Man vs. Buckthorn the Epic Battle of Buckthorn Removal
Buckthorn removal is a big job. If the buckthorn is well established it may take years to get rid of this invasive plant.
Several years after it began, our attempt at buckthorn removal from our property is still ongoing. This is one nasty plant. It has lot’s of staying power and just when you think you may have beaten it, up pops more of this capable enemy. The struggle is real.
Not only is this plant a survivor, it fights back too. There’s a reason that “thorn” is in the name. A careless grab of a buckthorn will sober you up and make you much more careful in future handling of this plant. Check out the short branches on the picture below. If you look close they end in thorn. If you accidentally rub up against a buckthorn with bare skin you will most likely get some nasty scratches and the plant will probably draw first blood. Wearing a t-shirt, shorts and flip flops while clearing buckthorn is not a good idea.
We live in an inner tier suburb of the Twin Cities and have some acreage. The good and the bad news is we also are next to a very large area of “open space” where a large herd of deer live and buckthorn thrives. The deer destroy our gardens every year and the buckthorn finds a way to grow almost anywhere we don’t cut with a lawnmower.
Buckthorn is incredibly invasive. It has very few natural enemies and crowds out native plants forming a natural impenetrable layer of vegetation. The seeds are easily spread by birds who eat the berries the plant produces. Buckthorn crowds out most other vegetation on the forest floor. Originally imported from Europe in the 1800’s this plant thrived in many areas of the country. In Minnesota it is illegal to import, sell or transport buckthorn.
Back to the battle. We cut down a bunch of the large mature buckthorn on a wooded part of our property a few years ago. Not realizing that we only made things worse. We did not treat the stumps with brush killer. That was a big mistake. Also the seeds from buckthorn can last in the soil up to 5 years. This is a process to kill off this plant where you want your property to grow wild.
We have found that buckthorn 2 inches or less in diameter can be pulled by hand. In spring the soil is soft so the roots come out fairly easily. There are tools for pulling the buckthorn too. Kind of like giant crow bars. We tried pulling slightly bigger buckthorn with chains and tow straps. If you have to cut the bigger plants the stump must be treated with a brush killer within a couple of hours to be most effective.
After pulling the buckthorn out of the ground we burned them roots and all. The larger plants we cut off and treated the stump with a brush killer. There are several available at most garden centers or big box stores. Remember for most of these it is recommended that the brush killer be applied within two hours of cutting.
Check out the video below for how we took on the small and medium sized buckthorn.
Are you overwhelmed by buckthorn? Don’t give up. Fight back. We are thrilled with the new open areas in the wooded part of our yard. Follow these easy tips, treat the stumps and follow up. You can beat this invasive species.
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