The blogger has been derelict in her blogging duties lately, due to the demands of work, and a little piece of land in the mountains of VA (more on that later). But yesterday’s surprise was too good not to share with you. Though invasive plant management in an urban forest is generally not a gratifying job, it has its moments. And I stumbled upon an unexpected reward while hunting down the invasive vine Porcelainberry at the edge of the forest.
My surprise was a large and thriving blackberry patch, which is nothing special in many places. I remember gathering large numbers of blackberries as a nature-obsessed teen along similar woodland edges in this area.
But then came Porcelainberry, Ampelopsis brevipedunculata, blanketing forest edges with a dense shady screen of grapevine-like leaves, and spreading itself everywhere with its bird enticing pretty blue berries.
Blackberry habitat is most affected,(in fact a new habitat type has been described at Rock Creek Nat. Park in DC, “Allegheny blackberry/Amur peppervine (Rubus allegheniensis/Ampelopsis brevipedunculata) shrubland vegetation type.)
The forest stewards started going after this particular Porcelainberry patch about six years ago, first cutting out the thick ropelike vines that snaked across the ground, rooting themselves every few feet. Then came season after season of herbicide spraying, unfortunately often damaging the very plants we wanted to encourage, such as blackberry.
It’s been several years since the intensive spraying ended, and the blackberries have rebounded. The edge now looks like this – but it’s a tenuous recovery, since Porcelainberry still thrives in much of adjacent Creason Park, and the birds keep doing their duty. Although I am still going after adjacent Porcelainberry infestations, I am not under any illusions about the future trajectory of this or other invasive plants. We live in the age of “novel ecosystems” a global mish-mash of species reshuffling, plant and animal extinctions, fragmentation, etc, etc.
But, I still cherish the little blackberry patch. I’m guessing the pair of Catbirds who came out to scold me also relish them, since the Porcelainberries won’t be ripe for another month, at least.