Bamboo, honeysuckle and other invasive plants border the B&A Trail. Photo by Britt Slattery, USFWS
Bamboo, honeysuckle and other iinvasive plants border the B&A Trail. Photo by Britt Slattery, USFWS

The Baltimore and Annapolis Trail Park, a well traveled hike and bike trail, offered the perfect opportunity to showcase both the beauty and the benefits of using native plants. A site was chosen that had a variety of problems that homeowners, as well large landowners, might have to deal with.

Set next to the Trail but on a slope, the area was inundated with nonnative invasive plant species such as English ivy, bamboo, Japanese honeysuckle, and Norway maple, as well as weedy plants. Bamboo and three trees – black locust, Norway maple (both nonnative and invasive) and black walnut (native) were encroaching on powerlines above.

The demonstration planting provided a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate best management practices for:

  • removal of invasive species;
  • native plant species establishment;
  • slope stabilization;
  • small scale forest restoration;
  • creating an evergreen privacy screen; and
  • planting under power lines.

More than 35 people provided over 200 hours of volunteer help during the planning, site preparation, and planting phases of the project. Invasive, nonnative and weed plant species were removed manually. The site was planted with an attractive selection of native plants. 

Volunteers remove invasive plants and prepare the site. Britt Slattery, USFWS
Removing invasive plants and preparing the site. Britt Slattery, USFWS Removing invasive plants and preparing the site. Britt Slattery, USFWS Removing invasive plants and preparing the site. Britt Slattery, USFWS
Tradescantia. Photo by Britt Slattery
Tradescantia. Photo by Britt Slattery

All the plants are native to Maryland, with an emphasis on woodland species. Attention was directed at highlighting commercially available forest and edge community plants, aesthetic quality, wildlife value, ability to stabilize soil, and of course suitability to the site.

For the evergreen screen, a staggered mix of native plants was chosen rather than a single row of one species. All plants to be installed under the powerline were chosen based on a mature height. Native warm season grasses were planted under the trees and shrubs to help stabilize soil and block weeds until the other plants fill in.

A diversity of native woodland ground layer and edge species were planted closer to the front to showcase plants suitable for partial sun/shade gardening, and to provide color and a more “traditional” landscape border.

In addition, a bamboo barrier was installed next to an adjacent tract of bamboo. The intention is to control bamboo re-colonization with the help of this thick, but flexible plastic barrier. As the work progressed, we fielded many questions from the public about native plants and control of invasive species, particularly bamboo.

There is now a sharp contrast between the native vegetation on the demonstration project and the adjacent sites with stands of invasive bamboo or more traditional landscaping and turf grass. The site is now planted with attractive native plants that create a privacy screen, do not threaten the power lines, provide soil erosion control, and showcase an alternative solution for planting on a slope. In its first growing season, the site is alive with blooms, birds and beneficial insects, and there are no signs of return of the former invaders.

Section of Trail after clearing and replanting. Britt Slattery, USFWS
Section of Trail after clearing and replanting. Britt Slattery, USFWS

Because the project is visible to the daily residents and visitors who use the Trail, it will serve as an educational model offering solutions to these landscaping challenges prevalent in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

This BayScapes project was possible through a partnership between the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service, Severn River Association, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay Field Office BayScapes Program, Anne Arundel County/ Baltimore and Annapolis Trail Park and the adjacent private property owner.