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BATTLING THE BUCKTHORNS: A PERSONAL JOURNEY

This week council member, Lynne Douglas, shares her personal experience with Glossy Buckthorn. If you have ever walked along the Confederation Trail in PEI you have probably encountered this invader.

BATTLING THE BUCKTHORNS: A PERSONAL JOURNEY

By Lynne Douglas

Many years ago in a land not far away (Hazel Grove, PEI) a landowner (me) discovered an attractive shrub beside her driveway. It had glossy leaves and, in the fall, black berries.

I liked this plant, thinking it was something important and native, maybe Aronia, and even warned my snow plough guy not to hit it. But I had no luck identifying it. Even the forest tech who did my Forest Management Plan didn’t know it. Then one day an article in Canadian Gardening magazine alerted me to the horrifying truth that I was sheltering the dreaded Glossy Buckthorn – Rhamnus frangula (rhymes with “strangle ya”), also known as the Alder Buckthorn, Frangula alnus. This ID was confirmed by the estimable Kate MacQuarrie. You will find pictures in Wikipedia and at ../glossy-buckthorn.

I hastily eliminated that particular invader and have been pulling the offspring it seeded for these many years. But that is unfortunately not the end of the story, as I soon realized that glossy buckthorns had colonised many parts of my 150 acres, particularly the fields which had been removed from agriculture with a view to forest restoration, and the plantations of spruce and red pine. With naïve enthusiasm I launched a campaign of pulling where possible and, where not, cutting. In addition, I enlisted the help of the Trout River Environment Committee and its merry band of Young Environmentalists, to slash and destroy the lush growth of glossy buckthorns along the seasonal road which borders my property.

Fast forward to today... There is no happy ending, no flush of victory. The plants I cut have for the most part sprouted prodigiously, and each of those sprouts produces berries at an earlier age than the parent plant. But I fight on with new tactics. Last spring, after my spate of cutting, I covered the stumps with old plywood discovered in my basement clean-up. Let’s see them sprout through that!