Goatscaping – Biological Control for Invasive Plants

by Jon Hetman, Director of External Relations & Communications

October 4, 2016


Goatscaping – Biological Control for Invasive Plants

For the past month, a team of four goats have been munching their way through weeds, overgrowth, and brush in the Arboretum landscape. This new pilot program offers a novel approach to controlling noxious and invasive plants that prove difficult to contain by other means. The goats are contained in a small, electrified enclosure, which is moved to various sites in the landscape to contain plant pests like Japanese bittersweet, poison ivy, and buckthorn. This method of biological control, if proven effective, presents the opportunity to reduce the use of chemical controls and help us keep our plants and environment healthier. Read more about our landscape and collections care.

Goats Sept 2016peters_hill_goat_site1-2016_09_12-02-day6

By mid-month, the goats had cleared their enclosure of plant overgrowth and were moved to another location.

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The goats in their enclosure when they first arrived


The goats’ enclosure after two weeks of eating

A Tree Mob on Wednesday, September 21 drew a crowd of approximately 40 visitors to learn more about this exciting new experiment and see the goats in action. Pamela Thompson, Manager of Adult Education at the Arnold Arboretum, and Elaine Philbrick, co-founder of The Goatscaping Company, spoke about the benefits of using goats to manage landscapes and the Arboretum’s decision to employ them.

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Visitors arrive for a Tree Mob™ on goatscaping

Note—Two of four goats leased by the Arnold Arboretum for this program were attacked by an off-leash dog that jumped over their electrified enclosure on the afternoon of September 28. The goats sustained injuries which required suturing, and have been removed from the Arboretum for veterinary treatment. The dog was retrieved by Boston Animal Control for quarantine and its owner was fined. The Arboretum plans to continue the program despite this disturbing incident. As always, for the safety of all, please keep dogs leashed at all times in the Arnold Arboretum landscape.

The Arnold Arboretum’s stewardship of the Living Collections across our 281-acre landscape is a core part of our institutional mission. With an emphasizes on environmental sustainability, forging partnerships, and organism-centric plant care, we aim to expand and preserve our diverse collections as a preeminent resource for scientific study.

Read more about how the Arboretum’s Plant Health Care program.

3 thoughts on “Goatscaping – Biological Control for Invasive Plants

  1. I do not remember much poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) in the Arboretum when I lived in a house there from birth in 1935 to August 6, 1948, but out in Oregon where I now live, its close relative, poison oak (Toxicodendron divesilobum), is a much worse problem and goats are one of the best solutions.

  2. Hi Maria,

    The goats have finished their work here for the season and are heading back to their company. We might renew this project next year, stay tuned!

    -Arnold Arboretum

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