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Community Forum, Tina Scharf: Lincoln winning battle against invasives

This week’s Community Forum is by Tina Scharf, chair of the Lincoln Conservation Commission.
 On Saturday, June 17, the Lincoln Conservation Commission gathered nearly thirty people in the center of Lincoln. Our mission? To remove two exotic invasive species from the town’s roadsides: poison parsnip and wild chervil.
Unlike Japanese knotweed, which has a complex root system and can spread from cuttings, the two targeted plants have a carrot-like root and are mostly easy to pull up, which kills the plant. Parsnip and chervil can also be mowed or cut, but that is less effective because the plants sometimes re-sprout from cut stems. While parsnip plants are not very large by mid-June, wild chervil has already flowered and goes to seed by the end of June. Parsnip doesn’t flower or go to seed until July. We wanted to try to get both species on the same day, thus the mid-June date.
Participants chose sections of road and worked in teams. All wore long pants, sleeves, and gloves to protect themselves against the toxic sap produced by poison parsnip. It was a tedious job, but in the company of like-minded people the exercise was a fun community activity. Friends and neighbors helped pass the time by chatting and joking as they worked.
Alphabet blocks donated by Maple Landmark, which could be exchanged for prizes donated by many area businesses, were scattered throughout the town. At intervals someone would call out excitedly when he or she found a block. After two to three hours everyone came back to the pavilion in the center of town for lunch. The Lincoln Store provided their famous meatball subs, and vegetarian sandwiches were supplied by LCC member Lisa Nading. The atmosphere was festive, everyone enjoying the chance to exchange their blocks for prizes, eat, visit, and relax after their efforts in the hot sun.
As June slid into July several intrepid — and dogged — souls continued to pull parsnip as the missed plants grew taller, flowered and became more visible. The Lincoln Selectboard had arranged for our roadsides to be mowed before the parsnip went to seed. This year we also had the cooperation of a few landowners who mowed larger stands of parsnip on their properties. Finally, the Lincoln Conservation Commission hired one person to tackle some problem areas. The Lincoln Conservation Commission is so grateful for this multi-pronged support. Thank you, everyone.
This coordinated effort has really paid off. It is difficult to find any of the two invasive plants along Lincoln’s roadsides. We have instead been free to enjoy our beautiful native flowers such as chicory, Queen Anne’s lace, daisies and asters. This is in stark contrast to other towns where, in some areas, parsnip and chervil have crowded out native species. As summer comes to a close, our roads are also free from the ugly brown stalks of dead parsnip plants.
We are proud of our success and hope that other towns might initiate their own “X Out Xotics” programs. Effective control of chervil and parsnip is possible with persistent effort. The goal is to deplete the seed bank. While some seeds are viable in soil for many years, the seeds of these two species only last for about five years. Many people report improvement after two or three years of diligent removal. Although we have to keep at it, the job should get easier with time. Though many locations are more heavily infested than Lincoln the extra effort would be well worth it.
Anyone interested in learning more about organizing their communities to control these two exotic invasive species is welcome to contact the Lincoln Town Clerk’s office. They can put you in touch with someone on the Lincoln Conservation Commission. Call 802-453-2980.
Here in Lincoln we now have a committed group of volunteers. It was so heartening to hear folks as they were leaving the event call out, “Bring two of your friends next year!” 

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