fence Row Project

I have several old fence rows that separate the various prairie areas. All were infested with invasive plant species and there was no question that those plants had to be eliminated. What took a lot of thought was what to do with the native trees and shrubs that composed the rest of the old fence row.

In some places, I decided to thin the fencerows enough that the adjacent prairie areas could merge into a single unit. I’ve had some success with prairie plants colonizing the former fence row. Wind blown seed can’t choose its final resting place, so if the plants are nearby, the seeds will move in. What I’m not certain about is the willingness of small prairie organisms to move through the holes I’ve produced. Flying insects, for example, have a very rigid set of programmed responses that dictates where they will conduct their activities. They don’t have the reasoning ability to deduce that a slight behavioral modification could take them into a new expanse of prime habitat. Even a narrow strip of the wrong habitat could be an insurmountable obstacle to some species.

Fence row clearing doesn’t happen all at one time. The first pass takes out the invasives and then I’ll let things grow for a year or two to let the natives show themselves. I’ll next take out natives that don’t fit in with the management plan. Sometimes plants get left untouched because I can’t identify them in their winter condition and I have to wait for them to leaf out again. I won’t cut anything unless I can make a positive identification.

This patch of shrubs is composed of Fragrant Sumac and Multiflora Rose. The easiest way to get rid of the roses is to cut the entire patch. Once cut, the roses can be sprayed and the sumacs can regrow. Fragrant Sumac tends to grow back thicker than it was before. It’s a native that could become a problem invasive under some circumstances.

This particular fence row is close to the house, so I usually work on it in the spring when I have a few minutes in the evening. The result is one end being almost completely cleared and the other remaining untouched. It would only take a couple of days to finish the whole job, but when I have more time to work, I work farther from the house, so this is one of those activities that has gone on for years.

After single digit temperatures and a covering of snow, this greenbrier leaf still displays a spring fresh look. This area is full of greenbrier vines, but this is the only green leaf.


  1. ...interesting....I had no idea so much goes into restoring land to allow the native plants to thrive. It's a life's work!

  2. Hmmm... that's very interesting about the flying insects and their not being able to go outside of a pre-programmed area. Primitive brains at work. And yes, consider my last comment about the scat as a request.