Invasive species in local parks, and what we’re doing to stop them

Delaware County is a gorgeous place to live, work and play.  We are so blessed to have an organization such as Preservation parks to maintain and take care of the several beautiful parks in the county.  The organization strives to keep these open, scenic areas in their natural state.  An important aspect of this is removing invasive species of plants from the parks.

Invasive species come from outside the ecosystem and take over, overrunning native plants and vastly changing the environment.  Invasive species can be plants or animals, but in the context of local parks we’re concerned mostly about plants.  Volunteers help eradicate invasive species from local parks.

I talked with my neighbors Jack and Leslie Flurry as we walked through Blues Creek, our local park in Ostrander.  As we walked along the trails, they described to me the work they do to remove four main invasive species from the park.  A few of the species seem to thrive in open, sunny areas away from the trail.  As volunteers, they have an off-trail permit, so they can pull out any of the four plant species that they might find regardless of where it is.  However, they told me that the biggest problems tend to be the ones that line the trails.  They work from March until early June, until the weather simply gets too hot to spend extended periods of time outside in the sun.

The first of the four invasive species we came upon was Garlic Mustard, given its name for its garlicky smell.  If you google search it, some recipes for pesto pop up.  While it is quite possible that it would make a tasty pesto, it is a menace in the forest canopies of Blues Creek, as it is ubiquitous.  The Flurrys said they tend to try to remove it early in the spring when it’s flowering and very easy to identify.  But once everything around it has grown up much taller, it becomes near impossible to find it and uproot.  When they pull it out, they cannot just throw it back down on the ground, as doing so seems to give the plant the supernatural power to produce seeds before it bites the dust.    Instead, Garlic Mustard is bagged up and thrown out.

Multifloral rose that we found in Blues Creek

Multi-floral rose that we found in Blues Creek

The next we found was multi-floral rose, which I had actually seen in our backyard, but hadn’t known that it was an invasive species.  The story goes that multi-floral rose was introduced to the environment by hunters as a rabbit habitat, theory being that there would be more rabbits to hunt and kill.  The plant is sort of beautiful, but it has a nasty habit of entangling itself in native plants.  With its barb-like thorns, volunteers are told that they need not bother with it if it is too menacing.  At Blues Creek, the Flurrys chip away at these monsters when they have the time and stamina.

honey suckle

This one branch with red berries is only a tiny fraction of the entire wall of honeysuckle that lines our backyard.

The next we talked about was honey suckle, which came as a surprise to me, because, again, this is everywhere in my backyard.  This plant bears oodles of red berries, which the birds tend to eat in excess, and then proceed to spread the seeds via their excrement.  The problem only seems to multiple, and the huge bushes don’t only smother the native plants, but also provide birds with less nutrition than native berries, such as blackberries.

Blackberries provide more nutrition for birds than honeysuckle berries.

Blackberries provide more nutrition for birds than honeysuckle berries.

You tend to need to get these out by the root in order to completely get rid of them, and so it is difficult for volunteers to eliminate huge bushes, or many clumps of them, but they try their best.

Autumn olives are the last invasive species, and they tend to like the open areas.  They have silvery undersides on their leaves.  But they are very huge, and so volunteers tend not to worry so much about them, and attack the smaller plants alongside the trails, which are the bigger problems.

autumn olive

A small autumn olive plant I found in the field next to our yard. These plants are everywhere, it’s insane!

Jack and Leslie are the only volunteers they know of who volunteer at Blues Creek.  If you’re interested in joining them, learn more here.  They’ve also mentioned sometimes scout troups come in and help out.  It would be a great service project!  Check out the Preservation Parks website to learn more!