Girdling Ligustrum on the Green Belt

For the past three weeks, our crew has been girdling Ligustrum on a section of the Green Belt in Austin. If you don’t know, Ligustrum is a very invasive species of tree that had almost completely overtaken this stretch of the Green Belt. The city of Austin had hired us to come in and help remove these trees with a volunteer-friendly method, as part of a study being conducted on how Ligustrum regenerate tissue, and how to more easily involve the public in our efforts to restore native species to the Green Belt.

The process of girdling a tree is a simple, but tedious one. To start you need to cut a ring into the circumference of the tree at roughly breast height, and then cut a second ring about six to eight inches away from your first. All of the bark in between these two lines needs to be removed. In order to remove the bark we use tools called ‘14-in-one’s (basically paint scrapers) and peel away until the wood beneath is exposed. The goal here is to get any wet material out, and ensure that the exposed wood is dry, and relatively white in appearance. Even this process of girdling isn’t enough to kill the tree, however. Maintenance is required to ensure the death of the tree. Sprouts will periodically appear as the tree tries to regenerate, and these have to be removed. It will take roughly one and a half years before the tree finally dies, depending on the size, and other things; like whether or not it’s root system has grown and connected with another.

Aside from girdling we also pulled smaller Ligustrum trees with our trusty ‘Weed Wrenches’. All in all we completed 32 plots. Hopefully our work will contribute in a significant way, I hope to return and see a difference some day.


Robert Moeller – Field Crew Member

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