Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Adirondack Garden Club shares Essex Quarry Nature Preserve project update

Man shows people a tree branch

Keene, NY — In the roughly one year that the Adirondack Garden Club (AGC) has been tackling invasive plants on a one-acre plot in the Essex Quarry Nature Preserve in the town of Essex, progress has been significant, with the benefits extending well beyond the direct remediation of nuisance species. The project is funded through a three-year grant from the Garden Club of America’s Partners for Plants program. The Essex Quarry Nature Preserve is owned by Champlain Area Trails (CATS), which purchased the property in 2018.

In the Essex Quarry project, the AGC team, headed by Conservation Committee Chair Nancy Budd, removes invasive trees, seedlings, vines and shrubs — mainly buckthorn, honeysuckle and bittersweet. The stumps left behind are then covered with heavy plastic “buckthorn baggies” to prevent sprouting. The areas will then be planted with native species.

Under terms of the grant, no chemicals are used, no debris is removed from the property and no species are brought in from off-site. That last requirement meant the AGC members had to collect seeds from the quarry’s existing native plants last fall, winter them over, then germinate the seeds this spring, with the resulting plants being returned to the quarry this fall to replace the removed invasives. Native species include thimbleweed, various goldenrods, assorted asters, baneberry, Joe Pye weed, columbine, yarrow, and Allegheny monkey flower, among others.

The work has been done under the supervision of botanical experts Steve Young, retired chief botanist at the New York Natural Heritage Program in Albany and his wife Laura Lehtonen, an Ecopreneur and expert at propagating wildflowers from seeds, a rapidly emerging field that is fundamental to restoring native plants and their ecosystems. Steve had previously prepared for CATS an inventory of the plants found in the quarry — over 210 species by Steve’s count.

buckthorn stumps

“Buckthorn baggies” cover buckthorn stumps to prevent sprouting and propagation as part of the eradication of invasives. The AGC will replant with native species grown from seed collected at the site. Photo by Laura Sells-Doyle.

The AGC’s June meeting was held at the Essex Quarry Nature Preserve and opened to the public for an update on the project, with over 40 people in attendance. Steve presented on the ecology of the site, the limestone forest, the native plants, the history of the invasives brought in through quarrying and farming and the methods by which AGC has been removing invasives.  Laura presented on the collection and propagation of the native seeds and how important it is to maintain the ecotype of the seeds on site in order to preserve the integrity of the ecosystem.  After the presentations, Steve and Laura led a tour, pointing out the work, the methods and the plants.

Beyond restoring native plants to the affected area, the Essex Quarry Nature Preserve project has become a “real world” classroom for how such restoration can be successful. AGC’s Nancy Budd spoke at the Adirondack Park Invasive Plants Program (APIPP) annual Spring Partners meeting and received APIPP’s certificate of appreciation for work at the quarry. APIPP members and guests then toured the quarry project.

Nancy’s presentation can be viewed below.

YouTube video

CATS Summer Intern Peter Bliss,  a rising junior at Colgate University, is using the project area to conduct an experiment determining which plants are best able to grow in areas where buckthorn has been recently removed, looking at various buckthorn mitigation strategies  including the AGC’s approach.  The information Peter is recording will be useful for future projects removing invasive plant species in both Essex Quarry and elsewhere.

The Essex Quarry Nature Preserve project continues, and volunteers are always welcome. Contact the garden club through the contact form at

Photo at top: Steve Young, retired chief botanist at the New York Natural Heritage Program shows visitors to the AGC’s Essex Quarry Nature Preserve project examples of invasive plants and discusses the ecology of the site. Photo by Laura Sells-Doyle.

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Community news stories come from press releases and other notices from organizations, businesses, state agencies and other groups. Submit your contributions to Almanack Editor Melissa Hart at

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