Stewardship Story: Saving wolf trees and evergreens by cutting vines on the Clark Preserve

Brendan Murphy Thursday, 12 July 2018

5.0/5 rating (2 votes)

The Pound Ridge Land Conservancy (PRLC) proves there’s more to active management of your woods than cutting trees. At their 70-acre Clark Preserve, they always have some kind of project going on. Sometimes they control invasive plants like Japanese barberry. Other times they improve wildlife habitat by creating snag trees and installing deer fences. They also make recreational improvements, like building new trails and maintaining existing ones.

For the last several years, the PRLC team’s work at Clark Preserve has focused on removing invasives vines. This year they hit a milestone: they finishing clearing vines from the last 2 acres on Clark Preserve. “We wanted peace of mind knowing the entire property was free of vines,” says PRLC’s Land Steward, Krista Munger.

The project took two hours with seven people on the job. There were eight large vines and several hundred smaller vines. Some were only seedlings. One very large vine required a chainsaw, while bow saws and hand-pulling handled the rest. To the crew, it was a fun and rewarding project.

But this project had a deeper impact. Clark Preserve has many large, old trees with huge, sweeping branches. These trees go by many names: hedgerows, wolf trees, or legacy trees to name a few. If Munger’s team hadn’t cleared vines off these old trees, the weight of all those vines could easily have brought down limbs or even killed the trees.

“These trees have lasted this long and probably have good genetics,” Munger says. “We want them to continue to be a seed source.”

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Wolf trees along stone wall at Clark Preserve, freed from vines.

Besides the wolf trees, Munger and her team paid extra attention to the preserve’s conifers, like eastern hemlock and white pine. Many birds and other wildlife rely on conifers for food and winter cover. Since Clark Preserve has so few conifers, it was extra important to save the ones it has.

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A large oriental bittersweet vine threatened this white pine tree. Thanks to Munger and her volunteers, this white pine will live another day.

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Blowdown can make it hard to reach or find some invasive plants.

Cutting vines is always worthwhile. Not only does it kill the current vines that threaten your trees, but it also immediately stops seed production. That means the vines’ numbers get reduced in the future. It’s especially important for oriental bittersweet, because a single large bittersweet vine can produce thousands of seeds.

Munger agrees. “If you want to make a stab at doing something on your property, start with the vines,” she suggests. “They’re easy to identify, especially when they’re not seedlings.”

If you want to try removing some invasive vines from your trees, keep a few safety tips in mind. Bow saws often get pinched when cutting vines, so Munger recommends cutting the vines from different angles, especially the twisted ones. Also start slow and get a good bite. Vines move, so if you cut too quickly, the blade can slip. Finally, make sure you wear a good pair of work gloves to protect your hands.

For more tips on identifying and cutting vines, check out this slideshow we put together on the topic. Happy cutting!

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