Summer in the Wildscape

by Catherine Johnson

Now is a good time to visit the Wildscape garden at Bird and Bee Farm. Many native plants and grasses are in bloom. The mason bee houses are filled, and bobwhite quail were spotted on the grounds for the first time (see below). 

Events will be held later in the year, including Nature Days in October.  Saturday mornings
are a nice time to visit and share Master Naturalist info with others or do much needed watering.                                          

Butterflies enjoy the zinnias

Hours will be for Community Outreach- indirect, or  Nature Improvement in Public Areas.

El Camino Real Chapter Tree Girdling Saga Continues…

by Carolyn Henderson

Three months ago, nine members of our TMN chapter met Cliff Tyllick at Wilson Ledbetter Park to learn how to girdle an invasive species of tree. The Glossy Privet was introduced to Texas landscapers from China. It is evergreen, produces flowers liked by pollinators and grows prolifically, and it’s an invasive species.

Tree #1

It’s invasive because it knocks out native trees because of its rapid growth, and it “steals” pollinators from native Texas wildflowers. Pollinators find the big tree’s flowers easy to access. It often takes a little more work to find the native Texas flowers. Without pollinators, the natives die out.

Tree #2

Tree girdling is a method of killing trees without herbicides or the noise of chainsaws. It is used a lot in the nature preserves in the Austin area. Since there are quite a few Glossy Privets in Wilson-Ledbetter, we brave nine thought we’d give it a go. In summation – it’s difficult to girdle a tree. It’s not overly complicated. It requires a lot of physical action.  

Tree #3

Sunday, I went to the park to check on the progress of our girdling. I am unsure whether it’s succeeding or not. We worked on three clusters of trees in three groups. Two of them had 3 or 4 “trunks” and were completed. The third group had eight or nine trunks, and a few of those were left untouched.

Dead branches

The uncompleted one has dead branches at the top of the trees, but I’m not sure if that’s from girdling or leftover damage from the freeze of 2021. The other two have a couple of dead branches, but new “trunks” are growing up from the ground. There are a few growing below the girdling area, but I don’t see any new growth above the girdling.

Tree finding a way around girdling

Cliff said it would probably take a year to completely knock them out. To hasten it along, they need a little work which isn’t uncommon, I’m told. For those who want to give our project a little care, I’m going to schedule another morning to get together and help them along.

Trying hard to live

Ultimately, we’ll get them down one way or another. Then we plan to plant Eastern Redbuds to replace them.

More dead branches

A Long Overdue Chapter Event

by Sue Ann Kendall

Our Texas Master Naturalist chapter is finally getting back into the swing of things since the pandemic has given our county a bit of a break. We have held a class with in-person meetings and have enjoyed hybrid Chapter Meetings all this year as well.

One thing we’ve really missed for the past few years is celebrating our milestones. At our Chapter Meeting on April 14, however, we remedied that, and it sure felt good. Those of us who persevered for the past year got a second pin like we got last year for sticking with our volunteer duties and getting things done, in spite of COVID. Those in attendance all got to stand near each other and pose. It was good.

Chapter members grateful to be together and to have contributed our time and effort in service to the nature of Milam County.

We also celebrated milestones in our work. Eric Neubauer reached 500 volunteer hours (that’s a lot of spider observations!) and our current President, Carolyn Henderson, reached 250 hours. In addition, a number of us have re-certified as Texas Master Naturalists for the year 2022 by completing ten hours of advanced training and 40 hours of volunteer time. All we applauded and lauded, as well they should have been.

It’s been nice hearing speakers like Dr. Frank Summers speak to us in person, but it’s also great that those of us unable to attend for whatever reason can attend via Zoom as well. What great things technology has brought us!

We’ve also been able to have visitors again and getting to meet new people has been a highlight for this year, too. At our meeting we got to visit with Patricia Coombs, sister to one of our meeting hosts, Catherine Johnson. We also got to hang around with a fellow Master Naturalist, Mary Ann Melton, of the Goodwater Chapter in Williamson County. Many of us have seen or spoken with her before at conferences. Ah, conferences. Master Naturalists around the state and country are hoping to be able to attend our annual meetings this year.

Greetings to all of you out there enjoying your own volunteering, meeting, Zooming, and interacting with each other. It’s wonderful how nature and our love of learning brings us all together.

El Camino Real Chapter Members Attack! (More on Tree Girdling)

by Linda Jo Conn

While I and a couple of others watched, a group of hard-working El Camino Real Texas Master Naturalist members and trainees girdled three of the large specimens of invasive Glossy Privets (Ligustrum lucidum) on the grounds of the Wilson-Ledbetter Park in Cameron.  The weather cooperated. It was pleasant with a hint of a chill in the breeze. 

Cliff Tyllick, known to iNaturalists as “baldeagle”, is a self-appointed eradicator of invasive species.  He regularly leads volunteer groups in Austin at the Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park to remove invasive plants.  Read Cliff’s profile at https://www.inaturalist.org/people/baldeagle

First, Cliff demonstrated the technique to the group and showed the proper use of each of the tools in his girdling kit. Several members came equipped with their own tools, some newly purchased, along with an eagerness to learn.  

Carolyn Henderson, ECR Chapter President and coordinator of the volunteer project, showed the determination that is necessary for the job. 

Cliff was always ready and eager to share his knowledge about tree growth and structure with the folks.  He explains the basics of a technique to trainee Linda Burgess.

Mike Conner, a well-seasoned warrior against invasive and aggressive species on his own property, attacked and conquered several large and difficult trunks of privet.

Mariann Buegler showed her grit and fortitude and is now at the final stages of the process using a spray bottle of 70% alcohol and a scrub pad.  

Catherine Johnson and Carolyn inspect the progress on a girdle. 

Debbie Sorenson and Liz Lewis are rightfully proud of their finished girdling job. Great work! 

For an instructional guide on girdling of invasive species, watch “Girdling Invasive Trees with Cliff Tyllick” below (this is the same one that our other tree girdling post featured): 

Not only did we learn about the technique of girdling to eliminate invasive species without the use of herbicides from Cliff, we also learned about the detrimental effects of invasive species in the natural ecology.  

Linda and Cliff

To view one of the Glossy Privets attacked by the group, see my iNat observation at: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/108564382.  The privet will be revisited several times in the future to document its demise and the success of the workday by a remarkable group of ECR volunteers. 

The tree I am tracking.

Tree Girdling at Wilson Ledbetter Park

by Carolyn Henderson

Ten troopers from the El Camino Real chapter of Texas Master Naturalist met up Saturday, March 12, to attempt to rid Wilson Ledbetter Park, in Cameron, Texas, of an invasive species. With the very experienced guidance of Cliff Tyllick, we managed to wear ourselves out after three hours of Glossy Privet girdling. I’m not so sure about the trees. 

Cliff Tyllick explains tree girdling

Tyllick has years of experience girdling trees in the Austin area. Much of his work is done through grants and conservation organizations in an attempt to hold back Glossy Privets and some other invasive species. He also has done a program on girdling for Texas Master Naturalist at the annual meeting in 2019. 

Tyllick draws lines on bark to be removed
Bark is removed between the lines

Is it more difficult than cutting down the tree and poisoning it? Yes! So why do it this way? Girdling doesn’t require the use of poisons that could contaminate nearby plants, animals, or water, and it eliminates noisy large equipment (as well as the need to carry it down long trails). It eliminates spreading of the trees by seed while killing it slowly. If it’s in a wooded area, you can let the tree decompose to fertilize the ground.

 All pulp material is removed to prevent regrowth

And why would there be a need to remove the invasive Glossy Privet that produces flowers and shade? They hinder the growth of native trees and flowers in the area. They outgrow native trees in height, which hinders the growth of native Texas species growing below them. Bees and butterflies do like the flowers, but that stops them from pollinating native Texas flowers.

Members walk toward the ill-fated Privets.

There is a specific format to do the girdling in so that it will take out the plant in one effort. The outer bark must be removed for about the length of a hand. Then the pulpy matter left must be removed by using tools to scrape it away. Once it’s removed, it is washed with soap and water then cleaned with an alcohol and water mixture. This combination keeps it from regenerating what was removed. If you’d like to see it in action, check out this video:

It was hard work, and most of us were worn out, but learning a new process was interesting, and we got to enjoy the company of our chapter members. As an aside, Tyllick’s wife, Karen is an archeologist by training and a PhD. She found some relics in the park. Thanks to her for our group picture. We were all smiling because we said “Girdling” instead of “cheese”. It was really funny at the time, which was at the end of the day.

ECR chapter members smile big after all the girdling.