With warmer weather finally upon us, the landscape will soon be greening up enticing exploration of local woodlands. While the emergence of springtime is a welcome arrival, many of the first shrubs to green up in Rhode Island are non-native plants. This suite of plants often shade out native plant communities and – over time – become invasive by occupying the spaces where native plants formerly occurred.
While conducting stewardship monitoring activities at the South Kingstown Land Trust Browning Woods Preserve during 2014, Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), a non-native invasive plant, was observed growing in the vicinity of the historic Browning Homestead, including a swath of land beside a unique plant community. The presence of J. barberry poses a threat to this unique wetland complex. Observation and research have shown J. barberry to displace native shrubs and alter soil properties. It tolerates full sun, part sun, and shade, and may occur under almost any shade level, thus posing a threat to the denser upland forest as well as the open fen community located further long Healy Brook. In addition, recent research indicates a higher prevalence of ticks in areas invaded by J. barberry.
A control project is underway to remove J. barberry from the Healy Brook complex at Browning Woods. Suzanne Enser, a consulting conservation biologist, assessed the extent of J. barberry, flagged the perimeter, and began to control the spread of young plants by hand-pulling and/or digging individual plants, and bagging and removing all root masses and fruiting portions. A series of Conservation Stewardship Workdays are planned for the month of April 2015. Tools and gloves will be available thanks to the Rhode Island Natural History Survey. If you are interested in lending a hand, please contact Suzanne at 802.417.7430. Workdays will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and an occasional weekend day, during the month of April.