If you get out to the Arb once in a while, you may have noticed some changes since you left last spring. That’s because while you were sitting inside looking at a computer screen, working some important internship, playing video games or going to the beach, this summer’s arboretum crew was wreaking death and destruction upon the invasive species of our beloved Arb. Armed with a variety of cutting implements and herbicides, six Carleton students boldly stepped out to wage war against the buckthorn, honeysuckle, thistle, and wild parsnip that has plagued us for too long.
For many, the most noticeable change will be along the Cannon River at the southern end of the Lower Arb, close to campus. This trail is part of the short, medium, and long loops, and is a favored location for swimmers. The narrow strip of brush between the river and the trail was overgrown with buckthorn, honeysuckle, and thick vines. The Arb crew cleared nearly a quarter mile of this strip, making the river visible and enabling the growth of native species in the understory.
But this was only a side project for summer crew. The bulk of this summer’s work took place in the Upper Arb. Across from the new soybean field (future prairie) where the cross country trail ends, the crew cut down 35 year old buckthorn giants and dense honeysuckle in an effort to create oak savanna and upland forest habitat. The removal of buckthorn from the forest, in particular, will enable wildflowers to grow, so that someday this part of the Upper Arb will look like the much older Stork Forest, which grows along the paved trail near the Second Street bridge.
Even as the battle raged on, we were able to appreciate the awesome power of a tornado (which caught us by surprise on July 14th) and the caring actions of a mother white-footed mouse, who ferried her four children to safety one by one after we inadvertently cut her house open with a chainsaw.
--Owen McMurtrey '12, for the Cole Naturalists