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 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 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.