gorse = juniper?

Thu Dec 6 10:15:00 EST 1990

> From: NZ%"A.S.Chamove at MASSEY.AC.NZ"      "A.S. Chamove"  6-DEC-1990
> To:   "Joseph M. Meyer" <JM01 at SWTNYSSA.BITNET>
> CC:
> Subj: Re: Interest
>  I am considering buying 300 acres of hilly land which is mostly gorse.
>  I am interested in eventually planting a mixed woodland of natives and
>  some exotics.  When I ask locals how to get rid of the gorse, they say:
>  1--grub it out with tractors, but this will severely damage the hillside.
>  2--spray, but this will kill native seedlings (and I dont really want to
>     do this anyway.
>  3--cut the gorse, but they will regrow.
>  I had thought of interplanting with fast-growing trees to shade out the
>  gorse, but then I would be left with dead gorse for 10 years.  Eucalypts
>  are fast growing, but would they kill the gorse.  Pines are fast growing
>  but they seem to inhibit the grass and lead to erosion.
>  Any suggestions?
>  -------------------------------------------------------------------
>  Arnold Chamove
>  Massey University Psychology
>  Palmerston North, New Zealand

Any land management scheme should be based on goals.  These may be
recreation, grazing, or wood production.  I'll assume that you want to
increase open areas of the land for recreational purposes, since grazing
on hillsides is uncommon in Texas, and gorse is probably a bushy plant
with little value in terms of lumber or firewood.

My dictionary tells me that gorse is a type of juniper.  We have a juniper
that grows heavily in the Edward's Plateau region of Texas.  This plant
is usually quite bushy and multi-stemmed, sometimes crowding out the
grasses completely.  It is generally found in semi-arid rocky areas with
little topsoil--in such cases, juniper growth is usually sparse and not
a problem.  If conditions are similar on the land you're considering,
you should be quite concerned with the possibility of erosion--especially
if radical changes in the vegetation are being considered.  However, our
juniper can also occur in thick groves--probably what you're experiencing.

Regardless of the soil and weather conditions, native vegetations exist for
a reason--they are more adapted to the conditions than other vegetation that
might have predominated otherwise.  This should be considered when decisions
are made on new types of vegetation to establish.  Radical procedures like
grubbing are likely to increase erosion by damaging soil structure and
ground cover.  Sometimes such procedures worsen the infestation of various
undesirable plants by spreading their seeds throughout the soil.  I would
also advise against the use of widespread spraying, due to the hazards of
herbicides--to you and the environment.  Also, as you mention, sprays will
probably damage the vegetation you want to preserve.

Widespread cutting would, as you say, result in much regrowth.  The
regrowth would also be multi-stemmed, making the problem of excessive
brush worse than before.  However, you might consider a slow process of
thinning to be conducted over a period of several years.

As natural stands of vegetation mature, larger plants crowd-out the
smaller ones.  This results in fewer and larger plants per acre, with
larger spaces between the individual plants.  You can increase the
speed of this process by pruning the multi-stemmed plants to a single
straight stem, and allowing them to mature at a faster rate.  The single
stem preserved on each plant will reduced the amount of regrowth from
cut areas, by shading the cut areas and using the plant's energy resources.
Resprouting can also be reduced by keeping enough surrounding plants, or
promoting enough grass growth, to provide shading on cut areas.
Alternatively, the resprouting can be reduced by the use of chemicals
such as Napthalene Acetic Acid (NAA) which are commercially available
for the prevention of resprouting on pruned fruit trees and ornamental

Anyway, I would suggest a long-term and gradual process of pruning and
thinning.  Once the gorse reaches a mature size, root and canopy competition
should reduce the problem of overcrowding.  Get some books on forest
silviculture, and read about pruning and thinning.  Root competition may
be a particular advantage for land management in arid regions.

Joseph M. Meyer
Office of Institutional Research and Planning
Southwest Texas State University
San Marcos, Texas  78666

        "Don't be humble; you're not that great." -- Golda Meir

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