Tyler Arboretum in Delaware County has enlisted a new weapon against invasive species: a herd of goats.

Managers there previously used herbicides to control weeds including Japanese honeysuckle and multifloral rose, but in an effort to return to more natural land management of the Media site, they’re looking for non-chemical solutions.

The goats are part of a trial run that includes other strategies such as winter and summer mowing and controlled burns. Each will be tested on different plots in the arboretum’s more than 95 acres of meadowland. The most effective tools will be expanded throughout Tyler.    

The goats are more expensive than the other approaches, but Cricket Brien, Tyler’s executive director, said she sees them as a long-term investment.

“They’ll go and nibble off the leaves, and then, when they resprout, they come back and nibble them off again," she said. "So this constant depletion of the plant’s reserves will actually cause it to die.” 

The goats also destroy seeds, helping limit new plants.

Other land managers — from city parks to more isolated preserves — have increasingly deployed hungry goats to control aggressive invasive plants sustainably.

For Brien, the herd of a dozen is also a return to Tyler’s history; the land had been actively farmed, and even had goats, until the 1880s.