by Chris YoungOriginally published in the The Peoria Journal Star
See Original Article HERE
When it comes to preventing the spread of invasive species, people who love the outdoors should take steps to be sure they are not part of the problem.
Many invasive species — defined as plants and animals that can cause economic and ecological harm — crowd out native species and can be difficult to control.
Chris Evans, invasive species campaign coordinator with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said people need to learn to identify invasive species and help prevent their spread.
“One thing they can do is familiarize themselves with the invasives,” Evans said. “Learn what is in your area.”
One example is Japanese stiltgrass, an annual that is a major invader of forests in southern Illinois.
Evans said the plant is making its way northward, probably because seeds are carried on boots, all-terrain vehicles and even horses.
“We re trying to get people to watch for it,” he said.
Officials in Illinois are keeping a close eye on hydrilla, an aquatic plant.
“It’s not here yet,” Evans said. “But it is pretty abundant south and east, and is showing up a few places in the Midwest. It can just dominate in a reservoir or aquatic system.”
It was once sold as an aquarium plant, according to http://www.protectyourwaters.net.
So great is the threat, that a task force has been formed to plan a response should hydrilla appear in Illinois.
Like another invasive aquatic plant, Eurasian water milfoil, it spreads by plant fragments that can hitch a ride on boats.
As temperatures warm and people head outside, Evans said people should clean their shoes and equipment (including boats) before moving from one site to another.
For landowners who don’t know if they have a problem, Evans suggests a visit to a local University of Illinois Extension or U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service office.
Local staff members will be familiar with problems plants in your area.
“If they don’t know the answer to your question, they will know who to ask,” Evans said.
Some of the invaders are in the news frequently — the advance of Asian carp is one familiar example. But carp and plants aren’t the only invaders.
“It’s not just plants,” Evans said. “The spread of feral swine is something we are seeing more across the state, and we are concerned.”
Feral swine, or wild hogs, can destroy wildlife habitat. The also reproduce rapidly.
Most wild pigs are not escapees from farms, but animals brought here for hunting.
Giant hogweed is a member of the carrot family, but can grow 10 to 12 feet tall with clusters of flowers 18 to 20 inches wide.
“It looks like Queen Anne’s lace on steroids,” he said. “The reason we are concerned is because the sap can cause severe burns.”
Another relative, wild parsley, can also cause irritating burns when the plant is pulled by hand.
There are several species of honeysuckle, with two main shrub species causing most of the problems in Illinois.
Bush honeysuckle has arching stems, long-lasting green foliage and bright red berries in late fall.
“Bush honeysuckle occurs across the state, and is a major problem in Illinois forests,” Evans said. “It can invade even mature, healthy forest. It is pretty devastating when it gets in there shading out our native plants and shrubs.” (See video on PrairieStateOutdoors.com.)
Buckthorn is a forest shrub or small tree that has the ability to discourage other plants from growing nearby.
“Buckthorn is very aggressive, but past the northern half of the state we don’t see it as much,” Evans said. “In northern Illinois it is a major issue.”
“It is a species of vine that wraps tightly around trees,” Evans said. “It can wrap so tightly the trees grow out and over it and girdle the tree .” (Many outdoorsmen and women have encountered trees that have grown over barbed wire wrapped around a tree trunk.)
It can also grow up and over trees and shade them.
Zebra mussels are small mussels with striped shells. They tend to congregate in clusters and have the potential to clog water intake pipes.
Like many of the invasive species in the Great Lakes, zebra mussels probably were brought here by ocean-going ships from other parts of the world.
“They are still here and they are still an issue,” he said. “They are well established and there’s not much we can do about it. Asian carp has taken the role as the number one aquatic invader.”
Originally brought to the new world by settlers for use as a potted herb, garlic mustard has gradually spread across the eastern United States, picking up steam every year.
The plants produce large numbers of extremely small seeds that can be easily spread.
To kill the plant, it must be pulled and removed from the site.
The good news is that garlic mustard is edible.
Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528. Follow him at twitter.com/ChrisYoungPSO.