Monday, April 16, 2018

Ultimate Frisbee Club tackles Japanese Barberry

By Alan Lau
GNCE at Connecticut College

Saturday, April 7, was an exciting day for Johnathan Monderer as he got twenty other volunteers, mostly from the Conn College Ultimate Frisbee Club, to join him in Paffard Woods, Stonington, CT to help pull Barberry plants which had invaded the stream line woodlands. The Japanese Barberry, or Berberis thunbergii, was brought to the United States in 1875 as an ornamental plant and promoted as a replacement for common Barberry. The plant was not considered a problem until the 1980’s when it began to spread. These weeds form dense stands that compete with native trees and herbaceous plants. The weed has naturalized as far north as Nova Scotia, south to North Carolina, and west to Montana. It has invaded a total of 31 states, with 17 states designating it as invasive. (Learn more at the National Invasive SpeciesInformation Center and here.) Japanese Barberry is a dense woody shrub with lots of spines connected to the branches. Its usual growth is about three feet high, but it occasionally reaches up to six feet. Flowers appear in May, and the fruits - red oblong berries - persist on the plant into the following winter.
The Connecticut College Barberry pulling Ultimate Frisbee team.

When cut, Barberry stems show a bright yellow sap.

The invasive plants leaf out earlier than native plants and  create a green mist in the wetlands.

The plants come out easily with roots intact.

Chilly day

The first hour was a bit chilly, about forty degrees Fahrenheit. Luckily, after the first hour of work, the sun came out to give us a nice wave of warmth and comfort. Some of us might have gotten a bit too comfortable as I and two other students ended up falling knee deep into the stream and getting all our clothes wet. The other difficult part of pulling these invasives were the spines that would pick you almost every time you tried pulling one out. You could hear the volunteers yelping from the distance each time they pulled out a plant. The last thing all volunteers had to worry about were the ticks. The Barberry creates a perfect living environment for ticks which can carry diseases like Lyme disease, granulocytic anaplasmosis, and babesiosis. (Click here to learn more.)
The longer I worked the more I began to get into a meditative state in which my senses felt enhanced. I started to hear the birds whistle, the laughter from my peers, and the sound of water gently flowing down the stream. It is quite fascinating how one can forget about all the clutter in their lives as they focus on the objective of pulling invasive Barberry plants.
Each volunteer is an essential cog in the machine that is Avalonia. Both young and old volunteers played a role in forming efficient lines to make the labor go by faster and easier. By the third hour things were ready to wrap up. All the remaining invasives we had pulled were dragged up the hill to parking area where Anne. N provided her famous Cookies and Juice for the volunteers. However, once we got to the top, the volunteers ignored the snacks at first and went straight for her dog Riley. Yup, there is nothing that a college club frisbee player loves more than a good dog. After a few minutes of mingling and photos, everyone departed on their way home.

Project leader Jonathan with all the pulled barberry, some in bags, but most in piles by the trail that will be chopped up and removed.

It wasn't all hard work.

Blogger Alan Lau recording the event on his phone.

Photographs by the students of Connecticut College.

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