Spring has come early to the Washington D.C. area. With this early warmth and growth, those of us who battle the invasives must redouble our efforts to clear the way for the native growth.
Among the many advantages that non-native flora has over native species is a longer growing season. The multi-flora rose, autumn olive, and privet are now green while the native flora remains dormant. These plants not only crowd out the native pieces with their foliage but the root systems can also alter the chemistry of the soil, disrupting the growth of the native plants. In addition, the berries of some of the plants, the privet in particular, will last far into the next winter, providing another advantage to the invasive.
Two of the above photos show the immensity of the rose and how green it is against the grays and browns of the February woods (there should be white!). Two photos show a portion of the clearing that is on the ridge. The green you see on the ground is mostly English ivy-this too will be pulled; though, as long as it is not in the tree canopy, it will hold back flowers and new growth but do little damage to the existing, large trees. There are a number of small holly trees just out of the shot. Hopefully, in three to five years, there will be holly saplings in this clearing. That is a root of the rose bush in the other shot; we use a pulaski to get it out of the ground.
My son and I had a great work day yesterday. We not only finished clearing the area on the ridge started at the beginning of the winter, but we also recruited another volunteer to help us. He had seen us work before and had offered friendly curiosity in what we were doing. Yesterday, he offered us his help and, as there is much to do, his offer was gladly accepted.
I have only recently begun to work during the week at this spot, typically preferring to work in the relative solitude of early winter mornings.
During the week, we are greeted by those who enjoy walking and running in these woods and the fields adjacent to them. After a day full of the noise and conversation of being an English teacher and department chair, I am desperate for the silent rhythms of my loppers cutting the rose and the contentment of accomplishment when I behold the newly blank canvas of the forest floor. But, I can accept interruptions if it means more help for these woods and news of the latest hawk sightings.
I am, as always, eager to continue my work. This year will be different from past years as I have decided to not make March my farewell until the autumn but my time for renewed effort.
I do not know if there are spring flowers in these woods. I see dogwoods and hope they will bloom but I do not know if any spring ephemerals can grow through the mats of English ivy. It will be next; now that the rose is gone, I will pull the ivy from the ground and I will keep clearing the way.