Coastal Ecology Program
Vegetation Planting and Maintenance
Vegetation is the glue that holds the dunes together. The strong, dense root systems hold sand and cobble in place and the stalks and branches above ground slow wind and catch sand. Special care and attention is paid to where, what, and how planting happens on Duxbury Beach.
Beach Grass & Shrub Planting
The Duxbury Beach Reservation began planting beach grass in 1973 in hopes of slowing erosion and strengthening the barrier beach. Experienced and knowledgeable Reservation trustees have tested, altered, and tweaked planting programs for decades to ensure the species, configuration, location, and maintenance of beach plantings are just right for Duxbury Beach.
American beach grass (Ammophila breviligulata) is planted on Duxbury Beach annually to replace grass lost due to storms and as part of restoration efforts. Beach grass planting is done is accordance with state regulations and recommendations. For example, new grass is planted 36" on center so as to protect beach nesting bird habitat.
Apart from beach grass, DBR plants woody species throughout the site as needed following storms and restoration work in areas of previously existing woody vegetation. Species that may be planted include: beach plum (Prunus maritima), bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Virginia rose (Rosa virginiana), rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa), and Virginia rose (Rosa virginiana). The dense root systems of these woody plants aid in stabilizing the dune system and their complex of dense, leafy branches lessen wind energy.
Beach Rose (Rosa rugosa) is a common ornamental rose species valued for its resistance to disease and hardiness in coastal environments. Though not a native species to North America, it has long been naturalized to the Northeast United States and is commonly found on beaches throughout Massachusetts. Duxbury Beach has large established stands of rugosa rose throughout the site, and is considered a common plant on the beach.
Rugosa rose can spread quickly, and is considered invasive in some regions and habitats in Massachusetts (Mass.gov). Because of its tendency to shade out native plants, planting Rugosa Rose in coastal landscaping is sometimes discouraged. Virginia Rose (Rosa virginiana) is the predominant native rose species for coastal ecosystems in New England.
In 2018 the Reservation initiated a mini-experiment to compare the use of two beach rose species, Rosa rugosa and Rosa virginiana, on a restored section of dune in order to determine whether one grew better on Duxbury Beach. In addition, the project aimed to determine if rugosa rose exhibits invasive tendencies on the beach.
With the impacts of climate change becoming more prevalent, dune renourishment and planting events are likely to be frequent and necessary projects. By understanding how woody plants grow on Duxbury Beach, the Duxbury Beach Reservation (DBR) can better prepare for these projects by choosing plants that are most suitable to the specific beach conditions. It is our hope that by choosing suitable plants for the site the beach flora will be stronger and healthier, assisting to boost the integrity of the dune.
Invasive Plant Removal
Vegetation is an important part of a barrier beach - both to strengthen the dunes and provide habitat to various species. However, certain plant species can cause harm by crowding out native plants. Invasive plants tend to out-compete native plants and spread like wildfire - this disrupts the natural workings of the local ecosystem. Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) is one such plant that grows on Duxbury Beach.
Japanese knotweed is native Asia and was brought to the United States as an ornamental in the late 1800s. It spreads rapidly and crowds out other plants. The Reservation has worked for many seasons to reduce the stands of knotweed that grow around the High Pines area of Duxbury Beach. In order to do so, DBR staff and volunteers remove knotweed with shovels, being careful to remove the roots as well, early in the season when plants are small. Knotweed is left to dry out and then disposed of so that it does not have a chance to re-root or spread to new areas.
While there are many methods for knotweed removal, due to the extensive work done previously to decrease the amount and spread of the invasive on the site the area of concern is now small and managed best with hand pulling.
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