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Garlic Mustard on Basswood Ridge WMA

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A NGPC wildlife biologist uses a drip torch to ignite the ground during a prescribed fire. (Photo Credit: Rebekah Jessen, NGPC)
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is planning a prescribed burn to improve wildlife habitat on Basswood Ridge Wildlife Management Area near Homer, Neb. on Thursday, November 6. Approximately 150 acres of this site will be burned to reduce the presence of undesirable plants. Area users should expect the prescribed burn to start in the late morning and last the remainder of the day. This prescribed fire is expected to be a low intensity burn, primarily consuming leaf litter and scattered brush piles. However, smoke will be visible for several miles.

Basswood Ridge WMA is part a larger 2000-acre tract of oak forest on the Missouri River bluffs. Historically, Nebraska’s deciduous forests frequently burned in early spring and fall when leaf litter was dry. These fires kept forests open by killing fire-sensitive shrubs and trees, such as honey locust, hackberry and cedar, while promoting oak growth and a lush growth of plants on the forest floor.

Fire also kept invasive species at bay, such as the herbaceous plant garlic mustard and woody plants, such as honey locust, black locust and eastern red cedar that currently threaten this forest. Through the use of prescribed fire, the Commission aims to restore conditions on the WMA that would provide suitable habitat and forage for wildlife.

Owners of Eastern Nebraska woodlands need to be especially aware of garlic mustard, an invasive plant from Europe that has the potential to take over woodland understories, displace native plants and degrade habitat for deer, turkey, songbirds, and other wildlife. Garlic mustard usually establish as small patches along trails or in low ravines, but can spread rapidly thereafter, resulting in fewer insects for turkey broods, less forage for deer, and less habitat for wildlife.

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A low intensity burn will be conducted at Basswood Ridge WMA to consume leaf litter and scattered brush piles. (Photo Credit: Rebekah Jessen, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission)
Once well-established, garlic mustard is extremely difficult to control. Pulling and removing mature plants before they set seed and herbicide applications to young plants are the best methods of control. Numerous resources are available online to help landowners identify and control garlic mustard.

Garlic mustard is gaining a foothold on Basswood Ridge WMA and surrounding properties. Over the next few years, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will be working on the WMA and on neighboring land where permission is granted to control its growth. For more information on the management of Basswood Ridge WMA and garlic mustard, contact wildlife biologists Russ Hamer or Jeff Borchers at 402-675-4020.

Photo courtesy of Steve Brill and Essex County Greenbelt.
Garlic mustard is an invasive species in the woodlands of Nebraska. Photo courtesy of Steve Brill and Essex County Greenbelt.

About Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

NEBRASKAland Associate Editor Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley was born in Nha Trang, Vietnam, and moved to the United States with her parents in 1992. She graduated from Bolsa Grande High School in Garden Grove, California, in 2008 and completed her bachelor’s degree at UCLA in 2012. Wheatley was editor-in-chief for her high school newspaper and continued to write in college, freelancing for various publications, the Tiger Woods Foundation and writing for her blog FoodForHunters.com. After graduating college, she moved to Nebraska in early 2013 to join the Commission as Regional Editor at NEBRASKAland Magazine. She then became associate editor in 2015. Wheatley enjoys hiking, camping, horseback riding, hunting, fishing and wild game cooking.

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