Tis’ the Season to Cut Buckthorn

The holidays are over but The Buckthorn Man, heedless of the wind and weather, is still celebrating before the blazing buckthorn yule with his friends.  Fa la la la la, la la la la his chainsaw sings in merry measure, as the buckthorn falls fast as the year passes.  Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!

IMG_7141It’s been a great winter season so far for cutting and burning buckthorn, with just enough snow cover and moderate temperatures.  I’ve been busy at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail and the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA and, thanks to a lot of help from my friends, we’ve freed some oaks from their buckthorn chains and opened up some exciting new vistas.  It’s buckthorn cutting season, my favorite time of the year!

On Thursday, January 14, Andy Buchta and I worked at The Springs in the area marked in yellow on the map below.

SSTrailMapJanWorkI really appreciate Andy’s generous, volunteer contribution; he works hard and we make a good team.

On Saturday, January 16, we returned to the north side of the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA to work on the south side of the SkyDance Pet Lodge property.  Thanks again to Dennis Lutynski for agreeing to let us clear the buckthorn on his land and integrate the open space with the state natural area.  Our goal is to open the views into Ottawa Lake from Hwy 67 to show off this beautiful landscape; hopefully, this won’t cause any accidents by drivers rubbernecking to take in the scenery.


I was joined by Andy Buchta, Lindsay Knudsvig, Ben Johnson, Chris Mann and Steve Brasch; Thanks Guys!

On Friday, January 22, Dr. Dan Carter, Senior Biologist with the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, led a field trip at The Springs to teach us how to differentiate between exotic and native phragmites.  Dan organized his analysis into an excellent post on his Prairie Botanist blog.

Dr. Dan Carter, SEWRPC; Eric Tarman-Ramcheck, DNR; Maggie Zoellner, KMLT; Lindsay Knudsvig, Kilkenny Family Project; Mariette Nowak, Wild Ones; Cheryl White, WCLC

Dr. Dan Carter, SEWRPC; Eric Tarman-Ramcheck, DNR; Maggie Zoellner, Kettle Moraine Land Trust; Lindsay Knudsvig, Kilkenny Family Project; Mariette Nowak, Wild Ones; Cheryl White, Waukesha County Land Conservancy

I captured his work in the field in a series of videos, which are concatenated below.  The exotic identification comes first and then we visited two sites to see all of the characteristics of the native species.

IMG_2127

This patch of native phragmites is just west of the gaging station bridge over the Scuppernong River

Almost all of the phragmites in the valley encompassing the headwater springs of the Scuppernong River is of the exotic variety, while the huge expanse of phragmites in the Scuppernong River Habitat Area, that is visible from the marl pit bridge or the Indian campground, is native.  The later information was a revelation, as we had always assumed that it was exotic phragmites, and had considered it as such in the NAWCA grant proposal.

Exotic Phragmites australis ssp. australis, John Hrobar standing on the deck at the Emerald Spring, photo by Sue Hrobar

Exotic Phragmites australis ssp. australis, John Hrobar standing on the deck at the Emerald Spring, photo by Sue Hrobar

Native Phragmites australis ssp. americanus, view into the Scuppernong River Habitat Area from the marl pit bridge over the Scuppernong River

Native Phragmites australis ssp. americanus, view into the Scuppernong River Habitat Area as seen from the marl pit bridge over the Scuppernong River

I really need to get more science in my life; that was fun!

Finally, on Saturday, January 23, I was joined by Andy Buchta and Ben Johnson at The Springs.  We worked in the area marked in red on the map above, near signpost #1.  Anne Korman, the new Superintendent Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit, Lapham Peak Unit and Glacial Drumlin Trail – East, stopped out to visit and thank us for all of our hard work.  You’re welcome Anne!

Well, it’s time to don my gay apparel and cut some buckthorn, Fa la la la la la la la.

See you at the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA.

4 thoughts on “Tis’ the Season to Cut Buckthorn

  1. You sure make it sound festive! Like we are missing out by not being there… Loved that gorgeous sunset picture, as well as the beautiful pictures, all showing progress – the results of your hard work! Looks like a great team of dedicated workers in the field too…

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    • Matthew 9:37-38 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

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  2. Hi Paul,

    I have signed up for both your blog and Dan’s. I’m so glad I’m now on both of your mailing lists. I mistakenly thought Dan’s blog about Phragmites was yours (as you may have guessed from my last email).

    But this email is the first blog of yours that I’ve gotten since signing up with you. I’m very happy that you’re working on the Ottawa Lake fen, as well as the Scuppernong Trail area. . I visited the fen last year, but it was hard getting to it, with all the invasive brush, etc. It’s a very precious little spot and I’m looking forward to visiting next summer/fall. Thanks so much for all your work!

    All the best,

    Mariette

    >

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    • Thanks Mariette. You can access the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA by taking the informal trail that starts at the little stage near the east side of the beach at Ottawa Lake. Follow the trail along the hillside below the campground and it will take you north past the walk-in sites #335 and #334 and then around the northeast side of the fen. The trail is open but it is not maintained by the DNR so it’s a little steep in some spots. I encourage people to check this trail out and explore the fen, it is a beautiful walk.

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