A couple of weekends ago, I participated in a riverfront cleanup project sponsored by Milwaukee Riverkeeper, a fine organization dedicated to keeping our local waterways clean. Volunteers were assigned to walk stretches of the riverbank, picking up trash and eradicating buckthorn, a nasty invasive species that grows to tree size and chokes out native plants. The male of the species will eventually sport extremely nasty thorns that make it even more difficult to hack down. And it’s difficult enough as it is. Even the smallest plants can have deep, woody roots that resist digging. Since we’ve had plenty of these in both properties we’ve owned, I’ve spent more hours than I’d care to count digging them up, or trying. They do not seem to succumb to anything but Roundup, which is tricky to apply without killing everything else within spray range.
But these Riverkeeper folks had just the thing. They outfitted us with businesslike loppers and bottles of something they’d labeled Buckthorn Blaster—Roundup in the same kind of dauber bottle people in these parts use for playing bingo at reservation casinos. They fill the bottles with Roundup and a little food dye, then daub it onto the exposed stumps. (If you reuse old bingo daubers, maybe there’s enough ink left to add a little color to the herbicide.) With any luck, the buckthorn dies. And if it doesn’t, next year’s cleanup crews need only look for the dye on old wood to be sure the new growth they’re sizing up is really buckthorn. Way to be, Riverkeepers. I’m trying this as soon as I get my hands on a dauber. Maybe I need to start visiting those casinos.