Township of Morris Environmental Commission

December 2023 Newsletter

Invasive Japanese Barberry Helps Spread Lyme Disease

There may be many reasons to rid your property of Japanese Barberry bushes, but the one that may resonate with you most is the fact that removing your Barberry bushes can reduce your risk of Lyme disease!


Japanese Barberry was first introduced to the US in the mid 1800’s as an ornamental plant.  It has been escaping from cultivation ever since, and has become widely naturalized and terribly invasive in Northeast forests. Because deer do not eat Barberry, it has become the dominant understory plant in heavily browsed forests. We have many examples of that in Morris Township.


How does Barberry increase the prevalence of Lyme disease? Because of their dense growth, Barberry bushes provide an ideal habitat for white footed mice, known carriers of the Lyme causing bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Black-legged ticks feed on the mice, picking up the bacterium.  

Barberry also provides a dense and humid microclimate that ticks need to thrive. A recent Trinity College study (among many others) found that an abundance of Barberry correlated directly with an increase of white footed mice and black-legged ticks. Of course, the more infected ticks, the greater the chances of human infection.


There are other reasons to rid your property of Barberry:

  1. Barberry can alter the pH of your soil, making it more acidic and negatively affecting the growth of other plants.
  2. Many species of Barberry, especially Japanese and Common Barberry, are considered invasive in North America because they do not have natural predators or pathogens that keep it in check.
  3. Once established, Barberry is difficult to control due to its dense growth habit and prolific seed production.


For all of the above reasons, Japanese Barberry is on the NJ Invasive Species Strike Team’s Do Not Plant List which has been adopted by Morris Township. Unfortunately, due to consumer demand, our local nurseries still sell Barberry.  


In addition to not planting it, we should also be removing Barberry. The best way to remove Barberry is to dig it up, making sure to get all the roots, so that it does not re-sprout. You can also paint glysophate (Roundup) on any cut stumps.  Make sure to use gloves and do not spill on other plants, the soil, or yourself!


What can you plant instead of Barberry?  A lot of beautiful native plants that do not need special care and can help our local ecosystem:


How to Dispose of Your Christmas Tree Environmentally

Most experts agree that buying a real tree is the best eco-friendly option, because as trees grow, they clean the air and provide wildlife habitat.

Real trees are also biodegradable and recyclable, so if they are disposed of properly, they can give back to the environment long after the holiday is over.  

Perhaps the most eco-friendly thing you can do with your Christmas tree after Christmas may also be the easiest. After cutting the live tree, much of the carbon remains trapped in the wood. By turning it into mulch, that carbon can return to the soil.  

Fortunately, each January, Morris Township picks up Christmas trees and disposes of them at the Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority in Parsippany. The MUA double grinds them, along with other brush and tree parts, and creates mulch. The mulch is then available for our residents’ use, and can be picked up behind the Morris County Public Safety Training Academy at 500 West Hanover Ave. (You would need to bring your own container and load it yourself to transport it home.) Click here for more information about the MCMUA Vegetative Waste Recycling program.

Of all the places a tree can go, a landfill is the absolute worst for the environment. While trees do break down naturally, a lot of municipal trash ends up underground where there is little oxygen. The bacteria that thrive in these places tend to turn the carbon in waste into methane, which is worse for global temperature increases than carbon dioxide.  

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from your Morris Township Environmental Commission!!

Videos Celebrating Drew Forest

The Environmental Commission is proud to share with our readers two “Drew Forest videos” that are making the rounds.

The Morris County Commissioners recently approved Open Space funding for $5 million rather than the $10 million requested. Friends of Drew Forest remain undaunted in their commitment to help garner support for the funding that’s needed to preserve this unique and pristine natural resource.

These videos are a reminder of why this ongoing cause is so important to all of us.

The Peace of Wild Things - Harmonium chorale concert

The first combines images of the Forest’s natural beauty with uplifting chorale music from Harmonium’s concert last June. (Note: do not press the “play” arrow – just wait for the video to start.)

The Forest For Us All - Madison, NJ

This 9-minute video was produced by Madison Borough as part of their County Open Space application and features bipartisan support for preserving the Forest – from Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, Madison Mayor Bob Conley, and Senator Tony Bucco.

Our thanks to Friends of Drew Forest for sending these videos our way. Enjoy!

“Don’t think about the entire planet’s problems – you’ll get depressed – instead, focus on the piece of the earth you can influence.”

Doug Tallamy,

Entomologist, University of Delaware

Founder, Homegrown National Park

Sign the Pledge to Plant Native

Click here to sign our Plant Native pledge with your intent to:

  • Reduce the spread of the invasive plants that are harming our public parks and natural areas.

  • Provide native plants required for a healthy regional ecosystem of insects, birds and other wildlife.

Click on the PDF below for native plants that can replace invasive species.

How You Can Help:

Affiliations & Partnerships