Back to the buckthorn

Ellen and Jack Donovan clearing buckthorn in the arboretum

As most of our native trees are losing their leaves, non-native buckthorn and bush honeysuckle stand out with their dark green foliage, making this an ideal time for identifying them—and cutting them down.

Scouts Donovan, Brown, and Mueller finish an afternoon of buckthorn clearingThis winter, we plan to continue clearing these invasive plants from sections of the channel banks to make room for planting more native trees and shrubs next spring. To help us get started, Scouts from Troop 924 came out on November 1 to work  in the Ladd Arboretum.

Buckthorn is a problem because it can grow in deep shade, form dense stands, and out-compete other plants.  Similarly, Asian bush honeysuckle “tolerates a wide variety of soil conditions, habitats, and light regimes, including 100 percent shade, which makes it a tough competitor for our native vegetation.” (For details, see this article by the Illinois Extension Service.)

A recent study found that European buckthorn is the single most common species of tree in the Chicago region, making up 28.2 percent of the total tree population. (For details, see this U.S. Forest Service report.)

We are doing our bit to whittle down that number and give a good start to a more diverse community of native plants. Thanks to Zach, Axel, and Jack (left to right) and to Ellen Donovan for getting us off to a good start this season.

— Wendy Pollock