Trees attacked by aliens

One of Rappahannock’s major assets is its large, mature trees along 211, 522, 231, and uncounted small roads. Many of these trees are threatened by choking vines and crowding plants, like the Ailanthus and Russian Olive. Not only do they directly hurt trees, but they make them more liable to wind damage. Examine one of your favorite trees and imagine what its loss would mean to you, your neighbors, and even tourists.

Dense brush that surrounds the bases of trees adds to wind resistance. It blocks wind “channels,” there is no way for the wind to escape. Making air alleyways every so often might be enough to allow wind to escape, thus reducing the damaging pressure high on the trees. Wind channels are like sluice gates in a dam. Opening them reduces pressure on the structure.

Look for yourself at the damming foliage on just one road, the westbound side of 211 between Massie’s Corner and the Gun Shop. The severe wind two months ago took out many trees, but it did not end the situation. The big winds that will inevitably follow will take out more.

Many of predatory invasives have been at it for decades, and some native vines like wild grape look to have been with a tree host for much longer. How many years does it take for a grape vine to get to be six inches in diameter?

It is unrealistic to think you can just go out, cut the vines and be done. It’s impossible to solve a problem that has been going on for years with a quick and permanent fix. The situation did not happen overnight like the arrival of the stink bugs. It’s hard work and it requires much time and patience, often you have to go back over a spot several times.

The use of herbicides can give false hope. The hard work that can’t be avoided is getting the plant reduced to where you can judiciously apply the poison. Even then you will be presented with about a thousand new plants nearby. The object should be to control not kill.

Mike Millan

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