Saturday, 14 April 2018

What are the negative things about Invasive species?

Living things (plants, animals, fungi, etc) evolved in communities. Plants turn sunlight and CO2 into sugars and starches that form the base of the food chain for all the other living things around them. Very slowly, those species that were best adapted to fit into their niche in the community survived and thrived. A type of equilibrium exists that changes slowly as the community itself changes.

Invasive species are really bad because they can seriously disrupt the existing plant and animal communities, often changing the character of their adopted ecosystem. Native species suffer, diversity is lost and the now out of balance community can become subject to damage from soil erosion and other maladies associated with a sick environment.

When species are dropped into a community where they did not evolve, some die off immediately because they cannot survive. Other species fit in more or less nicely, eating and being eaten by others; finding and inhabiting that new niche.

Some species, when introduced, into a new community are able to exploit the new home in ways that their new neighbors cannot. One example well known in the upper Midwest is garlic mustard. This plant sprouts from the ground in late February or March, just as soon as the snow melts. It continues growing through the warm months and into early winter, only going dormant in the deepest of the cold months. It also produces a tremendous amount of viable seed. Finally, its roots put out a chemical that inhibits other seeds from sprouting. Most of the micro organisms, insects and animals that would eat it in its native Europe do not exist here, so it has few natural enemies.

Hope that was helpful. Let me know if you have specific questions or need additional information.

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Can invasive species drive the extinction of indigenous species?

Absolute extinction is not the only danger, serious disruption to an ecosystem occurs much more often than the obliteration of a single species.

When I finished college in 1983, I left Wisconsin and headed out to build a career in other parts of the county. The woodlands were notable for their lovely displays of spring wildflowers like trout lilies, dogtooth violets, jack-in-the-pulpet and lady slipper orchids. Upon my return in 1997, I found that nearly every woodland in southern Wisconsin was ringed by dense stands of honeysuckle bushes, buckthorn and biennial called garlic mustard. These three plants had completely changed the character of the woodland environment across an entire region. Woodlands chocked by these invasive plants saw almost no sunlight getting to the soil. Slopes and small ravines lost tremendous amounts of topsoil, eroded because the native plant community had been replaced by a small number of plants, none of which was good holding or building the soil.

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What is the difference between invasive, alien, and exotic species?

Most alien (plant) species are well behaved. European settlers brought oats, wheat, barley, many varieties of turf grass; your name it they brought it to America. Think of boxwood, lilacs, tulips and apples. These are all alien species and stay put pretty well where they are planted.

Certain native (plant) species can become invasive under the right circumstances. Sumac is a good example. It is native to North America but when it moves into disturbed ground its rhizomes spread quickly and it forms dense thickets. Many of the brambles, like black cap raspberries, push out native prairie grasses and wildflowers if they are not controlled by fire or herbicide.

Soil type, moisture and temperature can influence whether a species (alien or native) is invasive. Japanese knotweed is incredibly invasive in the UK and the Pacific Northwest but be less aggressive in places where cold winters and drier soils limits its rate of spread.

Finally, microbes can limit the reproduction and spread of plants. Native plants evolved with their surroundings and so are eaten by and have some level of defense against predation by the microbes in their neighborhood. Alien plants may be ignored by microbes in their new surroundings and so gain a competitive advantage over native plants.

Now let’s talk animals. All animals need food, water and shelter. Like plants, animals can be alien or native; invasive or well behaved. The success of an animal is limited either by environmental constraints (food, water & shelter) or predation by microbes and other animals. For every animal native to its environment, there are other animals that use it as food. Even top predators have predators.

Alien animals may find that they have few if any animals around them that see them as food. The New Zealand Mud Snail has been found in fresh water streams in southern Wisconsin. It thrives on the nutrient loaded surface water runoff from farm fields. None of the fish in those streams know how to eat the snail or they find it unpalatable. Regardless, with no natural predators, this new arrival is causing havoc in its new home.

The real problem with invasive species is that they upset the natural balance in an ecosystem resulting in lower lower diversity of species, lowering of native populations, and disruption of multiple food chains. It is often these disturbances more than their relative success that cause the most damage to the environment. It can take generations or centuries for their new neighbors to evolve predators and disease organisms that bring the new invader into ecological check.

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December 2017

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Landowner Help for Common Reed Control

Picture of standing man with common reed towering over him.

Photo by James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service,

Landowners across southeastern Wisconsin know about common reed, an invasive grass that is even tougher than cattails. If this invasive species is on your hit list we have good news for you.


Common reed (Phragmites australis), also called phragmites, invades moist habitats including lake shores, river banks and roadways. It has extensive rhizomes that can quickly spread underground and take over large areas. These rhizomes store energy, as a result, the plant can recover from cutting, burning or grazing. 

Common reed alters hydrology and wildlife habitat, increases fire potential, and shades native species. It can spread through root fragmentation, long runners above ground, and sometimes windblown seeds or cut stem fragments. Phragmites is on the Wisconsin DNR Chapter 40 list of prohibited and restricted species.

According to the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, Phragmites is the tallest wetland grass in Wisconsin. It grows upwards of 14 feet. Seed heads are visible from August to September, and it has a round stem, long, wide leaves. Its prominent plume-like seed head that is whitish to purplish in color. Be aware, there is a variety of Phragmites native to Wisconsin that forms less dense patches (you can generally see through the stand) and flowers earlier (July to August).

The Midwest Invasive Plant Network (MIPN) is working in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service Region 9, to host a series of 3 webinars in January and February featuring case studies of the restoration of sites invaded with exotic pest plants.


Illustration of common reed seed head.

The first event will be on Tuesday, January 16th, 11:30 – 12:30 CST. The presentation is titled “Bridging the Gap – New Insights on Technology and on-the-ground Management of Phragmites.” The presentation will be given by Steve Apfelbaum, Founder and Chairman of Applied Ecological Services out of Brodhead, Wisconsin.

For free registration, please visit the MIPN site, and make sure the email address is in your approved contacts to receive the webinar link.

October 2017

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Bring in the Hit Squad

Picture of young garlic mustard plants.

Young garlic mustard plants are especially easy to treat in the late fall or early spring when native plants are dormant. [Conservation Media, llc]

Are you struggling with tough invasive like garlic mustard and reed canary grass? This is a great time to put a serious hurt on these super species. It is also among the most economical times to get your revenge.

By now, native plants have gone dormant. The landscape should by and large be brown and tan. For landowners, who are battling any number of exotic weed species, the remaining green is a bitter reminder of their problem.

Fortunately, this green also represents a unique opportunity. Since native plants are safely sleeping beneath the soil, landowners are free to use non-selective herbicides that would otherwise harm beneficial plants. Chief among these is glyphosate, which is cheap and highly effective.

Those living plants that are sprayed now will either be killed outright or severely weakened so that they are unable to survive the stress of winter. By contrast, application made in spring or summer might stress but not kill something like reed canary grass, which could substantially recover before the arrival of winter.

Glyphosate is short lived, breaking down in the soil in just a couple weeks. This means that wildflowers and native grasses that emerge in the spring will be unaffected by fall spraying.

I still avoid broadcast spraying in most situations because it is wasteful. Spot spraying is way easier when your green target weeds stand out so well. This tactic is especially useful in situations where weeds are scattered among more rate native plants I want to protect.

Depending on weather, this window can be short. Snow and hard freezes will force even hearty weeds into dormancy. Herbicides tend to be more readily taken up on warm sunny fall days. 

Herbicide needs to be part of an integrated weed management approach that includes management tools like controlled fire, cover crops and mowing. As always, follow label directions to minimize the amount of chemical used while making sure it will do its job.

Tuesday, 03 October 2017

Forest Weed Grant Applications Due Soon

Are you a private landowner in the Mukwonago river watershed. who wants to remove invasive weeds and brush from your woodlands? The Friends of Mukwonago River has funds available now from a WDNR Forest Weed Management Grant. Application deadline to the Friends is October 23, 2017.

Landowners in the Mukwonago River Watershed have a unique opportunity to receive financial assistance as they learn control techniques for these and other invasive species and perform restoration on their own properties under a Forest Weed Grant through the Friends of the Mukwonago River. Invasive species are the current most critical threat to the health of the watershed.

Interested? The landowner application is here: 2016 FWG Land Owner Application & Rubric, and the FWG Land Management Template. Figure out where and what on your property you want to manage. You will need to submit and follow a management plan that is not difficult.

The WMA-PFGP assists eligible weed management groups (WMG) in addressing invasive plants, both by dealing directly with the invasives and by providing education, information and outreach to others. This is a reimbursement program that covers up to 75% of the eligible costs, 25% match is required.

Questions? Contact Friends at  Send your completed application to this email address, or our PO Box 21, Eagle WI. 53119

March 2017

Thursday, 02 March 2017


September 2016

Friday, 23 September 2016

Celebrate 23rd annual NEEF National Public Lands Day

Working on your own land not only increases the amount and diversity of wildlife; it improves plant diversity and helps to create a network of high quality habitat across your community. We all also are joint owners of our public lands. Many of us enjoy camping, hunting, fishing, boating and hiking the parks, forests and wildlife areas we jointly own.

This is the 23rd anniversary of National Public Lands Day, when we spend a few hours paying back for the years of enjoyment we and our families have received. Sponsored by the National Environmental Education Foundation, this is the largest volunteer commitment effort of its kind. Spend part of your Saturday making that special park, forest or wildlife area near you even better.

Recent budget cuts mean it is more important than ever to pay back some of the enjoyment that our public lands provide. Lend a hand to help protect and improve the public lands in Wisconsin:

National Public Lands Day at Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center

Local volunteers will one again roll up their sleeves to remove invasive plant species at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center during the 2016 celebration of National Public Lands Day. The event takes place rain or shine at the visitor center, located two miles west of Ashland, WI, on U.S. Highway 2, September 24 from 8:30 to 1 pm. Registration starts at 8:30 am. Volunteers should dress for the outdoors and wear sturdy shoes or boots. Work gloves will be provided but sizes and quantities may be limited. Bring gloves in case we run out.

Date and Time:

Saturday, September 24, 2016 – 

08:30 to 13:00
Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center

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Seed collecting

Help care for Sugar River Wetlands State Natural Area! Collect seeds from native wetland plants to scatter in areas where invasive plants have recently been removed. We’ll identify several different plants and learn how to collect their seeds. This work will expand the quality wetland areas and continue the efforts started by the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association and Wisconsin DNR. No skills needed you will be trained onsite. See details below.

Date and Time:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

09:00 to 12:00

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National Public Lands Day at Black Duck Lake

Volunteers will assist with invasive species and trash removal from island.

Date and Time:

Saturday, September 24, 2016 – 

09:00 to 14:00
Black Duck Lake

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National Public Lands Day at Island in Stevens Point

Volunteer will help cut down invasive species and remove garbage from island in Stevens Point along the Wisconsin River.

Date and Time:

Saturday, September 24, 2016 – 

10:00 to 15:00
Stevens Point Area

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11th Annual SidieFest

Join Vernon Trails for our 11th annual SidieFest!
This community trail building festival has brought out over 800 volunteers over the past decade and helped to create the nearly 12 miles of "Shared Use" trails that we all enjoy. We will be meeting at the northern pavillion starting at 10am and work until 5pm. We will have various projects that include trail maintenance, trail rerouting, trail repair, and bridge work. After the hard work, we will celebrate ourselves with food and fun. Bring work gloves, boots, some snacks and some enthusiasm.

Date and Time:

Saturday, September 24, 2016 – 

10:00 to 19:00

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National Public Lands Day

Volunteers will meet BLM employees where Blue Heron Lane meets the Wisconsin River (44.467884, -89.573492) at 10AM on September 24th, 2016. With the help of BLM employees volunteers will work to eradicate some invasive species that have show up on this island (ie. buckthorn, japanese barberry, and garlic mustard). They will do this by cutting down tree species, and either hand pulling or spray foliar herbicide on other undesirable vegetation species.

Other specifics:

Date and Time:

Saturday, September 24, 2016 – 

10:00 to 14:00

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Milwaukee Community Service Market

The USFS will be hosting a booth at this new Community event focused on available resources for Milwaukee Community members. The USFS will be sharing info on federal lands, getting outdoors, etc. The event will include: community partner booths, health screenings, face painting, bouncy houses and free food.

Date and Time:

Saturday, September 24, 2016 – 

11:00 to 14:00

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Wisconsin Bat Festival

This free event feature celebrates  the unique role that bats play in our world!  Discover why bats are important to Wisconsin and learn how they keep us healthy.  Explore techniques you can use in your own backyard to help the environment, bats, and other wildlife.  On Friday, September 30th,  see how local bat experts use technology to study bats at our “Superheroes of the Night Demo” at the Urban Ecology Center at Menomenee Valley Branch at 3700 W.

Date and Time:
Friday, September 30, 2016 – 18:00 to Saturday, October 1, 2016 – 16:00
Urban Ecology Center and Milwaukee Public Museum

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August 2016

Sunday, 14 August 2016