Timeline & Activities

The Citizen Science project is expected to run through 2022. Participants conduct an ecological experiment to advance our understanding of using native plants to control buckthorn. While we are currently at capacity, you can fill out this contact form to stay informed of project activities and potential volunteer expansion in the future. 

Prior to spring 2020

View of forest canopy from below

Between summer 2019 and spring 2020, participants will identify an area ~ 30 x 40 ft where they want to set-up their project site. The site will need to meet the following three conditions:

  1. Have buckthorn present or recently present in the case of new removals. 
  2. Be set-up within a forest or woodland area with at least 50% non-buckthorn tree cover (e.g. oaks, maples, etc.).
  3. Be located on property within Minnesota.

Sites will be reviewed by the UMN research team to ensure site conditions are met.

Remove buckthorn

Once the area for the project is identified and confirmed with UMN research team, participants will need to remove all buckthorn stems over 1 ft tall. Participants can use any removal method that best suits their needs. The MN DNR website provides information on buckthorn removal methods. Participants who want to use herbicide can do so, but we ask that no herbicide be applied on the 30 x 40 ft project site once the squares have been planted in spring 2020. Follow-up cutting of buckthorn during the experiment can be done by simply cutting at ground level. It's likely that herbicide treatments during the initial removal phase will reduce the need for these cutting activities.

Spring 2020

Experiment design graphic showing 30 by 40 foot buckthorn removal area and small plots where 3 will be seeded and 3 will be non-seeded

Set-up & Seed Mix

Within the 30 x 40 ft removal area, participants will set-up six 5x5 ft experimental squares. Three of the squares will be planted with a native seed mix containing a variety of grasses, sedges, wildflowers, shrubs and trees. The remaining three squares will be the experiment’s control squares and will not be seeded. The seed mix includes species that 1) may provide dense shade in situations ranging from fairly open woodlands through to closed forests, 2) have approximately state-wide ranges, and 3) are available locally through Minnesota seed suppliers. Follow this link for a list of species included in the seed mix.

Buckthorn seedlings planted in a circle around a flag

Plant test buckthorn

At each square, participants will also plant test buckthorn seeds provided by the project. Buckthorn test seeds will be placed in a circle around a small flag. Using these test buckthorn seedlings, we can track the germination and growth of buckthorn during the experiment. At the end of the project, participants will remove the planted test buckthorn seedlings.

All materials needed for the experiment will be provided at no cost to participants by the University of Minnesota.

Summer 2020-2022

Cutting non-seeded buckthorn

Cut non-test buckthorn

During the summer months of June, July, and August, participants will cut all buckthorn that was not directly planted for experimental purposes. (In other words, non-test buckthorn.) For details, see: https://coveritup.umn.edu/summer20.

End-of-summer 2020-2022

Two people collecting observations of plant growth in a 5 by 5 foot plot

Observe & report


Participants will measure the survival and growth of test buckthorn, estimate areas covered by different types of plants, and take pictures of the squares and of the tree canopy. Video training will be announced via email and available on this page: https://coveritup.umn.edu/end-of-season.

Autumn 2022 - End of project

Once final observations have been collected in summer 2022, participants will need to remove and destroy the seeded test buckthorn from their experimental squares.