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Invasive Species: Keeping Up the Fight!

From our 2012 Spring Newsletter

Spring is here and the trees and flowers are starting to bloom. Although we usually invite plants to display themselves this time of year, not all are welcomed with open arms. Invasive species are emerging as well which means eradication and restoration efforts will begin in order to control unwanted species on our natural areas and preserves. Just like native plants, invasives have a unique growing cycle such as the time of year it flowers and seeds. When working to control invasive plants, eradication efforts are conducted when the plant is in the part of the cycle that is most susceptible to control measures.

During this time of year, the Conservancy focuses on several plants for eradication- particularly garlic mustard and sweet woodruff. Unlike non-native phragmites, these plants are treated early in the growing season as opposed to the fall. The plants pose a threat due to their ability to spread fast and crowd out native plants such as trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, and lady slippers. Some areas in Leelanau County, including Conservancy land, have been infested with these two species.

One of the Conservancy’s long-term ecological goals is to prevent the establishment of these plants in high quality, undisturbed natural areas- more specifically areas at the tip of the peninsula near Leelanau State Park. Sweet woodruff, which is quite pervasive at the Whaleback Natural Area in Leland, is not well established at the tip so we are working hard to prevent its spread through out the county. Last year, during a survey at Kehl Lake Natural Area near the state park a small infestation of sweet woodruff was found at the trailhead. The patch was treated immediately which will help ensure the species will not spread to the interior of the natural area and become costly to remove down the road.

Garlic mustard is widespread in southern Michigan, taking over large areas of forest understory. The plant now has a strong foothold in Northern Michigan as well including many areas in Leelanau.  A small infestation was spotted by a Conservancy summer intern two years ago at the Lighthouse West Natural Area north of Northport. Since then we have worked to eradicate the species and are hoping to eliminate it entirely from area within a few years.

The Conservancy has hired three individuals this spring that will be our Early Detection/Rapid Response Crew (EDRR) to survey and treat these species when the population is small and manageable. This EDRR team will spend time surveying for garlic mustard and sweet woodruff as well as other species on the “watch list” that have not yet been found in Leelanau but have been recorded in surrounding counties so they can be expected to pop up soon. If you would like to learn more about these plants or want to report sightings please contact the Conservancy by emailing [email protected].

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