Gowing's Swamp--Project to Combat Invasive Species

August 2018 

The wildlife habitat around the Gowing’s Swamp wetlands is being transformed!

SVT and our conservation partners have been removing invasive plants from the area, and this has allowed a diversity of native and other non-invasive plants to thrive and provide food and habitat for our native pollinators and birds.

The Gowing’s Swamp natural area in Concord supports a unique bog, vernal pools, and other wetlands that are surrounded by a walking trail through pleasant oak-pine woodlands.  The protection of the Gowing’s Swamp environs began in 1971, when Sudbury Valley Trustees (SVT) was given seven acres on the east side of the bog. In 1979, seventeen acres were protected as part of the Edmonds Road condominium development. And in 2012, the Concord Land Conservation Trust (CLCT) raised funds to purchase another seven acres to the west.  Most recently, SVT partnered with the Playscape at Ripley to create an engaging gateway to this natural area.

Over time, the area became overrun with invasive plants such as Japanese knotweed, Oriental bittersweet, and glossy buckthorn. These aggressive plants threatened the ecological health of this special area, as they squeezed out the native plants that native birds, bees, butterflies, and other insects rely upon for food and habitat.

In 2015, the Playscape, CLCT and SVT developed a plan to improve the interpretive and viewing elements of the Playscape, and to combat the invasive plants. We began implementing the invasive control plan in 2016, when we cleared plants from the highly invaded areas and applied a targeted herbicide treatment.  SVT and our volunteers also experimented with the use of “buckthorn baggies” to cut and cover glossy buckthorn as a way to kill the shrubs; unfortunately, that technique was less than 50% effective.

As of 2018, wildflowers are back!  We have observed a significant reduction in invasive plants and a resurgence of native wildflowers and other beneficial plants.  In the small meadow by the cemetery, we have had a resurgence of common milkweed (a host plant for monarch butterflies), wild indigo, goldenrod, dewberry, and other plants. In the smaller field near the Playscape, white asters, St. John’s wort, and red clover have appeared. 

The most amazing transformation has been the conversion of a solid wall of Japanese knotweed to a beautiful field of black-eyed susans (pictured), dotted with white vervain, pretty yellow partridge pea, and other native and non-invasive plants. The nectar of black-eyed susans attracts checkerspot butterflies, and its seeds attract many birds.  White vervain provides nectar and pollen for native bees.

We are thrilled with this success, but our work is not yet done.  Invasive plants are still lurking. We conducted another round of limited herbicide application in mid-August 2018, which will complete the planned project. And because invasive species control never really ends, we will continue to do spot treatments and removal each year. Now that we’ve seen how beautiful and healthy this area can be, we do not want the invasives to take over again.

Project Details

Funding was provided by Concord Community Preservation Committee (CPC) and the Town of Concord, CLCT, the Suasco CISMA (Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area), and individual SVT members and Concord residents ($2,540). 

The Concord Natural Resources Commission supports this project, and we are using environmentally safe techniques that have been used in many biodiversity protection projects across the Commonwealth.  SVT is a member of the Suasco CISMA, in which conservation professionals share their expertise and promote best management practices for invasive species management. 


Contact SVT’s Laura Mattei at 978-443-5588 x134 or [email protected].

Read more about Gowing's Swamp.