2006-10-07 / News

Island Begins Process of Removing Invasive Norway Maples

A select group of Norway maple trees growing on the north side of Mackinac Island will be removed in October. The aggressive and invasive species, introduced years ago to Mackinac Island as a landscape tree, now threatens to envelope the Island and crowd out native trees. Attractive in landscaping for its fast growth and dense canopy of leaves, the trees in the wild choke off sunlight and moisture to other plants on the forest floor, including native wildflowers.

Such trees would normally not pose a danger to forests, because seedlings sprouting in lawns are destroyed when the grass is mowed, but on Mackinac, where lawns abut the state park, the trees now have a foothold.

More than 100 trees will be removed this month, ranging in size from two inches to two feet in diameter. Approximately 12 of the trees are more than one foot in diameter. The trees are in the Mackinac Island State Park and funding for the project is coming from the Mackinac Island Community Foundation, which has donated $2,389.43 for the tree removal. State park employees will do the cutting.

Jeff Dykehouse, chief naturalist at the park, said the Norway maples create a monoculture in the forest, which is undesirable because a disease or a pest invasion similar to Dutch Elm disease or the emerald ash tree borer can wipe out an entire forest in one fell swoop.

The trees scheduled to be removed are northeast of the old landfill, the old park burn pile site, and two trees will be cut down at British Landing, said Mr. Dykehouse, who has identified and marked the trees for two park employees who will do the work. The seasonal employees will be kept on the payroll for three additional weeks to get the job done and they will be supervised by a year-around member of the Mackinac Island State Park staff.

Students from Michigan Technological University in Houghton have developed a density map to show the spread of the Norway maples on Mackinac Island. Budget constraints have prevented the park from cutting trees at this time, said Phil Porter, director of Mackinac State Historic Parks.

Funding for the project came at the recommendation of the Community Foundation's Committee on the Environment and was approved by the board at its

September 16 meeting. Funding came from the Erin Shufelt Environmental Fund, the Natural

Resources Preservation Fund, and the Mackinac College Legacy Fund.

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