My mom and I walked around Cheney Lake yesterday. She wanted to show me the amazing change in the forest. The May Day trees have just taken off and the trail is blooming from dozens of trees and fragrant from the flowers. There have been May Days as ornamental in the neighborhood, but never around the lake. We think the change in the forest began with the big wind storm in September of 2012. The high winds combined with a funnel effect created hurricane force winds knocking over and snapped the young poplars. You can see in the attached posts how the east side of the lake was like a giant pick-up-sticks game. Many of these fallen trees are still visible as little has been done to remove the windfall. That storm opened up the forest canopy. In a post from October 2016, my mom showed an example of how the damaged poplars were producing enormous leaves, apparently to compensate for the limbs lost from the storm. Anyway we think the wind storm was also an opportunity for the ornamental trees from neighboring properties to get a foot hold in the forest. This year, combined perhaps with great weather conditions, the trees are in full bloom and the trail is admittedly beautiful. We enjoyed the walk along the lake train and wondered about what this meant for the little Cheney forest and for Anchorage. We know the negative effects of the European Choke Cherries on moose. Unfortunately we think these are the same trees we refer to as the May Day. Some species confirmation would be helpful. We also saw a cow and calf moose on our walk bedded down in the woods on the north side. We wonder how these trees will effect the moose and other wildlife that frequent the park.
Brad Muir, Natural Resource Manager for Anchorage Parks and Recreation, writes:
Yes, May Day (prunus padus) trees are well known to be a problem to Anchorage Parks and Recreation. For years now, we have had multiple volunteer events a year to try to reduce the number of May Day trees in Anchorage Parks and along trails. In fact, we just had an event in Valley of the Moon Park a few weeks ago. There are also other events planned or in the works. Unfortunately, these invasive trees are wide spread throughout Anchorage and can be challenging to effectively remove, but we are trying. You can find some of our Anchorage Parks and Recreation volunteer opportunities and information here (events are added to the list, so keep checking): http://www.muni.org/Departments/parks/Pages/Volunteering.aspx
I emailed Alaska Fish and Game regarding your last question (about actions people can take to protect moose). They “don’t think wrapping trunks would do much good, as poisoning typically is from browsing twigs or leaves. Pruning limbs could make it worse, as damage to the tree stimulates toxin production. Tree removal is best, and don’t leave the felled tree or limbs out and available to moose to come along and feed on.” Here is an article on the subject
With that said, we do not want people to remove trees on public land unless it is in conjunction with, or under the supervision of, park staff or during a volunteer event.
Comments from LEO Editors:
Mayday trees (Prunus padus) are also known as the European Bird Cherry and Chokecherry. The species is native to northern Europe and Asia, and were introduced to Anchorage as ornamental plants in the 1980s. However, Mayday trees are harmful to both moose and salmon, and push out other important native plant species. Mayday trees spread easily through seed distribution by birds. They can also re-sprout from stumps, stems, and roots, making this a difficult species to eradicate. Systemic herbicides that are absorbed in to the plants vascular system are the most effective way to control mature Mayday trees, although small trees and seedlings can be uprooted by hand. Source: Alaska Plant Materials Center, Invasive Alert!