Guilford Courthouse National Military Park is the first Revolutionary War battlefield preserved by Congress. The stewards of Guilford Courthouse – the Guilford Battleground Company (GBC) and the National Park Service – have altered the landscape from ornamental English gardens to a forest. Our Maintenance Division works regularly to restore the land to the forest and farmland where American militia and Continentals clashed with Lt. General Cornwallis’ forces.
Successfully restoring the battleground to its 1781 appearance depends partially on removing the multiple invasive species. The National Park Service is a leader in the proper implementation of Integrated Pest Management – we practice reduced pesticide use by over 60 percent. I collaborated with our IPM leader Vicki to identify how we can destroy invasive plants without harmful chemicals. Even though my focus as a CVA is historical interpretation, I work with maintenance on our trails and IPM because a restored environment will ultimately allow the park to interpret the history of the battle and the Hoskins Family Farm with the proper landscape.
One critical thing I have learned from Vicki about IPM is that NPS uses herbicides that are not harmful to native plants and animals. Vicki works yearly with IPM teams to correctly spray plants like wisteria. Vicki took me around the park to show the effects of proper IPM and discussed long term care of removing vines and dead weeds. As we analyzed the dead weeds she showed me how native species could grow that weren’t affected by the herbicides. For example, Vicki laid seed down for native grass in excess, which chokes the invasive clover plant.
The battleground is overrun with an aggressive plant called Japanese stiltgrass Microstegium vimineum that covers our forests and meadows. This species and other invasive plants choke and cover our native species, which disrupts the animal life. According to the NCSU Cooperative Extension: the seeds of the plant fall in the beginning of fall and the seeds can last in the ground for 3-5 years. While spraying is a possibility, the current practices of NPS IPM is to find alternatives to spraying.
From October through November, we are hosting new Natural Resource Management VIPs to pull these weeds. If you have Japanese stiltgrass in your park, it is not too difficult to remove. Luckily this invasive has shallow roots and can be pulled and bagged for easy disposal. I hosted a team of Biology Masters Candidates to help me pull this weed, and we collected about 30 bags of the plant from around the Visitors Center. Northeast Guilford High School NJROTC and college students from North Carolina A&T State University will come in the next few weeks to clear more spaces around our Visitors Center. These students are gaining an opportunity for federal fieldwork experience and we are gaining the support of our community to restore our landscape and preserve history. We will need weed warriors every year to keep these invasive plants at bay.