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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge works for wildlife – removing invasive plants to benefit healthy ecosystems

Region 5, August 6, 2013
Removing Chinese Privet, Burning Bush, and Barberry at Timber Point.
Removing Chinese Privet, Burning Bush, and Barberry at Timber Point. - Photo Credit: n/a
The crew after a long morning of invasive plant removal at Timber Point.
The crew after a long morning of invasive plant removal at Timber Point. - Photo Credit: n/a

As many gardeners know, managing what grows in one’s yard can quickly become a battle, and rarely ever a decisive one. Many gardeners may not realize, however, that invasive plants – non-native vines, shrubs and trees, able to rapidly out-compete native flora – frequently find their initial rooting on private property. As these invasive plants travel through the U.S. and up into New England, they wind up using the warmer, low-elevation coastal region of Massachusetts and Southern Maine as a gateway to the north. This ‘bottleneck’ allows both for early detection and highly effective control of invasive species. Respecting the environmentalist message championed by RCNWR’s namesake, chemical herbicides are rarely used on Rachel Carson property – plants are controlled only through manual, mechanical, or other non-chemical removal methods.


This spring and summer, a battery of Maine and Youth Conservation Corps members, volunteers and summer Interns at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, carried on the perennial struggle against the rapid spreading of invasives into Southern Maine. The volume of material being removed is enormous. As of July 31st, among many hauls of various invasive species, 30 contractor bags of invasive yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus), over 30 bags plus a large truck bed’s worth of Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), and another truck bed full of glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus) have been cut down, pulled up and incinerated.

Invasives are also being battled back at the Timber Point property, acquired by the refuge in 2011 from the Ewing family. Local volunteers, such as naturalists Sue Keefer and Steve Norris, as well as wildlife biologist and former Refuge employee David Tibbetts, chipped in alongside current refuge employees, conservation corps members and interns to clear the property of invasive Chinese privet (Lingustrum sinense), morrow’s honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii), oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), and Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii). With continued efforts, from conscientious and engaged persons across the refuge’s expansive property, what has been a surging and largely uninhibited invasion may finally reach an effective barrier.

The Refuge also has a goal to keep the balance in favor of native plants by identifying or removing early invaders. This new program teaches landscapers, natural resource managers, environmental consultants and others to identify, report, and remove new invaders. These new plants have dominated landscapes to the south, but have not been established in Maine. We hope to find these new species and remove them before they can harm Maine’s natural balance.

Contact Info: Karrie Schwaab, 207-646-9226 ext 23, Karrie_Schwaab@fws.gov