Saving Bogus Lake Fen – Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary

October 5, 2015
Rachelle Roake
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Bogus Lake Fen - Haehnle Sanctuary

Bogus Lake Fen at Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary. In the background, a wall of invasive Glossy Buckthorn looms.

The Stewardship Committee at Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary had a problem – a problem 45 acres in size, in the shape of a doughnut. Unfortunately, this is not an actual 45-acre doughnut but instead a glossy buckthorn infestation of epic proportions.

Glossy buckthorn is a woody plant species that can range in size from a multi-stemmed shrub, to a tree up to 20 feet tall. This invasive from Eurasia was once touted as a wildlife shrub, since its dark, glossy berries attracted creatures large and small. Now that its invasive nature is known, this plant is often the bane of land managers. As compared to glossy buckthorn’s close relative common buckthorn, glossy typically invades wetter sites like prairie fens, which provide critical habitat for threatened and endangered species like Mitchell’s Satyr, Spotted Turtle, and Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake.

Here is where the story at Haehnle picks back up. Haehnle Sanctuary likely featured large areas of prairie fen in the past, but thanks to invaders like glossy buckthorn, the fen is now at the center of a very large, very nasty, glossy buckthorn doughnut.

Haehnle Bogus Lake Fen Buckthorn

Map of Bogus Lake Fen area within Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary, Pleasant Lake, MI. The tan area labeled “Sedge Meadow Zone” represents the fen, threatened by the surrounding green glossy buckthorn.

Bogus Lake Fen, the name of which requires a story for another day, is threatened by this daunting 45-acre fortress of glossy buckthorn that is slowly collapsing inwards on what remains of the native flora. With limited volunteer power and budget to tackle such a daunting task, the Haehnle Stewardship Committee turned to outside assistance. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, championed in our area by Tom Eitniear, offers financial and planning assistance to land owners and other groups, like non-profits, looking to improve habitat. Jackson Audubon and Michigan Audubon contributed matching funds to get Operation Save Bogus Lake Fen started this fall. Tom and his crew got to work and take it from me; these guys do not mess around when it comes to invasive species removal. Check out the video below for a sample of the destructive power they bring to the table. The work being done would take a volunteer crew years to complete. Just in time for the crane count, the southern-most layer of the buckthorn has been removed and visitors will glimpse, for the first time in decades, Bogus Lake Fen.


Unfortunately this is only the beginning of a multi-year project, contingent upon funding. Michigan Audubon and Jackson Audubon provided the first year match; however, this will barely cover half of the removal. Follow up treatments are necessary to exhaust the glossy buckthorn seed bank and allow the native seed bank, likely suppressed now for decades, to spark back to life. We feel confident that the native plants will take hold once the invasives are removed, but the project will only be successful with continued funds from outside sources. If you support our efforts to restore this increasingly rare plant and animal community, please consider donating to the project or volunteering at the sanctuary. And even if you can’t donate or volunteer, please come visit Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary this fall – watch them clobber this glossy buckthorn doughnut one bite at a time.