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Buckthorn Eradication and Native Landscaping

TEDx VernonAreaLibrary

An invasive species, Buckthorn, is wiping entire ecosystems, destroying necessities for humans and wildlife, damaging infrastructures, and changing our iconic landscapes. Allison Frederick describes how to stop this invader in our own backyards. As the assistant public affairs manager for the Lake County Forest Preserves, Allison Frederick's forestry and natural resources background and passion for land stewardship make her an asset to the conservation agency. She believes that we can join forces to take major action against environmental challenges, starting in our own backyards. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

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The spread of invasive species is recognized as one of the major factors contributing to ecosystem change and instability throughout the region. Invasive species have the ability to displace or wipe out native species, alter fire regimes, damage infrastructure, and threaten human livelihoods.

In Lake County, the invasive species European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) now accounts for 42% of the tree canopy. We aim to eliminate buckthorn from all forest preserves and reduce buckthorn by 50% countywide within 20 years by:

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  • Shrub_and_Tree700x400

    Step One

    The first step in buckthorn removal is proper identification. Buckthorn is an invasive species of shrub or small tree, reaching up to 30 feet high.

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    Step Two

    In the understory of many woodlands, yards, and neighborhoods, buckthorn often grows in dense hedges or thickets, staying green until late fall.

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    Step Three

    Buckthorn’s oval, shiny leaves have prominent veins and a slight curving tip. They grow one to four inches long. Pale green-yellow flowers appear July through September.

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    Step Four

    Buckthorn produces quarter-inch, glossy black fruit by September. Birds and other wildlife eat this fruit and disperse the seeds, spreading buckthorn into new areas.

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    Step Five

    Buckthorn bark is gray-brown with small, horizontal white-gray lines called lenticels. Common buckthorn bark can peel and look shaggy with age.

Allison Frederick, Assistant Public Affairs Manager, introduces the major steps of buckthorn removal in your backyard.

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Find more information here.

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Find more information here.

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Find volunteer opportunities here.

Landscaping for Wildlife

One of the best ways to bring nature into our lives is to welcome it into our own backyards. The decisions we make when landscaping our yards determine what kinds of wildlife live there and whether or not we can peacefully co-exist.

Wild animals have four habitat requirements for survival: food, water, breeding space and shelter. Providing these needs will attract wildlife to your backyard. Every species has its own requirements in terms of these four ingredients, but the following suggestions form a basis for landscaping with wildlife in mind:

landscaping-food-460x360Important note: Keep feeders clean to prevent the spread of disease. Thoroughly rinse chlorine bleach/water cleaning solution from feeders and let dry completely before filling with feed.

Bird Feeders

Birds flock to these feeding sites throughout the year, especially when naturally occurring food sources are scarce. Place feeders in your yard where birds are protected from predators and weather. Birds should have perching spots close to the food source and near vegetation for protection, but away from the house. Disinfect feeders at least once a month, using a solution of one part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water. Let the cleaning solution soak for 10 minutes then rinse thoroughly. Allow feeders to dry completely before refilling them.

Bird Delicacies

Food needs vary by species. Additions to a backyard wildlife refuge should begin with bird feeders, along with shrubs, trees and flowering plants that produce seeds, fruits, nuts, pollen and nectar for a variety of animals year round. Incorporating an experimental feeder with a variety of foods is a great way to let the birds select their favorite menu. Various mixtures that include different nuts, seeds, berries and fruits are available for purchase or you can make them. Project FeederWatch is a great source of information about what to feed common backyard birds.

When is Dinner?

Begin feeding when the first snow or extreme cold temperatures are expected. Food should be available continuously through March. Avoid excessive spillage on the ground. If there is more seed on the ground than the birds can keep up with, cut back. This will prevent the food from spoiling and reduce visits from larger animals that can be a nuisance. Likewise, store feed in containers that are weather and rodent proof. To discourage squirrels and other animals from confiscating bird feed, install a metal guard or circle below the feeder.

Beyond Birds

Planting a variety of trees, shrubs and flowering plants will attract an array of animals to your backyard and keep them coming back for more. Butterflies add active beauty to gardens. Attract butterflies into an outdoor space by providing water, sun, shelter and host and nectar plants.

landscaping-water-460x360Important note: Keep water sources clean to prevent the spread of disease. Thoroughly rinse chlorine bleach/water cleaning solution from containers and let dry completely before filling with water.

Keep the Water Flowing

Water is a key element for backyard habitats. Several sources of water can be provided. Add a pedestal birdbath, a shallow water dish located at ground level, or even a small pond. Any of these will provide the necessary water source for drinking and bathing. Water can also become an aquatic habitat for dragonflies, frogs and other aquatic life.

The water source provided for wildlife should be reliable. Animals depend on a fresh and constant water source. Provide water not only in spring and summer, but also during the winter months when most of the natural water sources have frozen over and are inaccessible to wildlife. Electric immersion heaters are available for birdbaths to keep the water available in freezing temperatures.

Flush out old, stagnant water with a hose and fill it with fresh water. Clean the container regularly, especially in warmer months, using a brush and a solution of one part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water. Be sure to thoroughly rinse the container before refilling it with fresh water. Keeping clean, fresh water available also prevents mosquitoes from breeding.

Make Some Noise

Many birds are drawn by their acute senses to the sound of moving water. Adding a mister, dripper or circulation pump to a birdbath or other source of fresh water can provide enough sound to attract wild birds.

landscaping-nesting-460x360Clearing land for development has greatly reduced the number of natural nesting sites available to cavity dwelling birds, mammals and reptiles. Trees and shrubs provide areas for nesting, as well as other materials that are used by these animals. If your yard lacks trees and shrubs, a good starting point is to plant some. As they mature, native woody species offer the necessary space for nests and dens.

Box Housing

If space is limited, provide birdhouses for our feathered friends. Requirements of size and cavity opening vary by species, so be sure your nesting boxes follow standard dimensions.

Building a bat box offers refuge for these beneficial creatures, which consume large amounts of mosquitoes and other flying insects. You can also encourage beautiful butterflies to stay in your area by providing hibernation boxes.

The Rustic Look

Take the easy approach, leaving your yard a little rugged to attract wildlife. If it does not pose a safety risk, think twice before cutting down an old decaying tree. Dead trees provide excellent nesting sites and food for animals, such as woodpeckers. Avoid mowing your lawn directly around shrubs. This provides ideal conditions for ground-nesting birds. Patches of native plants, instead of manicured lawn and non-native landscaping species, require less maintenance and provide abundant nectar, shelter and nesting sites for wildlife.

landscaping-shelter-460x360Shelter transforms your yard into a haven where wildlife no longer just visits; they move in. Cover is an important element for any habitat, because it protects wildlife from the elements and from predators.

Effective Techniques

Plant a variety of trees, shrubs, grasses and flowering plants to maximize the benefits of your backyard habitat throughout the year. Planting around open spaces, known as the "edge effect," is very effective. Edges attract a variety of wildlife to small pieces of land, which is why this technique is rewarding for homeowners. Another technique is the "high-rise effect." Locate an open area, known as the “first story.” Then, plant a “second story” comprised of various sized shrubs. Add small to medium sized trees as the “third story.” Lastly, include a perimeter of tall trees referred as the “fourth story.” Animals that require different types of habitats can live in close proximity with this technique.

Take Cover

Most birds and small mammals need trees and shrubs for shelter. Planting native evergreens will provide year round coverage from weather and predators. Wild rabbits and some birds require thick areas of vegetation near the ground for hiding. Rocks, logs and mulch piles make perfect shelters for small mammals, amphibians and beneficial garden insects. Avoid planting shrubs close to your house, as wild animals stay near sheltered areas. Instead, create corridors of shelter around the perimeter of your yard.

Planting Native Species

Almost all plants provide shelter or food in some way for wildlife. However, planting species native to this region will deliver more benefits to you and wildlife. Native plants have naturally adapted to consistently provide shelter and food to native wildlife, even in the most extreme weather such as drought or freezing conditions. You'll find that planting native flowering species will provide an abundance of nectar, whereas non-native, novelty counterparts do not. Native plants are beautiful, hardy, much less expensive and easier to maintain, as well as beneficial to the environment. Once you have established your native habitat you will save time and money, as well as reduce air pollution by eliminating or significantly reducing the need for fertilizers, pesticides, water and lawn maintenance equipment.

At our annual Native Plant Sale held on Mother’s Day weekend, you can choose from a variety of native plants, shrubs and trees suited to almost any backyard.

Healthy Hedges

By developing a network of critical landscapes, everyone can work together to safeguard the resources and places that benefit people, wildlife, and the economy.

Native flowers, grasses, and forbs play a critical role in increasing biodiversity—the variety of species living in a particular habitat. These indigenous plants help maintain native diversity by providing food and homes for insects, birds, and mammals. Healthy habitats are essential for ecological processes, such as capturing carbon, recharging groundwater, maintaining water quality, and storing floodwaters.

No matter what style of garden is your favorite, you can create it using native plants—from Italianate to Cottage and even Japanese-style gardens.

Tips from our Land Planners

  • Identify invasive species and remove them
  • Assess what you have. Bare spots? Trees? Low areas with water? Have your soil tested. Learn the right plants for the right yard
  • Consider planting native species
  • Reduce turf grass and pesticide use
  • Eliminate insecticide use
  • Conserve water and collect rainwater
  • Use a mulching mower instead of a bagger. Alternatively, rake and compost leaves and clippings to redistribute on gardens for nature’s free fertilizer

Healthy Habitats, Healthy Homes

Bring home the beauty of Lake County. Part of our 100-year vision for Lake County is to conserve nature at a landscape scale. We actively seek and facilitate projects with partners to enhance the surrounding living landscape, beyond forest preserve boundaries, in order to improve the ecosystem functions and diversity of native plant and animal life throughout Lake County. Lake County residents are our most important partners in this effort.

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