Eradication of Bush Honeysuckle in Forest Park

See video on stltoday.com.

On April 28-30, 2009, Forest Park Forever, the Saint Louis Zoo and St. Louis Department of Parks teamed up in a unique partnership to eradicate honeysuckle bushes in Forest Park. An hour a day for three days, Zoo docents will accompanied a group of five goats in a wooded area in Forest Park to nibble shoots of invasive honeysuckle bushes that crowd out Missouri's native plants.

"Bush honeysuckle dominates urban forests throughout the St. Louis area, and the successional forest was no exception," says Steve Buback, Forest Park Forever nature reserve foreman. "Over the course of the last year, our staff and volunteers, with assistance from a Missouri Department of Conservation grant and the Emergency Response Team from Americorp, cleared 16 acres of honeysuckle, some more than 30 feet tall. The goats will remove any young plants that have moved in within the last year, helping to control any regrowth that may have occurred. Goats are ideal for this project because they prefer to browse on woody vegetation, and the only woody vegetation remaining in the area is bush honeysuckle. They provide a unique opportunity to control invasive vegetation without the use of heavy equipment or herbicides."

Local Conservation

Forest Park Forever and the Saint Louis Zoo hope their experiment with bush honeysuckle will send a strong conservation message to the community.

"We realize that homeowners will not be able to use goats to eradicate their honeysuckle," says Alice Seyfried, Fred Saigh curator of Emerson Children's Zoo and director of the Zoo's WildCare Center for Conservation in Forest Park. "But if homeowners pull up young plants in spring, they can reduce this invasion and allow native plants to return."

"The long-term goal for this community," adds Buback, "would be to reintroduce native species such as hazelnuts, redbuds, spicebush, Missouri wildflowers and grasses, as well as young oaks and hickories to provide trees for the future."

Seyfried also stresses the benefits that come with native species. "These plants provide food and cover for birds, for butterflies and other local wildlife. That is something we really want to encourage."

What You Can Do

Homeowners can learn more about bush honeysuckle from the Missouri Department of Conservation's web site at http://mdc.mo.gov.