Weeds to whack in the Winter

A winter walk in the woods sounds like a nice idea. But there are bad characters out there, attacking our native flora. Dressed in thorn-proof gear, I cut the enemy to the ground. After two winters of work, I’ll find blooming shrubs, ferns, and wildflowers again.

The arching canes of Rosa multiflora root where they touch the ground. A single plant can produce a million seeds a year. Its cascading white flowers are pretty, but the thickets crowd out native shrubs and may prevent some native birds from nesting. Cut it at the ground and wrestle the stems out, pull small roots, and keep coming back to cut again.

Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) is a deciduous vine that winds around other plants and structures. Cut the vines at ground level and pull them out of the trees. Cut and cut again, and remember to ban its bright orange-red seeds from fall decorations next year.

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) chokes out native wildflowers with its rampant spring growth and toxic roots. Happily, its green rosette can be pulled out of the warming earth in late winter. Get the whole long root system or it will resprout. Seeds remain viable for up to five years, so remove any cut stems to prevent the chance of seeds maturing.

You probably know it at a glance, with that creamy bark and those pale green leaves that persist even in USDA Zone 4’s winter. Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) keeps light and air from reaching native shrubs. Long runners rootswhere they touch the soil, so pull out as much of the roots as you can, and take all cut stems out of the woods.—Nan Sinton

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