Why We Are Asking You to Help Us Remove Invasive Species

  BEFORE

BEFORE

  AFTER

AFTER

For the 20th year, volunteers across the St. Louis region will gather on November 3 to remove invasive species in Forest Park.

Initiated by the Kennedy Woods Advisory Group (KWAG), the Invasive/Honeysuckle Removal and Forest Restoration Project Day (known to many as the Honeysuckle Kill) focused in the early years exclusively on removing invasive bush honeysuckle in John F. Kennedy Memorial Forest. Since then, this effort has grown to include a comprehensive strategy of species removal that builds on KWAG’s mission of improving habitat quality for native plants and animals.

Why remove invasive species?

Removing invasive species is one piece of supporting a thriving, healthy ecosystem. The living world and all its systems are complex. Invasive species are non-native species that disrupt the structure of these networks and partnerships.

However, removing invasive species should never be considered the final step. It is essential to understand that continuous stress to a natural community can have long-lasting impacts. Proactively managing invasive species is, therefore, better than waiting until the species has taken over, and supporting a robust, resistant system is even better. For example, if a diverse habitat is being supported that has sunlight and shade and a tree falls, sun-loving plants are nearby to fill the new hole. As the trees grow taller and cast more shade to the area, the shade-tolerant plants of other shady areas are available to step up.

What invasive species will be removed?

Volunteers will be working with a diversity of species during the Invasive Removal/Forest Restoration Day. Invasive species we will be removing include:

Bush honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii): Native to Japan, this invasive shrub out-competes native plants for limited resources like nitrogen and phosphorus while altering soil chemistry. The plentiful and bright red berries were selectively chosen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for their ornamental characteristics; in fact most of the bush honeysuckle in St. Louis are a single horticultural cultivar. However, the bright red berries of this plant have little nutritional value and are a poor-quality food source for birds and mammals. The first record of it escaping cultivation was in 1983, but it has dramatically changed our woodland landscapes in only a few decades.

White mulberry (Morus alba): Native to China, this small tree proliferates and will often be among the first species to grow at forest edges and along roadsides, ultimately excluding native plants.

Tree of heaven (Alianthus altissima): Native to China, this tree can now be found all over the alleyways of St. Louis. It can quickly colonize disturbed areas, replacing Missouri plants, and will regrow quickly when cut down — it can grow 10-15 ft. in a single year! Like bush honeysuckle, tree of heaven also changes soil chemistry.

We will also manage some native species that may have pest issues or are not native to the specific habitat. As part of the Forest Park Emerald Ash Borer Management Plan, volunteers will remove ash trees (Fraxinus spp.) which will help protect some of the ash trees that play a crucial role in the Park, such as the avenue of ash trees in front of the Visitor Center.

Where will this year’s event be held?

Volunteers will meet at the west side of Successional Forest along Carr Lane Drive. Starting in 2013, the Nature Reserve team has been working to complete a thorough honeysuckle management wave across all of Successional Forest. A few sections within the event site are the final hidden populations that haven’t received any management. This five-year effort has included hundreds of volunteers; therefore, we wanted volunteers to be a part of the final push in successfully clearing all honeysuckle out of Successional Forest. We hope you will join us in celebrating this feat!

Amy Witt