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Author: Jennifer Forman Orth

Invading your brain since 2002.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2003

I'm Empressed

Kerry Kellam, a certified arborist, recently wrote a thoughtful piece about the empress tree (Paulownia tomentosa) in the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram. In it, he describes the process of researching this species after a request for more information from a reader (bonus points for using the scientific name!). The empress tree, often touted as fast-growing and resilient, is considered invasive in several parts of the U.S.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Guardians of the Lake

New Hampshire instituted a program this year to aid in efforts to educate the public about invasive aquatic plants. Called the "Lake Host" program, it enlists paid "Guardians of the Lake" to be stationed at boat launch sites across the state, to inspect boats and educate their owners. The hosts are already credited with preventing the introduction of Eurasian water milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) in three different lakes. Funded by a federal grant, the program is scheduled to be turned over to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services next year.

Friday, September 12, 2003

"And in this corner, weighing in at over 2000 pounds..."

In an attempt to free California's Stone Lakes Basin from the grip of water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), the U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife is bringing in "The Shredder." As reported by KCRA, The Shredder, basically a boat with a mulcher attachment, travels through the water shredding everything in its path. While there is hope that this method of control, a welcome alternative to aquatic herbicides, will be effective against water hyacinth, there have already been problems with the thick vegetation and roots of the plants getting caught in the mulcher blades. The solution? They're bringing in "The Terminator", The Shredder's beefy big brother. Be sure to click on the "Video" link on the page to see The Shredder in action.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

The Place To Be

Let's say you're an up-and-coming invasive species, where would the hip place to hang out be? Probably Maryland, temporary home of the infamous northern snakehead (Channa argus) and likely permanent home of the mute swan (Cygnus olor). That's exactly where the emerald ash borer beetle (Agrilus planipennis) has headed as well, according to this article from the Washington Post. The insects, first discovered in the U.S. last year, had previously been found only in Ohio and Michigan. An as of yet unidentified nursery in Maryland received at least one shipment of contaminated ash trees, which will now be destroyed, from another nursery in the state of Michigan (which has banned the sale or transport of ash trees in several counties). Officials are also looking into whether the nursery in question accidentally shipped the contaminated trees to a site in Virginia as well.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2003

It's the Law(s)!

The Defenders of Wildlife have a great, informative part of their web site, called "Saving Biodiversity: A Status Report on State Laws, Policies and Programs". I found it while browsing the web today. If you scroll down the page (I've linked to Massachusetts as an example), you will see that for each state, under the heading "Exotic Species," are the laws that state has to regulate non-native plants and animals. The column on the left allows you to go to any state's page. A valuable resource that is worth checking out.

Monday, September 08, 2003

New York: The New Tropical Paradise?

Add the lionfish (Pterois volitans) to the list of tropical species that can make it up here in the Northeast U.S. is reporting that the poisonous marine species has been spotted in Shinnecock Bay in New York, and also near Belmar, New Jersey. Actually, these fish have been spotted in the region before, but the fact that there have been repeated sightings, and that the recently caught individuals were juveniles, suggests that perhaps populations are becoming established. Though inital finger pointing was aimed at aquarium hobbyists and the fish trade industry, scientists are also looking at the possibility that lionfish larvae are being unintentionally transported in ballast water.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Hot Off The Presses (alternate title: Shameless Self Promotion)

The following book, sure to be praised by biologists far and wide, and on its way to being an international best seller, was recently published: Plant invasions: ecological threats and management solutions. 2003. edited by Lois Child, J.H. Brock, G. Brundu, K. Prach, P. Pysek, P.M. Wade & M. Williamson. Backhuys Publishers, The Netherlands. (The above was not in any way influenced by the fact that I authored one of the chapters in the book.)

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Hunting for Treasure

As reported in the Anniston Star, dozens of scientists descended on Mobile Bay, Alabama this past week, to search the estuarine waters for signs of non-native species. Brought together by the Alabama-Mississippi Rapid Assessment Team (AMRAT) and the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, the scientists took ballast water samples and scraped around in fouling communities, finding several new species never before seen in Alabama. Next stop for the AMRAT is Mississippi Sound.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Cheat Repeats

From Nevada's The Record-Courier comes this article about the problems caused by cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) and what's being done about it. Cheatgrass is a dangerous weed because it fuels hot, fast fires that native vegetation can't recover from and that firefighters can barely control. An interesting bit of trivia in the article notes that a clump of the grass can be grazed 12 times in a season and still set seed, an impressive feat. Although cheatgrass is eaten by some grazing animals, it provides less nutrition than other plants, and if eaten late in the season, can puncture the throats of animals with its stiff, pointy seeds.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

EPA Passes the Buck

The EPA has decided to step aside and will not regulate ballast water discharges, according to this article in The Mercury News. The reason given was that the Coast Guard has already taken the lead in regulation. Environmental groups are upset, and some are threatening to sue the EPA, with the goal of getting them to invoke the powerful Clean Water Act in an attempt to stem the flow of countless numbers of non-native aquatic species into U.S. waters. You can read more about what the Coast Guard's doing for ballast water management by clicking here.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting a link to this story.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Water Weeds of Wonder

Residents of Lunenberg, MA are livid about the infestation of Lake Shirley with Eurasian water milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), according to this article in the Sentinel & Enterprise. The article goes on to mention that all but 4 lakes in Massachusetts contain invasive species. Turns out this isn't quite true...yet. What the Mass. Congress of Lake & Pond Associations meant was that out of about 200 lakes managed by the Department of Environmental Management, all but 4 have invasives. They are still collecting data on the 3000 or so lakes and ponds in the state, but so far at least 50% have at least one invasive species present.

Monday, September 01, 2003

Hydrilla found in the Fountain of Youth?

I recently discovered this site from a link in the banner ads that appear at the top of the blog. It's an advertisement encouraging people to buy "Hydrilla Plus," a putative anti-aging herbal supplement. If you click here you'll see that the main ingredient in Hydrilla Plus is Hydrilla verticillata, the invasive, pervasive, aquatic plant that many have grown to hate. I would say the product is doing a great job, as evidenced by the photo of grey-haired Dr. Halvorson, father of seven children and currently over 250 years old! (just kidding)

Friday, August 29, 2003

Monky See, Monky Do

Monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) have arrived in Barcelona, Spain, and as reported in this article from BBC News, they're definitely making their presence known. Native to South America, the cute green birds (also known as Quaker parrots) are kept as pets by bird-lovers all over the world. Unfortunately, many have escaped or have been released, and in the areas where they've become established, they cause problems by eating anything green they can get their beak in. In Spain, this has meant the loss of tomato crops and a decline in native bird populations.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting a link to this story.

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Thursday, August 28, 2003

New in Print

Recent journal articles about invasive species (most links are to abstracts):

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Bucket Biology

There seems to be a bit of a split in the sport fishing community, between those concerned with depleting stocks of native fish and preventing new introductions, and those that just want to fish and are happy to let the government continue to stock bodies of water with species like the northern pike (Esox lucius). In Maine, angler Bob Mallard recently published this piece in the Kennebec Journal, addressing the DIF&W's policy of managing illegally introduced fish species in major bodies of water. Bob also has a forum at the website for his store, Kennebec River Outfitters, where you can find a lot of posts from anglers with similar concerns. You can also read Bob's recent article in the Northwoods Sporting Journal. By the way, "Bucket Biology" refers to the illegal introduction of species into bodies of water by transporting them in a bucket.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Lobate Probate

I just recently discovered Jack Rodgers's web site that he created to publicize the effects of lobate lac scale (Paratachardina lobata lobata) in Florida. The site is chock full of information, including many, many photos. Well worth a look.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Wattle Lotta Wattle

This article from Radio Nederland describes the problems South Africa is having with the black wattle tree (Acacia mearnsii). Black wattle, native to Australia, was introduced to South Africa over a century ago for its bark, which can be used for tanning, and is also valued as a timber tree. Unfortunately, the trees have naturalized, and now cause problems due to their high demand for water. The article also has a link to the radio broadcast of this story, featured on the show "Research File."

Friday, August 22, 2003

Re: Stop dumping your unwanted pets!

A two-foot long alligator (Alligator sp.) was found in Jamaica Pond, located in Boston, Massachusetts. As reported at (and by every other news source in Massachusetts), disbelieving Animal Rescue League workers arrived at the pond after receiving several reports, and were surprised to see the gator swimming around in the water. The alligator has already been caught (luckily one of the workers was from Louisiana :-) and the workers stated that it would not be euthanized. Alligators are illegal to own in Massachusetts without a license, and even them may only be kept for "scientific, research, display or educational purposes."

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Best Headline Ever! (so far)

The headline of this article from The Baltimore Sun says it all: "Goldfish become occupying force." Seems hundreds of goldfish (Cyprinus auratus), along with a few big koi (Cyprinus carpio) have taken over a pond in Columbia, Maryland, leading to a distinct lack of amphibians in the area. One "solution" being considered is to stock the pond with bass, who will eat the goldfish, and bluegills, to eat insects and provide an additional food source for the bass (!!), and then keep the bass under control by allowing fishing. Another possible solution: Stop dumping your unwanted pets!

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Farm Fresh

The state Supreme Court of South Dakota ruled this week that a couple can go ahead with their lawsuit against a neighbor that they say is causing their horse farm to be taken over by weeds. According to this article from Aberdeen News, the judge agreed that the neighboring landowner had "a duty to exercise ordinary care." The weed in question here is kochia (Kochia scoparia), which can be a major invasive on agricultural land, but is not regulated in South Dakota. The fact that the judge considered the neighbor negligent suggests that there is more to this story than is revealed in the article, so it's probably not time to start worrying about getting sued if an invasive plant pops up on your own property once in a while. Ironically, kochia is recommended by some as a drought-resistant forage crop.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting a link to this story.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Weed Haters Gone Wild!!!!

Registration is now open for the 7th EMAPi conference, to be held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, November 3-8. Actually, the full title of this event is quite a mouthful: "Invasive Plants in Natural and Managed Systems: Linking Science and Management and International Conference on the Ecology and Management of Alien Plant Invasions." Register by September 15th to get the early-bird discount ($190). Students can get their registration fee refunded by volunteering their time, details are here. The preliminary program looks very interesting (though is anyone taking bets on whether or not Gale Norton will show up?).

Monday, August 18, 2003

Mosquitos Bite

With all the press about the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) being found in the U.S., little attention has been given to its distant cousin, the Asian bush mosquito (Ochlerotatus japonicus). Turns out O. japonicus has been in the U.S. since at least 1999, the year it was first found in the southeast. Now, as reported at, the mosquito has been found as far north as North Carolina. While much more likely to carry West Nile virus, this species is a much less aggressive biter.

Thanks to Dave Barry's blog for posting a link to this story.

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