The thermometer on our pick-up truck read 88 degrees F last Thursday as my husband, Dylan, and I arrived at Lareau swim hole in Waitsfield for the first “Knot Thursday” of the season. The Waitsfield Conservation Commission is hosting this weekly event to encourage volunteers to pitch in to help manage knotweed along the Mad River.
The invasive species Japanese knotweed can be found all along the river throughout The Valley. The stems look kind of like pink-tinged asparagus and the full-grown stalks look like bamboo. Knotweed can cause erosion of riverbanks and destruction of native plants, which also impacts insects and other species.
At the swim hole, we were met by a handful of other volunteers clearing knotweed and digging up rhizomes as daring kids swam in the river nearby. I went to work clearing knotweed stalks from an area that would be smothered and piled up stalks to be burned while Dylan grabbed his shovel and dug up dozens of rhizomes. Due to deep root systems, “The rhizomes have the potential to spread laterally 23 to 65 feet away from the crown,” according to vermontinvasives.org.
According to Vermont Fish and Wildlife, “Knotweed can be prevented from spreading by ensuring that entire root systems are removed when pulling small plants. All plant parts must also be bagged so they cannot become re-established, in a compost pile for example. The most important preventative method is to plant native vegetation along river and stream banks and in disturbed areas and if knotweed is detected, respond immediately before it spreads.”
After nearly two hours of work in the hot sun, I was sweaty and dirty, but the group had made good progress. We had several pallets with rhizomes stacked high to dry out and a big pile of stalks to burn.
Conservation commission chair Curt Lindberg said, “Volunteers are welcome to come when they can in this time window (4 to 7 p.m.); they are not expected to stay for the entire three hours. ‘Knot Thursday’ sessions will be held throughout the active knotweed growing season, mid-May through early September.”
This summer you’ll find us on Thursdays digging up rhizomes and clearing knotweed from our idyllic swim holes. We ‘adopted’ a section near our home in Waitsfield to clear on other days, as well. It’s a great way to get outside, protect native species and the Mad River, and help keep our Valley a beautiful place to visit and live.