A Walk in the Park!

Shrubs, flowers, trees!  Yes, aren’t they all lovely! It’s a delight to walk among them, with the birds and bees, and savor nature!

But wait!  Take off those rose colored glasses, and take another look at The Oxbow, because we have a serious problem, thanks to almost one hundred years of human interference, and subsequent neglect,  plantings of imported species have completely taken over, are seriously damaging the local environment and they are spreading unchecked.

I’ve already posted here regarding Japanese Knotweed  It’s a problem that is already spreading into back yards in Erie Crescent. This stuff is a nightmare  because the roots can go ten feet deep and rapidly spread laterally. The plant can reach heights of  fifteen feet, choking out all other plants. It sucks the life out of everything around it.  It is listed by NY DEC as an illegal invasive species.  Now, some beekeepers actually like the stuff,  because it flowers late in the year and produces an extra batch of honey. But do a few pots of honey warrant this menace in our back yards? In five to ten years The Oxbow could easily look like this, if left unchecked.

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One way you can help is to eat the stuff. Picking the shoots, usually the first six inches, and cooking them, is all the rage in some top restaurants. They can be seasoned as a savory like spinach, or as a sweet like rhubarb.  See some recipes here.

See New York’s Invasive Species from The Nature Conservancy

The least invasive way to rid The Oxbow of the pest is to cut it down, frequently.

Our next big problem we have here is Honeysuckle.  It’s everywhere – in the woods, and along the trails. Some neighbors even have it in their yards as a decorative bush.honeysucklehoneysuckle curseHere’s a link to a Wiki report where it states –

This species poses a serious threat not only to the diversity of the ecosystems which they invade but also to forest regeneration itself, as the plant is known for reducing the growth and diversity of native seedlings. However, studies have shown that the plant is responsible for having a negative impact on birds, and tadpoles. Even if the bush honeysuckles are removed, the habitat may never be restored without significant support.

Honeysuckle is also responsible for attracting deer and their ticks.  We certainly do have plenty of deer in these woods, and perhaps that’s why a hunter’s tree stand was found here recently?

Honeysuckle increases the risk of tick-borne diseases such as Erlichiosis and Lyme disease in suburban natural areas, by attracting deer activity and increasing the number of infected ticks. Furthermore, experimental removal of the plant was shown to reduce deer activity and number of infected ticks, through the shifting of ticks’ blood meals away from deer.

Our  local Boy Scout team has recently cut down much of the Honeysuckle along the canal shoreline, but there is much more to do in the woodland, where it has totally overtaken everything in places.

Prevent the Spread of Invasive Species in New York

There are many more illegal and prohibited plants lurking in these woods, and we owe it to ourselves and the environment generally to get rid of them. But how?

Education is the first step and to do that we have to  look at the problems objectively. It’s no good having a defeatist attitude either.  I’ve heard some say, “Once you’ve got Knotweed, you can’t get rid of it, so why bother!”  Well! We’ll bother because we will become educated, informed and we care.

Here’s a really good article on New York State DEC prohibited and illegal plants.

Please spend a little time and read up on these weeds, and next time you’re outdoors, see if you can find any.  Perhaps the best place to look first is your own back yard. Is that a Honeysuckle you thought was a nice ornamental bush?  Do you have a Sycamore Maple tree?

So you like blackberries and raspberries?

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Yes, picking raspberries down The Oxbow is a pleasant pastime, but are they actually raspberries or are they an invasive import called Japanese Wineberry

Raspberry, Blackberry and Wineberry bushes are very invasive and spread rapidly, displacing other native plants. They are fine in a controlled garden, but left unchecked can totally smother an area.

Black Locust A large tree with long flowers and a wonderful perfume this time of year. I have loved this tree ever since I moved to New York, but it’s an invasive species here. black locustI’ve seen plenty of saplings growing along the Oxbow Road, and the Scouts have removed a few I believe.

Yellow Iris

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It’s hard to believe this pretty flower is listed by NY DEC as invasive. I have some in my back yard along the shoreline of the canal.  They’re toast  – soon!

Lily of the Valley

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The perfume from our main stand of these flowers can be savored all along the trail when the wind is in the right direction. They were probably planted in a cottagers garden patch and were carefully managed and controlled, but since the inhabitants have been long gone, no one has been interested or cared to want to keep an eye on the spread of these very dangerous plants. I quote from this article

Warnings About Growing Lily of the Valley. There are two reasons not to grow Convallaria majalis plants:
  1. They are invasive plants in parts of North America (they are reputedly more aggressive in the northern section of their range than in the southern section.
  2. They are poisonous plants — a concern if you have children or pets in the yard.
Concerning the toxicity of lily of the valley plants, experts advise wearing gloves when handling them, lest any residue be transmitted to your food (should you forget to wash your hands before dining). All parts of the plant are considered poisonous if ingested. Symptoms of poisoning include stomach ache and blurred vision

Garlic Mustard

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This plant is fairly easily recognizable, and, thankfully, easy to pull up. If you see it on your walks, just pull it out.  NY DEC reckon its really bad news,  and it could take up to five years to eradicate this weed. So, get pullin’ folks.

What does the DEC say about invasive species?

Prohibited invasive species cannot be knowingly possessed with the intent to sell, import, purchase, transport or introduce. In addition, no person shall sell, import, purchase, transport, introduce or propagate prohibited invasive species.

Here’s the link again to the NY DEC’s Invasive plants pamphlet on invasive and controlled plant species. Have some fun and take it with you when you’re out and about.

I hope this blog will give you an insight into the problems faced by this little part of Fairport, and that you’ll help the Scouts in their Eagle Scout project by walking The Oxbow trails, pulling a few weeds, eating the Knotweed, fishing (now the banks are cleared) and just enjoying the new  views of the canal.

Author: Mike Caswell

I live in Fairport, and my home is at The Oxbow section of The Erie Canal. I fish, have a pontoon boat and like messing in boats. (see www.mud-skipper.com). I'm retired and enjoy every day living here with my wife Carol and our two dogs.

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