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Bully Buckthorn meets its match

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Bully Buckthorn meets its match

CVTC, UWEC students help to eradicate invasive plant

Image: Bully Buckthorn meets its match

Students from CVTC and UWEC joined forces to help take out the invasive Buckthorn plant on the University's campus.

At first glance, it might seem students were senselessly killing healthy vegetation along with UW-Eau Claire’s upper campus near McPhee Center.

But on closer inspection, horticulture students from Chippewa Valley Technical College, in addition to conservation biology students from UWEC, were ridding the area of the highly invasive Buckthorn plant, Thursday.

“Buckthorn is easy to spot because of these thorns and its green leaves when other plants have (gone dormant) in the fall,” said Susan Frame, while pointing at the spindly, prickly branches. “If you don’t take care of Buckthorn, it will take over.”

Frame, a CVTC Landscape Horticulture instructor, was happy to include her students in Paula Kleintjes Neff’s Buckthorn clean-up. The collaboration came about with the two colleges having a common connection in Daria Hutchinson – facilities staff at UWEC and an adjunct horticulture instructor for CVTC.

Kleintjes Neff, who has been battling Buckthorn for 25 years, was happy to have the additional help. The professor said it’s dirty work, but someone has to do it.

She said the invasive plant was first introduced to western Wisconsin as a landscaping hedge. With its connected root system, green leaves and ability to grow and spread quickly, it may seem appealing to homeowners who want seclusion.

However, the plant grows berries attractive to birds. Birds eat the berries, fly away and release seeds throughout forests. It doesn’t take long for Buckthorn to overtake forests, Neff said.

Buckthorn is a bully – out-competing native vegetation, taking over the forest floor, utilizing necessary nutrients and changing the entire structure of the forest.

The students, totaling 30 or more, made quick work of sheering the plant at the ground, leaving small stumps sprayed with a solution that would not allow the plant to grow back.

Neff knows she’ll never rid the campus of all Buckthorn, but she’s pleased with the progress she and students have made throughout the years. Her goal is to save the natural vegetation – one Buckthorn brawl at a time.

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