Friday, August 24, 2012

Checking the Fence Row

I take a weekly walk along the fence row to see how the plants are responding to my clearing efforts of last winter.  Invasive plants are far from eliminated, but at least they have been knocked back to a point where they are not so obvious.

The visual screen has been reduced enough to make it possible to see through to the next field, but it’s still enough of a barrier to keep open field animal species from moving through.  I’m still evaluating the health and desirability of those native species left in the fence row to determine where I should make openings to help connect the neighboring fields.  I believe a 50 foot wide pathway through the old fence row should be adequate.  I’m basing this on the fact that I have several small prairie openings that measure about 50 feet across and these seem to contain a wide variety of prairie associated fauna.  If an animal can live in an area 50 feet wide it should feel comfortable enough to travel a corridor of similar size from one area to the next.

The ridge containing the fence row has not fared well during the drought.  Ground cover has not done much growing at all. 

Christmas Fern is thriving under the conditions we’ve had this year.  It is benefiting from the open conditions created by removal of the non-native invasive plants.  Its leathery leaves help it to retain moisture in dry conditions and it was in perfect condition to utilize the scattered showers we’ve been having.  This is probably the most vigorous species in the fence row right now.

There may be a lack of ground cover, but this is much better than having the ground shaded by Autumn Olive and Multiflora Rose.  Prior to the clearing, the view from this point ended about three feet in front of your face.  All of that open space was filled with rose canes and olive branches.  Now, instead of giving all of my attention to discouraging non-natives, I can begin thinking about encouraging native plants to grow.

Some of the native trees and shrubs still have to be removed.  In most cases, those individuals are obvious.  The stress of growing in a crowded fence row with a gang of aggressive invasive species has left many of the trees with deformities that make it impossible for them to persist.  Wind storms have helped identify many of those.  My goal here is to thin the fence row growth until I’ve created an openness similar to a prairie savanna.  There will be shade, but with the area open enough to allow unrestricted air movement.  I’ll leave any rare species and high quality specimens.  The weak, deformed and common are all candidates for removal.

I found this worn Red-banded Hairstreak on the edge of the fence row area.  This is the first Hairstreak I’ve seen in about four weeks.  Their numbers are definitely down this year, but I hope there have been a few out there busily laying eggs for next year’s crop.

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