Bittersweet beware: Volunteers remove invasive species at conservation land

Jul 9, 2022

Volunteers gathered along the side of Main Street on Saturday morning with a monumental task: to begin pulling, cutting back and removing invasive plants from the Wareham Land Trust’s Stoney Run property.

The property, located near the intersection of Main Street and Tremont Road and roughly behind Cyd’s Grab and Go kitchen, is one of the trust’s newest, purchased in 2018. The site is covered in dense underbrush and shaded by tall trees, and the trust plans to install boardwalk trails.

But the first step in rehabilitating the land and making it accessible is pulling out invasive plants.

“An invasive species is something brought over from another area,” said Jenna Shea, a Terracorp volunteer for the land trust who led the program. “Invasives will find a niche and take over, edging out native species.”

One such species, prolific at Stoney Brook, is bittersweet. The large vines climb up trees and twist around branches and can eventually kill the tree. The vines are a challenge to remove and keeping them from coming back can be even harder. Shea said that conservationists trained in herbicide will sometimes apply a small amount of herbicide to where the plant was growing. Another method — used by the land trust in Great Neck — involves digging out the roots, running them through a wood chipper, and using that mulch to suffocate any bittersweet seeds.

“A lot of invasive removal and management is trial and error,” Shea said.

After introducing volunteers to the various invasive species to focus on, Shea helped the group get properly equipped with gloves and tools and everyone got to work.

Invasive species of roses — with their famous thorns — proved a challenge, while garlic mustard, with heart-shaped leaves and seed pods Shea described as cacti-like, pulled easily from the ground.

Shea explained that some plants people despise, like poison ivy and briars, are, in fact, native. The plants have a “role in the ecosystem,” Shea said: Deer like to eat poison ivy, and briars provide shelter and berries to critters and little birds in the winter.

The group pulled enough invasive plants to more than fill Len Boutin’s pick-up truck twice, but there’s still plenty more property to clear.

To stay up to date on the Land Trust’s events and volunteer days (including kiosk building later in July), go to