There are lots of plants out there that really grab you…literally. We’ve all encountered at least one, probably more. With hooking barbs or puncturing spikes, they lam onto our shoes and socks, pant legs and shirt sleeves – and heaven help you should you be wearing a woven poncho when you have your run-in with them! Our dogs return from a romp in the field with seeds of all sorts clinging to their fur. Yep, late summer and fall are the time of year to get to know your seeds. » Continue Reading.
Posts Tagged ‘Invasive Species’
“What have you got that the deer won’t like?” I asked the dude at the garden place. This was my favorite nursery, and over the years I spent hundreds of dollars there. I liked the people, I loved their display gardens, and their plant selection was terrific. Unfortunately, they included several invasive species in their stock and promoted them for garden plantings.
“The Japanese Barberry would be great – we have two colors, green and rose. The rose-colored one will look great next to your pale yellow house.” » Continue Reading.
Invasive species are everywhere: birds, bugs, fish, flowers, fungi. It seems that every time you turn around, a new invasive species has sprung up, each with its own inherent threat on the local ecosystem. What we don’t hear about, however, is often the solutions that are applied to address the problem.
Take for example the Japanese beetles in this photograph. What do you notice about them that is unusual? The white dots on their thoraxes. I pondered these, wondering if they were parasite eggs, warts or merely beauty marks. The number of dots differs on individual beetles, and some have none at all. Because of this variation, and the fact I had never seen them before, I was leaning towards parasites. » Continue Reading.
Who could pass up a book titled Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities? Certainly not I! Not only is the title attention-getting, but the book is a bilious acid green, the perfect color for poisonings!
I first heard about this book on the radio, and after about a month of waiting, I was able to borrow a copy from the library. After reading it, I had to get a copy for myself; no self-respecting naturalist’s arsenal of natural history reference books would be complete without it!
This tiny tome is chocked full of interesting information about some of nature’s most dangerous plants, many of which surprised me. For example, these days the news is smattered with dire warnings about giant hogweed and wild parsnip (members of the carrot family, yet capable of causing painful blisters and phototoxicity to those who brush up against them), but who knew that cashews could be problematic if not prepared correctly? Yes, cashews are related to poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak. If eaten raw, or if they are contaminated with bits of the nut shells, the person consuming them can break out in a serious rash, which could be exacerbated if one is strongly allergic to urushiol, the irritating oil.
While many of the plants mentioned in this book by Amy Stewart come from lands far from the Adirondacks, there are a fair number that can be found within the Blue Line. Take, for example, elderberry. I remember collecting elderberry blossoms for my grandfather down along the railroad tracks that follow the Mohawk River. He used to make wine from the lacy white flowers. Well, it turns out that most of the plant’s parts (leaves, roots, stems, etc.) contain cyanide. This is especially true of the raw fruits. Cooked, the fruits are rendered more or less harmless, but when consumed raw they could send one to the hospital in a great deal of pain and discomfort.
How about cardinal flower? This brilliantly scarlet member of the genus Lobelia is found fairly commonly along waterways within the Park. As lovely as it is, the red color should be a warning. It contains poisons that are similar to nicotine, and if one were to eat it (although I don’t know why one would), one would likely suffer from tremors, nausea and vomiting, paralysis, and heart problems.
Not only does Ms. Stewart point out plants that are deadly, she includes those that are destructive (like purple loosestrife and kudzu), those that are offensive to the nose (purple trillium and skunk cabbage, among others), and those that actively cause problems (killer algae and gas plant).
I was so surprised at some of the nastiness that Mother Nature has in store for us that I was hesitant to burn the invasive honeysuckles we cut down last year. What if this aggressive non-native plant harbored some sort of chemical that was dangerous when set on fire? Nonetheless, burn it we did (the cut logs had started to sprout and had to be destroyed), and I can report that although I got a snoot full of smoke on several occasions, I have not suffered any ill effects.
Whether you are a plant aficionado, or a nature enthusiast in general, you will not want to pass up this delightful little book.
For most folks, the sight of a webby mass clinging to the branches of a deciduous tree brings on thoughts of tent caterpillars. I learned early on in my youth that if you see this mass in the spring, it is tent caterpillars, but if it is late summer or fall, you are looking at fall webworm, an entirely different insect. If you’re still not sure, you can verify which insect it is be monitoring the movements of the caterpillars. Fall webworms stay within their webby nest all the time, eating and sleeping there. They do not leave until they are ready to pupate. Tent caterpillars, on the other hand, only use their webby nest for shelter at night and during inclement weather. When they get hungry, they must leave the nest to forage on nearby leaves. » Continue Reading.
The purple triangles seen hanging on trees along Adirondack roads are traps designed to lure and capture emerald ash borers (Agrilus planipennis). Emerald ash borers are small (half-inch long) metallic green insects that are coming to us from Asia via Michigan and wreaking havoc on the ash trees of North America.
Recently I wrote a piece on the American elm and its decline thanks to an insect and a fungus. The same thing is happening today with the American beech. But the emerald ash borer (EAB) acts alone. This insect overwinters under the bark of the ash tree (black, green and white ash are all susceptible) and emerges as an adult in the spring. After mating, the female lays her eggs in the crevices of the bark and about ten days later they hatch. The larvae now begin their devastating work, tunneling under the bark, eating as they go. When winter comes, the larvae become dormant, waiting for spring to arrive, at which point they emerge as adults and the cycle begins again. » Continue Reading.
I took a few moments this morning to read the comments on past posts to the Almanack (thank you, all) and found a potentially distressing note on my deer-proofing post. I had mentioned that a good deer proof plant to include in your arsenal was hawthorn, and someone commented that we need to be careful about invasive hawthorns. Invasive hawthorns? I didn’t know there were such things, so I had to look it up.
Lo! and behold, the anonymous commenter was correct: there is an invasive hawthorn out there. It is Crataegus monogyna, the oneseed hawthorn, aka: English hawthorn. This plant has become quite the pest out in California, but it seems to have made inroads throughout the West as well as the East. According to the range map I saw, the middle of the US seems to be free of this invasive so far. » Continue Reading.
On Lake Placid yesterday, efforts to contain recently discovered variable leaf milfoil moved forward on two fronts. As village officials prepared to close the village-owned launch on Victor Herbert Road—redirecting boat traffic to the NYSDEC launch next to the Lake Placid Marina—the Lake Placid Shore Owner’s Association released the first aerial photograph of the milfoil bed on Paradox Bay.
The photo, taken by the volunteer team of Lake Placid-based environmentalist and aviator Ed McNeil and Dr. Charles D. Canham, a forest ecologist with the Cary Institue of Ecosystem Studies, in Millbrook, was from a survey of the lake’s littoral regions in search of secondary establishments of the invasive weed. None were discovered. According to McNeil, the the favorable angle of the sun and the transparency of the lake water allowed them to survey to depths of about 12 feet. » Continue Reading.
Summer has come to the Adirondacks, and with it the anticipated flotilla of recreational boaters and fishing fleet, accessing our waterways through a dense network of public and private boat launches.
Joining this annual cavalcade, a horde of invading plants and marine animals: organisms with a proven record of destroying the lakes, ponds and streams they infest. Lake associations and other private organizations across the park are once again gearing up for another season of defense against the introduction of these dangerous pests. » Continue Reading.
The Board of Trustees of the Lake Placid Shore Owners’ Association (LPSOA) today reported that a strain or strains of milfoil have been discovered at three sites on Lake Placid. Over the past week, two separate samples were removed from Paradox Bay and one from East Lake. Biologists working with the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) have tentatively identified two of the samples as Variable Leaf Milfoil (VLM).
The University of Maine Cooperative Extension describes Variable Leaf Milfoil as “an aggressive aquatic plant that can form dense mats that congest waterways and crowd out native aquatic plants. Thick growth of this plant can impair recreational uses of waterways including boating, swimming and fishing. Dense growth of variable-leaf milfoil degrades the native habitat of fish and other wildlife, and may also provide breeding areas for mosquitoes. The main method of dispersal of this plant appears to be fragmentation. Plant fragments are moved around by people, animals and water currents.” » Continue Reading.
Last year it seems my yard was the staging ground for every potato beetle in Newcomb. No other gardeners I’ve spoken with seem to have had any, yet my potatoes were covered and defoliated faster than my patrols could keep up. This spring I resolved that I would not fall victim to these insects. I ordered an organic-certified insecticide, and read that by planting my ‘taters later (say, mid-June), I could avoid an infestation.
Well, I went out in the garden the other day (after planting my potatoes…I just couldn’t wait another week), and found a Colorado Potato Beetle on a potato plant that had just emerged, a sprout from an overlooked potato from 2008. I crushed it beneath my boot. Then I found another…and another. A couple days ago I went back out and found that not only did I have adult beetles grazing on these resurrected plants (they are sprouting up all over the place – I must work on my potato digging skills), but they were mating and laying eggs. I smooshed several clusters of the brilliant orange eggs before I went inside and mixed up a batch of spray. Thus armed, I commenced my attack. Then it rained. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is setting baited traps in ash trees across upstate New York in an effort to search for possible infestations of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), a tree-killing beetle. You will soon be seeing the purple prism traps deployed in treelines throughout New York, with a concentration in areas adjacent to neighboring states and Canadian provinces that have already detected this potentially devastating invasive species, including several Adirondack counties. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) was one of 26 projects across New York State to receive the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s highest honor: the Environmental Quality Award. The award ceremony was held last week in Manhattan in conjunction with Earth Day. Founded in 1998 and housed by The Nature Conservancy in Keene Valley, APIPP is leading the charge to protect Adirondack natural resources from the damaging effects of invasive species by engaging partners and finding solutions through a coordinated, strategic, and integrated regional approach. Unlike many places, the opportunity exists in the Adirondacks to hold the line against invasive species and prevent them from wreaking havoc on natural resources and economic vitality. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced it has proposed making permanent a regulation to restrict the import, sale and transport of untreated firewood to aid in the fight against the spread of tree-killing pests and diseases. A public-comment period on DEC’s proposal runs through Feb. 9, 2009. DEC encourages interested parties to weigh in on the proposal – which can be viewed on the DEC website — at two public hearings or through written comments. » Continue Reading.
The arrival of the shiny, emerald green beetle, about 1/2 inch long and 1/8 inch wide, in the U.S. may be as serious a threat to white, green, and black ash trees as Dutch elm disease was to the American elm.
Ash trees are a common species; green and black ash grow in wet swampy areas and along streams and rivers; white ash is common in drier, upland soils. Many species of wildlife, including some waterfowl and game birds, feed on ash seeds. Ash is used as a source for hardwood timber, firewood, and for the manufacturing of baseball bats and hockey sticks. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets estimates the total economic value of New York’s white ash to be $1.9 billion dollars. » Continue Reading.