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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Tackling invasives, restoring natives

Honey Suckle

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Eliminating honeysuckle from Hedge Apple Woods has been a persistent challenge. However, this invasive shrub is not the only species causing issues as wintercreeper has also invaded certain areas in Hedge Apple Woods. Jack Muirhead, Master Naturalist and project liaison for the site, along with others, has worked throughout the years to remove these invasives, but invasive removal requires more than a one-day, or one-year, work plan.  

Invasive species ecologically harm areas as they take over resources such as space, sunlight, and nutrients. These plants thrive in many spaces as they often do not have natural predators or succumb to diseases. As invasives continue to populate, they leave little to no room for native species to grow. Unfortunately, invasive species are quite common and can easily spread.  

As seen at Hedge Apple Woods, winter creeper can be ground cover, and can climb trees as vines. It can also tear bark off trees and is easily spread by their berries. Birds and other animals spread the remnants of berries back to the ground, helping wintercreeper to grow again.  

Amur honeysuckle is also a challenge that suppresses native plants. Master Naturalists have worked hard to pull out the young, smaller plants, and have carried loads of honeysuckle out of the park. It can be hard to grasp how many invasive plants have been removed to restore a healthy, native forest, but their effort has not been in vain.  

Jack Muirhead shares, “Once the honeysuckle was removed, natives began to grow back and are thriving.” The area is now home to bluebells, waterleaf, mayapple, false rue anemone, and white trout lily, showcasing the diversity that can be achieved when invasive plants are managed well. Managing invasives at Hedge Apple Woods is an ongoing task that requires many helping hands. Muirhead commented on the years of dedicated work from various organizations and volunteers that led them to where they are today in their progress. However, because of the nature of invasive plants, without continuing the work, the progress could be wiped out in a few years’ time. 

Tackling invasive species is not for the weak of the heart, but this practice plays a key role in managing healthy ecosystems. The first step in controlling them is to prevent their spread. The best way to prevent the spread is to learn about common invasive plants, and to not introduce invasive species to an area. Examine your plants and consider removing any invasive species you may have planted. Other control methods include mowing, pulling, prescribed burning, or spraying invasive plants, based on the need and area. 

Muirhead states, “In the nineties, volunteers planted wildflowers along one trail.  Also, some good native plants like oaks, coffee trees, viburnum, and dogwoods were planted. Except for the trees, these plants were all hidden a few years ago due to invasives. When they were uncovered, they began to recover. In 2020, I began working on honeysuckle in a systematic way with help from many people. What was done 30 years ago has had a benefit, but only because we have removed the honeysuckle in so many places.” 

Invasive species are bound to exist, but together we can do our part to stop the spread and strive for healthy, native ecosystems. To learn more about managing invasive plants and pests, visit Invasives | Illinois Extension | UIUC.