Combatting Invasive Species at Gowing's Swamp

Gowing's Swamp. Photo by Cherrie Corey.
Gowing's Swamp. Photo by Cherrie Corey.

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

The Gowing’s Swamp natural area in Concord supports a unique bog, vernal pools, and other wetlands surrounded by a walking trail through pleasant oak-pine woodlands. This SVT Reservation sits entwined with other conservation lands that together protect a delightful wetland habitat near Minute Man National Historical Park.

Over time, the area has become overrun with invasive plants such as Japanese knotweed, Asian bittersweet, and glossy buckthorn. These aggressive plants threaten the ecological health of this special area by squeezing out the native plants that native birds, bees, butterflies, and other insects rely upon for food and habitat.

Beginning in 2016, SVT and our conservation partners—the Concord Land Conservation Trust (CLCT), the Playscape at Ripley, and the Town of Concord—started removing invasive plants from the area and applying spot treatments of herbicides to discourage their return. 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.

Small Meadow Flowers at Gowing's Swamp. Photo by SVT Staff.

By 2018, the wildflowers were back! The small meadow by the cemetery enjoyed a resurgence of common milkweed (a host plant for monarch butterflies), goldenrod, dewberry, and other plants. In the smaller field near the Playscape, white asters, St. John’s wort, and red clover made an appearance.

The most amazing transformation was 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.

Gowing's Swamp Wildflowers-Summer 2022. Photo by SVT Staff.

In Summer 2022, we were thrilled to see an abundance and diversity of native flowering plants.

Now that we’ve seen how beautiful and healthy this area can be, we do not want the invasives to take over again. 

SVT staff and volunteers continue manual control throughout the year as maintenance. We also are applying herbicide to porcelain berry and bittersweet to get these vines under control. 

Project Details

You can find the full story in this pdf.

The protection of the Gowing’s Swamp environs began in 1971, when SVT was given 7 acres on the east side of the bog. In 1979, 17 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. SVT also partnered with the Playscape at Ripley to create an engaging gateway to this natural area.

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.

The Concord Natural Resources Commission supports this project. We use environmentally safe techniques that have been used in many biodiversity protection projects across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

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.