Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Restoring Bottomland Prairie, May-June 2016: Tumblemustard, Poison Hemlock, Vetch in Perpetuity

Tall Tumblemustard
(Sisymbrium altissimum)
Annual or biennial volunteer
Native to the western Great Plains
 Here's an invader I wasn't prepared for:   Tall Tumblemustard, identified with help from Mark Mayfield & the Invasive Plant Network.  It is native to the western part of the Great Plains.   

Mark recommended removing it immediately.  He also asked to add it to the KSU Herbarium's permanent collection, as it is new to our area.

Another name for this plant is Jim Hill Mustard.  James Hill was a railroad magnate, and I suppose his railroads zipped across the prairies like the tumbleweeds.   

However,  there must be more to the story.

We have a wonderful set of volumes from the early 1970s, H. W. Rickett's Wildflowers of the Mountains and Great Plains.   I love Rickett because he tries hard to communicate with the lay person & doesn't hesitate to express his subjective views.  

He calls the tumblemustards a genus of  "ugly weeds."  

Maybe Jim Hill was ugly and showed up where he wasn't wanted!

I take the word of experts that tumblemustards are invasive & don't belong in the Flint Hills--but ugly?   No way.  Check out that sweet flower!  
Tall Tumblemustard Flower

I uprooted Mr. Tumble from the Creek Field.

But he has achieved a kind of immortality in the KSU  Herbarium.

There is so much killing involved in restoration!  

I've been battling invasives all spring.

Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum), a native of Eurasia, will do anything to set seed.    You can cut down the stalk & it will go ahead & flower.  You can burn the stump with herbicide, & atop the browning, withering stem, white flowers will soon appear.   
I almost missed these Poison Hemlocks next
to the walnut trees, reaching for the sky.

Socrates supposedly committed suicide by drinking a decoction of the seeds of  Poison Hemlock.

A Lady Beetle & a Soldier Beetle enjoy the flowers.
Poison Hemlock, a non-native biennial or occasional perennial,
 is an aggressive volunteer.

All parts of the plant are toxic to humans & livestock.

However, obviously some insects find it sweet!

This will not be the year when we can declare the bottomland Crown-Vetch-free.   I have eliminated the giant patches, including some small ones in both the Creek Field & the Road Buffer, but the Creek Buffer continues to have numerous scattered eruptions.   These small areas of regrowth are hard to deal with.   The earth is no longer amenable to digging, and the ground is hard to reach anyway, through all the vegetation.  The would-be Crown Vetch colonizers are just individual plants all tangled up with the native plants.   They are impossible to spray without putting the neighbors at risk.   

Here Crown Vetch (Coronilla varia) 
blooms amid the White Snakeroot
next to an American Plum
So for the moment, Crown Vetch & I are retreating to our own lines.  

We will engage again when the native plants go dormant in the fall.

For now there are no more visible stands of Musk Thistle, Tumblemustard, or Poison Hemlock....& cowardly Crown Vetch is hiding behind shields of native plants.  

Boy, oh, boy, am I glad to take a temporary break from war!  

It's time to celebrate the prairie plants that are making up the peace!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I'd hate to take bets on who is going to win this battle. But I'm pulling for you Margy!! Go restoration!