Friday, February 13, 2015

Middle Field Deciduous

A corner of the Middle Field has managed to accumulate a serious collection of large deciduous trees.  I must admit that, until recent years, I paid little attention to this small, quarter acre plot.  Japanese Honeysuckle, Autumn Olive and Multiflora Rose fought for dominance here.  Ground that wasn’t completely shaded, grew mostly Tall Fescue.  This was not an attractive spot and was not a priority for my early management efforts.  Now, a good stand of prairie vegetation borders this area to the west and I am doing what I can to encourage those plants to migrate in here.

To the south, another stand of prairie flourishes.  The key to getting the tall grasses to move into this corner is to increase the amount of sunlight reaching the ground.  The Autumn Olive and Multiflora Rose are gone.  The only major shade producers now are Tuliptree, Wild Black Cherry and Black Walnut. 

My plan is to cut the smaller trees off at ground level this spring and spray the stumps with glyphosate.  For now I’ve cut the trees about four feet above the ground so I could dismantle the tops and transport them to the brush pile without disturbing any growing vegetation.  I’m also doing that now, because I probably won’t have time for that work once spring arrives.

The brush pile has already reached considerable size and I would like to minimize the amount of material added to it.  For this reason, larger trees will be girdled at the base and the wound treated with glyphosate.  I’ve tried girdling as a means of killing trees and have been dissatisfied with the results because the affected trees either take forever to die, sprout furiously from the stump or heal the girdling wound, even when it seems I’ve cut the tree almost half way through.  Herbicide should eliminate any chance of the tree surviving my attack.  The dead trees will be a boon to the local woodpecker population.  As the brush pile rots down, it should be able to accommodate any annual fall of large chunks of dead wood shed by the trees.

I’ll be eliminating the last aerial tangle of Japanese Honeysuckle later this winter.  Inside that twisted mess are a couple of shrubs worth saving, so removing the honeysuckle vines is not a simple matter of running through with my mower.  That’s also part of the old fence line, so there’s the chance of encountering old fence wire, broken off steel posts and odd pieces of discarded metal.  The area is still covered with Japanese Honeysuckle sprawling at ground level.  At least after this is bunch is gone, it will all be down where I can more easily work on its elimination.

A couple of Tuliptrees have shot up inside the Sumac thicket.  Killing the trees will allow more beneficial sunlight into the sumacs.

The sumac is still holding on to its fruit.  Birds generally seek out this food source during times of deep snow cover.  Even though we’ve had an unusually large number of storms this year, less than seven inches of snow has fallen this winter.  Only two storms have produced more than an inch of snow and that melted within a few days of falling.

Winged Sumac generates new top growth from spreading rhizomes, so a single plant can have many upward growing trunks.  These seem to be short lived and there is always some dead growth that remains upright for a few years before falling over.  Woodpeckers find a wealth of insects living in the dead wood.

This is part of what they are looking for.  Bee larvae tucked away until warm weather triggers them to continue their transformation and emerge as adults.

I’m not sure what species these might be.  I think I’m safe in saying that they are either Leafcutter or Mason bees, since these are the two primary groups that utilize hollow stems and narrow cavities in which to place their nest cells.  The partitions seem to be composed of plant material and pith crumbs from inside the sumac stem.

The partitions of this older nest were constructed of mud.  Each partition has a hole used as an exit by the newly hatched adults.  It’s finding stuff like this that really distracts me from my work.  Of course, if I wasn’t fascinated by this sort of thing, I probably wouldn’t be doing the work at all.

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