How to get rid of Buckthorn?

How and when should I get rid of the invasive species, Buckthorn?

Hi Frank,

If, you are looking for a specific recipe on how to control buckthorn, skip reading the first two paragraphs for now.

First, I would say there is an important distinction between eradication & control.  Controlling an invasive species as a management goal is often centered around an concern over aesthetics or desire to have more native species dominating your woodland.  For example, you might set a goal of "controlling" buckthorn in your woodland to make possible the regeneration of the next stand of native trees following a timber harvest.  Eradication is often a very difficult and time consuming goal.  One which requires a potentially significant cost and a constant monitoring program.  Another important consideration is the area (acres) on which you propose to manage against buckthorn.  Eradication, or control for that matter, becomes a far more obtainable goal the smaller the area is. 

Without knowing any of the specifics of the land you plan to manage and assuming you want to do the work yourself, I would suggest initially setting your sights on controlling buckthorn in key areas of your property (e.g. where you're trying to regenerate trees).  If then over the years, you deside time and money are lesser of a concern to you than seeing buckthorn recolonize your property, reset your sights on eradication.  At that point, remove any remaining buckthorn on your property, design a monitoring program and continue to control either by hand-pulling, herbiciding or burning-off seedlings as the are discovered.  They will most likely be found near your fencelines or beneath other small fruit-bearing trees & shrubs, where birds are stopping to eat and excrete.

Recipe for control

1. Remove mature (seed-bearing) buckthorn.  Either by cutting and chemically treating the stump or by basal treating with that same chemical.  Consider piling and burning the cut brush if late in the season to burn up any fruit that may be present. 

2.  Chemically basal bark or foliar treat, prescribed burn, the abundant seedlings/saplings.  Start with the outliers of a population to prevent spread and work your way into the heaviest patches.  Best done in the spring, just after leaf-on to see the greatest success.

3.  Go back in every year and repeat step 2.  This will deal with any sprouting from seeds stored in the seed-bank.

4.  Monitor and contol.  To achieve "eradication" (see above for destinction).

Invasive species control is a service I offer my clients.  I have been controlling invasives for 6 years on a couple of properties with eradication as the goal and I have to say the total bill gets pretty steep.  Not just with my compensation, but more so with chemical and/or equipment costs.  However, as you begin to achieve your goal, the woods eventually responds by filling the niches with native species and the yearly cost begins tapers off.  

Good luck on this endeavor and always remember you are doing a great service for your ecosystem of which you are a part.

Please respond if any further questions sprout up.  =-)

- Andy