Cold weather activities: sharing invasive species data

The early November cold snap and snow barrage slowed down my outdoor work last week, so I sat down to start the winter activity of data entry and updating records. Doesn’t sound as exciting as chopping away at buckthorn or ripping out garlic mustard with your bare hands, but keeping good records of invasive species locations helps us efficiently find and treat patches each year.

We collect information on the location, area, and density of invasive plant species during the growing season using GPS units and enter it into our Geographic Information System (GIS). We use the  data ourselves at Oakland Township Parks, but I believe that sharing this information can help fight invasive species not just in Oakland Township, but in Oakland County, Michigan, the Upper Great Lakes, and throughout the US. So I registered for an account with the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) and worked with them to upload 1657 records of invasive species from our parks in Oakland Township. Their website states that “The Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) is a regional data aggregation effort to develop and provide an early detection and rapid response (EDRR) resource for invasive species in the Midwest region of the United States.” By catching invasive species early, control measures are much more cost effective and have a better chance of success (see this earlier post to learn more). We only have patchy records for most of our invasive species because they are nearly ubiquitous throughout the parks (for example, glossy buckthorn and autumn olive). Two species that we have fairly complete coverage of include garlic mustard and Phragmites, fairly recent arrivals in the parks.

Garlic Mustard

Most of those records were garlic mustard (1315 records) that resulted from stewardship staff combing parks each spring to locate patches of this invasive plant. The map below shows the distribution of the garlic mustard records in Michigan. These maps probably reflect two things: 1) the actual occurrence of the species and 2) monitoring effort. It is hard to separate the two, so I usually interpret these maps as just broad scale patterns of occurrence.

GarlicMustard_Michigan

Records of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) in Michigan, according to the MISIN database. The larger the symbol, the more records from that region. This map indicates that the most garlic mustard is found in the Detroit area and just south of Traverse City.

GarlicMustard_OT

Zooming in to Oakland Township, you can see several “epicenters” of records for garlic mustard. These epicenters reflect the areas with high monitoring effort, our township parks.

GarlicMustard_BCNP

Zooming in again to Bear Creek Nature Park, we start to get an idea of the distribution of garlic mustard at a fine scale within the park. The map indicates that most of the garlic mustard is found on the south side of the park and around the borders. These are the areas that have a greater history of disturbance. The cluster of points in the bottom left is the wooded area next to the Paint Creek Heritage Area Wet Prairie along the Paint Creek Trail

GarlicMustard_BCNP_Details

MISIN is cool because you can click on a point and see details about the area and density of an invasive species patch. This patch in Bear Creek Nature Park has an area of less than 1000 feet, with patchy density.

To check out the distribution of garlic mustard in other Oakland Township parks, just head over to http://www.misin.msu.edu/. Click on “Browse data,” then search by species. You can also help us pull garlic mustard next spring. Check out the workdays at this link, and put them on your calendar!

The stewardship crew pulled lots of garlic mustard in 2014. Help us make 2015 even more successful!

The stewardship crew pulled lots of garlic mustard in 2014. Help us make 2015 even more successful!

Phragmites

Phragmites might be a terrible invasive species, but it is easy to spot! During August and September 2014 the stewardship crew treated 10.5 acres of Phragmites in Oakland Township parks. Those 10.5 acres represent all the Phragmites patches we had records for at the time (I found a few more since September), so our Phragmites records are fairly complete within our parks.

Phragmites in Oakland Township. Notice that the locations generally correspond to the township parks. The township parks probably don't have more Phragmites than the surrounding areas, but they have been surveyed more completely.

Phragmites in Oakland Township. Notice that the locations generally correspond to the township parks. The township parks probably don’t have more Phragmites than the surrounding areas, but they have been surveyed more completely.

Gallagher Creek Park has some of our largest Phragmites patches. This map shows the distribution of those patches in the park.

Gallagher Creek Park has some of our largest Phragmites patches. This map shows the distribution of those patches in the park.

We can’t target invasive species for treatment unless we know that they exist! If you’d like to help us get complete records of Phragmites in Oakland Township, download the free MISIN app for your smart phone. It’s easy to use, and it only takes a few minutes to add a point. To make it even better, Phragmites is easy to see in the winter when the leaves are off the trees. Put your smartphone to work today to help our parks!

Phragmites along Mead Rd. at O'Connor Nature Park.

Phragmites along Mead Rd. at O’Connor Nature Park in summer 2014. With persistent treatment, we hope that this patch will be gone in a few years.

Volunteer Workday at Bear Creek Nature Park this Saturday, noon – 3 pm: the buckthorn battle continues!

Come to Bear Creek Nature Park this Saturday, September 27 to help with natural areas stewardship! We will continue removing buckthorn around the “skating pond” in the middle of the park. If you’ve visited the pond recently, you may have seen the green herons and wood ducks that have been hanging out there. Maybe you spotted the turtles sunning themselves on a log. Maybe you watched curls of fog rising from the water on a cool morning. By removing buckthorn and other non-native invasive shrubs, we improve wildlife habitat and your ability to watch wildlife. Hope to see you there!

  • Where: Bear Creek Nature Park. Meet in the parking lot at the south end of the park off Snell Road. We’ll then walk down to the skating pond together.
  • When: Saturday, September 27 from noon – 3 pm. In the event of thunderstorms, the event will be cancelled.
  • Who: Anyone! This event is free, with no experience necessary. We’ll train you to do the work. Cutting and stacking brush requires  some physical effort.
  • Why: Why not? We will be remove non-native invasive shrubs and preparing an area for planting native plants. Come out on Saturday to enjoy beautiful areas and hang out with great people! And food after we finish working!
  • What: Bring water and gloves, and wear closed-toed shoes and long pants. We’ll have extra gloves if you can’t bring your own.

We’ll provide water and light snacks. You will need to sign a release form before we begin working. Families are encouraged to attend! All minors will need permission from a parent or guardian to participate, and minors under 14 will need to have a parent or guardian present. We will have lots of fun, so plan to come and share this opportunity with others! The schedule of upcoming workdays can be found at the Volunteer Calendar.

Fall stewardship workdays are now scheduled!

You can help us keep our natural areas beautiful! Stewardship work keeps going even as the summer winds to a close. Put these Volunteer Calendar dates on your schedule today. Enjoy our parks and meet great people at volunteer workdays this fall. You’ll be working with stewardship staff to collect native plant seed, monitor our natural areas, and control non-native, invasive plant species.

These opportunities are great for individuals or groups! If you’re hoping to bring a group, just let Ben VanderWeide know in advance so that we can provide enough tools (call 248-651-7810). Volunteers should bring water and gloves, and wear long pants and sturdy shoes suitable for uneven terrain.

Without further ado, here are the dates! You can also find them any time on the Volunteer Calendar.

  • September 6, Paint Creek Heritage Area – Wet Prairie, 9 am – noon
  • September 27, Bear Creek Nature Park, noon – 3 pm
  • October 11, Gallagher Creek Park, 9 am – noon
  • October 25, Lost Lake Nature Park, noon – 3 pm
  • November 8, Charles Ilsley Park, 9 am – noon

A huge thanks to all the volunteers that helped make this summer so successful!

SEMSCC crew, Bear Creek Nature Park, July 2014.

SEMSCC crew, Bear Creek Nature Park, July 2014.

Join us for lots of fun at the next volunteer workday!

If you missed this workday at Lost Lake Nature Park, you’ll have another chance this fall. Join us for lots of fun at the next volunteer workday!

Join us for a volunteer workday to help protect natural areas in our parks!

Join us for a volunteer workday to help protect natural areas in our parks! We might be collecting seed to plant in areas where we have removed invasive species.

IMGP2952

Jonah, Matt, and Alex and the huge pile of garlic mustard they pulled at Paint Creek Heritage Area – Wet Prairie.

Our crew worked hard and got a lot done on Saturday, July 12.

Our crew worked hard and got a lot done on Saturday, July 12 at Bear Creek Nature Park.

Lost Lake Nature Park Workday this Saturday, 9 am – noon!

Where: Lost Lake Nature Park. Meet in the parking lot near the sledding hill.

When: Saturday, June 28 from 9 am – noon. In the event of thunderstorms, the event will be cancelled.

Who: Anyone! This event is free, with no experience necessary. You’ll work with our staff to learn to recognize and properly treat non-native, invasive plant species.

Why: Why not? Remove non-native invasive species, enjoy beautiful areas, and hang out with great people! And food after we finish working!

What: Bring water, gloves, closed-toed shoes, and long pants. We’ll have extra water and gloves if you can’t bring your own.

If you’re anxious to get outside this weekend, join us on Saturday morning to spend time with great people while working for a great cause! With high quality oak woodlands, quiet lakes, and unique glacial features, Lost Lake Nature Park is a very special place in Oakland Township, and we want to make sure its natural areas stay in great shape.

When you arrive, park near the sledding hill so that everyone has lots of space to park. After a short nature hike to see what’s flowering and learn a few plants, we’ll be working to control invasive shrubs, including buckthorn and autumn olive. Around noon we’ll get out the grill and share some food! We’ll bring some of the basic food, so you can just enjoy what we bring if you’d like, or bring food to share. We will have lots of fun, so plan to come and share this opportunity with others! The schedule of upcoming workdays can be found at the Volunteer Calendar.

Join us for a volunteer workday to help protect natural areas in our parks!

Join us for a volunteer workday to help protect natural areas in our parks!

Spotlight on Invasives: Multiflora Rose, Common Privet, and Common St. Johnswort

Multiflora rose, common privet, and common St. Johnswort are a flowering right now, so keep your eyes out for them! When I first started to learn my plants, it was discouraging to discover that many areas were thick with invasive plants, not native species! But recognizing these invasive species is the first step in restoring our natural areas.

Many of the plants that are invasive here in North America were transported here for a reason. People moving here were used to the plants they used for food, fuel, and fiber, so they brought those plants along on the trip to their new home. Even after living in North America for a century or more, as my relatives have, we often prefer the ornamental plants we are used to, rather than native species. We like these species for a reason: they grow quickly and look nice. The majority of these plant don’t spread into natural areas and displace native plants species. But unfortunately, the “growing quickly” qualifies many of these non-native plant species as prime candidates for being invasive, actually changing the natural areas where they spread to make them less suitable for native plants and animals. Lots of research have found that invasive species are one of the greatest threats to diversity on this planet, so what seems like a harmless decision can have big consequences down the road.

Now invading forests and fields alike, multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) was widely planted for wildlife habitat and erosion control. Try planting the beautiful native shrub ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) instead of multiflora rose.

IMGP3082

Multiflora rose (Rosa mutliflora) look pretty and smells good for a few weeks, but the rest of the year it invades natural areas, displacing native plant species.

IMGP3083

How can you tell a native rose from multiflora rose? First, multiflora rose has many flowers in a cluster in its inflorescence, while native roses usually only have one to a few flowers in a cluster. Second, if you look at the stalk where the leaf connects to the stem, you’ll find a wing called a “stipule.” Multiflora rose has a feathery look to the stipule, seen in this picture, while native roses do not.

Common privet (Ligustrum vulgare) is widely planted as a hedge, but in our area it has escaped into natural areas, where it grows so thickly that few other species growth with it. There is often a carpet of privet seedling under the adult plants.

IMGP3092

Common privet (Ligustrum vulgare) has invaded many natural areas along the Paint Creek Trail.

The last species for today does not transform ecosystems in this area as much as common privet or multiflora rose, but it is an indicator of disturbance. However, in the western United States spotted St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum) is recognized as a noxious weed because it crowds out native plant species and is poisonous to cattle.

IMGP3088

Common St. Johnswort (Hypericum performatum) has attractive flowers, but can become a noxious weed in certain environments, particularly dry soils in disturbed areas.

IMGP3090

The “performatum” part of the scientific name of common St. Johnswort  refers to the translucent dots on the leaves that let light shine through. Pretty cool!

Do you see these plants where you live?