On September 16th volunteers from thirteen organizations gathered to protect native wildflowers at Lost Valley. The event was sponsored by Buffalo National River Partners.
There, as in many natural areas, the native plants are being crowded, smothered, or shaded out by exotic plants. These nonnative invaders have no natural predators and therefore spread uncontrollably. Seldom of use to wildlife, they take over large areas, reducing productive native species.
The species targeted for the Saturday “attack” was Japanese Stiltgrass, Microstegium vimineum, a plant from Asia, probably introduced into the US in packaging material for ceramics. It has spread from various parts of the US, carried by shoes, hoofs, tires and water. It does not belong here, is useless to wildlife, and in draping over other plants forms a mat or thatch smothering plants underneath.
In an effort to preserve the Buffalo National River’s famous spring wildflower spectacle, energetic volunteers pulled loosely rooted thickets of Japanese Stiltgrass before seed had dropped, and in the process collected forty-one industrial sized trash bags, each weighing an estimated 45 pounds.
“That is almost a ton of harmful plant material,” enthused Melinda Caldwell. “These volunteer efforts will give our native plants a chance to thrive.”
“We accomplished something really great and it feels good!”, said Terrie Martindale, BNRP Education Chair, upon surveying the piles of up-rooted stilt grass at the end of the morning’s work.
“The volunteers were knowledgeable and full of energy. They were told they could leave whenever they became tired, but none did,” Pam Stewart added.
BNRP board members Terrie Martindale, Melinda Caldwell, and Pam Stewart were on hand to greet and explain the project to volunteers, and member Linda Glass helped with identification in the field. Chuck Bitting, Park Resource Department, cut and cleared fallen branches to allow access to areas, and Park Superintendent, Kevin Cheri provided water, Gator Aid and snacks for volunteers.
We appreciate and thank all group members and individuals who volunteered for this Buffalo National River Partner sponsored educational and protective project including the following: Bergman High School Key Club, University of Ark. Young Democrats Environmental Task Force, University of Ark Horticulture Club, University of Ark. Student Sierra Club, Ozark Highlands Trails Hikers, Master Naturalists, Ouachita Mountain Hikers, Friends of Newton County Library, Arkansas Audubon Society, Friends of Baker Prairie, Arkansas Native Plant Society, and Buffalo National River Partners.