Thursday, February 16, 2012

Oak vs Honeysuckle

After removing an Autumn Olive shrub and its attending Japanese Honeysuckle, I found a nice young Shingle Oak struggling with its own honeysuckle infestation.  Growing conditions definitely improved for the oak when the Autumn Olive came down.  Now it needs freedom from the honeysuckle.

Japanese Honeysuckle is a perennial vine that uses woody plants as support for its vertical growth.  The spiraling growth habit allows it to climb even a limbless tree trunk.  The vine will climb into the treetop and exploit this position in the sun by extending its leafy twigs above the oak leaves.

The Japanese Honeysuckle Vine bears no aerial roots, so the plant must maintain its connection to the soil.  Multiple vines are usually found at the base of any affected tree.

Vines travel along the ground until they reach a vertical structure.  At each node along the vine, roots penetrate the soil and additional vines are produced.  In this way the vines can effectively carpet the ground and all surrounding vegetation.  The end result is a solid stand of Japanese Honeysuckle.

Both the supporting tree and the entwining vine continue to increase their size.  The vine becomes an unyielding collar around which the tree spreads as it grows.  The entrapped vine physically weakens the trunk and cuts off the movement of plant nutrients.  Eventually the tree top, too weakened to support the mass of vines, will fall.

I removed the vines from the tree, but the tree may not be able to heal itself.  This could easily develop into a weak place that will break later in the tree’s life.

The tree is now honeysuckle free.  I’ll monitor its progress to see how it reacts to its newfound freedom.  If the top looks like it’s beginning to fail, I may cut the tree off at the ground and let it regrow.  Oaks are very good about producing healthy stump sprouts and in a good location could easily be back up to 12 or 15 feet in just a few years.  That may be a better long term option for this tree.

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