Friday, November 26, 2010

Deerberry Decline

The blighted Deerberry bushes have dropped their leaves and it’s now possible to compare the number of live branches to dead. The living twigs show as red among the gray of the dead wood. I hope some of that top growth remains viable next spring. Deerberry flowers are a valuable nectar source on the barrens.

The twigs may be alive, but they appear to be a long way from healthy. The normal color for this time of year is bright red along the entire length of the stem. Dark sections sometimes appear late in the winter, but I normally don’t see that phenomenon this early in the year.

Some of these twigs were alive a few months ago. Now they are dead and brittle.

It’s hard to say why this species suffered so dramatically this year. Most people want to point a finger at a specific cause for the death of a plant. Sometimes you might be able to identify the final agent at work when the plant dies, even though that may have had no part in the actual decline of the plant. Plants are stressed by many environmental conditions. These stresses weaken the plant and make it susceptible to attack by a multitude of insects and diseases. The stress factors are difficult to identify and even harder to manage. I can’t control the quality of rain that falls on Blue Jay Barrens or the purity of the air or the types of particulates that settle as dust. The best I can do is to learn from the events that occur and hope to discover on site techniques that will help relieve the stress.

Next year’s Deerberry may all be in the form of new sprouts from ground level. I didn’t notice this Deerberry blight in any areas other than Blue Jay Barrens. Areas of prairies and barrens appear as isolated patches scattered across this region. While they all display some similarities in composition and behavior, each is unique and displays that uniqueness in events such as the Blue Jay Barrens Deerberry blight. An understanding of these events can provide insight into the historical factors that created the mix of plants and animals that exist on the site today.


  1. Such a curiousity. I wonder if there is Deerberry Blight on other properties in your immediate vicinity. ~karen

  2. Hi, Karen. I don't know of any Deerberry Blight anywhere near here. If it is a disease, I'm hoping it doesn't spread. All I need is to have a plant disease named after me.

  3. This field needs to be burned to reinvigorate the deerberry.