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Grier Weeding Warriors Help Remove Invasive Plants
Seventeen student volunteers from Grier became Fort Roberdeau Weeding Warriors on a chilly November Saturday afternoon. Protected with gardening gloves and armed with pruners, loppers, and hacksaws, the students went to work, helping to eradicate the invasive plant called privet from the historic site.
Privet (genus Ligustrum)was first brought to the United States by European settlers who wanted the ornamental plant in their gardens. It has since run amok in US forests, outcompeting and killing native species that are essential to the native ecosystem and food webs. Native species like the mourning cloak butterfly, bluebirds, tree swallows, house wrens, ants, flicker birds, and hawks all depend on native plants for their berries and seeds, but invasive species like privet often overrun them.
The girls learned about the native species in our area and how they interconnect in a complex food web. Dr. Stan Kotala and Dr. Alice Kotala provided education to the girls about the site’s bluebird habitats. The Kotalas manage forty bird houses that provide homes to house wrens, tree swallows, and the occasional mouse, in addition to bluebirds. The wrens and swallows migrate south in the winter, but the bluebirds reside in this area year-round.
Additionally, the director of Fort Roberdeau, Glenn Nelson, talked to the girls about the historic background of the fort. The Fort Roberdeau historic site is a reconstructed lead mine fort from the 18th century.
Under the direction of retired Conservation District specialist, Jody Wallace, the girls worked tirelessly for two hours, sawing, cutting, and pulling the destructive plant from the ground to make way for the native species hackberry and blood root. By the time they were done cutting and pulling, the girls had amassed a gigantic brush pile and created a clear view of the field from the road! This brush pile will remain on site to serve as a shelter for bluebirds that frequent the area in the winter months as they seek places to hide from hawks.
There is still a lot of work to be done, but the Grier Weeding Warriors definitely made a dent in the war against privet! This batch of Grier girls got to put their muscles to good use again when their van got stuck in the mud on the way out. As the men were trying to push the van free, the girls realized they could help and joined the men to free the van from the mud. These Grier girls demonstrated their confidence, strength, and conservation stewardship.