Mid-Shore Gardens: Protecting Trees from Vines with Lisa Ghezzi


Spring is almost upon us and with it comes a burst of green. For those who yearn for this time of year, the sea of green that unfolds around us can be almost intoxicating. However, not all green is good, and the University of Maryland Master Gardeners have recently turned their attention towards understanding the impact of invasive plant species on local environments.

This winter, Master Gardener Lisa Ghezzi formed an invasive plant committee under the University of Maryland Extension Office to tackle invasive plant problems in Talbot County. The group met over the winter to review the kinds of invasive plant species in our area, the best ways to control or eradicate the invasive species, ways educate the public on invasive plants and to choose a sight to demonstrate invasive removal.

An area on Bay Street has been selected for many reasons. Often referred to as the “Bay Street Ponds,” the site chosen was teeming with invasive plants. When the committee previewed the sight in mid-February, the negative impact of invasive plants was obvious; 8 invasive plant species were identified for removal. Vines choked the trees and shrubbery, and one very observant committee member commented that they didn’t witness or hear a single songbird at this sight; it was a little too quiet. This property, owned by Waterfowl Chesapeake provides the perfect opportunity for the Master Gardeners to showcase the benefits of invasive removal in an area with easy public access. Improving the sight not only benefits Waterfowl Chesapeake and the Town of Easton, but at heart, our planet.  

So, what are invasive plants? Invasive plants are alien species that do not normally grow in our region. Not all non-native plants are necessarily bad. Some non-natives can coexist and cause little environmental damage such as hosta or weeping willow. However, some non-native plants thrive a little too much, out competing natives species, while providing no nutritional value for wildlife like butterflies, bees and songbirds. When an invasive plant species takes over an area, native plants die and the habitat becomes altered. Over time, these stricken areas provide less resources for our native wildlife so birds, bees and butterflies look elsewhere to thrive. While pollinator and songbird populations are in precipitous decline, invasive plant species are proliferating unchecked and are destroying the biodiversity our landscape needs.

Invasive species identified in this particular area include: white mulberry, japanese honeysuckle, amur honeysuckle, english ivy, privet, porcelain berry, multiflora rose, and sweet autumn clematis. Many of these plants were introduced to our landscape in the 1800’s or even earlier. For example, the White Mulberry Tree, native to China, was introduced in the U.S. during colonial times for the purpose of establishing a silkworm industry. It is outcompeting and replacing our native red mulberry through hybridization and possibly through transmission of a harmful root disease. English Ivy was introduced by European Colonists in 1727. It is a very aggressive vine that can choke trees and block sunlight to its foliage, ultimately killing a tree over the course of several years. English Ivy harbors bacterial leaf scorch, a harmful plant pathogen that affects a wide variety of native trees such as elms, oaks and maples. (Plant Invaders of the Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

In addition to eradication of the invasive plants at this site, the Master Gardeners have identified several native species they will enhance such as red bud trees, a native holly, several eastern red cedar trees and a box elder tree, among others.  Box elder is a member of the maple family and provides food for a beautiful yellow bird in the finch family called the evening grosbeak . The box elder is currently being smothered by amur honeysuckle. Eastern red cedar tree berries are consumed by over 50 species of birds. They are currently being strangled by porcelain berry.

To learn more about invasive plants and this upcoming project, please join the Master Gardeners for an informational walk and talk on Saturday March 9th at 9am at the Bay Street Ponds. If you are interested in assisting the Master Gardeners with this project our work day is on Wednesday March 13th at the Bay Street Ponds (Rain date is March 15th). There will be two informational/work sessions. One from 8 A.M. to 11A.M. and another from 12P.M. to 3P.M. Each session will start with a short talk about invasive plants, how to identify them, and a demonstration of the best tools to use. Complimentary drinks and snacks for all participants will be provided throughout the day.

Recommended attire is long pants, long sleeves, mud boots and gloves. The Master Gardeners and volunteers will not be applying any herbicides. However, due to the virility of some of these plants, a limited use of direct application cut stump treatment will be administered by a single certified herbicide specialist. This will occur after all hand work has been completed.  

If you cannot join us, there are still ways you can help. When planting this spring, consider native plants. Native plants have a tremendously positive ecological impact, they are already adapted to the area, and they provide much needed beneficial habitat and food for native wildlife.  They are also very attractive, which makes native plants both beautiful and functional. When observing native gardens, they look like they belong in the Talbot County landscape, and they do! There are several local nurseries that stock a wide variety of native plants to choose from.

Sponsors of this Habitat Restoration Project include: University of Maryland Extension, Shore Rivers, Waterfowl Chesapeake, and Garden and Garnish Caterers.  Members of the Invasive Plant Committee include: Lisa Ghezzi (chair), Carol Jelich, Joe Jelich, Rita Miley, Renee Rice and Cathy Schmidt. For more information and to let us know you will be attending, please contact Lisa Ghezzi at (703) 328-6322.

Ways You Can Help:

Don’t introduce invasive plants

  • Don’t plant them
  • Don’t share them with others
  • Don’t accidentally transport them. Remove seeds from muddy shoes, burrs stuck on clothes. Avoid mixing their root pieces or seeds in soil with other plants
  • Avoid disturbing soils unnecessarily; invasives are quick to colonize.  Quickly replant vacant soils

Encourage native plants

  • Increase use of natives in home landscapes to order to increases the native seed and gene pool
  • Set aside some untouched natural areas to preserve native genotypes
  • Support deer control where deer over-population is decimating native plants
  • Replace invasive plants with a native plant or, at least, a non-invasive plant

Educate yourself and others

  • Encourage local nurseries to stock native plants, particularly local genotypes, and buy them
  • Bring nurseries’ attention to invasive stock and invasive weeds hitchhiking on stock
  • Share the news about invasive plants to friends, neighbors and family

Remove invasive plants

  • Familiarize yourself with invasive species in local parks and natural areas
  • Report sightings of invasive plants in parks to the managing agency
  • Support community efforts to clear invasive plants and restore native plants


Letters to Editor

  1. Joan Wetmore says

    Lisa, this is a great project! Sweet autumn clematis migrated to my garden about three years ago, and it’s a bear to get rid of it! If you have any ideas, do please let me know.

  2. Joan Wetmore says

    Lisa, this is a great project! Sweet autumn clematis migrated to my garden about three years ago, and it’s a bear to get rid of! It’s important to clean it out of the public spaces so it won’t continue to plague the private ones. Terrific that you thought to tackle it.

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