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Author: Jennifer Forman Orth

Invading your brain since 2002.


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Monday, July 29, 2002

Eastern Hemlocks are not schoolgirls, but they are the state tree of Pennsylvania  

This article from The Morning Call has a silly introduction, but is worth a read. Pennsylvania, refusing to let their Eastern hemlock trees (Tsuga canadensis) die a white, crusty death via the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (Adelges tsugae), is releasing tens of thousands of beetles (Pseudoscymnus tsugae) in the hopes of controlling the nasty creatures. Here's wishing the tiny beetles good luck, and please don't eat anything native!

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California Caulerpa Kaput...almost

Efforts to remove the invasive algae Caulerpa taxifolia from the Agua Hedionda lagoon in San Diego have been very successful, according to this SanDiegoChannel.com story. Smart state and federal officials will continue to monitor the lagoon and deal with any flare ups over the next several years.






Sunday, July 28, 2002

 
Swan Song?

An annoying Mute swan (Cygnus olor) frequenting the Eel River in Plymouth, MA is being given one last chance to learn to avoid humans before town officials vote to ship it off to a wildlife sanctuary. According to this story in the Boston Globe, the swan is a danger to people using the river for activities like boating and fishing. Plymouth will have to get approval from the state to move the swan; it appears that euthanization is the preferred method of dealing with aggressive wild animals.

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Go to Hells Canyon

From the Voice of America website comes this story about the weeds that threaten Hells Canyon. The canyon, located between Idaho and Oregon, is being overrun by species like Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) and Yellow star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis). Scientists and local officials have armed themselves with an arsenal of weapons to fight back, including herbicides, biological controls, and GIS.






Friday, July 26, 2002

 
Beetle Mania

The state of Washington is serious about preventing the spread of the recently introduced Citrus long-horned beetle (Anoplophora chinensis). Homeowners that live near the nursery where the introduction occurred are serious about protecting their trees, which state officials want to cut down as a precautionary measure. The resulting clash has made its way to court, where a judge will decide whether the state has the right to enter private property and chop down the trees. Read the whole story from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

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Thursday, July 25, 2002

 
Massachusetts is Going Hogweed Wild

Possibly convinced that this is the next Snakehead, local media outlets are going crazy today announcing the "arrival" of Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) in Massachusetts. Describing the species as "evil", this story from the Boston Globe describes the accidental discovery of a plant growing on farmland in Granville, MA. What makes this species more troublesome than most other well-known invasives is that its sap is phototoxic, meaning that if it is on your skin, when exposed to sunlight you will break out in a nasty blistering rash.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2002

 
And now for something Completely Different...

Are weeds a form of terrorism? Well, probably not, but they make a good analogy for terrorism in this interesting article from the National Review Online. See, Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense) is like the al Qaeda, and the U.S. Army is like thousands of gardeners carrying big tanks of Roundup...






Tuesday, July 23, 2002

 
Growing Native in Missouri

The Kansas City Star has this story about the Missouri Conservation Department's "Grow Native" gardening program. It was interesting to hear their short list of baddies, which include Crown vetch (Coronilla varia) and Japanese and Shrub honeysuckles (Lonicera spp.), definitely up-and-coming invasives in Massachusetts as well.






Monday, July 22, 2002

 
Dandelion Dave?

While I'm not sure how he came up with his moniker, Dave has written a nice profile of Tom Hart for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Hart is a local botanist who keeps an eye out for invasive plants and gives talks where he points out the worst offenders. He's even got Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) on display in his own yard.






Sunday, July 21, 2002

 
Building an Emerald City?

The Emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis), a beetle native to Asia, has been found on Ash trees in Michigan, according to a Michigan Dept. of Agriculture press release. As a result, all live ash tree and ash timber in the counties where the beetles were spotted are under quarantine. More information can be found here.

(Thanks to a member of the Yahoo! newsgroup ma-eppc for posting info about this topic.)






Saturday, July 20, 2002

 
Crabby on the East Coast

The Japanese shore crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus), already found from the coast of North Carolina up through Massachusetts, has quickly made its way to Penobscot Bay in Maine. According to this report from the Environment News Service, this invasive species, known in the U.S. since the late 1980's, is even more aggressive than the European green crab (Carcinus maenas) that already inhabits the east coast of the U.S. This story is quite similar to the problems on the West coast with the Chinese mitten crab.

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Friday, July 19, 2002

 
Paging Dr. Snakehead...

The media coverage of "fish found where they aren't supposed to be" is reaching overkill, but I just couldn't resist posting a link to this story about Florida's infamous "Dr. Snakehead." Dr. Snakehead will be a part of the panel convening to discuss the appearance of his fish namesake in Maryland. Click on the following to see other fishy blog entries: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

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Thursday, July 18, 2002

 
Brown knapweed

No time to search for news today, so instead here's a photo of Brown knapweed (Centaurea jacea), an invasive species often ignored in favor of its better known relative, Spotted knapweed (C. maculosa). Photo was taken today at Moswetuset Hummock, Quincy, Massachusetts, mere feet away from a much bigger Spotted knapweed population.
Photo of Brown knapweed






Tuesday, July 16, 2002

 
A Fishy Path

Asian carp are heading north. An innocuous statement, until you consider that this is happening not in Asia, but in the Illinois River. Researchers are concerned that the fish are just months away from making it into the Great Lakes, where a few specimens have been captured, but are thought to have been released there by foolhardy folks who didn't want them as pets anymore. One possible solution to the impending invasion is an electric barrier built earlier this year under the Chicago Canal. The invading Asian carp, nicknamed "river rabbits" by some, are actually several different carp species, including bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) and black carp (.pdf file) (Mylopharyngodon piceus).






Monday, July 15, 2002

No Playing with Possums  

As of July 11, 2002, the U.S. has officially banned the importation of the Brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula). This marsupial, native to Australia, was introduced to New Zealand during an attempt at establishing a fur trade. New Zealand is now overrun with the creatures, and the U.S. wants to avoid the same thing happening here. Over the past decade, there have only been a few reported imports of the species into the U.S., where Brushtail possums are sometimes kept as pets. Because they can carry Bovine tuberculosis (Mycobacterium spp.), feral Brushtail possums would be a major threat to U.S. agriculture.

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Sunday, July 14, 2002

 
Ivy League Weed Control

With the transplanting of an environmental planner from the Pacific Northwest comes the transplanting of a weed control program as well. The Washington Post is reporting that volunteer efforts have begun in Virginia to combat the invasive English ivy (Hedera helix). Already recognized as a problem in several parts of the U.S., this species creates a dense carpet of foliage that reduces biodiversity and can kill trees.

(Thanks to a member of the Yahoo! newsgroup ma-eppc for posting a link to this article.)






Saturday, July 13, 2002

 
Lionfish and Snakeheads Ensnared, Oh My!

There's an update on the Snakehead saga, which I blogged last week (1,2). ABCNews.com is reporting that the fish were intentionally released into the pond in Maryland in which they were discovered. The report doesn't say whether the culprit came forward or was found out (he/she won't be facing criminal charges, as the statute of limitations has run out). The release of pet fish that outgrow their aquariums or are no longer wanted is fairly common, and is the reason why the ownership of predatory fish like snakeheads and piranha is now outlawed in many states.

ABCNews.com also has a link to this more general story about fish introductions. What was surprising to me was the news that the Lionfish (Pterois spp.), a poisonous fish popular in marine aquariums, has been caught off the Atlantic coast of the U.S., far from its native habitat (the Indian and Pacific Oceans). Though Lionfish tend to be pretty hardy, it is hard to imagine any fish from a salt-water aquarium surviving a dump into the Atlantic.

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Thursday, July 11, 2002

 
Catch a Lamprey, Win a Prize

Researchers in New York are enlisting the aid of local fishermen in studying the habits of the parasitic Sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus), a fish native to the Atlantic Ocean that is devastating native fish populations in Lake Champlain. As reported by the Environment News Service, scientists tagged over 2500 lampreys and re-released them back into the lake. Fishermen will deliver any lampreys found and note the location where they were caught, and the scientists will check for tags and take data on each fish. Points are awarded for each lamprey returned, and the fishermen with the most points will win prizes.






Wednesday, July 10, 2002

 
Down with the Prickly Pear!

In South Africa, the Prickly pear (Opuntia spp.) is now "planta non-grata," according to this Reuters report. Fed up with the spread of this South American native, which absorbs water from the soil of an already parched country, the government has developed a unique program that fights weeds and poverty at the same time. The program employs 20,000 temporary workers, who attack weeds with machetes and/or herbicide, and also mark plant positions using a GPS. An interesting note at the end of the article mentions another South American native, the Jacaranda tree (Jacaranda spp.), which can no longer be grown in the country. This species may get exemptions the Prickly pear could not, due to the Jacaranda's aesthetic value.






 
Palm Tree Perils

allAfrica.com is reporting that the government of Nigeria is finally taking steps to eradicate the Nypa palm (Nypa fruticans), a weedy tree that threatens the delicate mangrove ecosystems in several parts of Western Africa. Nypa palms, native to Asia and northern Australia, were introduced to Nigeria in the early 1900's, most likely to control soil erosion on the coast.






Monday, July 08, 2002

 
Cheatgrass Always Prospers

MSNBC is reporting that the war being waged against cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) in the western U.S. has hit a stumbling block. After application of the powerful herbicide "Oust" to cheatgrass populations in Idaho inadvertently reached nearby (and not-so-nearby) agricultural crops, the Bureau of Land Management has suspended testing of the chemical. Now land managers are without their main weapon for fighting the cheatgrass, and invaded regions will remain at high risk for wildfires.






Sunday, July 07, 2002

 
I don't think you're ready for this Jelly...

The Boston Globe is reporting on the invasion of New England coastal waters by comb jellyfish (Mnemiopsis leidyi) and sea squirts (Pacific colonial tunicate, botryllid ascidian, Botrylloides sp.). This expansion of the invertebrates' natural range is apparently tied to a 3 degree rise in water temperatures that has occurred over the past two decades. The comb jellies are suspected to have contributed to the decline of the winter flounder, and researchers are concerned that the sea squirts will harm mussel and oyster populations.






Saturday, July 06, 2002

 
Aquatic Plant Conference

If you are going to be in the Keystone, Colorado area around the end of July, you might want to stop by the 42nd annual meeting of the Aquatic Plant Management Society. The four day conference will feature dozens of presentations and posters, with a focus on issues involving aquatic weeds, from restoration ecology to the effects of herbicide application.






Friday, July 05, 2002

 
Invasives in the News

Two articles about invasive plants have appeared in major newspapers within the past week, one in The Washington Times, the other in the Washington Post. Both are nice pieces, featuring information about various volunteer programs in the D.C. area, with the Post article listing contact information and web sites for several volunteer groups.






Thursday, July 04, 2002

 
Nettle Mettle

Researchers in the U.K. are looking into the marketing possibilities of making cloth from the Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), according to this Reuters article. This seemingly nasty weed, native to the eastern hemisphere, has strong stem fibers that have been used by many cultures to weave fabric. Click here to learn more.






Wednesday, July 03, 2002

 
More on Snakeheads

The news media has really picked up on the snakehead story. See this article from National Geographic for more detailed information. Still no one using the scientific name, unfortunately. The genus is Channa; there is no mention of the species name for the fish found in Maryland, perhaps because identification is still being confirmed.

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Tuesday, July 02, 2002

 
Spotting Snakeheads

There's a lot of interest in the spotting of a northern snakehead in a small pond by a fisherman in Crofton, Maryland, according to this story in the Washington Post. Snakeheads (Channa spp.), a group of fish native to Asia, are peculiar in that they have the ability to breathe out of water. This talent not only allows it to survive in shallow water for long periods of time, but could potentially aid in the spread of the fish to new bodies of water. Popular both as a food fish and as a pet, it is still legal to own this species in Maryland. Interestingly, this is a different species from the one caught in the same pond back in May.

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Monday, July 01, 2002

 
Nasty Knapweed

Researchers have some insight into what makes Spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa), one of the more common invasive plants in the U.S., such a successful competitor. According to this article from Science Daily, a professor of horticulture at Colorado State University isolated a chemical, known as catechin, from the species. Catechin, released by stressed and/or damaged knapweed, acts as a herbicide, killing nearby plants. Future plans include harvesting the chemical for use as a natural herbicide, as well as insertion of the associated genes into other species to protect them from weeds.






Sunday, June 30, 2002

 
Culture vs. Ecology

From Yahoo! News comes this article about Buddhists in Hong Kong, and the unintended consequences of one their religious practices. Many who follow Buddhism believe that they are morally bound to free any trapped animal, and the act of doing so will increase health and well-being. Buddhists in Hong Kong will often buy animals from the markets and then release them into the wild. This is so common that there are entrepreneurs who trap common wild animals, such as sparrows, sell them to people, and then recapture them once they are released. Unfortunately, this religious practice can have unintended consequences. One is that well-intentioned Buddhists sometimes release animals into the wrong habitat, where the animals cannot survive. Another is that non-native animals, including turtles and frogs from North America, are becoming established in the wild, threatening native Asian species.

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