EMU students beat back buckthorn

Collage of EMU students removing buckthorn

EMU Bio 311W students removed buckthorn from Lloyd & Mabel Johnson Preserve.

“I found a spider’s nest. I got to get a picture of this,” yelled Remell “Remy” Thomas, a senior at Eastern Michigan University (EMU). Her four classmates crowded around Thomas as she knelt beside the base of a large buckthorn shrub snapping photographs of spider eggs.

The EMU students were helping clear buckthorn shrubs—an invasive species—from the hedgerows at Legacy Land Conservancy’s Lloyd and Mabel Johnson Preserve in Ann Arbor. The November 3 visit was part of a continuing relationship with EMU. Assistant Professor Brian Connolly regularly brings his classes to the preserve for field work. His Writing in Ecology class (Bio 311W), was learning about invasive species and excited to get first-hand experience on their removal.

“I love any field-work type of class,” said Adrynne Jones, a senior. “It’s cool to go outside and do something and learn.”

The class removed about 1,500 square feet of buckthorn using hand saws and treated the stumps with herbicide. Previous classes and other volunteers have cleared an additional 4,000 square feet at the preserve, leaving about 17,500 square feet to be cleared.

“Working with volunteers is one of the best parts of my job,” said Legacy’s Land Steward, Allene Smith. “Not only do many hands make light work, but the conversations, questions, and mutual learning opportunities that present themselves while working alongside volunteers remind me that we’re not just stewarding land: we’re nurturing each other as well!”

Buckthorn shrubs create dense colonies that shade out the native tree and shrub seedlings that have naturally diversified our woodland habitats. The plant’s berries are eaten by birds, but lack the fat and nutrients present in native berries. The berries also contain a strong laxative, which leaves birds vulnerable to malnourishment right when it’s time to migrate in the fall.

Interested in volunteering to clear invasive species from our preserves? Contact Legacy’s Land Stewardship team at stewardship@legacylandconservancy.org.

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