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Alabama Adventures: Longleaf Pine Treasure Forest

After hearing about Pinus palustris from several southern botanist friends, I had to see the trees for myself! I had the great pleasure of ...

06 April 2015

Volunteering: Removing Invasive Species at Wright Woods

Captain Daniel Wright Woods Forest Preserve Illinois

Lake County Forest Preserve has many volunteer opportunities, including year-round restoration workdays where volunteers can simply show up! These workdays are typically held several times a week, at various locations around Lake County.

Steve and I wanted to volunteer for some time, and so we decided that the workdays were the best option for us, since our availability varies. We ventured to Pasquesi Home & Gardens to pick out some work gloves (though the site steward usually has extras just in case). I went with a nice black and purple pair, and Steve chose a pair of durable black and gray cut-proof gloves.

There were three workdays that Saturday (almost four, but one was cancelled) to choose from, all within roughly the same distance from where we live. We randomly picked Captain Daniel Wright Woods (also referred to as Wright Woods). Upon arrival at 9am sharp, we realised that Wright Woods was the same place where our Beautiful Autumn Adventure took place, a week before our wedding! So, with an extra pep in our step, we followed the signage and waited with one other volunteer.

After a couple minutes our site steward, Allison, arrived. She was excited to have help, as the cold weather deters many potential volunteers. Allison had us sign in, and we walked down the path to the first area. She explained how Rhamnus spp. (buckthorn) and other invasive species choke out our native plants, and what techniques are used to remove them. We were each given a saw and loppers, and instructed to place everything in a pile, which would later be burned. After marking the general area with a flag, our site steward would spray herbicide on the remaining stumps. We were also instructed to remove bush honeysuckle, though they weren't as numerous as buckthorn in that area.

bow saw buckthorn removal invasive species

Bow saw buckthorn

After we amassed a pile of buckthorn, we moved on to the second area, which was very dense. It was in this spot that we found Rhus sp. (Sumac ), which we left unharmed, of course. Scattered about the ground were Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard), which are edible and therefore perfect for foraging. There were arrowwood that needed to be removed, though they are native, and we cut through wild raspberry and grapevines if they were in our way (but they will grow back). Steve specifically targeted honeysuckle and even yanked some up, roots and all!

Rhus sp. (sumac)
Steve removing invasive honeysuckle
Steve's first honeysuckle!
Garlic mustard
By noon we had quite an impressive burn pile, and our workday came to a close. Since Steve and I were focusing on annihilating invasive species, we didn't get many pictures! The picture below was roughly half of what we ended up with. I hope next time I take more photos!


If you live in the Lake County, IL area and you have time to volunteer, I highly recommend checking out these opportunities! Allison was very optimistic and knowledgeable, and was happy to answer any questions we had. Volunteering at Wright Woods was a satisfying experience, and I can't wait to volunteer again! The next restoration workday for that specific place is on April 18. If you don't live in Lake County, I encourage you to check out your local area for conservation volunteer opportunities! Public gardens, arboreta, and conservatories are also good places to check out. If none of those pique your interest, there are many ways you can give the gift of your time and effort to a worthy cause: mentoring programs, soup kitchens, church activities, etc. If you still aren't interested in such things, even donating money/food/items somewhere would be wonderful!