Buckthorn in the Little Woods


Friday the 2oth of May began with perfect weather for our first work day in the Little Woods. Folks from Champlain Park turned up with tools in hand and great energy and enthusiasm. We started pulling out Buckthorn at 9 am and worked steadily till after lunch hour. Soon we’d amassed two great piles of cut shrubs,  ready for the city to come and chip for us.


Buckthorn is a thorny shrub that forms large thickets and reduces the growth of shade tolerant native shrubs and herbs. The twigs end in a sharp thorn. The blue-black berries are eaten and spread by birds and it can be seen all through the larger NCC woods. You may even have it in your yard.


The City of Ottawa provided shovels and weed wrenches. Those wrenches were magical tools, built like giant levers with clamping jaws at the end. Even those of us with less muscle power were able to yank out the shrubs at their roots.

Nancy Young and her colleague from the city forestry department were on hand to help with tree identification and planting tips. They also brought 20 beautiful trees to replace the Buckthorn.


In the afternoon a group of students from Elmdale school planted Bur Oak, Sugar Maple, Hackberry and White Pine seedlings. The children had a wonderful time, and greatly enjoyed digging holes and prying out rocks.

Spending this much time in the Little Woods led to a few discoveries; there is a Jack in the Pulpit growing there, and a healthy population of toads. While we were working I could hear a Phoebe and a Redstart calling from the canopy.

The trees will be watered over the summer and the city will remove some more of the dead elms from the site along with some of the bigger Buckthorn we weren’t able to cut down. Because the seeds are viable for up to 7 years we will need to watch the site and prune back invasives for a few more years.

Thanks to all the volunteers who helped us get through the work in such a short time: Sandy Davidson, Jennifer Neate, Will Egan, Leslie Maitland, Ian Holland, John Decarle, Linnia Rowlatt, Elyse Bisson, (and my apologies to those whose names I have missed)


Special thanks to:
  • Nancy Young for her knowledge, patience and good humor through the process of organizing all our work
  • Rod Gillyatt (and the teachers and parents of Elmdale School) for bringing your enthusiastic children to work in the Little Woods
  • Rita Blattman for providing water, elbow grease and boundless energy


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