at the root of the problem, something wonderful

P1020028As a race, humans have found a lot of ways of saying that no matter what — somewhere, somehow — there’s a little bit of good in every bad situation: it’s an ill wind that blows no good, every dark cloud has a silver lining.

As it turns out, what we found out here at The Quarry Farm, there’s truth to be found there. But first, a little bit about bush honeysuckle.

In the early 1970s, before anybody was paying attention, it was common knowledge that planting honeysuckle was a good thing, particularly if you wanted to attract birds. And while there are honeysuckle species native to North America, more than a few that aren’t were allowed to proliferate. Morrow’s and Amur honeysuckle were particularly popular for their dense foliage and bright red berries and now particularly troublesome as two of the most invasive species of honeysuckle unadvisedly planted. Both can grow as tall as 15 feet and both are monoculture plants; they crowd out everything  around them and nothing grows beneath their spreading branches. There’s even evidence that they engage in chemical warfare, releasing toxins into the soil to kill off any competition until there’s nothing at the base of these plants but bare soil. While they typically don’t do well in shaded environments, preferring to grow at the verges of woodlands, both take advantage of any disturbance in the upper story of a woods to move in and establish a fortified foothold at the first opportunity. And while it’s true that birds love their bright red berries, they offer little in the way of nutrition. Sure, they brighten the feathers of cardinals and the burning breasts of robins, but they’re junk food, the natural equivalent of candy bars and potato chips.

In short, they’re a nightmare for any organization or agency working to develop or maintain native habitat. And they’re here on The Quarry Farm in numbers too vast to count. We’ve adopted a multifold approach to getting a handle on this problem, but the most effective method is to simply pull them up by the roots whenever and wherever it’s possible.

Recently, we accepted an application from Emma, a first-year student at Antioch College, to assist us in our many efforts. One of her primary responsibilities is to help control bush honeysuckle on The Quarry Farm. Right away, we put her to work, yanking up the pest.

And here comes the silver lining.

P1020031Emma set to work first along the Cut-Off, a man-made wetland created when the county opted to straighten the stream in the 1960s, thereby isolating what was once an oxbow in Cranberry Run. At the end of her third day, while making her way back to her temporary home, she stopped to pull one last medium-sized clump of honeysuckle…and found a salamander nestled beneath its roots.

IMG_5663

To say the least, we’re thrilled. It’s a wonderful start to what we know will be a productive 10 weeks.

Thank you, Emma, and welcome.

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