Category Archives: Stewardship

Invasive Species Spotlight – Giant Hogweed

Name: Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)

Origin: This species is native to the Caucasus Mountains of Eurasia. It was brought first to Europe and the UK in the 19th century, followed by the US in the early 20th century to be used as an ornamental plant in flower gardens.

NYS Presence: Giant hogweed has become established throughout the entire state.

Species Profile: Giant hogweed can grow to extreme heights of 15 to 20 feet! Its robust stems are covered with dark purple colored blotches and elevated nodules. Some of these stems can reach 4 inches in diameter! Giant hogweed leaves are proportional in size, with some reaching a width of 5 feet. These leaves are compound, greatly incised, and lobed. Its flowers grow in a flat-topped formation that can be easily compared to an umbrella. This cluster of flowers can reach up to 2 ½ feet across. A few species that can be mistaken as giant hogweed are as follows: native cow parsnip, native purple-stemmed angelica, and invasive wild parsnip.

Terry English, USDA APHIS Bugwood.org
Giant hogweed in flower, notice how it resembles Queen Anne’s lace. These flowers may be up to 2-1/2 feet in diameter compared to the 3″-4″ flower diameters on Queen Anne’s lace, photo by Terry English, USDA APHIS accessed from Bugwood.org.

Giant hogweed is often found in wetland areas near rivers, where it is known to out compete other species for habitat. When native plants are displaced, bank erosion may also increase. This plant is labeled as invasive or noxious due to its poisonous sap. This sap contains a chemical that sensitizes the skin to UV rays. If the skin comes in contact with the sap and is exposed to sunlight, the results may be blistering, severe burns, and/or painful sores. Irritation usually appears within 1 to 3 days after the exposure. This reaction is called “phytophotodermatitis”. Follow this link to the giant hogweed hotline number and other tips for what to do if you or someone you know encounters giant hogweed.

Resources:

Giant Hogweed

NYS DEC Giant Hogweed – Don’t Touch that Plant

Featured image: Antefixus21, accessed from Flicker

Invasive Species Spotlight – Spotted Lantern Fly

What is the spotted lanternfly?

The spotted lanternfly (SLF) is an invasive pest from Asia that primarily feeds on tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) but can also feed on a wide variety of plants such as grapevine, hops, maple, walnut, fruit trees and others. This insect could impact New York’s forests as well as the state’s agricultural and tourism industries.

Identification

Nymphs are black with white spots and turn red before transitioning into adults. They can be seen as early as April. Adults begin to appear in July and are approximately 1 inch long and ½ inch wide at rest, with eyecatching wings. Their forewings are grayish with black spots. The lower portions of their hindwings are red with black spots, and the upper portions are dark with a white stripe. In the fall, adults lay 1-inch-long egg masses on nearly anything from tree trunks and rocks to vehicles and firewood. They are smooth and brownish-gray with a shiny, waxy coating when first laid.

Where are they located?

SLF were first discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014 and have since been found in New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia. As of spring 2018, New York has no infestations, though it’s possible they are present in low numbers and have not been detected yet. Given the proximity of the Pennsylvania infestation, it is expected to be found in New York eventually.

Hatched eggs
Hatched spotted lantern fly eggs, photo by Kenneth R. Law, Bugwood.org

What is the risk to NYS?

SLF pose a significant threat to New York’s agricultural and forest health. Adults and nymphs use their sucking mouthparts to feed on the sap of more than 70 plant species. Feeding by sometimes-thousands of SLF stresses plants, making them vulnerable to disease and attacks from other insects. SLF also excrete large amounts of sticky “honeydew,” which attracts sooty molds that interfere with plant photosynthesis, negatively affecting the growth and fruit yield of plants. New York’s annual yield of apples and grapes, with a combined value of $358.4 million, could be impacted if SLF enters New York. The full extent of economic damage this insect could cause is unknown at this time. Although native insects also secrete honeydew, the size of SLF and the large populations that congregate in an area result in large accumulations of it. The sticky mess and the swarms of insects it attracts can significantly hinder outdoor activities. In Pennsylvania, where SLF populations are the densest, people can’t be outside without getting honeydew on their hair, clothes, and other belongings.

Adults
A cluster of adult spotted lantern flies, photo by Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org

How do they spread to new areas?

While SLF can jump and fly short distances, they spread primarily through human activity. They often hitch rides to new areas when they lay their eggs on vehicles, firewood, outdoor furniture, stones, etc. and are inadvertently transported long distances.

Fungal Mat at base of tree
Fungal mat at the base of a tree that is infested with spotted lantern flies, photo by Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org

What are the signs of an infestation?

  • Sap oozing or weeping from tiny open wounds on tree trunks, which appears wet and may give off fermented odors.
  • One-inch-long egg masses that are brownish-gray, waxy and mudlike when new. Old egg masses are brown and scaly.
  • Massive honeydew build-up under plants, sometimes with black sooty mold.

What is being done?

NY Dept. of Conservation, DEC, is working with the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets and the US Department of Agriculture to address SLF. Since it is less expensive and easier to deal with a pest before it becomes widespread, the goal is to find SLF early or prevent it from entering NY altogether. A plan has been developed that describes how the agencies will prevent and detect SLF in New York. Extensive trapping surveys will be conducted in high risk areas throughout the state as well as inspections of nursery stock, stone shipments, commercial transports, etc. from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. DEC and partner organizations encourage everyone to be on the lookout for this pest. State Parks and others are also mapping locations of tree of heaven, an invasive tree that is a known host of SLF to target places to look for SLF. Where feasible, reducing populations of tree of heaven may also be beneficial.

What can I do?

  • Learn how to identify SLF.
  • Inspect outdoor items such as firewood, vehicles, and furniture for egg masses.
  • If you visit states with SLF, be sure to check all equipment and gear before leaving. Scrape off any egg masses. Visit agriculture.pa.gov for more information on SLF in PA.
  • Learn about invasive species during New York Invasive Species Awareness Week.

If you believe you have found SLF in New York…

  • Take pictures of the insect, egg masses and/or infestation signs as described above (include something for scale such as a coin or ruler)
  • Note the location (address, intersecting roads, landmarks or GPS coordinates)
  • Email the information to DEC at spottedlanternfly@dec.ny.gov
  • Report the infestation to iMapInvasives

 

Printer friendly version of this information can be found here.

Invasive Species Spotlight – Hydrilla

Hydrilla is one of the highest priority invasive plants in New York State.  It outcompetes native plants and causes destruction in our aquatic habitats. It can invade the deeper waters where many of our natives cannot and can aggressively grow up to an inch per day. This allows hydrilla to form thick mats at the top of the surface blocking sunlight for the native plants below.  Oxygen is then depleted leading to a decrease in the amount of oxygen in the water and potential fish kills. Sportfish weight and size can decrease due to the loss of open water and natural vegetation and their spawning habitats can be eliminated by hydrilla. The species also causes obstructions for boating, swimming, and fishing. The large dense mats of vegetation can cause property value to decrease, creating problems for homeowners and communities. Hydrilla not only affects our native habitat but also our local communities and businesses.

Hydrilla is a perennial plant. It grows in springs, marshes, lakes, canals, and rivers. This plant can tolerate low and high nutrient conditions and up to 7% salinity. There are two kinds of hydrilla; a southern population which is comprised of mostly dioecious females (meaning the plants only have female flowers), and northern populations which are monoecious (meaning the plants have both male and female flowers).  The dioecious females overwinter as perennials. The monoecious plants set fertile seed and depend on their tubers for overwintering. Hydrilla can reproduce four different ways, including fragmentation, tubers, turions, and seeds. Fragmented pieces with one node are able to sprout into a whole new plant. Tubers are formed on the rhizome of the plant and each one can produce up to 6,000 new tubers! These tubers can lay dormant for over four years before sprouting into a new plant. Turions, or dormant buds, form in the leaf axil of the plant and then break off and settle into the sediment to produce a new plant. Seed dispersal is the least important reproductive method for the species and is often facilitated by ingestion and subsequent dropping of migratory birds. These plants can grow in low light conditions, deep depths and can photosynthesize earlier in the morning than their native competitors. At its beginning stages it can grow up to an inch a day until it reaches the surface of the water.

Leaves_Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org
Note how small the hydrilla leaves are, photo by Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org

Identifying hydrilla can be very tricky at times because it looks similar to a native plant, American elodea, and another invasive plant, Brazilian elodea. There are a few distinguishing characteristics that set hydrilla apart from the other two aforementioned species. The leaves are 5/8 inches long and they grow in whorls of 3-10, 5 leaves per whorl being most common. The leaves have distinct serrated edges. A key feature is the dull-white to yellowish, potato like tuber that grow 2-12 inches below the sediment.

Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org
A dense mat of hydrilla, photo by Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org

Hydrilla is thought to have originated from the island of Sri Lanka and possibly the southern mainland of India, but it arrived in the United States from Korea as a popular aquarium plant. Colonies were first identified in canals in Miami and Tampa, Florida. Hydrilla fragments made their way up to New York by attaching to boats, their trailers, and live wells. Boat motors, oars, and other equipment break the plant into fragments, facilitating its spread throughout the affected water body and into nearby water bodies that are hydrologically connected. Hydrilla can spread between water bodies that are separated by geographic distance by “hitching a ride” on watercraft trailers and other recreational equipment. The first time hydrilla was discovered in New York was in August 2011, when Jordan Stark found the species in Cayuga Inlet in the Finger Lakes In September of 2012, the species was found in the Erie Canal in North Tonawanda by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist. It has also since been found in Long Island, including Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in Phillips Mill Pond. Since the introduction of hydrilla in New York, a coalition of partners, which includes many state agencies, non-profit organizations, and businesses have taken quick action to help prevent its further spread. After a population of hydrilla is found, partners mobilize resources to conduct a focused education and outreach campaign and survey the area where hydrilla was found to understand the full extent of the population. Once surveying is completed a management plan is implemented, which includes aquatic herbicide application. To learn more about best management practices, please go to http://hydrillacollaborative.com.

Want to help manage this unruly aquatic plant? Learn how to properly identify hydrilla. If you think you found hydrilla take pictures, mark your location, and contact your regional DEC office or submit your observation with pictures on the iMapInvasives mobile app or website. Also, it is important to clean, drain, and dry your boats and any fishing or recreational equipment!

Hydrilla treatment Erie Canal
Treating hydrilla on the Erie Canal.

References

“Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County.” 2011 Hydrilla Eradication Efforts. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2014. http://ccetompkins.org/environment/invasive-species/fighting-hydrilla2011

“Hydrilla (Hydrilla Verticillata (L.f.) Royle).” New York Invasive Species Information. N.p., 3 Oct. 2012. Web. 11 Sept. 2014. http://www.nyis.info/?action=invasive_detail&id=16

“Aquatic Invasive Species.” HYDRILLA (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 11 Sept.2014 www.in.gov/dnr/files/hydrilla.pdf

“Highly Invasive Aquatic Plant Threatens New York’s Waters.” Department of Environmental Concervation. N.p., 21 Sept. 2012. Web. 11 Sept. 2014. http://www.dec.ny.gov/press/85078.html

“Combating Hydrilla.” US Army Corps of Engineers. N.p., 14 Aug. 2014. Web. 11 Sept. 2014. http://www.lrb.usace.army.mil/Media/NewsStories/tabid/6146/Article/494240/combating-hydrilla.aspx

 

The Hudson River’s “Tough Turtles”

During the summer months along the Hudson River south of Troy, New York, it’s easy to notice the tides rising and falling, herons wading in the shallow streams, and the giant cargo ships purposefully streaming up and down the river. Difficult to spot, however, are the river’s many turtles. Several varieties call the Hudson home, but the northern (also called common) map turtle is perhaps the most interesting and understudied.

Princess
Northern map turtle “Princess” hanging out while her tracker tag dries before her release. Scientists use these tags to locate the turtles for months after capture.

Northern map turtles (Graptemys geographica) are large river turtles that get their name from the intricate circling pattern on their shells, which resemble the elevation lines on a map. These turtles are relatively secretive. In urban areas they have to work especially hard to find what they need to survive. For one thing, turtles need good basking objects—places where they can come out of the water safely and sun themselves to warm up. Fallen trees or rocks make the best basking habitat, specifically ones that are farther out into the water so they can easily escape from potential predators. Because of the tides, many potentially good basking objects aren’t reachable as they are either too high up the bank or underwater at any given time.

Luna
Scientists quietly observe northern map turtle “Luna” nesting from a safe distance. This nest received protection from predators and likely hatched successfully months later.

Another problem is finding places to lay their eggs. All turtles lay eggs and the northern map turtle is no exception. Most turtles prefer loose, sandy soil with plenty of sunlight for the eggs to develop successfully. Temperature determines the gender of the tiny map turtle babies—eggs toward the cooler, bottom of the nest often become males, while those eggs toward the warmer top (that therefore get more sun and heat) will become females. But in this highly urban area, good places to nest are few and far between. Natural areas, like those found in some of the State Parks along the river, help provide habitat for them. These spots seem perfect for northern map turtles, but they do tend to have a couple of drawbacks: 1) road and foot traffic and 2) predators smelling the eggs and destroying the nests soon after they’ve been laid. In addition, well-meaning people who are simply curious about these turtles (and with good reason!) approach nesting females that may “spook” and stop laying. People should give nesting turtles some space and observe quietly from a distance.

Nest
Probable northern map turtle nest destroyed by a predator. Shells that appear twisted indicate some animal has eaten them, whereas more intact shells mean the nest has likely hatched successfully.

 

Because good turtle habitat is hard to find in an urbanized section of the river, researchers Dr. James Gibbs and Master of Science candidate Julia Vanaman from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry are working to identify what habitats are most important to map turtles. Aquatic plants, basking objects, forest along the river banks, and shoreline development all likely play a role in where these turtles choose to spend their time. Once the researchers understand why a turtle likes an area, they can pass along that information to state and local park managers who can protect habitat and take measures to enhance it (e.g., by creating nesting habitat or increasing the number of available basking objects). With these habitat improvements, hopefully these fascinating turtles will stick around for many years to come.

Note: Northern map turtles (Graptemys geographica) occur across much of eastern North America from the Mississippi River, north to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, and east to small portions of the Susquehanna, Delaware and Hudson river systems. In New York State, the map turtle is considered vulnerable to decline and is recognized as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in the state’s wildlife action plan. For more information, please check out the following links:

New York State Species of Greatest Conservation Need

Rare Animal Status List

Common Map Turtle Distribution Map

Turtles of New York State

NatureServe northern map turtle

NatureServe Map

Post and photos by Julia Vanaman, Master of Science candidate, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Featured image attribution: By Dger [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

SCA Service Project at Sam’s Point Preserve

It was a beautiful Monday morning as my fellow Student Conservation Association Hudson Valley AmeriCorps members and I made the trek to the Sam’s Point Area of Minnewaska State Park Preserve. Members were coming from as far north as Moreau Lake State Park (near the Adirondacks) and as far south as Jones Beach State Park on Long Island.  I had come to Sam’s Point before to volunteer with bird surveys, so I was thrilled to return to this spot for our service project.  We had gathered at what would be our home base for the next three days – us in a circle, cars in the background, and a spectacular view of Sam’s Point itself.  We had gathered here for the 9/11 Patriots’ Day of Remembrance and held a moment of silence to reflect on that day 16 years ago, as well as the service we would be providing for the parks.

Before we could get started, some orientation was in order, as there was a lot of information to cover.  Sam’s Point has a rare population of ridgetop dwarf pitch pine barrens, supporting wildlife such as birds, fishers (small mammals related to weasels), and porcupines.  In April 2016, a wildfire broke out in the area, and efforts are underway to study the resilience of this ecosystem.  We were able to see more of the area by hiking up to the scenic overlook as well as to the super cool ice caves!

Invasive plant removal crew_EN
Some of the invasive species removal crew

There were multiple projects being done in our three days of service.  Two crews worked on erosion control devices on the Verkeerderkill Falls Footpath. One crew worked on making water bars, trail structures that take the water off the trail. Another crew worked on building bog bridges, low wooden bridge structures that raise the trail out of the water or other sensitive area. The third crew was constructing invasive plant boot brush stations at various entrances around the park preserve.  I was part of the invasive species crew for the service project.  Our main focus was removing spotted knapweed, a purple flower that grew on the edge of the Loop Road. We had been out in the sun working hard on knapweed removal, and towards the end of the day, decided to move in the shade to work on stilt grass.

Invasives crew on the trail_EN
On the trail in Sam’s Point Area.

 

While pulling knapweed for many hours at a time, SCA members were able to have some fun.  We had started to play the game Murder on the Trail, which is where the “killer” would stick out their tongue at a person, and five minutes, later the “victim” had to die dramatically. Aaron (one of the program managers) came to check in on us and did not know we were playing this game –   he wasn’t sure what was happening when someone dropped to the ground.  Other fun things included exploring Lake Maratanza and finding baby snakes!  From the beginning of the trail at the bottom of the ridge, all the way to the top, past Sam’s Point towards Lake Maratanza, we pulled almost half a mile of knapweed. That’s a lot of knapweed!

The other teams worked hard and played hard too! The bog bridging crew installed over 170 feet of new bog bridges and the water bar crew improved almost a quarter mile of trail on one of the park preserve’s most popular trails. The boot brush crew installed three new boot brush stations to educate the public about invasive species and help stop the spread of invasive plant seeds.’

Three project photos

After three days of hard work and camping out at Sam’s Point, it was time for all of us to return to our homes in the Hudson valley.  We had done great work for the park and I was happy to be a part of it.

Thank you to the SCA, SCA members, State Parks, and the staff of Sam’s Point. Until next time!

Post by Emily Enoch, SCA Hudson Valley AmeriCorps Member