He deserves a medal.
Mike Smalls, recently retired after a long and successful landscaping career, hasn’t hung up his skates just yet. But rather than beautifying people’s front and back yards, Mike is turning his attention to improving woodlots in Sarnia Lambton.
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A few weeks ago, Mike asked if he could borrow as many lopping sheers as I could find. He went on to explain that he was leading a group of volunteers who were cutting off wild grape vines growing in the trees along the Howard Watson Nature Trail.
Mike’s project wasn’t intended to be an organized group activity, but he was busy in the forest when a passerby stopped by and asked what he was doing. The new friend contacted a friend who contacted a friend and they quickly agreed to gather on a Saturday morning to conquer a large piece of the trail.
The group first contacted the forestry staff at Sarnia city hall who confirmed that they didn’t have the job of removing wild grape vines on their radar anytime soon. They recognized the issue but didn’t have the resources to tackle it.
Anyone who has ever tried to remove wild grape vines knows that it is impossible to pull it down. Wild grape is incredibly strong and cannot be reckoned with. It intertwines throughout the branches in a tree and cannot be broken.
If left unattended, wild grape will continue to tangle, eventually strangling or suffocating the host plant.
Cutting off wild grape at ground level is but a short-term solution to the problem. Yes, the top of the plant will die because it has been cut off, but their roots will remain viable, and will quickly produce more stems that will attack the host tree once again. The only way to eliminate wild grape’s growth is to dig out and destroy the roots, a task too formidable for a group of volunteers.
The job of cutting off wild grape in the bush is not easy. Wild grape always originates in the thicket of thorny brambles, wild raspberries, buckthorn and other dense undergrowth. Volunteers also must be wary of poison ivy which mostly grows as a ground cover but can also grow as a vine spiraling up a mature host tree.
On the positive side, cleaning up a bush lot is easier in winter when wild grape is not hidden by leaves and weeds.
Hats off to Mike and the team! Here’s to hoping that once the wild grape is cleaned up, that we can set our sights on destroying that nasty phragmites.