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Next Meeting: May 9, 2018; 7:30 p.m. in the Council Room. All meetings are open to the public. This will be our last meeting before our summer hiatus (June, July, August) then we’ll start up again September 12 to plan for the fall planting season.

Amur or Bush Honeysuckle (Lonicera maakii) in Washington Grove
In the 120 years since its introduction into the U.S. bush honeysuckle has become one of the most common and invasive plants in the mid-Atlantic region. It impedes reforestation of cut or disturbed areas and prevents reestablishment of native plants. It leafs out earlier than most natives and forms dense thickets too shady for most native species. The carbohydrate-rich fruit is attractive to birds, but does not provide the nutritional value of lipid-rich fruits of native species that provide energy needed by migratory birds.

At the soil level, Amur honeysuckle increase densities of soil organic carbon and nitrogen, related to alteration of microbial community composition. Leaf litter decomposition is altered in its presence, and the plants produce allelopathic chemicals that inhibit the growth of native plants such as sugar maple seedlings. The species reduces mycorrhizal fungi found on the roots of native plants and hence the uptake of nutrients. Amur honeysuckle plants can modify ephemeral wetlands and habitat availability for amphibians by increasing water loss rates.

Amur honeysuckle threatens several Maryland species listed as threatened and endangered, including veiny skullcap, white trout lily, tall dock, tall tickseed, riverbank goldenrod and leatherwood. Deer preferentially use areas invaded by Amur honeysuckle, increasing the abundance of ticks in those areas and increasing the resulting risk of human exposure to the bacterial pathogens ticks carry, in particular ehrlichiosis (a flu-like illness that can last for several weeks).

The State of Maryland has classified Amur honeysuckle as a Tier 1, non-native invasive species that causes severe harm within the state (https://mda.maryland.gov/plants-pests/Documents/LoniceraMaackii_WRA_012216.pdf). By law, you cannot propagate, import, transfer, sell, purchase, transport, or introduce any Tier 1 invasive plant into Maryland.

It is easy to identify by its vertically ridged and furrowed bark, hollow terminal stems, opposite 2-3 inch long leaves, 1 inch long trumpet shaped flowers, and paired, bright red fruit. Bush honeysuckle is found throughout Washington Grove: in our yards, along our streets and avenues, and in our parks and woods. For all the above reasons, the Forestry and Beautification Committee has initiated a trial program of mechanical (non-chemical) removal of bush honeysuckle on Town property and replacement with a range of native shrubs and small trees. An initial effort will be the bush honeysuckle on the south side of Center Street between Maple Avenue and the Maintenance shed. We plan to stagger the removal of honeysuckle and addition of native trees/shrubs in spring and fall of 2018.

Due to the large volume of bush honeysuckle in Washington Grove this project will proceed in gradual stages and is expected to take years to accomplish. During this lengthy process notice of project areas will be highlighted in the Town Bulletin. Residents adjacent to a project area will be contacted in advance to solicit their input. The Town will be developing a list of possible replacement plantings for consideration. This will focus on native plants to restore habitat for our native birds, insects and small mammals.

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