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St. Paul resident Page DeLong removed a large branch of buckthorn Saturday at the Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park. DeLong, whose husband is a master naturalist, was one of 20 volunteering during the Friends of the Mississippi River led event. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)

Area residents battle invasive buckthorn

Life Cottage Grove,Minnesota 55016
SWC Bulletin
Area residents battle invasive buckthorn
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

South Washington County residents came out in droves this last week to help remove invasive buckthorn from wooded areas.

Buckthorn, a plant native to east Asia, is an invasive species that is known for destroying the understory of surrounding plant life and kills wildflowers and grasses with its thick bushes.

In Cottage Grove, the nonprofit Friends of the Mississippi River coordinated an event Saturday during which 20 people helped clear more than an acre of buckthorn from the Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park. Senior Ecologist Karen Schik said the non-native, shrub-like plant is dangerous to surrounding plant life because it proliferates rapidly and has no natural enemy to keep its growth in check.

“It just runs rampant,” she said. “There is nitrogen in the buckthorn that kills the native plant life. And the birds eat the berries which grow on the branches which aren’t very healthy for wildlife.”

Last year, Schik helped create a Natural Resources Management Plan for Washington County, which addresses the buckthorn problem and offers solutions to stopping the spread of the invasive plant. Since the management plan was adopted last year, two buckthorn removal days have been completed.

With the help of the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Fund and the 3M Foundation, the Friends of the Mississippi River nonprofit was able to coordinate volunteers to remove dozens of buckthorn bushels.

In Newport, 117 volunteers came out Saturday, Oct. 26 to participate in the city’s 7th annual event that Executive Analyst Renee Helm said was the largest group on record.

“In fact, it was three times as many,” she said.

Students from East Ridge High School and Lake Middle School, and area residents braved the chilly weather to remove three times as much buckthorn from the Bailey School Forest Park than in previous years.

Ashley Erceg, 19, a student at St. Catherine University said despite the hard work involved in removing large branches of buckthorn, it’s important to help preserve nature.

“It’s fun to volunteer for an event like this because it’s all about giving back to the community,” she said.