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Curtis Farm Bonfire Disposes of Invasive Plants

Harpswell Invasive Plant Partnership
October 24, 2023
two men stand near burning brush pile

HIPP volunteers start the burn of the brush pile (Greg Braun photo)

Originally published in the Harpswell Anchor

Drivers passing the Curtis Farm Preserve on Harpswell Neck on Oct. 13 couldn’t have missed the smoke from a bonfire next to the parking lot. Once again, it was the Harpswell Invasive Plant Partnership at work.

Over the past year or so, HIPP has been clearing invasive plants from the northeast section of the property. The focus has been on removing bittersweet, shrub honeysuckle, and multiflora rose from the woods.

Bittersweet plants, some with vines as thick as 10 inches at the base, had overwhelmed oaks and ancient apple trees. Thickets of rose and honeysuckle had made sections nearly impassable.

After multiple work projects to remove these invasives, the brush pile next to the parking area had grown to 65 feet long by 10 feet wide by 7 feet high. Leaving the stack to decay wasn’t an option because it had begun to grow on its own. Berries and rose hips had germinated and new invasives had begun to overtop the mound.

The solution: a controlled fire. Under the watchful eye of Craig Douglas from Harpswell Neck Fire and Rescue, five volunteers from HIPP and the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, which owns the preserve, set the brush afire. It burned, but slowly. Although much of the fuel was dry, the combination of summer rains and new growth kept some sections wet.

After four hours of tending the flames, the crew raked the ashes and the fire hose doused the embers.

Next spring, HIPP will manage another bonfire. Back in the woods, two more mounds of invasive plants almost as large as the one just burned are waiting to be dragged out to the parking lot for burning.

firefighter hoses down burned area of grass

Craig Douglas doused the area in water after the burn (Greg Braun photo)

Disposing of cut or uprooted invasive plants isn’t just a problem at locations like Curtis Farm. Private property owners should be aware that adding cuttings to a mulch pile or stacking them in an out-of-the-way location is not a solution.

Particularly if invasive plants have set seeds or berries have formed, cuttings need to be bagged and taken to the transfer station, up the hill from recycling, for disposal. Tell the worker at the scale that you have some invasives and you’ll be directed to the appropriate location.

For more information, send questions to hipp.maine@gmail.com, check out HIPP’s website at hippmaine.org and watch for announcements in the Anchor calendar.