Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cleaning up brambles and Hawthorn Thicket. 11.29.15

Himalayan blackberries taking over natural scrub.  11.29.15
 We have 2 acres, separated by a narrow access road.  They are separate parcels that were bundled by the bank when we bought this property on short sale.  The first acre is the house, a slope, much of the orchard, and some shade trees.  The second acre is more flat, with more fruit trees, vegetable garden, wildflower meadows, and about 1/4 acre of a thicket.  Behind the thicket is a small ravine, separating us from other properties.

Much of the thicket is Douglas Hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii) and Himalayan blackberries.  I have also seen the name "Black Hawthorn".  Douglas Hawthorn is native, and the USDA considers it useful to stabilize slopes and prevent erosion.  According to the US Forest service, "Douglas hawthorn is an excellent soil and streambank stabilizer."  I want to keep the hawthorn healthy.

The problem here is the Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) which has taken over the area.   Himalayan blackberry is the Pacific Northwest's answer to kudzu, but with a worse attitude.  The blackberry is considered a noxious and invasive weed.  Control is not required, because they are already so widespread.  However, for restoration, removal is sometimes recommended.  According to the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, "This species spreads aggressively and has severe negative impacts to native plants, wildlife and livestock.".  My livestock consist of a herd of deer, but I get the point.

Apparently goats eat them, but deer, in their life mission to be eternally obnoxious, do not.

I can't spray with herbicides.  First, I prefer organic, and second, I don't want to damage the Hawthorns.  So it means manual removal

Himalayan blackberries are notorious for fighting back.  For an old guy with limited energy, I need to use less force and more thinking.  The brambles are difficult to remove, due to long, strong vines that interweave and have nasty thorns.  If I use pruners to remove a foot at a time, chopping them up as I go, they don't take a lot o physical strength or stamina, just persistence  and occasional cursing.  OK,  frequent cursing.

I am also taking out fallen trees, but leaving the rest.  The brambles will need continued maintenance,  to remove crowns that will represent a reservoir of renewed growth next year, until removed.  Flatter areas can be mowed with lawn mower.
Douglas Hawthorn thicket exposed and beautiful.  11.29.15
In the second photo, an uncleared bramble area is seen on the right.  The piles are chopped brambles, which will be composted.  While living, young brambles are tough, they soften to a paper-like consistency when dead, and should compost reasonably quickly.

Once exposed, these trees have a birch-like bark appearance, and the twigs are decorated with lichens.  Very nice.  It's nice spending the afternoon outside during the brisk fall and early winter weather.  I could not do this in the summer.

The blackberries are delicious, but it's hard to get to them due to the brambles.  A domesticated, thornless, tamed type would be better.

The second acre from across the access road.   The cleared hawthorn is on the left.   11.29.15

No comments:

Post a Comment