Woodland Restoration Suggestions Please

Kinston, NC

I wanted to introduce myself and seek out advice and community. I am a newbie here at Dave's, just working on my first trade, and having a wonderful time with all of the resources here. Last year we moved into a home on 5a of woodland. There is no lawn, we are pretty much surrounded to the house with woodland that has been left to its own devices for a very long time. As a result, there was good news and bad news. The good news, no chemicals have been used, the ecosystem seems pretty healthy for wildlife, the bad news, extensive Privet infestation, poison ivy vines 4" in diameter, grape vines even larger, extensive non-native Honeysuckle, and extensive Greenbriar along the sunny margins. There is at least one other shrub that I have yet to identify that will most likely qualify for invasive status.

My approach thus far is manual removal of unwanted materials and a wait-and-see what appears. So far so good. I did purchase some tree seedlings from the NC Forest Service this winter to start to restock the under-story destroyed by the Privet (Crabapple and Redbud thus far). My primary goal is a healthy native ecosystem but I'm not against pretty spring shows in the woods. I've been particularly amazed at the size of the underground sections of Greenbriar, some of which are a couple of pounds of bizarre looking tuber-link beasts with wiry roots. A great by product of this effort is me getting stronger each day!

This project will be ongoing as long as we live here. The environment ranges from a sunny margin on the lane, through mature, mixed hardwood and pine upland, then down the hill toward moist and then wetland sort of areas of mixed hardwood and pine, across the cleared sewer right-of-way, and along an incredibly infested area between a small creek and the right-of-way.

I'm reading, collecting a few books, learning how to scrub poison ivy off me, etc. but any suggestions on specifics to-dos or don'ts would be greatly appreciated. There is really not much, if any, like minded community nearby. I'm Downeast in NC with sweet wonderful folks who unfortunately approach the out doors by poisoning the crap out of any stray bit of life beyond the green lawn and sterile landscaping. The neighbors actually took down their entire woodland and replaced it with an erosion prone lawn because they didn't like spiders.

Many thanks, Karen

Thumbnail by woodland_karen
Saylorsburg, PA

Are you opposed to using poison to remove the poison ivy? I have used a chemical to selectively (meaning spray the plant itself) remove poison ivy as I'm allergic to it. Virginia creeper serves the same purpose here in PA and isn't allergy inducing. I would NOT recommend burning the poison ivy, as it will cause allergic reactions to any person nearby who is suspceptible.
As far as wetland plants go, I may be able to help you with that. I live in an area with ummm...swampy vernal pools etc. :) COrrie

Saylorsburg, PA

Also, if you happen to get a bad case of poison ivy, a good suggestion from a person who had it for 3 months about 10 years ago (me): cold shower with clearasil acne remover. It will remove the poison ivy oils from your skin. THe reaction should go away within three days if you clean it off right.

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

As you plan your additions in you restoration I highly recomend the book Bringing Nature Home by Douglas Tallamy. An extremely well written explaination of the impact of the plant choices you make. Easy, enjoyable reading with excellent photos, and very informative.

Kinston, NC

Thank you for your replies. In terms of poison ivy. I am avoiding the use of chemicals. I have so much of it and chemicals do not work well on it, I am pretty much stuck with manual removal. I would end up killing every living thing before I could get rid of it. I'm stocked up on Tecnu wash for post exposure, and Zanfel scrub for places I've missed and the rash appears. The scrub will actually stop the reaction.

The book by Tallamy sounds perfect! I've been mostly sticking with the idea of only planting what is native to this area but it would be great to have a clue what I may be doing.


Saylorsburg, PA

Okay, you're welcome. Just checking about the poison ivy. That stuff is awful.
I thought you might be interested in some wetland plants/seeds that are native to my area and yours if I have extras. I'm pretty into the native gardening myself and don't buy anything nonnative except veggies. But its fine if you aren't interested. :)
A book that I enjoy is: Gentians for Your Garden (Doretta Klaber) some are native, hard to grow without proper instruction. I have seeds for Gentiana Crinita. (wetlands, native to most of the US.)

Cedarhome, WA(Zone 8b)

I have adopted the rather generic idea of editing my native areas -- snipping or pulling out invasives or just too much of one thing, revegging with natives, introducing some near-natives (cultivars are often prettier and I figure the creatures will likely not know the diff), and creating/maintaining pathways. It have been fun for me to see what shows up on its own.

Cuddebackville, NY(Zone 5b)

Hi - Two things. There is a good book called 'The Woodland Garden.' Can't remember the authors' names - it's up in my country house (wooded) and I'm back in NYC but if you can't find it and are interested I'll be happy to post more information. It was published about 10-15 years ago and has great ideas and suggestions for wooded gardens. I'm in NY State and we have 1) thin soil over slate and shale, and 2) very acidic soil even too acidic and thin for things like rhododendrons and azaleas so do get your soil tested. Hope this helps. I think woodland gardens are so much lovelier and more interesting and easier to care for than just a plain old lawn anyway.

Kinston, NC

Wow, NYC, my old stomping grounds. I was in Manhattan for about a dozen years. Went to scIhool, raised kids...
I will be looking for the text. Many thanks

Saraland, AL(Zone 8b)


I have been battling an Asian invasion for a few years now. I had a massive amount of popcorn trees (chinese tallow), chinese privets, japanese honeysuckle and that fern looking vine. I also have the greenbriar, poison ivy and virginia creeper.

I had a landscaper friend of mine cut down 13 popcorn trees, 8 large privets and countless saplings along the back part of my property. I can tell you that cutting them down only made them grow back faster. I since has spayed the invaders with a chemical called Arsenal AC-contains a large amount of imazipyr- (worked very well but kills just about everything but pines). Still this week there are popcorn tree suckers sprouting out of the roots not to mention the hunderds of seedling that I have to pull by hand.

The creeper, poison ivy and honeysuckle was easily killed by Ortho brush be gone-contains a very small amount of triclopyr.

Anyway, what I'm suggesting is that if you want to take the all natural manual approach to the privets, etc, you will have to cut the tree, dig up the roots and then pull suckers and saplings for many years. They are pretty much here to stay unless you kill the entire plant.

There are a lot of different chemicals and appliaction techniques that you should consider before writing off chemicals completely. Here's a few, more can be found by BASF and du Pont.


This message was edited May 15, 2011 8:02 PM

Cuddebackville, NY(Zone 5b)

Hi - yup I raised my kids in Manhattan and we have a property about 80 miles north and west in Orange County where they enjoyed playing while growing up. They still like (son home from college, here in the living room with me) it and I am trying to convert some of it to a commercial hazelnut orchard. Plants that look nice in the wooded parts and we've had luck with are - witch hazel, rhododendron, tree hydrangea, dogwoods, stewartia. You'll have better luck with an easier climate too. The book I mentioned is called 'The Woodland Garden: Planting in Harmony with Nature." R. Roy Forster and Alex M. Downie, Firefly Books, 2000. Monica

Ozone, AR(Zone 6a)

Wanted to congratulate you on your decision to go native.
I did about 20 years ago. I live in the Ozark National Forest. Unfortunately most of the forest is pine which is not native. My land has,Red and white Oak,Hickory,maple,dogwood,Sourgum, sweetgum,Wild Black Cherry,Persimmon,etc. Have Strangle vine,Virginia Creeper,Yes Poison Ivy,(Its native)Yellow native honeysuckle,Muskadine,Wild Grape etc.Plants too numerous to mention.including Wild Jacobs Ladder,violets,Fire Weed,Native dwarf iris,ferns,cone flowers,Wild Geranium,Queen Anns lace,Liatris,Polk,Huckleberrys,blackberrys, Salet,Huckleberrys,Blackberrys,Dewberrys,
I guess i kinda consider it a sacred trust to protect it.

Crofton, MD(Zone 7a)

Hi woodland_karen. Hope you don't mind if I add my $.02. A good first step is to find out what's native to your exact location. You can contact your local native plant society. Here's a link-


The NC Native Plant Society could be a great resource. Their website mentions plant sales and plant and seed exchanges.

Next, I would identify the plants you are pulling. There are at least five species of grapevine that are native to the eastern US. Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is also native, though not English ivy (Hedera helix). Both native vines produce fruit that is important winter food for songbirds. I'm sure you wouldn't want to accidently starve your bird populations.

Planting crabapples trees is absolutely wonderful! If you don't have them, plant some native trees that provide winter food for wildlife, such as hickory or oak. The NC Native Plant Society will be happy to suggest species with high wildlife value.

I admire what you are doing. You are setting a great example. Good luck with your project.

Kinston, NC

Thank you all for your responses. Although I am well aware that "going native" is nothing new, I feel terribly alone in eastern NC. The nearest area with like minded folks that I am aware of would be the Raleigh metro and areas westward. I have been using the NC Native Plant Society website extensively and i suspect I would have made a number of contacts already were I not out on the coastal plain and too busy at work.

Thanks for the tip on grapevines, I have no idea which one is so overwhelming here but I will pursue an identification. I am under no illusion of being able to eradicate poison ivy no matter how much I might wish it (I know [insert guilt]..., food for wildlife, but I am happy to plant other resources!) or the grape vine. I am only going for reduction at this point. The Japanese honeysuckle and privet I would dearly love to lose entirely, but I know that it will be an ongoing issue and I intend to pursue it. Overall the woodlands are pretty healthy, there is a mixed stand of hardwoods and pine with plenty of hickory and black walnut producing for the wildlife (btw the more black walnuts the squirrels attack while they are immature, the less they are endangering the cats and our sanity when they come down like bombs on our roof and deck later). I've noticed that the deer are enjoying the Sassafras as well as other browse items and I have officially given up on growing beans, evidently they are like crack to deer. The Hollies produce abundantly as well as a few Dogwoods and a few others.

Our deck is on the nightly (repeated) rounds of the Possums, we've also been visited by raccoons, and the other day a doe was browsing an area we opened up last year around 10 yards from the deck. There dozens of bird, reptile, spider and insect species and most likely a very healthy bat population as the mosquitoes have not been bad since moving here. Now I am awaiting the peek of the firefly season. It is magical.

Every day since moving here last year I feel incredibly fortunate and grateful, the very least I can do is to try to be a good caretaker. Check out this morning's sounds, it was our first rain in over a month.

thanks again, Karen

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

Karen - contact your local Extension Office and get acquainted with the Master Gardeners program. They are avid gardeners with diverse interests who work to share knowledgw with the public. Some members are likely into native plants/woodland restoration and will be happy to give you advice.

Ozone, AR(Zone 6a)

Are there any state or national forests around? I've got valuable information from forest rangers and they are big on keeping things as natural as possible.I really hope you will keep things as natural as you can. We are losing too much natural forests.Have fun whatever you do.

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7b)

Hi Karen: :)

There are plenty of like minded people in NC - just hard to find them in one place.

I have up-close and personal experience with both the NC Master Gardeners' program and the NC Native Wildflower people. I burned some bridges with both by trying to enforce a deed restriction on property donated to the municipality by a land conservancy organization to plant "only native plants." Unfortunately, in my experience with both, "going native" is poorly understood on a broad scale, especially for restoration purposes.

But I digress. The best course for you is to DIY and either learn it yourself by gathering materials and information over time. There are lots of resources available online, and I'd be glad to dig and share what I have.

Trying to find plants that are native to your particular site may be challenging and frustrating. It sounds like you already have a lot of work to do an removing invasives from the understory could keep you busy for years. I respect your desire to stay away from chemicals.

After trying to go native for some time, here is the book that led me to realize I was involved in restoration:


Here is a link to a nursery that grows native wetland plants for restoration projects:


(worked there for a period)

One in NC:


I will look for more resources. Let me know how I can help. :)


p.s. I have relatives down east and have traveled through Kinston many times. It's a beautiful area.

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