Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Invasives Dystopia


I've been asked to give the keynote address to a regional gathering of Garden Club of America clubs in October.  The theme that the organizers chose for the gathering is "invasive plants," which gives me a lot of leeway for my talk.  I'm going to focus on introduced ornamentals that have escaped and become invasive pests.

One of the organizers wants to create a poster board of "bad actors," and she wants to include Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) among the plants.  I needed to find images of knotweed for her, and on the way back from the grocery store yesterday I saw a perfect patch just begging for a photograph.  So, I parked and walked over to get some shots.

The area is on the floodplain of a small tributary to my creek just upstream of my preserve.  It is - to put it bluntly - an invasives hell.  An ecological nightmare.  A complete write-off.

The floodplain is an impenetrable thicket of Japanese knotweed.  It's 10-feet tall - the tallest knotweed I've ever seen.  But wait, there's more!  The knotweed is being over-topped by porcelain-berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata).  And, just outside the area where the knotweed is so thick, there's a thriving stand of purple loosestrife (Lythra salicaria).  About the only plant I didn't notice was mile-a-minute weed (Persicaria perfoliata), but it certainly could have been there amid the green chaos.

I will admit that bees were enjoying the scene - and not just non-native honeybees, but native bumblebees, too, so I guess the site is not a complete write-off.
Invasive Gulch
Knotweed in flower
Porecelain-berry is rapidly engulfing the trees in the background
The land is owned and managed by the municipal wastewater authority.  Although the site is at the intersection of two fairly significant roads, the wastewater authority doesn't do much to maintain the property.  They probably don't know what to do (repeated herbicide applications would be appropriate), but they do try to mow it down occasionally.  I've tried to talk to them about management, but they're in the wastewater treatment business, not invasive plant control, and I've gotten nowhere with them.
Knotweed (background) and purple loosestrife
Purple loosestrife (mostly) with a little porcelain-berry in the foreground
Of course, since the stream is a tributary to my creek and is upstream of my preserve, all of the propagules produced by these noxious weeds flow downstream and end up you-know-where.
The knotweed in the foreground is being over-topped by porcelain-berry

6 comments:

robin andrea said...

The unfortunate side effect of of these invasives is that that they sure make the place look colorful and pretty. Getting rid of all that is going to take a lot of ongoing work and effort.

packrat said...

Holy smokes! Those images reveal a veritable jungle of invasives. That ought to give your audience members something to palaver about.

I'm guessing you've spoken to clubs before, Scott; do you find yourself feeling more or less in control when you address an audience not filled with your students?

Scott said...

Robin Andrea: I took Kali to the podiatrist for her broken foot bone at lunchtime today (prognosis: 3 more weeks in a "boot" cast). En route, we passed the invasives site and I pointed it out to Kali (who is as attuned to invasives as any layperson could be). Her reaction? "It sure is pretty."

Control of the invasives on the site would involve several years' application of glyphosate (i.e., Roundup) herbicide. (The proper formulation is safe to use near streams.) Of course, since the upper portion of this stream's watershed is full of invasives, too, long-term management would require annual checks to make sure the site didn't revert to this (pretty) nightmare again.

Scott said...

Packrat: Nothing veritable about it. The only native plants I saw were the big trees in the background, and they are goners if nothing's done.

I used to be terrified of public speaking and was terrible at it. (I could tell you so many embarrassing stories...) But, somehow, especially with Kali's help, I got over my fear and now I can do a pretty good job. Sometimes, an audience that's less familiar with my material is easier to speak to than to my students (who are, ostensibly, attuned and somewhat knowledgeable about my topic). I don't do a great job if I have to speak extemporaneously, but I'm pretty good if I'm well-prepared.

Mark P said...

Wow. That looks as bad as some of the kudzu-covered fields (and trees, and barns, and old school buses) we see around here.

Scott, I used to be scared of public speaking, but in my early work in Huntsville I had to do it fairly often. Once right before a talk I realized that I knew more about my particular subject than anyone else there, and that seemed to do the trick for me.

Scott said...

Yup, Mark, porcelain-berry is the "kudzu of the North" (though we have kudzu nearby, too [but not in my preserve or in my watershed, as far as I know]).

That's my experience about public speaking, too; when I finally realized I knew more than my audience (in most cases), my confidence and my public speaking ability just kicked-in.