Friday, January 21, 2011

My Introduction to Prickley Ash

A bane of the woodlot owner is Prickly Ash [Zanthoxylum americanum]. It is a very thorny bush and though I had heard of it I had never identified it in the wild until last summer when I made a visit to a friend's woodlot near Kingston ON. It is an awful thorny bush and likely worse than a wild rose. It is undoubtedly impossible to walk through without chaps or other leg protection. 

I was of the false opinion that this was probably not an issue in our area until, on a recent trip this summer in the Perth area I had noticed an unusual bush that stood about 2 metres high and had interesting clusters of berries near the stem. I took a sample of it home for positive identification. Sure enough using Trees in Canada ISBN 1-55041-199-3, it was definitely identified as Prickly ash. I have since found it along a road not more than 6 km away from here, and more recently found a patch of it in our very own woodlot. 

Unlike buckthorn and other invasive plants, Prickly Ash is apparently not that hard to control by just cutting it back. Buckthorn on the other hand just keeps sprouting up even after three or four years of cutting back.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Deer Damage to Little Maples

After a month of nice seasonal wintery weather, over the last week all the snow has basically melted away with the rain. I took advantage of this lowered ground cover to see if I could now find the sugar maples that we planted in the front field last spring. During the summer and fall the herbaceous growth was so thick that I was unable to find any of the maples that we planted. Now with the snow having pushed down the weeds, the saplings were very easy to find with their blue flagging tape around the stems. Had we not marked each tree with blue flagging tape finding them would have been totally hopeless.

Deciduous trees do not complete well against grasses in the first stages of life, until they reach above the height of the mature weeds. In our field the trees have to compete against plants like golden rod, purple loosestife, barn grass and joe pye weed all of which typically grow up to a metre (3 feet) tall. When neighbours throw out old carpeting I often offer to pick them up and use them for weed control around seedlings in grassy areas.

I will cut the carpeting into 60 cm (2 feet) squares and cut a slit from the center out. I will also cut a small 3 inch cross at the centre to make some room to position it around the stem. I then place the carpet piece around the base of the small tree fuzzy side down. This quite effectively stops the weeds from growing right next to the tree and from competing with it for moisture, light and nutrients. Seems to work quite well. Since the carpets take some time to decompose, they can usually be reused to at least start one more tree.

Out of the 10 sugar maples that we planted only two which were quite short did not have their tops chomped off by deer. This is a problem since the terminal bud (at the top of the tree) is what really promotes tree growth. It is not uncommon to find young maples bushy and stunted because of deer browsing. I will have to come up with some sort of a protective mechanism for the terminal bud. The attached website provides some excellent information on controlling deer damage.