Volunteer Kali Bird cuts buckthorn at Columbia Nature Sanctuary in Jackson County
By Annie Perry, MNA Intern
Throughout the year, MNA hosts a variety of volunteer days to give the public an opportunity to visit and help out at nature sanctuaries. Many of MNA’s volunteer days focus on removing invasive species from the sanctuaries. This year, the volunteer days tackle three main species: autumn olive, glossy buckthorn and garlic mustard.
Autumn olive and glossy buckthorn are both invasive shrubs that produce leaves early in the spring and retain them late into the fall. This causes a problem for native species, because autumn olive and glossy buckthorn shade out these native species and reduce species diversity.
Participants for the March volunteer days will most likely be removing autumn olive, glossy buckthorn and other invasive shrubs from the sanctuaries. The majority of the volunteer days in April focus on garlic mustard, one of Michigan’s worst wetland weeds.
Garlic mustard completes its life cycle in two years. During the first year, garlic mustard sprouts little green clusters of three to four rounded leaves with scalloped edges. The plant stays green through summer and into winter, which makes it easy to look for invasions during that year. In the second year, however, garlic mustard shoots up a 20- to 40-inch stalk with tiny white flowers and leaves with toothed edges. The flowers pollinate quickly, and mature seeds are dispersed by wind. The plant disappears by August, causing many to forget about it and inaccurately believe it’s gone away. Garlic mustard is rapidly dominating the forest floor, changing the woodland habitat for native species.
Regional stewardship organizer Katherine Hollins said volunteers at the Lyle and Mary Rizor Nature Sanctuary in Livingston County on March 3 will be using loppers and hand saws to cut invasive shrubs, primarily autumn olive. Once the shrubs are cut, volunteers paint the stumps with herbicide so the plant doesn’t resprout. Hollins said there will be a tutorial once the volunteer group reaches the worksite. There will also be guides to assist the volunteers who aren’t familiar with the species they’re cutting, so no experience is necessary.
MNA volunteer days aren’t just an opportunity to help rid the land of invasive species—they’re a great time to visit a nearby sanctuary, as well.
“It’s usually fun to visit sanctuaries in the winter because you can often see more,” Hollins said. “Without the leaves to block your view, you get a better sense of the topography of the sanctuary, you can sometimes see birds better, and there are often animal tracks that wouldn’t be obvious except for the snow.”
Upcoming MNA volunteer days:
- Saturday, March 2: Lyle and Mary Rizor Nature Sanctuary (Livingston County)
- Wednesday, March 6: Big Valley Nature Sanctuary (Oakland County)
- Wednesday, March 20: H.E. Hardy Memorial Nature Sanctuary (Livingston County)
- Thursday, March 21: Saginaw Wetlands Nature Sanctuary (Huron County)
- Saturday, March 23: Alton D. McGraw Memorial Plant Preserve (St. Clair County)
- Monday, April 15: Powell Memorial Nature Sanctuary (Lenawee County)
- Wednesday, April 17: Shiawassee River Plant Preserve (Shiawassee County)
- Friday, April 19: Joan Rodman Memorial Plant Preserve (Washtenaw County)
- Monday, April 22: Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary (Cass County)
- Monday, April 22: Powell Memorial Nature Sanctuary (Lenawee County)
- Monday, April 22: Big Valley Nature Sanctuary (Oakland County)
- Wednesday, April 24: Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary (Cass County)
- Friday, April 26: Hamilton Township Coastal Plain Marsh (Van Buren County)
- Saturday, April 27: Coldwater River Plant Preserve (Kent County)
- Sunday, April 28: Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary (Cass County)
For more information about MNA’s upcoming events, check out the events calendar.
Volunteers at a recent workday at Goose Creek Grasslands Nature Sanctuary in Lenawee County