Some of our native vines wind their way far up into the trees – wild grape, Virginia creeper, and poison ivy cohabiting peacefully with the trees.
Unfortunately, other vines, including oriental bittersweet and honeysuckle, which are interlopers, wreak havoc in the upper reaches of the forest canopy. In the Niagara region, the honeysuckle vines grow so vigorously they sometimes strangle the trees. One of the tasks for our pull parties is to release some of the vines before they do significant damage. Interestingly, both of the very invasive vines have native counterparts, American bittersweet, and Coral honeysuckle, which do not overtake other native plants and are beautiful vines to have in your home landscape. In fact, some of the non- native honeysuckles are non-combative and settle nicely into a garden landscape. It is important to do research before selecting a honeysuckle.
Now, look sideways …
Unfortunately, many of the understory trees along the trails have also migrated from far-flung lands. In their native land, they were part of an ecosystem where a balance was maintained. Many were intentionally brought to this country because of their beauty or functions. Buckthorn, because it spreads quickly, was used to create fencerows and windbreaks in farmer’s fields. Alas, the birds decided it was a tasty treat and the seeds were spread far and wide. Buckthorn is now a huge issue in many wooded areas, crowding out native shrubs and creating thickets so the native plants, which we see along pathways in other areas, cannot seed. Some of our pull parties center on removal of buckthorn. This is accomplished by pulling small saplings and using an extractigator to remove larger saplings. Larger buckthorn is cut by those who have chainsaw training and is then treated with an herbicide by a licensed professional, such as a Bruce Trail ecologist. Thankfully, some of the native understory trees and shrubs are winning the battle. Spicebush is one (you may notice its fragrance of as you walk along our trails), and Chokeberry and Baneberry are two others.
A rose is not just a rose!
Roses can be native to Niagara and indeed any of the native roses you see will be pink (swamp rose, prickly wild rose, prairie rose, or Carolina rose). However, the dreaded Multiflora rose is one of those “I think it would be a great idea to import one” projects that went bad. It was introduced to the US in the 1860s from Asia, as a rootstock for grafted ornamental roses. These thick prickly bushes, full of white blooms in late summer, quickly took command of the landscape. As with the buckthorn, it was used as a livestock barrier.
Mary-lyn Hopper (Master Gardener)