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Scouting for Invasives

11 Sep

This summer, the Mill River Greenway Initiative partnered with the Connecticut River Watershed Council and Grow Food Northampton to survey a portion of the Mill River off Meadow Street for invasive plant species. As a Botanic Garden intern, I heard about the opportunity to learn more about invasives from my supervisor, Gaby Immerman, who also serves on the Board of Grow Food Northampton (GFN). The main focus of the collaborative event was to teach local gardeners to identify early detection species- species that have the potential to become big problem species, like oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) or multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), but which have not yet gotten well established in the wild. Removing these species when they are found can often help stop more non-native unvasives from gaining a foothold. The three early detection species that the training focused on were: Japanese stilt grass (Microstegium vimineum), Mile-a-minute vine (Persicaria perfoliata), and giant hog weed (Heracleum mantegazzianum). What better way to learn about invasives than to go out with experts and find and identify them in the field?

Mill River Invasives scout III

The training started with introductions and a brief talk about the issue of invasives generally and ended with specifics about the days work. Keith Davis of the Connecticut River Watershed Council and Americorps led the talk, while Cynthia Boetner from US Fish and Wildlife passed around samples of the invasive species that we would be searching  for. Also at the training were members of the UMass Amherst Outsmart Invasive Species Project. This group has developed a smart phone application to help identify invasive species. Once you download the app, you can self report an invasive species sighting. All you have to do is take a picture of the plant through the app, and your phone will take the GPS location  of it. The pictures help experts filter out what are actually invasive species, and which reports are just of look-a-likes. If you don’t have a smart phone and you still want to help, but you do have a camera and a GPS, you can take a photo and the GPS location and submit them both through their website.  To get the app and more information go to:

Mill River Invasives scout

After the talk everyone walked out to the Mill River Greenway and began searching the landscape for invasive species. We did find some of the more common invasives such as tartarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tartarica), Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), and Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii).

Mill River Invasives scout IV

Some areas of the greenway were more densely packed with invasive species, and the differences were compared. One area that appeared more recently damaged and cleared by flooding had a few invasive species, mostly seedlings, sprouting. Interestingly, a stand of mature trees above the flood line had almost no invasive species whatsoever. All in all it was an good day, and one that provided all the participants with a few more community connections, a bit more experience in correctly identifying invasives, and some new tools for engaging in the fight against non-native invasive plants.

– Emily DiPadova ’16