At first glance, this truck simply looks like any other work truck with a few dents and scratches for added character, but it really is the sixth and probably the most important member of the Three Rivers II crew. I decided immediately that I would call it Bench Seat (it’s not really a creative name since the front seat is an undivided bench seat), and was even the namesake of our crew during introductions at orientation. Sadly, the truck is an inanimate object. However, if this truck could talk, it would have plenty to tell from its time in the Conservation Corps. From this past term, there are plenty of stories to tell.
While common and glossy buckthorn both are significant sources of our troubles in wooded areas, they are not the only players out there. Exotic honeysuckle species, Oriental bittersweet, autumn olive, and even some tree species are out there wreaking havoc on our wooded areas by out-competing native tree and shrub species. Years ago when experts realized what was happening and put a stop to transporting and selling buckthorn, for example, one of their first questions was probably “where do we begin?” The next question was probably “how?” Even though today’s eradication methods have come a long way from where they were, they’re still not perfect. At least we know what we can do, learn how we can improve, or just find out what doesn’t work.
Most people these days have heard of Dutch elm disease or of the emerald ash borer infecting and killing numerous elm and ash trees. These trees are not alone; oak trees have their own disease to which they are all susceptible simply called “oak wilt.” Oak wilt is a very aggressive fungal disease that can kill an oak within two or three months of infection. It can be spread by beetles that carry the fungus to the wounds of healthy trees or, most commonly, through root grafts.
Have you ever heard anyone say to just “let nature take its course?” Whoever first said it probably wasn’t speaking literally, nor did they understand the ecological implications of an invasive species on a native species. The infamous buckthorn, for instance, is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of invasive species. Many more continue to prosper and take over the land. Some of these invasive species, much like native species such as poison ivy, have certain defenses that are unfriendly towards humans. In the last few months I’ve had to learn how to identify poison ivy and other noxious weeds. In fact, for more than two weeks we spent our days armpit-deep battling against wild parsnip, which is an invasive weed that is quite hazardous to humans although its taproot is, in fact, edible. So what’s bad about wild parsnip?