Medical students clear invasives at LaPlatte Natural Area

From left: Erin McElroy, Douglas Handley, and Hannah Lowe eliminate invasive plants last week in Shelburne.

By Emily Boedecker

Fifty new UVM medical students descended on the LaPlatte Natural Area in Shelburne as part of their orientation week Friday, Aug. 10.

While trying to avoid the worst of the medical puns, this task force systematically diagnosed, treated, and eliminated invasive species that threaten the overall health and function of the upland and floodplain forest. By removing common buckthorn and bush honeysuckle from the understory, the Vermont Nature Conservatory can take advantage of the natural regeneration in this lush forest, giving native green ash, white pine, and spring wildflowers the edge in regaining their territory.

The LaPlatte River Marsh Natural Area in Shelburne is one of the Conservatory’s most urban preserves in a network of 55 preserves across the state. Deepwater marshes and a lakeside floodplain forest provide habitat for osprey, great blue herons, painted turtles, river otters, and other abundant wildlife. Adjacent lands owned and managed by the town, state, and Shelburne Farms showcase the natural heritage and recreational opportunities of Vermont.

While much of the preserve is in excellent condition, the forest section through which the Conservancy maintains a trail loop is currently home to a severe infestation of invasive plants. These plants are not native to the ecosystem and can cause significant ecological harm. Lacking the normal counterbalances to their growth which would be found in their native ecosystems, these invasive plants act like a cancer within their new ecosystems, outcompeting native plants and degrading habitat.

This year, with the aid of a multi-year grant, the Vermont Nature Conservatory is stepping up efforts to control the invasive plants in this area, restoring the natural beauty of the forest and its ecological processes.

For more information on the Vermont Nature Conservatory, its efforts to control invasive species, or to volunteer please call (800) 628-6860 or visit

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