Pollinator Meadow

A pollinator meadow near Lexington Center

Lexington Living Landscapes, with a crew of dedicated volunteers, has embarked on a project to establish a pollinator meadow of native plants on the Minuteman Bikeway. The site is located about 1,000 feet east of Woburn Street, adjacent to the town conservation land known as the Brown Homestead.

The site the morning of June 5, just before we began work. Between the grass and the trees is a very vigorous stand of knotweed.

We chose this site for several reasons. Because it is adjacent to the popular bikeway, it gives many people the opportunity to enjoy the meadow and learn from the project. The site is good-sized and has great sun exposure, allowing us to grow a wide variety of native species. Unfortunately, in recent years the site has been overrun by a vigorous stand of invasive knotweed, an aggressive non-native plant that shades out most natives. But to us the chance to eliminate a population of this pesky invasive at the same time as creating the pollinator meadow was appealing.

Removing and controlling the knotweed will be a daunting challenge. Anyone who has fought knotweed in their own backyard knows what a vigorous, tenacious plant it is, growing quickly to 6 feet or more in height. It has underground crowns and rhizomes that can sprout new shoots for years.

Most of our hearty crew later in the day, with the cleared site in the background.

Because the site is within 100 feet of wetlands, we first applied to the Conservation Commission for permission. With their approval in hand, and with the town’s Conservation Department and DPW providing invaluable guidance and logistical help, on June 5 our crew of volunteers went to work. By the end of the week, we had physically cleared all the above-ground knotweed shoots from the site.

To provide a cover crop for the bare ground, we planted buckwheat seed, a common native summer cover crop that greens up quickly, suppresses weed growth, and is popular with bees. Within a week it had germinated, but the knotweed had already begun to sprout as well. Within two weeks, two-foot-high knotweed sprouts again covered the site.

This week (July 12, 2021) we began the first of two more cutting and pulling sessions for this summer. The strategy is to weaken the underground crowns and rhizomes by continually draining the energy they invest in above-ground sprouts before the growing stems can transfer their energy back underground. It’s not clear yet whether mechanical control alone will succeed; many experts recommend a foliar herbicide that is absorbed into the roots. We’re reluctant to go down that road and will make a decision next year. We hope to begin planting the native meadow in the fall of 2022.

If you have any questions, or would like to join us during our occasional cutting and pulling parties (it’s very therapeutic!), please contact us at lexlivingland@gmail.com.