Posts Tagged ‘invasive plants’

Invasive Alert: Chinese Tallow Tree

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The state of Alabama doesn’t worry too much about invasive plants like privet or kudzu, which have seemed to take over much of the south. No, the one botanists fear is the Chinese tallow tree.

Also known as the popcorn tree for the white, waxy tallow substance on its fruit that kind of looks like popcorn, this tree is so invasive in Alabama that they have taken to fighting it from the air.

So why should Michigan be concerned?

The U.S. Forest Service has data that shows the tree’s population has grown 500% between 1991 and 2005.

The tree thrives in wetland environments, but is not limited to them. The tree can grow in suburban areas, forest edges, and even sand dunes. It is still a popular ornamental tree in residential neighborhoods for its bright red fall color.

Yet once established this tree spreads quick. One mature Chinese tallow can produce 100,000 seeds every year. Those seeds are spread by birds and other animals, as well as flood waters. And the seeds can stay dormant for years before sprouting.

In addition to seeds, Chinese tallow has an extensive root system, with new shoots sprouting along it. These two things combined mean tallow can grow in clusters so thick that it drowns out all other native plants.

And it’s not that far away. According to a map from the University of Georgia’s Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, the plant was found in a county in southern Wisconsin as of July 2017.

The moral of this story?

Keep an eye out for plants that look unusual to you. It may be something that doesn’t belong. Learn from Alabama’s experience. If you find something you’re not sure of, check out the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network and report it if it’s invasive.

Be wary of what you purchase at a nursery or your local home supply store garden center. Make sure that it’s native to Michigan and you aren’t becoming the source of a new infestation of an invasive plant.

Read more about Chinese tallow tree below.

 

Alabama fears this invasive plant so much we attacked it from the air

Posted July 31, 2017, News from Al.com

Dennis Pillion | dpillion@al.com

When talking about invasive plants in Alabama, kudzu and privet tend to be the ones people are most familiar with, but they’re not the ones Alabama botanists and wildlife officials are most worried about.

One of those is the Chinese tallow tree, or popcorn tree, one of Alabama’s most invasive species.

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Watch Out for Wild Parsnip

Invasive plants and animals are typically only a threat to other plants and animals, but occasionally they can be a danger to us as well.

While giant hogweed is on the watch list in Michigan as a new invasive species, wild parsnip is becoming more common, especially in the northern parts of Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

And while it’s looks similar to other members of the wild carrot family, this is one plant you definitely don’t want to mess with. Contact with its juices can cause rashes, blisters, and burns. The skin discoloration can last for years.

The article below has more details about wild parsnip. You can also get good identification information here.

Watch Out for Wild Parsnip

Originally published: July 19, 2016

U.S. Forest Service, Hiawatha National Forest

Flowering Yellow umbel of Wild ParsnipGladstone, MI — Wild Parsnip, also known as Pastinaca sativa, is an herbaceous perennial with yellow-flowered umbels atop 3- to 5-foot tall stems.  While it may be pretty to look at, people who touch the plant soon discover its less appealing trait:  When the juices of the Wild Parsnip plant touch your skin and are exposed to ultra-violet light, they cause serious rashes, burns and blisters called “phytophotodermatitis.” The resulting skin discoloration can last several months. If you come in contact with Wild Parsnip and notice development of burns, cover the affected area with a cool, wet cloth and seek medical attention.

Wild Parsnip’s toxic compounds (called furanocoumarins) are found in the juices of its leaves, stems, flowers, and even fruits. Phytophotodermatitis will usually appear within 24 to 48 hours and is painful.  In many cases, the blisters will lead to brownish pigmentation that can last for years.

According to Hiawatha National Forest’s East Zone Botanist, Stephanie Blumer, this invasive plant has become increasingly common across the Upper Peninsula.

“The key for outdoors enthusiasts,” she said, “is to learn to recognize this plant so that when you see it, you can avoid it.”

How can you recognize Wild Parsnip?  While it looks similar to several other carrot family plants, the flowers of Wild Parsnip are yellow and the stem is smooth and green with very few hairs. Its leaves are long, saw toothed, pinnately compound and form a basal rosette during the first year. The leaves are further divided into leaflets that grow across from each other along the stem, with 2 to 5 pairs of opposite leaflets. In its second year from June until mid-July, and sometimes even through late summer, the plant flowers. Its flowers are small and yellow with five petals and there are hundreds per plant. The flowers are arranged in 2-6 inch wide umbels at the tops of stems and branches, and there are usually no bracts, and very small or non-existent sepals at the base of the flowers.

“As Wild Parsnip spreads, more people are coming into contact with it,”” said Deb LeBlanc, West Zone Plant Ecologist for the Hiawatha. She added that individuals who will be working, hiking, or involved in other activities around the plant can reduce the risk of exposure by wearing long-sleeved shirts, gloves, and long pants.

What are your chances of encountering Wild Parsnip?  While it originates from Eurasia, Wild Parsnip has become a common invasive plant in U.P roadsides, ditches, and other disturbed open areas.  Believed to have been introduced to North America by early European settlers who grew it as a tap root; the wild populations are thought to be a result of escaped cultivated plants. Wild Parsnip is a plant that inhabits various growing conditions such as dry, moist, and even wet-mesic prairies, oak-openings, and calcareous fens.

Once it invades open ranges, it begins to take over in waves and spreads rapidly, especially in disturbed areas. This invasive plant is spread through the distribution of its seeds that are carried by the wind, vehicles, equipment, and water. The seeds themselves, are typically large, slightly yellow, ribbed, flat, and round. It is around September through November that the plant will produce its seed and being a monocarpic perennial, once the plant seeds, it will die. However, the seeds can remain viable in the soil for up to four years, thus adding to the difficulties of eradicating the plants existence.

“Wild parsnip has been designated as a State Noxious weed in approximately 35 states. “Besides the obvious health risk, the plant is problematic due to its ecologically invasive habit,”” said LeBlanc.

For further information on Wild Parsnip contact your local Forest Service botanist at 906-387-2512 extension 20 or 906-643-7900.

Please Don’t Release Class Pets Into the Wild

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Above: One of the invasive species you should be looking out for, the Rusty Crayfish. This crayfish has been found in curriculum kits shipped to schools across the U.S.

 

Having a class pet, plant, or aquarium is a great teaching tool. It can teach students about life cycles, biology, responsibility, and a whole host of other life and classroom lessons.

Yet what happens to these plants and animals once the school year is over? Who takes care of them then? Many times the solutions to this issue are not very environmentally friendly. Often these animals end up being released into the local park or waterway. People may think that this is a good thing, that they’re returning them to nature, to live out the rest of their lives in the wild.

However, this isn’t usually the outcome and the release of these plants and animals may have disastrous consequences on your local environment.

The press release below is from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.  It gives good tips on what to do with these plants and animals as well as information on a few invasive species you should be on the lookout for when ordering that next classroom project.

 

June 10, 2016

Contact: Joanne Foreman, 517-284-5814

Keep the teacher’s pets – and plants – from going wild this summer

Choose environmentally safe options for pet and plant disposal

As the school year wraps up, teachers around the state are packing up supplies, cleaning up classrooms and deciding what to do with classroom pets. The Michigan Invasive Species Program reminds teachers and hobbyists not to release pets, fish or aquarium plants into the wild.

Some common classroom pets and plants are considered invasive in Michigan. Infestations of rusty crayfish and Eurasian watermilfoil throughout the state may be a result of aquarium owners releasing them into local lakes or streams. The same could happen if invaders not yet confirmed to be in Michigan – including red swamp crayfish, hydrilla, or giant African snails, all popular science exhibits – are released alive back into nature.

Currently, those are among the 55 invasive species listed as prohibited or restricted in Michigan.  It is unlawful to possess, introduce, import, sell or offer these species for sale as live organisms, except under certain circumstances.

How do prohibited and restricted species get here?

Many teachers order curriculum kits, including plants and animals, from biological supply companies. These kits can have generic content labels, like “crayfish and aquatic plants,” rather than species-specific names. In such cases, teachers wouldn’t know if the species were prohibited or restricted in Michigan. Not all classroom or retail suppliers maintain updated lists of state-regulated species, so it is possible for teachers and aquarium enthusiasts to unknowingly order and receive plants, animals or fish that are not legal in Michigan.

The Department of Natural Resources has taken steps to stop the importation of invasive species through trade.

“The Great Lakes Commission, with the support of the DNR Law Enforcement Division, has an ongoing project developing a Web-crawler that looks for prohibited and restricted species for sale online,” said Steve Huff, commercial fish specialist with the DNR Law Enforcement Division. “If suppliers’ policies don’t restrict shipment of these species to Michigan, LED notifies them in writing and follows up with a phone call regarding state laws.”

However, what is available on the Web changes daily, and many pets and plants are purchased from hobbyists through chat rooms, marketplace sites and overseas exchanges. Ultimately, Huff said, it is the consumer’s responsibility to be familiar with state law to assure they are not receiving prohibited or restricted species.

What happens to classroom pets after school lets out?

In a survey conducted by Oregon State University Sea Grant, 40 percent of teachers disagreed with the practice of euthanizing classroom pets when no longer needed in the classroom. If pets and plants had not died on their own, the most common means of disposal included giving them to students or other teachers, putting them in the trash or releasing them to the wild.

However, these end-of-school year options identified in the survey are problematic if the pet or plant is an invasive species. Giving classroom pets and plants away to others places the problem in someone else’s hands and could lead to an eventual release. The trash is appropriate for dead invasive plant or animal specimens, but plant materials should be placed in a sealed bag before disposal and never composted.

What’s wrong with returning them to nature?

Even non-invasive pets and plants should not be released in the wild.  Though release seems to be a humane option, most non-native pets will not survive in Michigan’s environment due to climate, predators or the inability to find appropriate food and shelter. Pets or plants that easily adapt have the potential to become invasive – think of Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades, or the invasive kudzu vine throughout the southern states.

Even if a pet or plant itself is not invasive, it can introduce diseases that affect native wildlife. In January of this year, 201 species of non-native salamanders were added to the federal list of species considered injurious to wildlife, in order to protect native salamanders in the U. S. from contracting a fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, known as Bsal or salamander chytrid. According to a news release by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “Bsal has caused major die-offs of salamanders in Europe and poses a threat to U.S. native salamander populations. The fungus is not yet known to be found in the United States.”

In 2007, concern about the spread of fish disease prompted Michigan to limit the release of both native and non-native live fish into Michigan waters. To prevent the spread of viral hemorrhagic septicemia, or VHS, Fisheries Order 245-16  (recently revised) makes it illegal to place a live fish in Michigan public waters without a permit, except in certain circumstances including releasing a freshly caught fish into the body of water where it was caught.

Best practices for pet and plant disposal

A new campaign in Michigan aims to Reduce Invasive Pet and Plant Escapes. The RIPPLE project, co-sponsored by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and Michigan State University Extension, aims at educating both consumers and retailers about proper containment and disposal methods for plants and animals associated with the pond and pet store industries. Helpful tips advise to:

  • Properly dispose of all plant materials removed from ponds, water gardens or aquariums. Seal plant materials in a plastic bag and place them in the trash, not the compost pile.
  • Give or trade unwanted pets and plants with another hobbyist, environmental learning center, aquarium or zoo.
  • Contact a veterinarian or pet retailer for guidance on humane disposal of animals.
  • If you suspect you may have received a prohibited or restricted plant species in a shipment, contact MDARD immediately at 1-800-292-3939 or MDA-info@michigan.gov.
  • If you suspect you may have received a prohibited or restricted fish, mollusk or crustacean in a shipment, contact Seth Herbst at DNR, 517-284-5841 or herbsts@michigan.gov.

More information about RIPPLE and Michigan’s prohibited and restricted species is available on Michigan’s invasive species website www.michigan.gov/invasivespecies.

/Note to editors: Accompanying photos are available below for download. Suggested captions for photos follow.

Red swamp crayfish:  Red swamp crayfish have been found in classroom curriculum kits shipped across the U.S. Photo courtesy Chris Taylor, Illinois History Survey, Bugwood.org.

Giant African snail:  Giant African snail invasions in Florida and Hawaii may have originated from illegal importation of the snails as pets. Photo courtesy Andrew Dersken, USDA APHIS, Bugwood.org./


The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.