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By William Walston, Invasive Species Management Assistant

WNY PRISM began working with the Nature Sanctuary Society of Western New York (NSSWNY) to manage invasive species on Houghton Preserve in 2019. Located near East Concord, Houghton is a 23-acre preserve containing a kettlehole bog. A kettlehole bog is a depression or hole formed by receding glaciers or draining floodwaters. Glacial ice is buried and surrounded by sediment and once it melts, the depression left is called a kettle hole.

Bogs are an incredibly unique ecosystem that are becoming increasingly rare. Fed by rainwater, these environments have little flow, limiting the amount of nutrients available for local flora. Living in these closed systems, some plants have evolved different mechanisms to get the nutrients they need to establish and grow. While walking with Ed Fuchs, a volunteer with NSSWNY and exceptional botantist, we had the opportunity to see some of these interesting species. In the open area covered with mats of Sphagnum moss were species of carnivorous plants like sundews (Drosera spp.) and pitcher plants (Sarracenia spp.). Other endemic species of interest included bog laurel (Kalmia microphylla) and cinnamon fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomea).

A pitcher plant on the left, sundew on the right

A pitcher plant (left) and sundew (right) found at Houghton Preserve.

A population of glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus) was found early in development along the edge of the bog. In 2019, the WNY PRISM Crew and a group of volunteers conducted a combination of manual and chemical removal. Smaller seedlings were hand pulled while larger plants were cut with hand tools and treated at the stump with herbicide. To maintain pressure on these populations, we returned in 2021 and 2022 to continue our work.

The management area was the surrounding forested wetland that wrapped around the bog. Upon initial examination, there was little presence of the target species, Glossy buckthorn, and the few patches that were found were seedlings, thanks in part to previous management efforts. We began hand pulling and bagging seedlings to dispose of off-site. While working through the project area, any individual found too large for hand pulling was tagged to be managed later in the week with loppers or hand saws prior to herbicide treatment. Working in the forested area also gave us a good opportunity to appreciate such a diverse ecosystem. We came across a garter snake making its rounds and were visited by a downy woodpecker looking for a quick bite. There was also a stand of Hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) to take shelter under for a breather between removal. By the end of this season’s efforts, we managed 1.27 acres and pulled ten full trash bags of glossy buckthorn from the bog.

Will holding up a glossy buckthorn seedling.

William, Invasive Species Management Assistant, hand pulling glossy buckthorn seedlings.

Working in this remarkable area was a great experience. With the continuation of peat mining and other drainage projects, ecosystems like this are few and far between, making preservation extremely important. Management of invasive species helps bog-specific plants thrive and keeps the beneficial function of these wetlands working at full capacity. With continued work from NSSWNY, WNY PRISM, and other partners, Houghton will thrive and maintain its biodiversity for years to come.

A bog and tree line of coniferous trees.

A view from the middle of Houghton Bog.