Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Magnetic North

The Dominion Post is reporting on what is most likely the inevitable spread of didymo algae (Didymosphenia geminata, also known as "rock snot") to the North Island of New Zealand. Didymo has been recorded all over the South Island since it first was spotted back in 2004. Now tests done on water from several North Island rivers show evidence of dead didymo cells present in the samples.

With dead cells there, can live ones be far behind? This seems to be more about detecting *when* and not *if* healthy didymo arrives on the North Island and starts to spread. Biosecurity New Zealand scientists sound like they are ready and waiting with a rapid response protocol that includes closing off impacted rivers and treating them with chelated copper. In the meantime, officials are asking anyone using the waterways to employ their own "Check, Clean, and Dry" protocol in an attempt to prevent didymo from spreading.

Thanks to Andrew B. for sending in a link to this story.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Down The Drain

Monroe News is reporting that the city of Monroe, Michigan is making plans to wash out the invasive flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus) that has taken over parts of the River Raisin. If all goes well, local dams will be opened up next spring, with the goal of lowering the water level and increasing the rate of water flow. Officials are hoping the rush will find the new growing conditions unpalatable, and are also looking forward to the benefits removing the dam gates should have on fish populations. As a contingency plan, volunteers will also be recruited to do hand-pulling.

Interested readers will also want to check out this 2005 ISW post about the flowering rush in River Raisin.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Boars For The Taking

If it oinks, shoot it. That's basically what Ohio wildlife officials are telling hunters who encounter wild boars in their state, according to this report from the Toledo Blade. The number of wild boars (Sus scrofa, also called feral pigs) in Ohio has reached a level where hunters would have to kill 80% of them just to keep populations stable (I can't seem to find out exactly what that number is - either there are a lot of them or they are very, very fertile!). The article notes that some of the blame for the continued spread of the wild boar belongs to hunting reserves, where the animals are known to occasionally escape into the wild. Ohio hunters are being asked to do their state a favor and "pig out" year round. As encouragement, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has produced a color map (pdf) showing prime boar habitat throughout the state, and is asking successful hunters to post photos to this website (P.S. - those are hunting photos, so if you don't like seeing dead animals, skip the link!).

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Weekend Blog Blogging

The past week in invasive species blogging, from elsewhere on the internets:

  • The House and other Arctic Musings is not happy that Cape May, prime birdwatching habitat, has recently decided to implement a Trap/Neuter/Release program for feral cats.
  • Random Stew has a good summary of the Argentine ant problem.
  • Botany Photo of the Day does seaweed.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Weekend Photoblogging

Coqui frog
Originally uploaded by cobra libre
Best Halloween Costume Ever?

Looks like cobra libre is going as a coqui frog!

Friday, October 26, 2007


The Winona Daily News is reporting that an invasive snail is to blame for the thousands of waterfowl that have been found dead in the Mississippi River. Wildlife officials say that the faucet snail (Bithynia tentaculata) carries intestinal parasites - birds that ingest them can die in a single day. Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be any way to control this European species, introduced to the US in the late 1800s, without negatively impacting native snails. At least birds of prey appear to be immune to the parasites, a good thing since eagles and other predators have been swooping in to make easy meals of the dying waterfowl.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dog Catchers

The state of California is training dogs to sniff out quagga mussels (Dreissena rostriformis bugensis) on infested boats, according to this report from the Sacramento Bee. The dogs are far better than humans at locating the tiny bivalves, finding them faster and in nooks and crannies that would escape the human eye. It is a bit expensive to buy these persistent pooches - a single dog costs $8000 to $12,000. But with California already spending millions to deal with the recently arrives quaggas, that likely seems a small price to pay.

A quick perusal of the ISW archives brings up posts about dogs detecting Burmese pythons, mealybugs and spotted knapweed. Is there anything dogs can't smell do?

Thanks to members of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting about this story.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Crawdaddy Oh!

The Baltimore Sun is reporting that rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) have hitchhiked from Pennsylvania into northern Maryland. The crayfish are actually native to North America but not to Maryland. Officials are concerned that fishermen are spreading the crayfish southward by collecting them for bait and then dumping the leftovers when they are done fishing. The state Department of Natural Resources has joined forces with local universities to begin more intensive surveys of the invaded streams, and is asking anyone that thinks they've found a rusty crayfish to freeze it and call their hotline to report it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Escargot Go Go!

File this under "Dinner run amok": What was once a gourmet meal is now invading every nook and cranny of Brazil, according to this report from National Geographic News. Giant African snails (Achatina fulica) were introduced to Brazil in a failed attempt to find a cheaper alternative for the garden snails typically used as escargot. Scientists have already declared eradication impossible, and concerned that the African snails could be spreading parasites to native mollusks, are calling for some kind of control program. The introduction appears to be tied to a marketing effort that occurred during the late 1980s, meaning that the snails went from rare to invasive in less than two decades.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Weekend Blog Blogging...

...let's just call it Long Weekend blog blogging...

The past week in invasive species posting, from elsewhere in the blogosphere:

  • carp just got added to the U.S. Injurious Species list (the Lacey Act). Looks like the ISW has been seriously scooped by the sky blue waters report! This one's going into the Twitterer.
  • Walking the Berkshires notes there's a new condominium development in Connecticut where the housing units have been christened "The Barberry," and ponders what the metaphor could be.
  • Nan at Letter from a Hill Farm has dug up the invasive yellow flag irises in her yard - now let's see whether the seeds sprout new plants next year.

Weekend Photoblogging...

..."Weekend" being used loosely as it's Monday...

This week the ISW is proud to feature photos from maggie_and_her_camera. Maggie is studying horticulture and has taken a slew of illustrative plant shots. Mixed in there are a few invasives, including:

Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana 'Bradford')
Originally uploaded by maggie_and_her_camera

Honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos)
Originally uploaded by maggie_and_her_camera

Do check out the rest of maggie's photography, if you are into plants (like I am) you will find it quite nice. Bonus points to her for sharing these photos under a Creative Commons license!

Friday, October 19, 2007


If you are curious about the various non-native plants that now call the Galapagos home, this new article over at PLoS one from Gu├ęzou et al. will give you all the details. An investigation of the flora of Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island, it includes a list of 261 introduced taxa, from trees and herbs to shrubs and vines. The majority of the species, as would be expected, were introduced for ornamental use. The article's extensive list includes many species known to have invasive tendencies in other parts of the world. It concludes with discussion of a set of nine species recommended for management or further study, including Cuban hemp (Furcraea hexapetala), tropical soda apple (Solanum capsicoides) and prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica).

It is interesting to consider how the location of an urbanized village could be impacting one of the world's most treasured island ecosystems. It is a potential inroad for new invaders, but at the same time is valuable as a place to do early detection surveys that will help identify and catch known invasive species, both cultivated and accidentally introduced, before they spread out of control.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Yugo Of Invasive Plants

There's an interesting article from the Detroit Free Press about the waning popularity of the Norway maple (Acer platanoides) in Michigan. While big box store Meijer, in partnership with the Nature Conservancy, has taken the big step of ceasing all sales of this invasive tree, not everyone is so eager to give it up. Citing its tolerance as a street tree as well as its aesthetic value, some see no reason to abandon it, while others plant it only sparingly. One thing is for sure: demand is way down for the tree, with one nursery owner saying his trees are getting so large they'll soon be burned to make way for new stock.

The article refers to the Norway maple as the "Edsel" of shade trees, but I think it is more like a Yugo in that is it relatively cheap, promises lots of benefits, but has a bunch of defects the manufacturer never warned you about :-).

Update 10/26: The Detroit Free Press has published an update to the article to address issues raised by readers, specifically that there are many cultivars of Norway maple that may or may not share its invasive qualities.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Let Us Spray?

Should the state of California be allowed to commence aerial spraying in order to combat the light brown apple moth (Epiphyas postvittana)? Some concerned citizens are saying no loud enough to be heard. The California Farm Bureau Federation is reporting that plans to spray a pheremone over infested portions of the central coast of California have hit a few roadblocks as objections were raised about whether polymethylene polyphenyl isocyanate, an inert ingredient in the spray, might be hazardous. Lawsuits at both the city and county level have put some treatments on hold, while the California Department of Food and Agriculture continues to hold meetings to inform the public about their management plans.

Readers interested in the subject of the "LBAM" should check out this previous ISW post on the subject. It has generated quite a few comments (by the ISW's meager standards, anyway).

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dissolve And Conquer

Did you ever wonder how Phragmites gets that amber waves style of monocultural sheen? Turns out it's burning its competitors right out of the picture. Newswise reports on new research from the Bais Lab at the University of Delaware, showing that Phragmites reed (Phragmites australis) exudes an acid from its roots that dissolves the roots of its neighbors.

The ability of plants to release chemicals that impact their competitors is known as allelopathy. Phragmites does it with gallic acid, an allelochemical that degrades the tubulin that maintains root structures, causing exposed roots to simply collapse.

To read more about this research, see the original article in the Journal of Chemical Ecology (abstract only unless you've got a subscription), or check out this press release from the University of Delaware that includes some cool images of degrading roots. Tip of the virtual hat to budak for pointing to the article.

Monday, October 15, 2007


In honor of today's environmentally-minded Blog Action Day, here is a roundup of news stories about people who are actually going out and doing something about invasive species:

  • Out in Louisiana, the post-Katrina reports are starting to come in, and as would be expected following a massive environmental disturbance, the invasive species are making new inroads. As Bloomberg reports, it's all about the feral hogs and Chinese tallow trees. Forest managers are responding to these threats with hunting permits and herbicide treatments, respectively.
  • The Governor of California signed AB 1683 into effect, giving that state's Department of Fish and Game the power it needs to manage the spread of the invasive quagga mussel (and hopefully prevent the spread of the zebra mussel) throughout the state. Read the full story from the Daily Democrat.
  • The Bushkill Stream Conservancy is all set to start the restoration of an invasive plant-infested portion of Bushkill Creek. This month they'll begin their makeover, which includes removing Japanese knotweed and tree-of-heaven and replacing them with native greenery in four different spots. The Conservancy got funding for the $80,000 project through a series of grants from the state and non-profit organizations. Read more from the Express Times.
Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Weekend Blog Blogging

The past week in invasive species blogging, elsewhere on the net:

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Weekend Photoblogging

I'm so blue! Virginia is popping with blue berries, but not the good kind...

Originally uploaded by Angel's Lens

mile-a-minute vine
Originally uploaded by Angel's Lens

(Thanks to Angel's Lens for sharing these photos under a Creative Commons license!)

Friday, October 12, 2007


Add Lantana camara to the list of invasive species being eyed for their potential economic uses. With Lantana having taken over large portions of India, and bamboo reserves on the wane, the organization ATREE has been enlisting Lantana artisans to make furniture and textiles with the South American weed. Earlier this month they held their third annual "mela" (gathering) on the subject, and hundreds of people from all over India were expected to participate. The prolific nature of Lantana makes it a cheap source of cane for creating everything from sofas and chairs to wastebins and apiaries.

Apparently I'm late to the game on the Lantana-as-a-bamboo-substitute front. You can read about more examples of lantana crafts in this 2006 article from The Hindu, this 2005 TreeHugger post, and this 2000 article from The Tribune.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Book 'Em, Weedo!

There is a new online version of the Global Compendium of Weeds available, and it's a big improvement over the previous version. The old online GCW, though quite an amazing repository of information, was a mere sampling of the over 20,000 species of weedy plants listed in the hard copy. The new online GCW has been updated to feature over 28,000 plants, and best of all, has finally taken a big step towards taking advantage of some of the benefits electronic media can have over plain paper. In the old online version, each species page had a list of references by number, pointing you to a ginormous web page of references where you had to look each number up - very similar to the hard copy. The new version has the references listed directly on the species page, along with the classification given to the species by each reference (endearing terms like "casual alien," "garden thug" and the standard "agricultural weed").

Whereas most invasive species guides tend to be region specific, the Global Compendium of Weeds truly has worldwide coverage. It was surely a massive effort to bring the GCW to a second edition, and the ISW gives kudos to Rod Randall for providing free online access to this valuable resource.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Ain't Misbehavin'

By way of the non-profit organization Natural Biodiversity comes Kids' Patch, a website focusing on educational resources for the K-6 crew, their teachers and their parents. For fourth to sixth graders, there's a module about invasive plants. Here is a sample:

Have you ever been somewhere you shouldn’t have been?

You were misbehaving, weren’t you! Did you know that plants can misbehave too? When plants are found somewhere they shouldn’t be – and causing trouble – they are called “invasive.”

Hee hee. Sounds like fun. Follow the Eco Challenge for multiple choices quizzes covering a variety of environmental issues including a focus on invasive plants. While Kids' Patch is based in Pennsylvania, the resources on the website would be useful to almost anyone. Teachers may also want to check out their link list of educational resources.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Spoileds Of War

Interesting article over at about the invasion of the blue acacia (most likely the blue leaf wattle, Acacia saligna) in Israel. Seems that the tree, native to Australia, was once planted across the country to stabilize sand dunes and create forests across the landscape. Once established, it began to spread on its own, helped in part by the proliferation of fires caused by wartime activities. An effort is now underway to manage down populations of this species by injecting them with the herbicide glyphosate. A second research project is testing controlled burns as a way of destroying seed banks...I assume that would go hand in hand with restoration/native plantings to avoid repopulation from acacias adjacent to the burned areas. Blue leaf wattle was also once widely planted in South Africa, which also considers it an invasive species.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Weekend Blog Blogging

The past week in invasive species via the rest of the blogosphere:

  • Missouri Stream Team #2945 discovered evidence of someone dumping the contents of their aquarium in the Spring River...either that or Missouri's riverbeds have got naturally royal blue gravel :-).
  • Hoosier Wordsmith muses about planting English ivy...and later unplanting it.
  • The From the Field blog has a post about soil sampling as a way of learning more about the distribution of black and pale swallow-wort.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Fun with Google

Searching the internets...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A Mile Wide

Islands Business is reporting that Fiji and Papua New Guinea are about to become home to a fungus that is a promising biological control agent. The rust fungus, Puccinia spegazzinii, has been previously used in other parts of the world to control the invasive mile-a-minute weed (Mikania micrantha, not to be confused with Persicaria perfoliata, the mile-a-minute vine we know too well here in the mainland US). Scientists have been rearing the fungus on in quarantine on Fiji for a while now, and are set to begin releasing it into the wild before the end of the year. Farmers that grow kava (Piper methysticum) as a crop are hoping the fungus brings them some relief, since Mikania is a host for a virus that is known to attack kava as well.

Bonus points to Island Business for using scientific names in their report.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Pikes Have Peaked

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that the Northern pike (Esox lucius) in Lake Davis, along with most of the other fish, appear to have been rotenoned away. Following a serious application of the pesticide rotenone, over 40,000 pounds of dead fish have been removed from the lake. An official noted that Northern pike seem to be more affected by the poison, so there's a chance there might still be some native trout alive in there. Restocking begins later this fall.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Working Class

The efforts of BIO 648, my invasive species class from last semester, can finally be seen online! Check out their class project, a set of seven species profiles full of information about the biology, ecology and management of plants and animals that are up-and-coming invaders in the New England region. A semester's worth of research went into this project and I think it shows in the quality of the profiles. Congrats everyone!

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Taxa Man

According to this story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, homeowners in Pennsylvania can now get their very own environmental audits - for free! Audubon Pennsylvania has partnered with Friends of the Wissahickon to sponsor the program, which involves a visit to the homeowner's property from the Audubon at Home program. Once there, an Audubon staffer will survey the property and point out all of the invasive plant foibles. Participants also get lots of advice on native plant alternatives and how to make homes more inviting to local wildlife.

It turns out there are actually lots of options, at least in the Pennsylvania area, if you are looking to getting your own home an environmental audit, though a fee is typically required. If you live in the Northeastern USA and want to check out some alternatives to replace your invasive plants, you are also welcome to play with this tool my lab developed using the nursery catalog of the New England Wildflower Society.