How not to kill mountain laurel
Generally, interfering understory vegetation is not a major hindrance to regenerating mixed-oak forests on less productive sites unless mountain laurel dominates the understory. When this evergreen shrub becomes so plentiful that is forms thickets, then the oak regeneration process stops. Forest managers need to know which of several silvicultural treatments is the most efficient means of controlling mountain laurel so oak seedlings can be established and developed into competitive reproduction. To address this problem, a Forest Service scientist began a comparative study of seven common treatments for controlling mountain laurel: cutting, burning, cutting followed by burning, crushing, two herbicide application methods, and no management (control). Five years after applying the treatments, the mountain laurel had sprouted, and the thickets were quickly reforming in all treatments. Furthermore, several treatments caused black birch, blackgum, and sassafras to regenerate en masse. Relative to doing nothing, three treatments actually made the situation worse for oak seedlings and three only slightly improved conditions, but those benefits appear to be fading rapidly and will be gone in a few more years. Clearly, controlling mountain laurel thickets will require different approaches than what the scientist tried in this project.
Forest Service Partners