Boxborough Invasive Focus: Oriental Bittersweet

IMG-5362I didn’t have to go far to get pictures of this invasive species – I’d long suspected the tendrils at the side of my driveway, reaching up to grab the lower branches of my trees, was bittersweet. The benefit of getting it early is that it’s easy to pull the plant along with its roots. In winter it’s often simple to spot as it has the pretty red and yellow berries along the vine (American bittersweet, a rare non-invasive that’s threatened by the spread of the oriental version, has berries just at the tip). Don’t confuse poison ivy for bittersweet – PI has thick, IMG-5363hairy stems.

It’s not so easy once it gets hold of a tree. Earlier this year the Crown Castle company volunteered a huge number of their employees to help cut the bittersweet that’s taken hold of many of the trees on the north side of Steele Farm. Once established, bittersweet can choke a tree and eventually kill it.

IMG-5364Eradication can be a multi-year effort. Pulling roots is the best option, but even small parts left in the ground can regrow. Cutting the vine can at least temporarily relieve the tree, but it will regrow quickly without continued work. Herbicides can be used on cut stems and foliage. Search on Google for advice on this.

Boxborough Invasive Focus: Japanese Knotweed


This is the second in a series of posts concerning invasive plant control in town.

Just down the road from the Garlic Mustard on Depot is a large patch of Knotweed. Listed as one of the world’s worst invasives, it frequently takes over roadside areas, crowding out native plants, and destroying roads and drains. Its rhizomes can spread 20′ out and cut stems will quickly re-root, so proper disposal is important.


Cutting it can eventually exhaust the plant’s energy supplies, but it often re-establishes itself. Digging it out can limit spread and eventually result in its removal. Herbicide application seems to be the most effective, but the town has no licensed applicator.

This is another invasive that you’ll begin to see everywhere – Steele Farm on the south side of Middle, all around Town Hall, and so on. Keep a look out for it on your property and decide what action you want to take.IMG-5257


Boxborough Invasive Focus: Garlic Mustard


This is the first in a series of posts concerning invasive plant control in town.

I spotted garlic mustard at the side of the road on the Patch Hill parcel. It’s one of those plants that you’ll begin to see everywhere once you recognize it. It’s native to many parts of the world, but its introduction to North America has caused reductions in biodiversity as it crowds out other plants both because it does not have a natural predator, and because it produces a toxin limiting other plant growth.

Thankfully, it’s an easy one to control – the plant pulls up easily with the small tap root, though repeated observation of the site will be needed as seeds from prior years will sprout.


Equally, pulled plants that are flowering can still drop seeds, so it’s best to bag it and throw it out.

If you need another reason to pull it, you can also eat it – the leaves (especially the younger ones) can be used in salads or as a pesto – not surprisingly it has a mild garlic/mustard flavor. As with any wild plant, ensure you are confident that you have identified the plant correctly. If you see garlic mustard on trails in town, please don’t hesitate to pull it up.


Ticks and Trails: Annual Meeting Video

Professor Sam Telford, an epidemiologist focusing on arthropod-transmitted infections from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, shared the science of ticks as well as helpful information to limit our exposure to them and the diseases they carry.

Thanks to Heather Fleming and Cord Awtry for videoing the talk. We’ll follow this up with more commentary over the summer.

Navigating Boxborough’s Trails With Your Phone

At the BCTrust’s Annual Meeting we spent 10 minutes describing the maps we have for trails in town, the fact that all of our trails are on OpenSteetMap and what technology exists to help with navigation. This is a three-minute video I showed that describes how easy the app is.

The Importance of Young Forests


Young forest habitats, areas of densely clustered tree saplings and sprouts, have become relatively scarce in Massachusetts over the past 50 years, and now occupy less than 4% of the forested landscape. MassWildlife’s habitat goals call for 10-15% young forest to conserve wildlife that rely on this unique habitat including New England cottontail, American woodcock, ruffed grouse, and golden-winged warbler. The species have experienced decline and need young forests for nesting, foraging for food and evading predators. These same habitats are also used by many songbirds, and by game species such as white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and black bear.

The state is providing technical and financial aid for landowners to create young forests. More details can be found on their page, while information about young forests can be found here.

New Geocaches in Inches Woods

I’m pleased to see that there are two new Geocaches that were placed in Inches Woods (plus a third bonus cache) in late October. Given how often I’m back there, I’m surprised I haven’t spotted them by accident.

If you haven’t heard about geocaching, there are millions of ‘caches’ hidden all across the world by individuals – in the center of New York city, Antarctica, and even Boxborough. Using just your phone, or a dedicated GPS device, participants can search out these caches. It’s a nice way to discover new trails, and a great excuse to get outside. The video below does a great job of explaining it.

By my rough count we have 64 (!) caches in Boxborough alone, and about 10 on BCtrust land. Some are simple caches – find the box and you’re done, others are multi-caches where you find stages leading up to the final, and some you have to solve puzzles ahead of time to work out the correct coordinates.  We even have an earth-cache – a cache without an actual box that’s at the site of a notable geological feature – you’ve guessed it, the Esker.

The new Inches Woods’ caches can be found here and here. Sign up for an account at Geocaching if you’re interested in finding these and others.


Alex Kerin

Board and Event Timelines

In the BCTrust’s 20 years of hard work, many people in town have been part of the efforts to protect our land. For the 20th Anniversary Celebration we created two timelines, one to show what we’ve achieved, and one to show the board members. Both can be found on the website, and are interactive. The first is the board timeline; you can see all of the board members and click on the legend to filter to the different positions.board timeline

The second is the interactive timeline of events; it includes the incorporation of the trust, our land acquisitions, the work we’ve done to protect other parcels, and our community outreach. The events are color-coded for the type of activity, and you can click each to get more information and pictures.timeline.PNG

Finally we have a list of everyone else who has helped with Common Ground, Blanchard Art Contents, and so on. Thank you to everyone, including our members who make the BCTrust’s work possible. through the ages

As part of a timeline we’re creating for the 20th Anniversary celebration I ended up going down a rabbit-hole at the Wayback Machine, a site that captures prior versions of websites. The first capture of BCTrust is in December 2000, about year after it was created with the help of Ben Hood, a then sophomore at AB High School. It’s really interesting to scroll through history, noting when we have ‘Get out the Vote‘ messages, and when the website changed, changed, changed, changed, changed, and then changed to the current version. Some images are broken, but it’s a pretty good history lesson.


Alex Kerin

Minuteman Airfield Awards Ceremony

On November 4th, 2017, the Boxborough Conservation Trust joined the Stow Conservation Trust at Minuteman Airfield in Stow and for an awards ceremony and each land trust received a check for $1000. The donations were the proceeds from the “fun run” held last month as part of the Airfield’s open house event, and, included a generous donation from the Airfield as well. BCTrust board members Jeanne Kangas, Rita Grossman and Simon Bunyard (front row) represented the Trust. In the back row are: Don McPherson, owner of Minuteman Airfield; Mike Smith, a pilot, president of the local EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) chapter and organizer of last month’s event; Eric Rolfe, Minuteman Airfield Board of Commissioners; and, Peter Alberti, EEA and organizer of the “fun run.” Both the BCTrust and the Stow Conservation Trust were very grateful and pleased to have been chosen as recipients of the fundraiser!