Monday, June 30, 2003

Waxing Nostalgic

It was about one year ago this week that the Asian Northern snakehead fish (Channa argus was discovered in a pond in Crofton, Maryland, and people all over the country were saying "What's a snakehead?" Since then, the jumping, air-breathing fish has extended its fifteen minutes of fame as the subject of a Top Ten list on Late Night with David Letterman, a book, the star of the cheesy sci-fi film "Snakehead Terror" (okay, I haven't seen it, but I'm guessing it's like the movie where the giant alligators roam the sewer system), and the inspiration for this line of clothing. The icing on the fishcake? A snakehead fillet entree at Uncle Nicky's Pit Beef and Ribs in Crofton, imported frozen of course. Read more in this article from The Capital.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Froggies gone a'croakin

"All" is a really bad word to use when discussing invasive species. But while I don't believe the sub-headline that "Recent spraying may have killed all of the noisy frogs on Kauaifor," it was great to see this informative article from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, describing the recent application of citric acid on the island in an attempt to destroy the coqui frogs (Eleutherodactylus coqui) on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. The article features contact information (who to call if you see a coqui), audio clips, photos, and a map of coqui sightings on the island of Oahu.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Spartina: Native and Invasive

From Tide Pool comes this story about ongoing research in California to determine the cause and impact of the invasion of estuaries by salt marsh cord grass. (Spartina alterniflora). While native to the east coast of the U.S., S. alterniflora has caused major problems where it has been introduced on the west coast, and is now a fixture of Willapa and San Francisco Bays. A grant was awarded to researchers at U.C. Davis, who are also studying potential biological controls such as Prokelisia marginata (Bonus points to Tide Pool for using the scientific name.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

TLC from TNC

From the experts comes tips and tools to care for your treasured natural area and keep it weed free. The Nature Conservancy has just released an updated version of their "Weed Control Methods Handbook," with information for just about any control method you can think of, from grazing animals to herbicide application to biocontrols. The manual is only available in its current online version, which you can either browse on the web or download to your computer in Word or Acrobat format.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Mmmmmmmmm, Starthistle

From the Agricultural Research Service comes this report about a potential new biological control for yellow starthistle(Centaurea solstitialis), a spiny weed that has taken over parts of the western U.S. Scientists in Europe have found that the flea beetle Psylliodes chalcomerus will eat starthistle vegetation, an exciting development, since all currently known biocontrols eat only the flower heads. Further investigation is necessary to determine why only a specific population of the beetle has a hankering for this invasive plant.

Monday, June 23, 2003


If you're in a boat in Louisiana, watch out for giant carp! According to this article at, researchers in that state recently discovered several bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) swimming through the Mississippi River. One likely cause for this is the escape of several species of carp from fish farms in Mississippi and Arkansas over a decade ago. Scientists are concerned by the invasion, since carp are voracious consumers of plankton, and could leave native fish species starving on the sidelines. Fishermen are concerned because carp are known to be jumpers (see subheading "Leaping fish not so funny"), and a scared jumping carp is big enough to knock someone out of a boat.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Click Away!

The Nature Conservancy has partnered with General Mills to create several marketing campaigns for Nature Valley granola bars, focusing of course on environmental issues. Now, when you pick up a Nature Valley Chewy Trail Mix Bar, you will learn more about the Nature Conservancy's Invasive Species Initiative. As an added bonus (or if you don't care for granola bars), you can go to this site right now, click on the button, and General Mills will donate $1 to The Nature Conservancy (one click per person per day, $125,000 max). The site also has a link to "Six Easy Ways to Combat Invasives," a good tip sheet for those just finding out about the problems caused by invasive species, though I think it would be better to remind people to always cleans their boots, both before and after any hike.

Thanks to a member of the Yahoo! group ma-eppc for posting the story.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Double your Displeasure

image of Greater Celandine, Chelidonium majusimage of Double Greater Celandine, Chelidonium majus flore pleno

At Walden Pond today, I saw a plant which I at first thought was greater celandine (Chelidonium majus), but I was thrown off by the many-petaled flowers. While the plants had the same distinctive vegetation and yellow sap of greater celandine, they turned out to be "double-flowered" greater celandine, a cultivar or variety named "Flore Pleno" (see photo on right). The individuals I saw seemed to have sacrificed stamens for those extra petals, suggesting that they have less reproductive power. However, the plants were definitely setting seed, and had established several populations along the entrances to some of the Walden Pond trails.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Well, if the New York Times printed it, it must be true

The Times skews heavily towards skeptical when it comes to invasive species issues. Knowing this, I'm not surprised that today's "Government not equipped to deal with aliens -- of any species" is an opinion piece from David Lodge, a major invasive species ecologist. Since the Times requires a login to view articles, I've linked to this reprint from the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Can I get a witness?

Yesterday there was a hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water, to discuss the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2003. For details: 1) Read this press release about Michael Hauser's testimony - he's an invasive species expert from Vermont. 2) Read the entire text of the speech given by the EPA's G. Tracy Mehan 3) Read the report given by Barry Hill from the General Accounting Office (.pdf file).

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

Monday, June 16, 2003

A little poem

In honor of Maine's decision to begin preliminary herbicide application in Limerick's Pickerel Pond, to control growth of the aquatic weed Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata), I have composed my own limerick:

There once was a weed called Hydrilla Aspiring to be Pickerel Pond's filler Until all could condone The herbicide fluridone Now Limerick's loving weed killer!

Sunday, June 15, 2003

A dash of pepper tree

The Naples Daily News is reporting on a project to trace the genetic history of the Brazilian pepper tree (Schinus terebinthifolius). Researchers at the University of Florida are using molecular tools to look at genetic variation in the species, and are also trying to identify the source of its introduction into Florida. To do this, the scientists are traveling to South America, the tree's true home, to gather leaf samples for genetic analysis, and also to collect insects and pathogens that they suspect could be used as biological controls.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Knotty News

The BBC has an article about the fight against Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) in Britain. Not really much new here: it's invasive, it is costly and difficult to manage, they're still working on developing a biocontrol...At the very least, it's good to see the project getting some publicity. But it would have been nice to see the BBC do some in-depth reporting and actually describe the beetle species being used in the biocontrol project.

Thanks to a member of the Japanese knotweed listserver for posting a link to this article.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

In my new yard

Invasive species found in my yard so far: Asiatic bittersweet vine (Celastrus orbiculatus), burning bush (Euonymus alata), Dwarf burning bush (Euonymus alata 'Compacta') [planted], one tiny shrub honeysuckle (Lonicera sp.) [soon to be pulled], glossy buckthorn seedlings (Rhamnus frangula) [pulled!], an occasional European starling (Sturnus vulgaris), and what I believe is trumpet creeper vine (Campsis radicans) [planted, and recruiting all over the place]. There is also some odd purplish rosette popping up all over the lawn, something in the Lily family, which I am inclined to let flower so that I can identify it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Snakes on the loose

In Asia, a once prized gourmet food has been relegated to the streets - literally. According to this article from, the demand for snake meat has virtually disappeared since the reptiles were discovered to be a carrier of the virus that causes SARS. Unfortunately, the response of many restauranteurs has been to release live snakes, many of which are imported, directly into the streets. The Forestry Bureau in Beijing, China has responded by setting up a snake capture hotline.

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

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

A Monkeypox on you!

Ick. That's all I have to say about reading this article at, about a Wisconsin family currently quarantined with monkeypox (genus Orthopoxvirus) [warning: link is not pretty!]. The virus, never before seen in the Western hemisphere, was reportedly passed on to them from their newly acquired prairie dogs (genus Cynomys), who themselves were likely infected by a shipment of African Gambian rats (Cricetomys gambianus) delivered to a pet store in the Chicago area. Prairie dogs have become fairly popular pets in America in recent years. There are now more than three dozen confirmed or suspected cases of monkeypox in the Midwest U.S., and while the disease is not usually fatal to humans, at least one prairie dog has died. You can read the CDC's press release on the subject by clicking here.

Monday, June 09, 2003

Unfair Varroa

The Varroa mite (Varroa jacobsoni), a deadly parasite of honeybees, is having a major impact in New Zealand. According to this article and this article from HortNews, the cost of pollinating kiwifruit on North Island alone has increased over $3 million per year. The bee industry is lobbying for more funding to fight the mite, especially to prevent it from spreading to South Island. Whether that is even possible remains to be seen, as the mite has recently expanded its range to every section of North Island.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Island Action

Residents of Mercer Island (off the coast of Seattle, Washington) are so fed up with English ivy (Hedera helix), there's currently an effort underway to gather signatures for an initiative petition to increase property taxes to cover the cost of ivy removal. The island even has a volunteer "Ivy Brigade" that has been fighting the invasion for over a decade. The tax would add about $100 per year for ten years to the bill of a homeowner with a $500,000 house, for a total of $1.25 million. Part of the funding would also go towards the purchase of open space and fighting other invasive plants.

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

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Bug On!

The Minnesota Daily is reporting that the University of Minnesota has just opened the Midwestern U.S.'s first Insect Quarantine Facility. The facility will be used to find insects that target certain weeds or other harmful insects. Included on the list of target species (a bit surprising to me, since they seem to have an agricultural focus) are buckthorn (Rhamnus sp.) and garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata).

Thursday, June 05, 2003

See Weed?

According to this article from, concern is growing about PepsiCo's newest pet project in India: farming the red marine algae Eucheuma alvarezii (Kappaphycus alvarezii). The algae, which is being grown off the coast of the Palk Straits, is harvested to extract carrageenan, a common food additive. Scientists and government officials, many wary after years of dealing with water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) management, are divided about the potential negative impacts of the seaweed farming, with many pointing to evidence that the species has not spread from farms in Hawaii or the Phillippines. An alternative view can be found here and here.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Fern Baby, Burn!

If you're seeing smoke in Southern Florida, it may be because scientists at Everglades National Park have been intentionally setting fires, in an attempt to control the invasive Old World climbing fern (Lygodium microphyllum). Actually, according to this article from The News Press, land managers are spraying the ferns with herbicide, burning them, then burning them again when they resprout. While they still have hope that a biological control will be found, the scientists realize that if they wait too long, there will be little left to save. (Bonus points to The News Press for using the scientific name.)

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Champlain wishes

The waters of Lake Champlain are clearer than they've been for a long time, but few people are happy about it. That's because the water clarity can be attributed to a burgeoning population of zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha). As reported by The Barre Montpelier Times Argus, divers are unhappy because while they can see further under the water, a lot of what they are seeing is covered with mussels. There is also concern that this notorious invasive aquatic species could be endangering the historic shipwrecks at the lake bottom, one of the main reasons that divers visit the lake.

Monday, June 02, 2003

Now is the time!

Right about now would be a great time for you to rid yourself of that nasty Asiatic bittersweet vine (Celastrus orbiculatus), since the plants are just coming into flower 'round here in Massachusetts. The flowers are fairly easy to recognize (photos below), but just to make sure that you aren't looking at the rare American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens), make sure that the flowers are coming from in between the leaves; American bittersweet flowers only at the end of each vine branch (see here for more info). You can easily pull small infestations up by the roots to remove them, and because the fruit hasn't yet developed, you won't have to worry as much about next year's crop spreading either.

Asiatic bittersweet vine
female flowers of Asiatic bittersweetmale flowers of Asiatic bittersweet

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Earth Angles

A couple of weeks ago, Living on Earth, a National Public Radio program, featured a short piece called "Cultivating Weeds." Featuring an interview with Janet Raloff, senior editor at Science News, the piece discusses how garden plants have escaped and become invasive in natural areas, and gives examples of species that are bad to plant. If you prefer, you can listen to the program in Real Audio or MP3 format by going here.