Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Double-edged Thorn

So here is the word from our former neighbor in Florida that we left to cope with the infamous passionflower I talked about in yesterday's blog.....
Received your email today, It brought back pleasant hours of toil. by
the way those little devils are still popping up in both yards.But
times have passed and even with the vines we wish you were back on
Treasure Island. we miss you and your lawn man, how he must miss the
green evergrowing grass.  If because of the wild fires and smoke are
bad feel free to visit us in the mountains. Love from charley and

The lawn man is my husband Bob who drove our lawn mower in Florida until it looked like the car from "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" by the end of the movie, as he swore that we would move somewhere without a lawn which we did.....New Mexico. Actually there are those here who insist on mowing the desert which destroys the delicate balance of our soil and makes the land go to noxious weeds like ragweed instead of our native plants. And grass by the way is not really native to where we lived in south Florida either. We had to put down sod to get our Certificate of Occupancy when we built our stilt house and then promptly proceeded to let it die as we were on Charlotte Harbor and I didn't want fertilizers to run off and create algae and also to waste the amount of water it would take to keep it green. If only I had known to go to the native plant nursery and plan and plant a native yard like the people we interviewed in our documentary from the Creative-Native Project in south Florida, filmed long after we had moved to New Mexico. And by the way our Florida neighbor is still fighting those passionflowers over EIGHT years later. The lesson to be drawn...beware of invasive plants as you may never get rid of them and find out what is native where you live and cherish it.

So here is another invasive story from the first home Bob and I purchased, a 51 acre farm in western Pennsylvania which had gone a little to seed already by the time Bob and I bought it so to speak. Marie Collins, the wonderful woman we bought it from had stopped running their dairy after her husband Red died and let the neighbor run his cows on it and plant his corn with the understanding he would keep it mowed and maintain the fences. Alas her idea of maintenance and his differed which would not have been such an issue were it not for a very invasive plant called multiflora rose. I am told this nefarious shrub came to Pennsylvania by being promoted as natural fencing and also for highway median beautification. I will put links about the history and botanical science of this plant at the bottom of this blog. Well if you put grazing animals on a field they will keep it eaten down but only sheep and goats will eat the shoots of multiflora rose. If you mow regularly it will just put out little shoots but never grow into the large creeping thorny brushy plant it has the potential to be. With 51 acres and both of us working we did not have the time or the money to keep all the land mowed, nor did we have any grazing animals. I approached our neighbor about putting his sheep on our land in exchange for his mowing it but when he saw how big the multiflora had already gotten he was not interested. Farmers claim that the huge thorns have punctured many an expensive tractor tire and so our land was gradually taken over and Bob would mow paths through the multiflora. The upside to multiflora is that it is such a barricade to predators that we had massive numbers of birds nesting under it and when I was on the phone, friends would remark on all the birdsong in the background. It also created a heavenly aroma of roses wafting everywhere for three weeks in the summer. But truly it will take over everything else leaving barren land underneath if you pull them out with a chain and tractor or bulldoze them which is what the couple who bought our farm did and then promptly put grazing animals in and mowed regularly. We just couldn't muster the fight. If it hadn't been there the farm would have gradually gone back to native woods which is not a bad alternative for those who are not farmers. As my father said "In order to have a farm one must either be rich enough to take care of it or be a farmer."


Rosa multiflora (Multiflora Rose, Baby Rose, Rambler Rose) is a species of rose native to eastern Asia, in China, Japan and Korea.

It is a scrambling shrub climbing over other plants to a height of 3–5 m, with stout stems with recurved thorns (sometimes absent). The leaves are 5–10 cm long, compound, with 5-9 leaflets and feathered stipules. The flowers are produced in large corymbs, each flower small, 1.5–4 cm diameter, white or pink, borne in early summer. The hips are reddish to purple, 6–8 mm diameter.
Cultivation and uses
Rosa multiflora Flower
Rosa multiflora is grown as an ornamental plant, and also used as a rootstock for grafted ornamental rose cultivars.
In eastern North America, Multiflora Rose is now generally considered an invasive species, though it was originally introduced from Asia as a soil conservation measure, as a natural hedge to border grazing land, and to attract wildlife. It is readily distinguished from American native roses by its large inflorescences, which bear multiple flowers and hips, often more than a dozen, while the American species bear only one or a few on a branch.
Some places classify Multiflora rose as a "noxious weed" [1]. In grazing areas, this rose is generally considered to be a serious pest, though it is considered excellent fodder for goats.
Japan, Korea, and eastern China 
Multiflora rose is a thorny, perennial shrub with arching stems (canes), and leaves divided into five to eleven sharply toothed leaflets. The base of each leaf stalk bears a pair of fringed bracts. Beginning in May or June, clusters of showy, fragrant, white to pink flowers appear, each about an inch across. Small bright red fruits, or rose hips, develop during the summer, becoming leathery, and remain on the plant through the winter. 
Multiflora rose is extremely prolific and can form impenetrable thickets that exclude native plant species. This exotic rose readily invades open woodlands, forest edges, successional fields, savannas and prairies that have been subjected to land disturbance. 
Multiflora rose occurs throughout the U.S., with the exception of the Rocky Mountains, the southeastern Coastal Plain and the deserts of California and Nevada. 
Multiflora rose was introduced to the East Coast from Japan in 1866 as rootstock for ornamental roses. Beginning in the 1930s, the U.S. Soil Conservation Service promoted it for use in erosion control and as "living fences" to confine livestock. State conservation departments soon discovered value in multiflora rose as wildlife cover for pheasant, bobwhite quail, and cottontail rabbit and as food for songbirds and encouraged its use by distributing rooted cuttings to landowners free of charge. More recently, multiflora rose has been planted in highway median strips to serve as crash barriers and to reduce automobile headlight glare. Its tenacious and unstoppable growth habit was eventually recognized as a problem on pastures and unplowed lands, where it disrupted cattle grazing. For these reasons, multiflora rose is classified as a noxious weed in several states, including Iowa, Ohio, West Virginia, and New Jersey. 
Multiflora rose reproduces by seed and by forming new plants that root from the tips of arching canes that contact the ground. Fruits are readily sought after by birds which are the primary dispersers of its seed. It has been estimated that an average multiflora rose plant may produce a million seeds per year, which may remain viable in the soil for up to twenty years. Germination of multiflora rose seeds is enhanced by passing through the digestive tract of birds.
Mechanical and chemical methods are currently the most widely used methods for managing multiflora rose. Frequent, repeated cutting or mowing at the rate of three to six times per growing season, for two to four years, has been shown to be effective in achieving high mortality of multiflora rose. In high quality natural communities, cutting of individual plants is preferred to site mowing to minimize habitat disturbance. Various herbicides have been used successfully in controlling multiflora rose but, because of the long-lived stores of seed in the soil, follow-up treatments are likely to be necessary. Application of systemic herbicides (e.g., glyphosate) to freshly cut stumps or to regrowth may be the most effective methods, especially if conducted late in the growing season. Plant growth regulators have been used to control the spread of multiflora rose by preventing fruit set. 

We certainly didn't want to use herbicides so you can see the quandary we experienced.....

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