Friday, February 6, 2015

What Is A "Save A Tree" Day?

The Concept:

The simple truth behind every "Save A Tree" Day is that you can do an awful lot of good in a very short time just by cutting one oriental bittersweet vine. This one small act will prevent thousands of seeds from developing and spreading the severe infestation that is destroying trees around Glastonbury.

By bringing together many volunteers we can cut hundreds of vines in a day and reduce infestation potential by hundreds of thousands of berries.

The vines causing this infestation were cut during our November 2013 SAT Day.
Too late for the tree, sadly, which was part of the ecologically important riparian zone along the Connecticut River.

The Process:

"Save A Tree" (SAT) Days are relatively unstructured, unpublicized work days that bring together experienced, vetted bittersweet battlers (known as the "Gold Level Team").

Events are organized with the support of the Town of Glastonbury. Event sites are on Town of Glastonbury property, typically parks and conservation areas.

SAT Day scheduling targets short term opportunities during chillier months to get the team into a site during a known weather window (typically during winter, early spring and late fall) when target sites are clear of foliage. This makes a huge difference in accessibility. Because the events are weather-dependent they are typically on short notice. We try to grab the few good days, whether on weekends or weekdays.

The goal of SAT Days is to have quick, simple events that require minimal effort to organize, while producing maximum hands-on eradication results. The goal is usually to cut vines thereby eliminating the following season's crop of berries.

In most cases no special site access prep will be done by the Town so SAT Days are for "heavy hitter" experienced people only.

What Is The Gold Level Team?

Gold Level Team volunteers are experienced with proper oriental bittersweet eradication practices, are on the Gold Level Team (GLT) list, and have been vetted by a Save A Tree (SAT) Day Event Coordinator. This strong vetting process is important for safety reasons and because it is required by the Town as a condition of having SAT Days.

SAT Day Event Coordinators may allow a non-Gold Level volunteer to participate only after a thorough orientation and observation of their work techniques. If the volunteer is proficient the SAT Day coordinator will have them added to the GLT list to receive future event invitations.

The Gold Level Team currently has almost 50 members with between 10 and 15 typically being available to attend any particular event. This is an outstanding participation rate for such a small group. The key to doing more in the long run is to increase the overall size of the Team. That is our primary goal and we depend on Team members to help spread the word.

SAT Day invitations are sent to the Gold Level via e-mail several days ahead of the event. Because of the short notice (due to the unpredictability of weather) it is not expected that members of the Gold Level make extraordinary efforts to attend events. If you can make it, great! If not, that's OK. Join the group when you can and don't worry about it when you can't.

Some of the Gold Level Team on SAT Day, November 18, 2013


How To Join The Gold Level Team

All qualified bittersweet battlers are welcome to join! There are no Gold Level Team membership dues.

 The Gold Level Team requires working independently in a more challenging work area with heavier equipment (loppers, bow saws), as well as the ability to identify bittersweet and poison ivy vines, avoid cutting non-invasives, and to work safely.

If you are interested in joining the Gold Level team please send a brief outline of your experience to and once approved and/or vetted you will be added to the Gold Level "Save A Tree" work day notification list.

If you are already receiving event invitations, you're already on the team.

If you're on the team and are no longer able to volunteer, you can un-join by using the "unsubscribe" function in the event announcements and you will be removed from the list. If you must leave the team please accept our sincere thanks for your past support. We hope you'll stay on the list because moral support is always appreciated!

Role Of The Event Coordinator

Several people are eligible to coordinate SAT Days. The Event Coordinator's name for each event is provided in the event announcement, which is sent to volunteers by e-mail several days before the event.

Event Coordinators work alongside other volunteers, but will walk the work site occasionally to make sure things are proceeding safely and as expected.

Event Coordinator(s) on site will typically be wearing a brightly colored safety vest.

Note to Event Coordinators: Be sure to make use of the event planning guidelines and checklist (click here) in order to comply with the steps agreed to with the Town.

Plant Identification

The following video playlist will help you identify poison ivy and oriental bittersweet. This could save you an ocean of calamine lotion, or worse, a trip to the emergency room.

Please take the risk of poison ivy seriously, take every precaution, and thorough clean-up is a must after you are done working. Remember that the urushiol oil (the oil that causes the allergic reaction) is very persistent on shoes, clothing, tools, gloves, etc, which means family members and others can be exposed via contact with these items (while putting your SAT Day clothing in the laundry, for example).

Click here to go to the plant identification video playlist.

What To Wear

  • Heavy gloves capable of withstanding multiflora rose thorns. We recommend gloves with heavy collars (gauntlet-type gloves) to prevent thorns from getting into any gap between glove and sleeve.
  • Sturdy footwear that extends up to cover at least the ankle, if possible.
  • No flip-flops, sandals or ordinary shoes worn without socks.
  • Eye protection.
  • Hat.
  • Long-sleeved shirt.
  • Long pants.
  • Sunblock (perspiration resistant).
  • Bug spray of choice.

What To Bring

You will need to provide your own tools. Mark your tools with your name, initials or other method to distinguish your tools from those of others. Bring what you have:

  • Heavy Gloves: Capable of withstanding multiflora rose thorns. Tip: Break in your gloves prior to the work day to avoid developing blisters.
  • Eye Protection
  • Loppers:
  • Pruning Shears:
  • Small Bow Saw (Recommended):


  • Water, sports drink or other non-alcoholic hydration.
  • Sun block (perspiration resistant).
  • Tecnu or other poison ivy wash.
  • Insect repellent.
  • Antihistamine of your choice in case of bee sting.

  • Small Pruning Saw:
  • Weed Wrench:
  • Pruning Stick (6' maximum length):

SOMETHING TO CARRY YOUR TOOLS: If you bring more than a few tools you may want to bring a tool belt, pail or other means of carrying your tools around the site. This helps keep track of them.

DO NOT BRING: Axes, hatchets, machetes, power tools (chain saws, weed whackers, etc.); heavy equipment (brush hogs, generators, etc.); pole saws, chains, come-alongs. We will not be doing heavy work so leave the Cat D4 at home.




, Waiver Requirement, and Sign-Out

Every volunteer MUST sign in upon arrival.

A waiver is required by the Town and MUST be signed before doing any work. Copies will be provided for signing on the SAT Day.

Volunteers MUST sign out. We have to make sure everybody is accounted for at the end of the work session.

Expected Work Technique ("The Glastonbury Method")

Extensive research was done to establish a consistent best practice for cutting oriental bittersweet vines. This included speaking with other experts at universities, government agencies, conservation groups, and in other towns (note that this does NOT apply to poison ivy vines; see comment below). The combination of oriental bittersweet best practices resulted in the following general guideline for workers:

1. Cut vines about 1 foot above ground level. This allows for easy identification of cut vines in the future so resprouting can be dealt with and treatment is facilitated (if feasible).

2. Second cut is made about 6 feet above ground level, so about a 5 foot section is cut out of the vine. This prevents future regrowth from attaching itself to the hanging cut/dead vines and following them back into the tree.

3. Discard the 5 foot sections into pile(s) if possible, rather than strewing them around and creating a trip hazard when the site is revisited for future maintenance.

4. Cut all vines in the above manner, creating a 360 degree "no vine zone" entirely around the tree trunk from 1 foot above ground to about 6 feet above ground. This makes it much easier to spot and cut new vines trying to attack the tree in the future.

5. Cutting vines about 6 feet off the ground allows the dead vines to be carefully tugged at in future years as they dry out and decompose. It may take 5+ years for all the hanging vines to drop from the tree.

6. DO NOT force hanging vines to come down by pulling hard on them. This can damage tree branches or worse, bring a limb down on your head or someone else's.

7. Poison Ivy: The above practices do not apply to poison ivy, which is a clinging vine. Never cut large poison ivy vines with a saw above waist-level; if you saw the vines higher up there is a very high risk of saw dust drifting onto your face, which is NOT GOOD.

Nicely done job using the Glastonbury Method. Note the very high number of vines that were cut to save this tree.

Safety First

You are responsible for taking appropriate safety precautions and for working in a manner that does not risk the safety of others. This includes but is not limited to:
  • Learning how to identify and avoid poison ivy.
  • Signing in upon arrival.
  • Not beginning work before the SAT Day start time.
  • Knowing how to safely work with the tools you bring.
  • Leaving a safety margin between yourself and other volunteers.
  • Carefully handling any debris.
  • Not leaving tools on the ground where others might trip or be injured.
  • Wearing attire that is appropriate for the work.
  • Following all safety instructions provided.
  • Checking yourself for ticks, using poison ivy wash, and showering as soon as you reasonably can after finishing work.
  • Properly and promptly cleaning all tools, attire including hats, gloves and shoes, and making sure that family members and others at home are not exposed to the poison ivy oil (urushiol) that may be on items you used or wore at the work day.
  • If you are want to help but are not able to do the heavier work, or are unsure of how you may react to poison ivy, there are other ways to help so please contact the Event Coordinator.

Two-Person Rule:
No volunteer is allowed to work alone at the site. There must be at least two people (including the Event Coordinator) at the site at all times. If the number falls below two the work must stop.

First Aid:
There will be a basic safety kit at the work site sign-in table. Feel free to bring your own safety kit and any medications unique to your situation (for example, if you are very allergic to bee stings).

Be sure to stay well hydrated. You need to bring your own water and any snacks. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.


General Questions or Comments: Please email

Specific SAT Day Questions: Contact the Event Coordinator named for that event in the SAT Day invitation e-mail.