The Summit Meadow
The summit has been an open meadow for over 150 years. Clumps of juniper are clues that it was once a pasture for sheep and later for cows. The Hanover Conservancy keeps the meadow open with regular mowing. In recent years, native milkweed has come to dominate the meadow, to the delight of monarch butterflies but not to the grassland birds that might otherwise nest here. Mowing is carefully timed to help restore better habitat for both.
Non-Native Invasive Plants
Unwelcome arrivals in Balch Hill’s fields and forests are invasive trees, shrubs, and vines that have escaped from neighboring yards or grown from seeds carried here by birds. Non-native buckthorn, honeysuckle, barberry, bittersweet, and burning bush are the target of a multi-year project by the Hanover Conservancy’s Balch Hill Stewardship Committee to restore native vegetation. The Conservancy is working with a licensed professional in compliance with all state regulations. Non-native, invasive plants provide poor food and habitat for birds and other wildlife.
Oriental bittersweet, a non-native vine that smothers other vegetation, is a particularly aggressive newcomer to Balch Hill. Bittersweet arrived courtesy of birds who enjoy its berries. Highway departments once planted the vine on roadsides in an attempt at beautification (along with multiflora rose, autumn olive, and other shrubs that have since shown their nasty side). Some people purchase wreaths and other decorations made of the non-native vine, for its fall display of bright orange-red berries.
You can help keep Bittersweet from spreading. If you can’t resist its vibrant fall colors, please dispose of the decorations in bagged trash rather than in a compost pile or in the woods. Best of all, avoid planting the vine. Next time you visit Balch Hill, stop by the kiosk for more information on this and other invasive plants.
What’s that spot?
A 2017 grant from the Vermont Center for Ecostudies helped us begin site preparations for a pollinator garden on the summit. Black tarps trapped the sun’s heat to kill the existing plants (low food value flowers and grasses) as well as the existing seed bank. In Spring of 2018, we tilled the site, then replaced the tarps for a few more months to make sure our garden could have the best possible start.
Finally, in October 2018, we planted a mix of native, perennial grasses and flowering plants that’s been specially formulated for Balch Hill soils. The patch is covered with organic straw so the seeds don’t get eaten or blown away before germinating in the spring. The garden will evolve over the next four years into a long-lasting, beautiful food source for our many native pollinators!