A Cease-Fire in the Blackberry Wars

by Charly Kearns | October 2016

Charly Kearns
I will try not to get too deep into military analogies, but as those of you who have spent any time controlling Himalayan blackberry can attest, it often feels like a battle. This is one of our most fierce invaders, not submitting quietly to control. Rather, this plant fights back.

We tend to spend a lot of time controlling blackberry in the summer and early fall. It is too dry to plant trees, ivy control is best saved for winter when the native understory plants are dormant, and spring is the perfect time to pull Scotch broom before it blooms. For our regular weekly volunteers, they understand that summer is filled with scratched arms and tiny thorns stuck in their hands. It is really a wonder that anyone volunteers to help with such a task. We salute everyone who is willing to help!

I actually really enjoy the struggle of blackberry control. The outcome is never known – some days we win, and others we lose. This plant is truly a worthy opponent! And there is a certain satisfaction that can only come from getting into the thick of it and emerging victoriously.

This year, our all-star volunteers have helped us to clear blackberry from 13.5 acres of Land Trust property! In many cases, we’ve removed these invaders from sites where restoration plantings were getting overwhelmed. We’ve freed young plants from the constricting canes and they are able to see the sun again.

Of course, the job is not done, and the blackberry will be back, but so will we! Over time, as our native trees begin to mature and the canopy closes in, the blackberry will die from lack of sunlight. Our native shrubs and shade tolerant species will have a chance to thrive.

This is the long term perspective, but it is one that gives me a great deal of hope. I know that there is an endgame, and that we can win.

For now though, as fall makes itself abundantly present, we will hang up our loppers for a sort respite. We’ll call a truce, and allow our wounds to heal. But we’ll be back at it next summer. Come join us!