Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Just a Hop, Skip and a Jump Away

The coqui (Eleutherodactylus coqui), a tiny tree frog native to Puerto Rico, continues its spread through the islands of Hawaii. According to this article from the Honolulu Advertiser, their spread is being aided by the nursery industry, which is accidentally transporting the frogs in shipments of plants like bromeliads and palms. The frogs hide in the soil and under leaves, and are difficult to find. The search for an effective control continues: application of caffeine, while quick, was determined to be too expensive and potentially dangerous to other organisms. Hawaiians are now considering citric acid, but the acid also damages many plants.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Predicting the future in the Northwest U.S.

A risk assessment for invasive plants in Idaho and Montana was recently published online. Using geographical and biological characteristics for over 500 species, the authors categorized 29 recently introduced plants (prior to 1950) as noxious weeds. Interestingly, less than half of these plants were on any noxious weed list from the Pacific Northwest. If you want to go directly to the list of noxious plant species, click here.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

News Flash!

This just in: "Some ornamental plants become exotic plants in the wild."...Okay, I'm being a bit sarcastic there. This is actually a link to a decent article from the Visalia Times-Delta in California. It's always great to see a piece warning gardeners about invasive plants, in this case made even better since it's written by Jeanne Rose, a Master Gardener.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

The Age of Invasion

Entomologists have seen a sharp rise in the number of exotic pests entering Southern California over the past few years, according to this report from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Things have gotten so bad that a new pest is now discovered every 60 days (on average). While many of these are discovered through the usual routes, including airports and harbors, researchers also rely on information from gardeners in the area who find suspect organisms on their plants.

Saturday, December 21, 2002

The Emerald City....of Michigan

Though the federal quarantine on trees infested with the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) is being delayed until February, Michigan officials are stepping forward to put into place their own eradication program. According to this article from The Detroit News, five zones will be created that encircle the core of infestation, with less severe treatments for the outermost zones. As the trees in the center of the zones die, they will be replaced with other species that are not susceptible to this devastating insect.

Friday, December 20, 2002

The Maine Event

WMTW News is reporting that Maine officials confirmed that they have found Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) in Pickerel Pond, in the town of Limerick. This is the first occurrence of this aggressive invader in Maine. You can read the official report from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection here. They already seem resigned to the fact that their goal must be to keep the species under control, not eradicate it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

A Little Swamped

Hard finding time to update the blog this week, as I am defending my thesis Friday. So here's a neat tile you can use as your computer's desktop background, designed from a European water chestnut (Trapa natans) fruit, that I made for my Powerpoint presentation:

Trapa natans tileable background
Feel free to save this image to your hard drive. Here's a straight link to it if you're not an image downloading pro.

Monday, December 16, 2002

Invasive Species Policies

From Stateline.org comes this politically-oriented perspective on invasive species issues. The article touches on one of the main problems with invasive species, which is that people tend to want proof that a non-native species will causing damage before outlawing it, yet information is difficult to come by until the species has already caused the damage. Included are some specifics from Florida, possibly the number one state for plant invasions.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Spotting Knapweed

Greg Moore has written a nice piece for the Idaho Mountain Express about Blaine County's dealing with the invasive Spotted knapweed (Centaurea biebersteinii, formerly C. maculosa). The county is waging a constant battle against the weed, which often quickly re-colonizes places it is eradicated from. A lack of funding doesn't help matters, forcing the county to spend all its time and money in an attempt to prevent new populations and spray large ones to keep them from spreading; there is rarely a chance to shrink current populations.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Child's Play

Are you a fifth grader, or do you think like one? Even if you don't fit into either category, you may be interested in checking out the free activity book "Understanding Invasive Aquatic Weeds." Developed by the Aquatic Plant Management Society, the book is full of information and activities to help kids learn about aquatic weeds. You can download the acticity book for free, but if you don't have a good printer, you can also order paper copies and pay only the cost of postage.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listerserver for posting information about this topic.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Natural Disaster Opens Gateway to Invasion

Hawaiian officials are concerned that last weekend's Supertyphoon Pongsona will increase the risk of the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) invading Hawaii. According to this story in the Star Bulletin, many of the fences around the airport in Guam were destroyed during the storm, meaning that more snakes could be hitchiking over to Hawaii on airplanes. Even with strict prevention and inspection procedures, four brown tree snakes were found in cargo flown to Hawaii last year.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Island Invasion

In the field of invasive species ecology, time is limited and funds are scarce, making it hard to do those intensive, long-term studies that would really let us know how a non-native species is affecting the ecosystem. As a result, the fact that very few species have been shown to have gone extinct due to the introduction of a non-native species is sometimes presented as evidence that invasive species are not really a problem. But as reported at Science Daily, a new study being published in the journal American Naturalist demonstrates that non-native birds and plants are establishing on islands in great numbers, pushing up tallies of local biodiversity while increasing global homogenization. There is evidence that this massive influx of species is influencing the ecosystem regardless of the fact that native species aren't disappearing. You can read the article abstract by going here and scrolling down the page.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Fighting one invasive species with another

As reported in the Austin-American Statesman, the invasive aquatic plant hydrilla (Hydrilla verticiallata) has invaded Lake Austin, and the state of Texas wants to introduce invasive grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) to keep it under control. Hydrilla is an extremely pervasive aquatic weed that causes ecological damage to the flora and fauna of the lake and also impedes recreational activities like boating and swimming. At first glance, the grass carp may seem like the ideal biological control for a closed freshwater system like Lake Austin. But as fishermen pointed out at a public hearing on the subject, there's no way to control the grass carp once they're introduced; if they eat more than just hydrilla they could be reducing food sources for other fish in the lake. I'm a little skeptical about the claims made by officials that testing showed that they can keep the carp in the lake, given the risk of flooding, but it is likely that they will be using functionally sterile triploid carp, reducing the risk that populations would establish in the wild.

Thanks to D.V. for sending in the link to this article.

Monday, December 09, 2002

Check you ballast at the door

Researchers at Portland State University and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center have joined together to develop a system to monitor ballast water exchange, according to this article from The Columbian. The scientists are interested in creating standards that will allow them to determine whether a ship has exchanged ballast water mid-ocean. While this is considered to be better for invasive species prevention than dumping ballast in port, it is not a perfect solution, and the search continues for technology that will prevent all non-native species introductions.

Thanks to the Protect Your Waters web site for posting a link to this article.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Bad Karma Chameleons

In a followup to a story reported in the Invasive Species Weblog last month, officials in Hawaii caught not one but 6 live veiled chameleons (Chamaeleo calyptratus) last week on the island of Maui. As reported in the Star Bulletin, there is great concern that establishment of these reptiles, often kept as pets, will be to the detriment of native Hawaiian birds and insects. The captured chameleons were a mix of males and females, and have no known natural enemies in Hawaii. You can read the government's original press release here.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

An expensive hobby?

Get caught selling water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) in Australia, and it could cost you $1000 AUS. The West Australian is reporting that the Department of Agriculture is spreading the word after officials discovered the plant being sold and traded at swap meets. Regardless of the problems known to be caused by this species, there continues to be a demand for it for use in aquariums and ponds. The Dept. of Agriculture is hoping a public information campaign will help spread the word to the general public.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listerserver for posting the link to this article.

Friday, December 06, 2002

Banned in the USA...or just in Colorado

photo of Russian olive showing thorny branches and bird-dispersed fruit

In a case of too little too late, the Colorado Department of Agriculture has banned the sale of Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) by nurseries in that state, according to this article from the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. The invasive tree/shrub is already a major problem in Colorado, as it is in many part of the western U.S., and nurseries sell so little of it that the ban, which starts Jan. 1, 2003, will barely impact their sales. Hopefully this gesture will help build public awareness about the dangers of planting Russian olive and other invasive species. The Dept. of Agriculture is recommending people consider the native silver buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea) as a replacement species.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Ice Ice, Baby

Last weekend a dozen volunteers converged on populations of the South African ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis) located on a beach in Santa Cruz County, California. As reported in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the goal was to remove the invasive species from sand dunes and hopefully allow the native plant populations there a chance to recover. There is some controversy about this project that stems from the very reason ice plants were introduced in the first place: they are very effective at dune stabilization. With the ice plants removed, it is likely that the dunes will revert to a natural state, which means they'll be moving around. This may cause problems for those charged with maintaining the beaches, which are park of the state park system. Here's a story about a similar project in Marin County.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

New in Print

For those times when you find yourself without computer access (horror!), there are several recently (or about to be) published books about invasive species:

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Swimming with Algae

Australian officials were initially so concerned about the invasion of the tropical algae Caulerpa taxifolia that they banned most recreational activities around the West Lakes waterway system. Now, according to this article from The Advertiser, the restriction has been lifted in some areas, and beaches were opened for swimming just in time for the start of summer. Authorities aren't concerned with beachgoers spreading the algae, because so little of it grows near the edge of the water. But they may have another reason not to worry, at least for now: barely anyone is showing up to swim. Fishing and other boating bans remain in effect.

Monday, December 02, 2002

Well, if it worked for Enron. Oh, wait...

Florida's Herald-Tribune is reporting on an interesting technological advance in the fight against invasive plants. Called the "pepper grinder," the machine, which shreds wood and turns it into mulch, is being used to target the pervasive Brazilian pepper tree (Schinus terebinthifolius). There is currently some controversy about the pepper grinder, designed by a Florida company and used by Enviro-Friendly Vegetation Control, since there is evidence that company did some damage to native mangrove trees. But for right now, Charlotte County officials are remaining open to the idea, especially since it is a cost-effective method of invasive species control and an alternative to completely clearing invaded land.

Saturday, November 30, 2002

King of the World

Hailing from the far eastern parts of Russia, the King crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) is invading Norway and killing native crabs along the way. As reported in this BBC article, the crabs have been in Norwegian water for about 30 years, and are now being found further north than ever before. While the crabs have no natural enemies, Norway is upping the annual quota for fishermen who wish to catch and sell them. Interestingly, the BBC published this article online in August 2000, in which they put a more positive spin on the story, claiming that the crabs were benign.

Friday, November 29, 2002

Seaweed tries to go bi-coastal

Scientists in the San Francisco area have begun an eradication program for the east coast brown algae known as rockweed (Ascophyllum nodosum), according to this article from The Argus Online. While this seaweed has been known on the west coast for over a quarter of a century, researchers noted its recent rapid spread and decided to take action. Rockweed is suspected to have been introduced through its use as a packing material for seafood and bait.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Gobble, gobble, gobble

Suburban residents in Marin County, California are being overrun by wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo), according to this story from KRON (Channel 4). The turkeys, native to other parts of the U.S., were introduced to California for hunting over a century ago. A sudden population explosion has the birds strutting around homeowners' gardens, and many are not amused. As one resident commented, "...when they start eating my tomatoes and stuff, then the war's on."

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Raising Canes

At first glance, this looks like a nice story about a pulp mill trying to make good use of a nasty invasive plant. Unfortunately, it turns out that Samoa Pacific Cellulose (SPC), which started shipping giant reed (giant cane, Arundo donax) after wood chips and demand for them both became scarce, can't make a decent profit from buying the grass that's collected in small batches from infested sites across the country. The company's idea is to farm the stuff, planting 5000 acres of it in Central Valley, California. Luckily for this part of California, giant reed doesn't seem to grow very well there (for now), and though this is frustrating for SPC, it does mean that the chance of the species becoming invasive there is lessened. Still, there is concern about the potential for the species to spread to wetlands from the site where it will be planted or during transport. SPC is marketing the pulp under the trade name "Samoa cane," which they insist is proprietary. The grass yields short fibers that can be used for products like tissue paper, and because the pulp is wood-free, it may command a higher price in U.S. markets as well as overseas.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Aural Invasion

Missing boats, disappearing people...is it a murder mystery, or are Invasive Species wreaking havoc? Newsbob Industries has created an old-time radio show for your listening pleasure. Listen as the characters use evidence and cheesy sound effects to figure out the mystery of what's plaguing the Great Lakes, while they teach you about various invasive species issues.

Monday, November 25, 2002

The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out

A paper published in the December issue of the journal Conservation Biology concludes that European earthworms (including Eisenia hortensis) are threatening the rare goblin fern (Botrychium mormo) in forests in Minnesota. North American earthworms are found mostly in more southerly climates, so if you live in the northern parts of the continent, it's likely that all the earthworms you see are introduced. The addition of the earthworms to the forest ecosystem causes a decrease in the thickness of the forest floor. The study, done by Michael Gundale at Michigan Technological University, showed that goblin ferns were missing from parts of the forest where the litter layer was thinner. You can read about a similar study here.

Thanks to ScienceDaily for posting information about this study.

Saturday, November 23, 2002

Shoo Fushou!

As reported in the People's Daily, researchers and government officials in China are calling for stricter regulations governing the introduction of non-native species, following two high profile cases of invading non-native species. The Fushou snail (I think the article is referring to the golden apple snail Pomacea canaliculata, but I am not positive) and the water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), both intentionally introduced South American natives, have invaded aquatic ecosystems in China, causing environmental and economic damage, and evading attempts to control them. While in America we don't often hear about invasive species in Asian countries, it turns out that many of them are actually native to our part of the world. You can read a bit more about invasive species in China by clicking here.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listerserver for posting the link to this article.

Friday, November 22, 2002

Maui Wowie

Officials in Maui are concerned about four veiled chameleons (Chameleo calyptratus) found in the wild over the past eight months. The reptiles, native to Yemen and Saudi Arabia, are often kept as pets, but can survive outdoors in tropical climates. They have no natural predators in Maui, where it is illegal to own one, and are thought to pose a threat to native insects, birds and vegetation if they establish wild populations.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Shockingly good news

Maryland officials are declaring the eradication program for the snakehead fish (Channa spp.) a success, according to this article from SunSpot.net. A recent survey of the affected ponds (by electroshock) indicated that there were no more snakeheads, the evidence being that no fish floated to the pond surface after the shock was applied. The article concludes that quick action has prevented the snakeheads from spreading to the nearby Little Patuxent River, but there is no mention of any surveys done there, so I'm not sure how they can know this for sure. While it is estimated to have cost Maryland about $50,000 to remove the snakeheads, it is possible that this came with a greater ecological cost, since all the fish life was eradicated, and probably some aquatic invertebrate species as well. Apparently the rotenone application was a bit too effective, and back in September Maryland wildlife officials, worried that the piscicide would spread, added a neutralizer to the pond

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Acting out for clean water

Four Attorneys General from states bordering the Great Lakes (Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and New York) have submitted a court brief requesting assistance from the EPA in the battle against invasive species. They are specifically targeting marine invasives transported in ballast water, according to this article from the Environment News Service. Michigan already has a ballast water monitoring program in place, but is hoping to encourage stricter regulations by having ballast regulated under the Federal Clean Water Act.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

But they're so cute and fuzzy!

Louisiana officials are so desperate to get rid of the invasive Argentinian rodent known as the nutria (Myocastor coypus ), they've started a new program that puts a $4 bounty on each one. According to this story, the goal is to rid the state of 400,000 nutria, also known as coypu, by the end of the winter. In the meantime, having failed to convince Americans that nutria are good eatin', the state is working to develop a market for nutria meat in Asia. You can find nutria recipes here, and don't forget to check out the NutriaSuite Theme Song, which is actually quite nice.

Update 2/2006: The NutriaSuite song has disappeared, but in its place, the ISW points you to Spinn's most excellent "O Nutria." An excerpt:

"Don't listen to naysayers and detractors Who say you're just a rat 'Cause a rat never tasted so good in gumbo And a pound of you's got 7 grams of fat"
Bonus points to Greg Peters and Scott Fischer for that punk coda at the end - definitely worth a listen.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Is Michigan the new Emerald Isle?

Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan has stepped up the fight in her home state against the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis). According to a report at ClickOnDetroit.com, the Senator has requested federal funds from the USDA to battle the borers, which have already destroyed half of the state's ash trees. In the meantime, officials are warning people to take caution to avoid spreading the emerald ash borers to other states or up into Canada in contaminated firewood or other wood products, as reported last month in The Oakland Press. Sen. Stabenow has taken up environmental issues before, having recently urged the US Fisheries and Wildlife Service (along with Senator Carl Levin) to list several species of carp as injurious under the Lacey Act, with the goal of prohibiting their importation.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Fern Frenzy

The Honolulu Advertiser is reporting that efforts to clear the invasive aquatic fern Salvinia molesta from Lake Wilson, Oahu may be failing. The salvinia, a South American native, is on the federal noxious weed list. State and local officials have been working to remove the plants by mechanical means, with the hope that they can avoid treating the lake with chemicals that would harm other flora and fauna. The success of the salvinia has been tied to high levels of nutrients in this manmade lake, which regularly receives effluent from a wastewater treatment plant on a nearby river.

Friday, November 15, 2002

Here are a few great web sites gleaned from the Mass Bays "Eyes on the Estuaries" marine invasive species conference, held this past Thursday and Friday:

  • Rapa whelk (Rapana venosa) research from Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
  • The Marine Invertebrate Diversity Initiative (MIDI) website. The Northeast Aquatic Nuisance Species (NEANS) Panel and the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) will be collaborating with MIDI to create MarineID, an online repository of marine invasive species data.
  • The Aquatic Nuisance Species Clearinghouse is a great place to find resources. Though most of the major ones are not free, there are many fact sheets and identification cards that are.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Sunday Brunch with Rhinos?

An Indian and an American organization are partnering to get the mimosas away from the rhinos in Kaziranga National Park, India. (Not those mimosas!) A species of mimosa, a leguminous creeping plant originally introduced to nearby tea gardens for its capabilities as a nitrogen fixer, has escaped cultivation, and is now displacing native grasses and poisoning rhinos and other mammals with a toxin (mimosin). The Enviromental News Network has a detailed report.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Finch Pinch

From the Environment News Service (by way of heavy discussion on the ALIENS-L listserver) comes this article about parasites infecting Darwin's finches. The finches, theorized by Darwin to have evolved from a single species on the Galapagos Islands into 13 different species, have been infected with fly parasites, including Philornis downsi. Scientists have yet to confirm that the parasites are causing increasedmortality of the birds.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

One fish, two fish, black fish, blue fish

Waterways in Japan are being overrun with non-native fish species, including American natives like black bass and blue-gill (Lepomis macrochirus). While the Japanese apparently like sport fishing for black bass and other non-natives, they don't like eating them. Commercial fishermen are bearing the consequences, pulling up tons of fish that no one wants. According to The Yomiuri Shimbun, the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo now accepts donations of these fish and feeds them to its sea lions and birds. This is much better than the alternative, which was basically letting the catches rot while trying to find a way to dispose of them, but is likely a short-term solution.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Predicting Fish Invasions

The journal Nature is reporting on work published in the journal Science describing a mathematical model developed to predict which non-native species will become invasive. The researchers used the model to successfully predict about 90% of the fish invasions into the Great Lakes. You can read another version of the report at CBS News, but if you want to read even the abstract of the original article, you'll have to log in (the full text is for paid subscribers only).

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Tipping the Scales

A relatively new scale insect is wreaking havoc in South Florida, according to a story in the Sun-Sentinel. The lobate lac scale (Paratachardina lobata lobata), first seen in 1999, has the ability to live on more than 120 different host plants, many of which are native to Florida. The species, native to India and Sri Lanka, also attacks fruit trees and ornamental shrubs, alarming ecologists and horticulturalists alike.

Thanks to the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers web site for providing a link to this story.

Saturday, November 09, 2002

Green Crab Cakes and Ham?

The Food Technology Centre of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island is getting closer to debuting food products using the meat of the invasive European green crab (Carcinus maenas). According to this article, they expect to be selling crab cakes in the southern U.S. by this winter. I'll take a double order please! :-)

Friday, November 08, 2002

Melaleuca Menace

Scientists from the Agricultural Research Service have released a new biological control for the invasive melaleuca tree (Melaleuca quinquenervia) in southern Florida. The insect, Boreioglycaspis melaleucae, was chosen based on the damage it does to melaleuca in their native Australia. Scientists are hoping that the insects will work in concert with the melaleuca leaf weevil (also called the melaleuca snout beetle), Oxyops vitiosa, a biological control first introduced in 1997. You can read additional information about this project from the ARS here. There are several other biological control agents that have been introduced to help slow the spread of melaleuca.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Word Play

Kim Todd has written a piece for grist magazine titled "Botanically Correct." In it, she discusses the need for a better language to describe invasive species, touching on how words like "alien" and "exotic" can be misinterpreted, since they are also used to describe people. Kim is also author of a great book, "Tinkering with Eden."

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Jane's Salvation, Paterson's Curse

40,000 crown weevils (Mogulones larvatus) have been released throughout Southern Australia in order to help manage populations of the invasive weed salvation Jane (Echium plantagineum), also known as Paterson's Curse. According to this article from the Port Lincoln Times, scientists already recognize that it is too late to eradicate the Mediterranean weed, and are hoping instead to control it. There have apparently been six different insects introduced to Australia as a biocontrol for this species.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Fire the Cannons!

What do you do when your bridge is covered with starling droppings (Sturnus vulgaris)? When all else fails, bring in the cannons. At least that's what they're resorting to on I-5 in Seattle, Washington, according to this article in The Seattle Times. The cannons fire loud propane blasts rather than releasing projectiles. Officials are hoping the booms will be enough to scare away the starlings, which roost in far greater numbers than the pigeons that flocked to the bridge in past years.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

The Vale of the Vole shrinks

The water vole (Arvicola terrestris), whose populations are on the decline throughout Britain, is now thought to be extinct in Devon and Cornwall. According to this article from The Independent, the culprit is thought to be the American mink (Mustela vison), whose wild populations began to expand in the late 1950s, several decades after they first began escaping from fur farms. While the mink do prey on water voles, the voles are also threatened by humans that mistake them for rats.

Friday, November 01, 2002

Houston, we have a problem.

Two articles from last week point out what most of us studying invasive species have known for a long time: invasives are a problem, have been for a long time, and we're not doing enough about it. First, this article in The Scientist discusses a recent report published by the General Accounting Office, which concludes that more work needs to be done and makes suggestions about cohesive ways to complete that work. There's also this article from Cleveland's The Plain Dealer (relegated to the sports section because of its fishing-related theme, I suppose), reporting on problems with invasive species in the Great Lakes region and the fact that the Great Lakes Fishery Commission has come out in support of prior reports about the significant threat posed by invasives.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Bad Boys from Brazil

According to this article from the Wilmington Star, Brazilian waterweed (Egeria densa) may be responsible for fish kills near the confluence of Town Creek and Rice Creek in Brunswick County, North Carolina. The South American aquatic weed is known to invade fresh water ecosystems, usually after it is dumped by unknowing or uncaring aquarists. Scientists think the fish kills in NC are caused by die off of the Brazilian waterweed, since the decomposition of the plant material uses up large amounts of dissolved oxygen that the fish need to survive. No word yet on what is causing the weed die off.

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Invasive Plant Conference

Starting Monday is the "Janet Meakin Poor" Research Symposium, hosted by the Chicago Botanic Garden. I will be attending the conference, so no new blog posts until the end of next week.

Friday, October 25, 2002

Get it in writing

Newly in print: The Journal of Evolutionary Biology has this article (link to abstract) in its November issue, about differences between populations of purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) in Sweden. The authors found evidence suggesting that plant characters have evolved in part based on climatic gradients. Also new in print is Aquatic Invasive Species of Europe, a new book from Kluwer Academic Publishers. From the main page you can view authors, references, and appendices in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Black and Bluebird

If you were in Story County, Iowa last weekend, you may have been lucky enough to catch volunteers from Iowa State University and the Ames community acting out skits to show kids the problems that invasive species cause. According to this article in Iowa State Daily, one skit featured native bluebirds (Sialia spp.) being kicked out of their territory by European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) and sparrows. The skits were followed by a hike in 200-acre McFarland Park.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Like "Queen Anne's Lace on steroids"

That's how the writer of this article describes giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum). A major invasive species in Europe, giant hogweed is only an "up-and-coming" here, having been spotted this year in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and now Michigan.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

A Good Read about a Bad Reed

From Newsday comes this article under the heading of "Marshlands Marauders." Madeline Bodin has written an excellent piece about the common reed (Phragmites australis). While focused on problems caused by the species at a Nature Conservancy preserve in Vermont, the article also touches on the issues of native vs. non-native Phragmites and the search for a good biological control.

Monday, October 21, 2002

Knotweed Concerto in B Minor

This is pretty cool...Ed's Internet Yard Sale, part of the Turner Toys home page, has Pipes of Pan made from Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) stems! The page is a bit outdated, so they may not be available anymore, but it is a neat idea, and if you know how to tune a musical instrument you should be able to make your own version.

Sunday, October 20, 2002

See No Weevil?

Two species of vine weevil that have been around England since at least 1998, Otiorhynchus armadillo and the less aggressive O. salicicola, are suddenly setting off alarms across the country. According to this article from the BBC, O. armadillo is now the most common weevil in Southwest London. Scientist aren't sure what caused the population explosion in either of these species, thought to have been accidentally introduced from the Mediterranean part of Italy. The pests are causing serious damage to plants from viburnum to ivy.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Take 2 and Call Me When You're Dying

Scientists in Guam have found a novel way to fight the burgeoning population of brown tree snakes (Boiga irregularis). They've been stuffing dead mice with acetaminophen and tossing them out of airplanes. According to this story from Guam's Pacific Daily News, acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) is toxic to the snakes. The scientists have been experimenting with various ways to deliver this poison to the invasive snakes, since there is some concern that other animals will eat the mice. One possible option, placing a mouse in a skinny pipe, was rejected after it was learned that an endangered yet crafty bird was able to shake the mouse out of the pipe.

Friday, October 18, 2002

Cacti Attacked

Scientists are concerned that the cactus moth (Cactoblastis cactorum), which dines on virtually any species of prickly pear (Opuntia spp.), is spreading north and west through North America. According to this article from the Arizona Daily Star, the moth, which is native to South America, could be making its way to Arizona and Mexico, where prickly pear cactus is a significant part of the desert ecosystem and also an important agricultual crop. The cactus moth is actually considered one of the first successful biological controls, having been introduced to Australia in the mid-20th century to combat invasive patches of prickly pear cactus. It is now also a pest of native cacti in that country.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Beetle Mania

The Asian Longhorned Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) has been spotted for the first time this week in New Jersey, in the city of Newport. Kudos to the Hoboken man who spotted the beetle flying into a tree and called the NJ Department of Agriculture! Unfortunately it appears that a population has already established in the area, with over 100 trees affected. An emergency three-year monitoring program has been started in the city, and infected trees will be removed.

(Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting about this story.)

Monday, October 14, 2002

Gizzard Shad!!!!

No, that's not the new cool thing the teens are saying (but maybe it should be :-). A gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) is a silvery fish often used for bait by fishermen. It is considered native the Great Lakes region, the St. Lawrence and Mississippi rivers, and many other regions down through Florida and Mexico, but has also been introduced in many parts of the U.S., including Lake Holiday in Indiana. According to the Indiana Post-Tribune, the resulting population explosion in that lake caused officials to commit to poisoning the lake with rotenone, beginning this week. You can read about similar problems with shad in Lake Powell, Arizona here.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

Weedbuster Week 2

Today is the start of Australia's 9th annual Weedbusters Week. If you are in Australia right now, please bust some weeds for me. And if you see Woody Weed, tell him I said "Hi."

Saturday, October 12, 2002

Weedbuster Week 1

As part of Australia's annual Weedbuster Week, RG and FJ Richardson has released "the world�s largest listing of weeds": The Global Compendium of Weeds. The book is a bargain at a mere $165 Australian dollars. It contains entries for almost 22,000 species. You can read the press release here.

(Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting this information.)

Friday, October 11, 2002

In the CNN News

From CNN.com comes this article about a report released last Thursday by the National Wildlife Refuge Association, urging Congress to allocate money to a large-scale program to enlist volunteers to fight invasive species. (Guess the turn to volunteerism doesn't bode well for my job prospects :-) You can read the entire report by going here.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

The Shadowlake Marsh Experience

If you're in the neighborhood of Montgomery County, Texas, mark your calendar for October 19th. That's when the Community Association of the Woodlands is sponsoring a clean up of the Shadowlake Marsh Experience, an oddly named park that is the target of a massive effort of restoration. According to this article in The Courier, the clean up includes sending out two volunteer teams to remove invasive plants like Chinese Tallow (Sapium sebiferum or Triadica sebifera) and Rattan Vine (Berchemia scandens). There is an invasive species orientation for those interested in joining one of the crews.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Phrag Wallpaper

I took this digital photo of Common reed (Phragmites australis) the other day and decided it would make nice desktop wallpaper. Now I've resized it in a few different resolutions so that you can download it for your very own computer. The images are in jpeg file format. Enjoy!

mini version of Phrag background
800 x 600 resolution
1024 x 768 resolution
1280 x 960 resolution

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Invasive or Not?

Seems like the jury is still out on Bladder Senna (Colutea arborescens). It's not listed as invasive in the USDA PLANTS database, but it is on this invasive list from the Plant Conservation Alliance, and in this weed gallery from Boulder, Colorado. Meanwhile, this Mediterranean legume can be found in a third of all U.S. states, where it is planted as an ornamental. I recently found a tree of this species growing by Wollaston Beach in Quincy, Massachusetts, and there were at least a dozen of its offspring (presumably) growing nearby. Photos are below. If this species is naturalized where you live, let me know.

Bladder senna flowers and seed podBladder senna seedlings
Flowers and distinctive puffy seed podBladder senna seedlings established about 20 ft away from flowering tree

Monday, October 07, 2002

Marine Invasive Species Conference

The Massachusetts Bays Program is sponsoring a conference Nov. 14-15 titled "EYES ON THE ESTUARIES: Preventing and Detecting Marine Invasive Species." If you attend you can hear talks about current marine invasive in Massachusetts, potential future invaders, and what we can do to monitor and prevent invasions. The conference is being held at the New England Aquarium in Boston, and is a bargain at $50 for the two days.

Sunday, October 06, 2002

Weeds Worldwide

Invasive species pay no attention to political boundaries, a good reason why we need a global effort to prevent invasives from being introduced into new regions. Taking a pointer from the U.S., whose Congress recently introduced legislation to create the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act, Canadian officials are considering similar legislation for their own country. After a meeting of the U.S.-Canada International Joint Commission, members spoke about the problems caused by invasive species that both countries must face, from the spread of the Asian carp to the potential hazards of contaminated ballast water.

Saturday, October 05, 2002

Burning the Phrag

Lakeplain prairies are an extremely rare ecosystem, found only on the shores of the Great Lakes. According to this article in Michigan's Times Herald, several areas of lakeplain prairie have been invaded by the reed Phragmites australis, and now the communities are fighting back. Their solution is a three step program: application of herbicide, cutting back of the sprayed plants, and the burning of the prairie to destroy remaining phrag and encourage native prairie plants to reestablish.

Friday, October 04, 2002

Banned in the U.S.A.

Today is the first official day of the federal ban on the import of Northern Snakehead (Channa argus), according to this article from The Capital. Congratulations go out to this invasive fish for garnering enough media attention to bypass the 30-day waiting period that is usually in place before a species ban can take effect.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Hogweed? Hogwash!

Increased public awareness about the dangers of Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) has led to hundreds of reports that the species had been spotted, but only a few turned out to be the real thing. Giant hogweed was discovered in the wild in New England earlier this summer. Since then, 9 additional confirmed cases of giant hogweed have been found in Connecticut, according to this article in the Norwich Bulletin. While wading through 300 "sightings" to find those 9 probably led to some seriously overworked scientists, you can't ignore the benefits of educating the public about invasive plants.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002


The National Cattlemen's Beef Association is concerned about the costs of invasive weeds and the dangers they cause on rangeland, and they want the government to know it. Myra Bradford Hyde, the NCBA director of environmental issues, recently testified before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry (wow, long name) about her organization's concerns, according to this article from AgricultureLaw.com. You can also read the full press release here.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Recent Journal Articles

Articles about invasive plants are popping up in a lot of different journals lately. What follows are links to the abstracts. The October issues of Conservation Biology and Molecular Ecology have articles about "The Landscape Ecology of Invasive Plants" and "Locating the sources of an invasive pest, grape phylloxera, using a mitochondrial DNA gene genealogy." Other recently published articles include "Reproductive effort in invasive and non-invasive Rubus" in Oecologia and "Density-dependent regulation in an invasive seaweed: responses at plant and modular levels" in the Journal of Ecology.

Monday, September 30, 2002

Invading a video screen near you

Mark your calendar for October 15th, from 1pm-4pm ET; you don't want to miss the Federal Highway Administration's teleconference, "Invasive Species in Transportation Rights of Way:"You Wouldn't Plant Kudzu, Would You?" ." The conference will feature panel discussions about the role of interstate highways in the spread of invasive plants, and programs that have been implemented to hinder that spread. If you can't make it to one of the program's broadcast sites, you can watch it live on the web.

Thanks to a member of the Yahoo! group ma-eppc for posting information about the conference.

Sunday, September 29, 2002

Soy is Good

Been hankering to rid your land of nasty invasive plants, but worried about losing your nice layer of topsoil to erosion after the weeds are gone? Well, why not help yourself to a nice crop of GMO soybeans (Glycine max)? In what may be the most interesting application of GMO plants so far, the Nature Conservancy is letting farmers plant crops of Roundup-resistant soybeans on prairieland in Minnesota that is infested with invasive plants. When the crop is harvested, the weeds are gone, and what's left of the soybeans can be plowed under. The site is then reseeded with native prairie grasses. Boulder, Colorado is considering the same project for their own parks, according to this article from The Daily Camera. This is especially interesting given the number of states and countries that have rejected growing the soybeans for agricultural purposes. Soybean is considered to be an invasive species itself in some parts of North America.

Thanks to blahstuff for linking to the Daily Camera article.

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Patrolling for Perch

The White Perch (Morone americana) is on its way to Lake Winnebago (perhaps for a vacay?), according to this article from the Wisconsin Post-Crescent. Scientists have found several young perch upstream from the lake, and expect the fish to continue their path upriver. The perch will likely be used as evidence of the dangers of introducing invasive species in the ongoing battle against Wisconsin state officials, who have made plans to open up locks on the Fox River to allow boat traffic through. White perch are native to the Atlantic Coast of the U.S., but have worked their way inland via human-built canals.

Friday, September 27, 2002

That's Entertainment

To successfully fight the spread of invasive species, we need to better educate the general public. That's the slant of this article from Newsday.com, which features quotes from panelists speaking to the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. Panelists recommended education would be most effective if done in an entertaining way. Prime candidates for disseminating information in this manner include public aquariums.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Aussie WeedBusters Week

If you're in Australia October 13-20, be sure to check out the activities for the 9th annual Weedbusters Week. The event aims to raise public awareness about weeds and the role people can play in preventing weed spread. Maybe if you're lucky, you'll see Woody Weed. If you can't make it to any of the plant identification or weed-pulling sessions, you can visit the web site to download posters and information about educational activities.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002


If you're near Blythewood, South Carolina this weekend, be sure to stop by the 27th annual Blythewood Kudzu Festival. They've got more uses for Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) than you could ever imagine, from clothing to baskets to yummy jams and sandwiches. It is great to see the folks in Blythewood making lemonade from a hefty crop of lemons. But before you decide to get some Kudzu to start your own local festival, remember that this invasive vine is on the U.S. Federal Noxious Weed list, and is also banned in many states.

Monday, September 23, 2002

Milfoil in Lake Cochituate

Seems Lake Cochituate, a large lake in eastern Massachusetts, is in danger of being taken over by Eurasian Water Milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), according to this article from the Framingham Tab. The article reports on the installation of vegetation barriers that officials are hoping will keep the milfoil out of at least part of the lake, and mentions the state's reluctance to combat the problem with herbicide application, since the lake is close to a drinking water supply. There are also several good examples of what other towns in the region have done to battle this pervasive aquatic weed.

Saturday, September 21, 2002

Maybe it's the Mussels

Researchers are concerned about the appearance of a "dead zone" covering about one-third of Lake Erie, according to this article in The Marion Star. The dead zone, a low-oxygen area of the lake in which fish cannot survive, appeared in the late 1990s, after years of improvement in water quality in this once heavily polluted Great Lake. The primary suspect at this point is the Quagga Mussel (Dreissena bugensis), a European native that is closely related to the Zebra Mussel (D. polymorpha). Quagga mussels have been known in the Great Lakes since the 1990s, and can cause problems by digesting organic material from the lake bottom while releasing phosphorus. The phosphorus contributes to algal growth, which can severely deplete dissolved oxygen levels in the water. Other potential contributors to the problem include increased sewage and agricultural runoff, and a drop in lake water levels.

Friday, September 20, 2002

Loosestrife Lover

Blasphemy? Perhaps. But not everyone thinks of Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) as the scourge of American wetlands. As this article from the Times Herald-Record in New York demonstrates, some researchers consider it a species with wildlife value, and do not concur with claims that it crowds out native wetland plants. I think it is likely that the honeybee and ladybug mentioned as inhabiting the loosestrife that was "teeming with life" are not native either.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

NISA, Make way for the NAISA

The National Invasive Species Act (NISA), introduced in 1996, is set to end September 30th. In its place, lawmakers are offering the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act (NAISA), along with additional legislation on more general invasive species research. You can read a press release about it, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Learning About Loosestrife

You can now earn college credits studying the invasive plant Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria). The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is offering an online course, geared towards high school and middle school teachers, beginning this October. Since the course is online, you do not have to be in Illinois to benefit!

(Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting information about this topic.)

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Good Neighbors

It seems with all the furor that erupted over the spread of fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) through the U.S., an associated invasive species was being overlooked. According to ScienceDaily, scientists at Texas A&M University have reported that the Rhodesgrass Mealybug (Antonina graminis) was discovered living in association with fire ants, and in fact were provided lodging, along with an aphid species, in "shelters" built by the ants nearby their own mounds. More research needs to be done to explain exactly why the ants sometimes build these shelters, but it is obvious that they do have a symbiotic relationship with the mealybugs. You can read the abstract for this study, published in this month's Ecology.

Monday, September 16, 2002

Really Wild Jamaican Coffee

The Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network (IABIN), which just recently met in Jamaica, has made it a priority to support information exchange on invasive species topics between all American countries. One topic discussed was the effect of wild coffee plants on the indigenous flora of Jamaica (I am unsure what species is referred to here, since "wild coffee" is used to describe more than one genera). Until the IABIN updates their website with the most current information about the forum, you can read this article from the Jamaica Observer.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Buy Something, You'll Feel Better Invasive Woody Plants Ceramic Tile

Announcing the first in a series of products designed to spread the word about invasive plants. Using a great free service from cafepress.com, I have designed a ceramic tile featuring four "Invasive Woody Species of America." You can purchase this limited edition tile/coaster here. There will be more tiles offered in the coming months, and in the near future I will be debuting several other items for your buying pleasure. Any profits made from the sale of these items will go towards increasing public awareness of invasive species issues.

Saturday, September 14, 2002

Eating Autumn Olive

Why let those Autumn Olive fruits (Elaeagnus umbellata) go to the birds? If you're thinking of trying to stem the wave of Autumn Olive seedlings in your town, below are a couple of recipes that call for those juicy, red fruits! (Feel free to send samples.) There are even possible cancer-fighting benefits to consuming them, because they contain large quantities of the antioxidant lycopene. For those of you having problems with full-grown trees, the roots make lovely walking sticks.

Update 10/2004: Those of you interested in eating your way out of the invasive plant problem may want to check out "Wild Plants I Have Known…and Eaten," a book by Russ Cohen. It features chapters about several common invaders, including autumn olive and Japanese knotweed.

Friday, September 13, 2002

Russian Olive Revealed
Photo of Russian Olive Photo
Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata)

Now that the growing season is over, I think I've finally figured out how to tell the difference between Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) and Russian Olive (E. angustifolia). Of course, it's pretty easy right now, since Russian Olive has yellow, mealy fruits, while Autumn Olive has juicy, red fruits (See photos above). If I hadn't recently found a Russian Olive right near campus, I'd probably still be wondering. I'll have to see if I can use the facts that Russian Olive has longer, thinner, more silvery leaves, as well as much more prominent thorns, to tell the two species apart next spring.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Weed Free Feed

I just ran across a really interesting website called "Weed Free Feed." It aims to educate everyone, but specifically horseowners, about the prevention of invasive weeds on public lands. Animal forage (hay, straw, etc.), mulch, and places where feed grain is stored can all be certified as weed free in California, and the WFF Working Group hopes that soon every horse owner will request it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Let your Phreak Phrag Fly

Ever since you found out that there were both native and introduced types of Common Reed (Phragmites australis), you have been dying to know if that patch in your backyard is a foreign invader, haven't you? Well, now here's your chance: The Phragmites Diagnostic Service at Cornell University is offering to test your sample for free! If you have several samples that you want to have tested, you have to pre-register, but it's still free! Or you could do what I'm going to try to do, which is identify native stands of Phrag using this handy guide.

Thanks to a member of the Yahoo! group ma-eppc for posting information about this project.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Salt vs. Weeds

Here's a little blurb, from ABC News Australia (I doubt this story will appear on the U.S, news sites), about the 13th annual Australian Weed Conference, going on right now in Perth. It's got a quote from Dr. Rick Roush, pointing out that with all the money spent to combat salinity problems in agriculture, little is given to fight weeds, which are at least as big of a problem.

Monday, September 09, 2002

Let's Talk Bugs

The Entomological Society of Ontario has scheduled their annual meeting from October 18-20, 2002. The topic this year is "Invasive Species and Biodiversity," so if you're interested and will be in the area, or if you want to submit a paper or poster, go here.

(Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting information about this meeting.)

Sunday, September 08, 2002

101 Dalmatian Toadflaxes

Seems that Lake Tahoe, California is having problems with the invasive Mediterranean plant Dalmation Toadflax (Linaria dalmatica). According to this article from KCRA Channel 3's web site, the invasion has already progressed to the point where it will take at least 3 years to eradicate the plant from the area. A invasive Knapweed (species was not named in the article) has also raised the concerns of scientists after it was found in the area.

Saturday, September 07, 2002

Knotty Paper

The Sheffield Wildlife Trust in England has found a great use for the invasive plant Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica). According to this article in The Independent, they're going to make into paper pots and pot liners to grow other plants. I'm going to have to get the recipe for this!

Friday, September 06, 2002

Hating Hyacinth

Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is threatening to take over Lake Victoria...again. It seems that the contract between the Kenyan government and the company in charge of water hyacinth control expired, according to this story at AllAfrica.com. Now that the company's control measures, which consisted of harvesting the plants and shredding them, have ceased, the plants are once more clogging irrigation canals, crowding the lake edge, and blocking passageways on the lake. Maybe they should just start making more furniture.

Thursday, September 05, 2002

More on Forest Pests

For those of you who were interested in Tuesday's blog entry about forest pests, get more information straight from the source: Read Faith Campbell and Scott Schlarbaum's report, "Fading Forest II," an update to the original report released in the mid-1990s (link goes to a large Adobe Acrobat .pdf file).

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

In Control

From ScienceDaily comes this press release about the work of Dr. James Parkhurst from Virginia Tech. Dr. Parkhurst is interested in finding ways for the general public to control invasive non-native plants without harming the environment. His suggestions include public education about invasive plants, and increasing the availability (and decreasing the cost) of native plants for sale in nurseries. You can read the original press release here, and learn more about James Parkhurst's work here.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Weird that I forgot to put a title on this until Thursday...

This decent article from U.S. News & World Report describes the problems caused by non-native forest pests that attack trees. There's a little bit about the acoustic detection system being used to find Asian longhorned beetle larvae (Anoplophora glabripennis) boring inside trees; you can find more detailed information about that here. More important is the section of the article describing the lack of manpower, funding, and legislation that keeps the U.S. from properly monitoring the importation of items packed in materials that can contain dangerous pests.

Monday, September 02, 2002

Cutting the Cord Grass

Researchers in the U.K. are trying to combat Cord grass (Spartina anglica) invasion in the Lindisfarne reserve on the Northumbrian coastline, according to this article in The Journal. To gain the upper hand, they are tilling the grass 8 inches under the soil. Over 250 acres of land have been taken over by the Cord grass, which was originally planted there intentionally to prevent soil erosion. The construction of a causeway altered the affects of the tide and created conditions that were ideal for Cord grass invasion. S. anglica is the offspring of a hybrid, which is the offspring itself of the native English S. maritima and the American S. alterniflora.

Sunday, September 01, 2002

Weed Summit?

Too bad President Bush is skipping the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development. According to this article from the Baltimore Sun, he'll miss out on meeting Thabo Ntisana from South Africa's Working for Water program. Working for Water has many projects focusing on the management and eradication of invasive plants, as well as a great web site detailing those projects and offering resources to concerned members of the general public.

Saturday, August 31, 2002

Weed Wagons West!

According to this AP article from The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the forests of Oregon, so recently in danger from massive fires, are now in danger from noxious weeds. Apparently weed recruitment is high in the recently burned areas, and some are worried that the forests will not be able to recover. There is additional concern that the weeds will spread across the country via equipment from other states used to fight the fires. Sounds pretty ominous, but I can't tell for sure, since the article doesn't mention a single plant species. Oregon's certainly got a lot to choose from, though, as you can see from this list.

Friday, August 30, 2002

Playing with Fire Ants

I have to admit I was pretty alarmed when I heard a news report this morning about Fire Ants being found in Maine. A web search brought up this report which indicates that they've been around New England for over 50 years. It turns out they're actually talking about the European Fire Ant (Myrmica rubra), a less aggressive species and a less painful biter than the Imported Red Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta) that's causing major problems in the southern U.S. Still worth keeping an eye out for them though.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Very Very Vetiver

Vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides), native to Thailand, is often planted there to combat soil erosion. According to this article in the Bangkok Post, entrepreneurs in the country have begun to manufacture furniture and other items from the grass, and see its potential as a timber substitute. In the search for the best type of Vetiver grass for every situation, Thailand has also imported many ecotypes of this species from all over Asia, including India and Japan. Since this grass is already known to be weedy, will the foreign ecotypes lead to the development of an invasive species? Vetiver grass is also planted for erosion control in South Africa, and possibly in Mexico as well.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Fearing Feral Kiwi

You'd think that New Zealanders would be the last people to fear a kiwi, but when it comes to Asian Kiwifruit (Actinidia chinensis), they're definitely concerned. It seems that the more commonly cultivated kiwifruit, A. deliciosa (also native to Asia), has escaped from fields and naturalized along river banks and forest margins. According to this HortNet article, members of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council are worried that A. chinensis will do the same. They are keeping a watchful eye on the situation, and hoping that farmers will use caution when growing the species.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Sea Chest, See?

The Cawthron Institute, a non-profit scientific research center in New Zealand, has released a report about the ability of sea chests to harbor non-native marine organisms. Before you form a picture in your mind of a treasure chest sitting at the bottom of the ocean, brimming with jewels and invasive species, you should know that a sea chest is actually a recess built into the hull of a ship. Each sea chest is covered with a grating, and can be a great hiding place for creatures who can't take exposure to the fast water flow around the outside of a ship. The above link only goes to a summary page; be sure to click on the "Read more..." link to see the full report (.pdf format).

(Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting a link to this article)

Monday, August 26, 2002

Spotting a Sharpshooter

The costly glassy-winged sharpshooter (Homalodisca coagulata), an insect native to the southeastern U.S., continues to spread through California, and has now made its way to Sacramento. Since the sharpshooter prefers to feed on grape vines, they are considered a major threat to the California wine industry, but not because they are doing direct damage to the vines. It turns out that these insects are very effective transmitters of Pierce's disease, caused by the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa. There is no cure for Pierce's disease, which clogs the tissue that transmits water and nutrients through the plant, so infected plants must be destroyed.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Purging the Spurge

The Canadian Globe and Mail published this story about Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) problems in Manitoba. The species, which is not only toxic to grazing animals, but to neighboring plants as well, has taken over acres and acres of agricultural land since it first arrived from Asia in the late 19th century. The Nature Conservancy, which owns a big chunk of prairie land infested with leafy spurge, has been experimenting with using insects as a biological control to keep populations from spreading further. The article also contains some general information about invasive species.

Friday, August 23, 2002

Blue Hawaii

From Yahoo! News comes this report about the current status of the fight against invasive species in Hawaii. The Hawaiian Islands, which are filled with endemic species (many of them endangered), have been dealing with a constant barrage of non-native plant and animal introductions. One result of this is the formation of organizations and councils dedicated to dealing with invasive species, several of which are mentioned in the article.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Army Battles Kudzu

Kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata) is still a force to be reckoned with, and is in fact making its way northward through the U.S. According to this article from the Washington Times, the U.S. Army is dealing with a major kudzu infestation at Fort Pickett, Virginia, where the aggressive vine is taking over training grounds, rendering foot paths difficult to traverse and roads invisible. This Chinese native, introduced to America in the late 19th century as an ornamental and in the early 20th century for erosion control, is also a haven for the deadly copperhead snake (Agkistrodon contortrix), making infested areas even more dangerous for soldiers.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

There's More to Maryland than Snakeheads

Though the spotlight has certainly been shining on the evil, satanic, voracious, and possibly immortal Snakeheads hiding out in Maryland ponds, the state is currently battling many other invasive species as well. This article in The Baltimore Sun seeks to remind readers of the ongoing problems with several non-native plants and animals, as well as efforts by the government and volunteer groups to fight them.

(Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting a link to this article)

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Anticipating the Mealybug

The Pink Hibiscus mealybug (Maconellicoccus hirsutus) has arrived in the U.S., but no one has been caught off-guard. According to this story at ABCNews.com, the USDA has been preparing for this invasion for years, with the advance knowledge that the species attacks a wide range of agricultural crops. While pesticides have been relatively ineffective in combatting this Asian pest, researchers have had success with a parasitic wasp (Anagyrus kamali) from China that lays eggs inside the adult mealybugs. So for several years a lab in Puerto Rico has been breeding the wasps, anticipating their eventual release in the U.S. Looks like their time has come, and the place is Florida.

Monday, August 19, 2002

Martha Stewart would love this

photo of Water Hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes

Women in Africa have found a great use for the "carpets" of Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) that are clogging waterways all over the continent: they weave the plants into pillows, furniture, and yes, carpets. According to this article posted at AllAfrica.com, women's groups in Kenya are hoping to advertise their use of the nasty South American invasive plant to encourage tourists to make purchases. In Uganda, prison inmates are trained to harvest Water hyacinth and create textiles from them.

Sunday, August 18, 2002

Hedgehog Hunting

Researchers at the Scottish Natural Heritage have concluded that the best way to protect populations of birds on the Western Isles is to kill the hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) that are eating their eggs. According to this article from the New Scientist, the SNH considers the hedgehogs the primary cause of a major drop in the numbers of ground nesting birds. Some animal rights groups question the conclusions of the SNH, and think the scientists are overlooking other important factors that could be affecting bird populations, such as human disturbance. European hedgehogs, native to mainland Britain, were introduced to the Western Isles in 1974 for pest control.

(Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting a link to this article)

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Trumpet Creepy

I was at one of my field sites along the Monatiquot River in Braintree, MA when something brightly colored caught my eye, way up in a pine tree. Turns out it was a Trumpet creeper flower (Campsis radicans), and there was a large well-established vine twining its way up the pine trees (see photo). This is a fairly natural site adjacent to a strip mall, so it is unlikely the vine was planted anytime recently. Trumpet creeper is native to the southern U.S., and while it is considered invasive, it is regarded as a tropical species that would not do well in areas with cold winters.

Trumpet Creeper inflorescence

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Make Mine Supersized!

Possibly the coolest marketing of an Invasive Species product ever: As reported at the ENN website, the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network has produced a CD-ROM to educate the public about introduced species. Even if you do not want to order a copy for yourself (at a mere $2.50!), you should still check out the CD-ROM, titled "Exotics to Go." Also, the Minnesota Sea Grant offers a variety of free and cheap publications that you might want to check out.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Science Daily is reporting that researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri are publishing the results of a study that uses molecular techniques to trace the heritage of, among other plant species, the invasive Saltcedar (Tamarix spp.). Apparently there are differences in populations that grow in different parts of the country, such that insects introduced for biological control will eat one type but not the other. It turns out that the most aggressive Saltcedar is actually a hybrid between two species that do not grow together in their native Asia. You can read more about the biocontrol program for Saltcedar by going here.

Monday, August 12, 2002

As the Nuclear Worm Turns

The Washington Post has this really silly article about the bizarrely named "Nuclear Worm" (Namalycastis spp.). These giant (5-7 feet long!) pink worms are being imported into the U.S. from their native Vietnam for use as fishing bait. One problem with this is that the worms are known to carry diseases, including cholera. They survive in a wide range of environmental conditions, and there is some concern that the worms could survive on their own in more tropical climates. The issue of importing and shipping bait is a complicated one: a profitable commercial industry must deal with states taking steps to prevent the import of species when there is a significant threat that they could escape and become invasive.

Sunday, August 11, 2002

New Hampshire, New Hampshire

The New Hampshire Invasive Species Committee, part of the Department of Environmental Services , came out with a list of proposed prohibited and restricted invasive plant and insect species for the state. Created this past July, the list is full of well-known baddies, many of them already banned in NH since thelate 1990s. The New Hampshire Watershed Bureau web site has lots of other information about non-native plant species.

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