I am proud of my crusade against the invasive honeysuckle bush species. I have pulled, cut and poisoned hundreds of the plants around my neighborhood and any other place I find them.
A couple of months ago I met my hero, who told me I was doing it wrong. Actually, Jay Doty suggested that pulling young plants is the best defense, and for older plants that cannot be yanked out roots and all, cutting and spraying with herbicide is the most common method.
“Trying to eliminate a non-native species that we introduced to the environment by adding chemicals that also don’t belong is wrong,” Doty said. “It takes much less effort to chop the roots and cut the entire bush out.”
Cut stumps reflourish almost immediately if they aren’t sprayed, and even sometimes after treatment, but the shallow root system is easily severed below the ground at the base of the plant and will not regrow.
Doty uses a tool called a mattock, which looks like a combination of a heavy sharp hoe on one side and an axe on the other.
“You will have to redo the ground around the stump and then reseed the area with native plants that belong in the landscape,” Doty said.
Those planting options can be different on the same piece of property. Plants that grow best along stream sides are different from those that belong on woodland hillsides or on open land.
Doty is a registered landscape artist with more than 35 years of experience. Ironically, landscaping is the original source of the invasive plant. Bush honeysuckle was imported from Asia in the 1890s and first planted around Chicago and Washington, D.C., Doty said. It quickly spread and became a favorite for suburban yards.
“As a landscape architect, I always knew it was better to plant native species, but that is not what the nurseries sell, because the exotics are what we clamor for,” Doty said.
Now, honeysuckle bush grows almost everywhere that the landscape is not maintained. Because it sprouts its leaves earlier and keeps them longer than native plants, it blocks growth of other species creating a monoculture that supports honeysuckle bushes as the only type of plant.
The non-profit Open Space Council of St. Louis recruited Doty to bring his honeysuckle hacking practice to public areas. During his presentation he showed multiple before-and-after slides of areas that went from choked with honeysuckle to clean and cleared land.
He has expanded his efforts to reopening public lands along the Meramec River, and along with the Katy Land Trust, on farms and forests along the Katy Trail.
The organization hosts groups of volunteers on outings called Honeysuckle Hacks, marshaling strength in numbers to take on public land infestations. For more information, send email to email@example.com.
Doty’s business background includes working for the Environmental Protection Agency, paid for by the Doe Run Company to complete landscape recovery projects in Herculaneum, MO. It was that connection that led him to help design the “all abilities” Kade’s Playground at the city park.
His latest business venture is called Applied Conservation and offers to remove invasive plants from private land, contracting with property owners to clear honeysuckle bush and replace it with native plants as part of a purposeful land management using creative design.
To reach Doty for information on his private land reclamation company or his work with the Katy Land Trust, call (314) 201-2187 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
John J. Winkelman is community relations manager at Mercy Hospital Jefferson. If you have news for him, send e-mail to email@example.com and you can follow John on Twitter at @johnjwink99.