Friday, October 30, 2015

Fall Colors, Flagging invasive species

 If the recent rains haven't knocked all your fall leaves to the forest floor, this weekend may be your last chance to take in a color tour. Or if you have travel in mind, here is a link to a fall color travel map.

An Ohio forest in full Fall display.
 Here in Ohio we are lucky to be a part of that small percentage of the world which experiences these beautiful colors of leaves changing from green to yellow, orange and reds in response to cooler weather.  An experienced color watcher can develop a feeling for the composition of a woods by its colors.  Yellow is expressed by Hickories, Eastern Hop-hornbeam, and Hackberry.  Beech leaves turn to the warm color of copper.  Sassafras trees are total show-offs,  likely to range through color expressions of red, yellow and orange! University of Tennessee  offers a nice fall color chart, you can download here.

Fall is also a good time to identify invasive plants in your landscape.
 This photo documenting stunning pinks and reds dominating the fall forest, makes me wish I were just a little less forest-wise.  While most people enjoy this as a lovely display of color, land managers see this as a brewing problem in our natural areas.  The pink and red coloration is the tell-tale sign of a nasty invasive, non-native plant: Winged Burning Bush, Euonymus alatus.  It comes out the landscape plantings and spreads into natural areas. Unfortunately, for all its beauty, it becomes an aggressive colony which can quickly out-compete the woodland flowers and native shrubs.

Michael Woogerd attacks non-natives.
Since non-native plants get their competitive edge over native plants by holding their leaves longer in the fall and greening up first in the spring, those are ideal times to assess your natural areas and plantings at home.  If something appears excessively robust this late in the fall, that maybe a good indicator to take a second look!  Michael Woogerd, land manager for North Central Ohio Land Conservancy, attacks all of the Burning Bush which has crept onto land trust properties with great prejudice.  It can't hide its true colors in the fall!

Winter Creeper, a menace in green.
Some invasives are not so showy; they calmly head into winter in their glorious green. Winter Creeper, another euonymus, Euonymus fortunei is a particular problem at my own home.  It was the legacy of the previous owner who planted it as a "nice ground cover." Too bad it doesn't stay on the the ground!  It is given to climbing up trees and throwing seed to the wind. It is probably on every invasive list in the U.S.

Winter Creeper over-runs a natural area at Lakeside, Ohio.
Given a little room and some time, Winter creeper will gobble up any and all ground vegetation.  It has even strangled my Hosta specimens at home!  Ohio's delicate ephemeral flowers of the forest, like Trilliums and Spring Beauties, don't stand a chance against this "creep"!  Since this photo was taken, we have removed a portion of the Winter Creeper from this flagged transect. I plan to monitor which spring flowers will respond and reestablish themselves when given the opportunity.

Spring flowers will be a great reward for the little bit of work it took to remove a section of that nasty Winter Creeper!

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