NISAW 2016: The Great Impact of One Community

NISAW 2016: The Great Impact of One Community

NISAW-logo09To kick of National Invasive Species Awareness Week 2016, DISC is featuring an article by our own Education and Outreach Committee Co-Chair, Greg Gagliano on his invasive removal work in Arden, Delaware.  Greg is the owner of  Red Tail Restoration & Land Management, LLC.

The Great Impact of One Community

By Greg Gagliano

Not all forests are created equal.  Many fragmented natural areas in the Mid-Atlantic region are overrun with invasive plants that out-compete native vegetation by growing quickly, spreading rapidly, and seeding in for years.  Thus, many people accept the loss of native plants and associated wildlife on their property or local woodlot due to overcrowding and possible soil degradation.  The Village of Arden in Wilmington, Delaware was determined not to let this happen.

The communities that include the Village of Arden, Ardentown, and Ardencroft are enveloped by a large tract of forest that winds along Naaman’s Creek and Perkins Run in Wilmington, Delaware.  The Village of Arden Forest Committee, led by Carol Larson, along with support from Ardentown Natural Land Steward, Elaine Schmerling, spent years supporting their local forests and natural areas.  The dedication to environmental stewardship by the residents has led to countless conservation initiatives, including the dramatic improvement of a heavily-invaded forest along Naaman’s Creek by the intersection of Marsh Road and Millers Road.

The restoration of this forest tract was more challenging than most as it included a combination of some of the hardiest invasive plants in the region.  Chinese Wisteria intertwined with Multiflora Rose to create an impenetrable thicket in the shrub layer.  Underneath the shrub layer laid a carpet of English Ivy on the ground.  In addition to these invaders, the woodlot was also infested with Periwinkle, Asiatic Bittersweet, Winged Euonymus, Wineberry, Japanese Stilt Grass, Garlic Mustard, and Lesser Celandine.  The invasive smothering was worst along the road and gradually lessened to a mix of invasive and native plants closer to the water.  In this environment, native plants could not grow in many areas and future tree growth was inhibited by invasive vines.

Arden before invasive species removal
Arden before invasive species removal

The Village of Arden Forest Committee volunteered time and effort to save the trees by cutting the invasive vines, but the shrub and ground layers were so engulfed that no amount of work seemed to thwart the fast growth and tenacity of the invasive plants.  Not to be deterred, they reached out to the Delaware Invasive Species Council for support.

The Delaware Invasive Species Council provided guidance regarding different options for restoration.  The Village of Arden submitted a grant application to the Delaware Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program, and in addition to their own time and funding, was awarded a greater opportunity to remove invasive plants, replant with native species, and reduce fire hazards in the forest.  To achieve these goals, the Village of Arden worked with large groups of AmeriCorps volunteers, hosted community volunteer days, and chose long-term forest management through Red Tail Restoration & Land Management, LLC.

Now armed with expertise and labor, the Village of Arden began to reclaim the ecosystem.  Multiflora Rose and the entangled wisteria vines were cut, piled, and stump-treated.  English Ivy was foliar sprayed, hand pulled, and cut from the bases of trees.  In addition, all of the other invasive plant species were managed accordingly.  Then, the area was replanted with native plants.

The key to successful restoration of the streamside woodlands was ongoing management over the course of multiple years.  When myriad pioneer species began to take hold in the areas left open from the removal of English Ivy, the invasive Japanese Stilt Grass was quick to dominate the ground layer.  By preventing the Japanese Stilt Grass from releasing seed during the second year of management, more native plants were able to establish themselves over time.  By the third year of management, the native species that had spread naturally into the once invaded zones included Mayapple, Beggarticks, Wood Sorrel, Solomon’s Seal, Trout Lilies, and Spring Beauties while existing oak and dogwood saplings began to thrive.  In addition to the natural diversity of native plants, Sweet Pepperbush, Butterflyweed, Wild Lupine, and Spicebush were added to the site.

Arden after invasive species removal and subsequent native plantings
Arden after invasive species removal and subsequent native plantings

The forest tract along Naaman’s Creek at the intersection of Marsh and Millers Road is an example of the positive impact humans can have on the environment.  Achieved through a multi-layered partnership, the success of this restoration project was made possible by support from the Delaware Invasive Species Council, grant opportunities through the Delaware Forest Service, expertise and labor from Red Tail Restoration & Land Management, LLC, and most importantly, the desire of a community to improve their land.

For help restoring your own woodlot or community open space visit

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