Volunteer crew transforms exotic invasives into hand-wrought works of art

p5050015.jpgOn May 5, 2012, SAHC stewardship staff teamed up with a dedicated group of volunteers to remove exotic-invasive species from a beautiful mountain farmstead. The crew worked for a majority of the day cutting humongous invasive oriental bittersweet vines on SAHC’s newly-acquired Robinson Rough

Robinson Rough is a 248-acre property near the Sandy Mush Township in northwestern Buncombe County, NC. 216 of these acres consist of steep, craggy forestland that continues all the way up to a high-elevation ridge that is visible from downtown Asheville. The lower 32 acres contain a series of rustic cabins and scenic open pastures. SAHC was able to purchase the Robinson Rough property in late-2011 with the help of an eager seller.

As with many properties in the Sandy Mush area, the lower 32 acres of Robinson Rough are heavily infested with exotic invasive species such as oriental bittersweet. Oriental bittersweet is a particularly invasive woody vine that grows prolifically throughout Southern Appalachian forests. If left uncontrolled, this species will invade native forest communities and pull down trees, endangering sensitive natural communities and creating habitat for future infestations.

p5050009.jpgAbandoned farmsteads create prime habitat for exotic invasive species, which grow most-prolifically in areas with high sunlight and significant soil disturbance. Managing these species is an arduous task but it is crucial that organizations like SAHC work to control invasives now before they grow to unmanageable levels. In the case of Robinson Rough, SAHC is working to confine the most-dense infestations to the 32-acre farmstead so that they don’t spread into the more-mature forest
communities uphill.

The 5/5/2012 volunteer team did an amazing job, clearing several acres of decades-old oriental bittersweet infestation! In the afternoon, volunteers gathered the smaller vines and participated in a basket-weaving class led by SAHC’s own invasives-artisan, Margot Wallston.

SAHC would like to give a very loud and sincere thank-you to all of our volunteers! Removing invasive species is a difficult, time-consuming task, but it is good work that will preserve our valuable native ecosystems.