Origin: Kudzu was first introduced to the southern US in the late 1800’s as an ornamental plant to shade porches. In the early 1900s, farmers were encouraged to plant kudzu for erosion control and in the 1930’s the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) planted thousands of acres of it along hillsides for that same purpose. Kudzu wasn’t recognized as an invasive species by the USDA until 1953.
NYS Presence: Lower Hudson Valley and Long Island
Species Profile: Kudzu is a perennial, semi-woody, climbing vine that can reach up to 100 feet in length! Kudzu leaves are compound (i.e., made up of three separate leaflets) and are oval to heart-shaped. In the late summer, vertically growing stems produce fragrant purple flowers that are followed by the production of hairy, brown, flattened seed pods. Kudzu can grow up to one foot per day, which makes it capable of outgrowing almost anything! This fast-growing plant competes with native trees and plants for sunlight, water and nutrients from the soil.
Note the leaves are in clusters of three, photo courtesy of Shawn Gorman, Friend of Old Croton Aqueduct.
8″ – 10″ fragrant flowers can be seen in mid-summer, photo by Forest & Kim Star, Bugwood.org
Roughly 2 million acres of forests in the southern US are covered with kudzu! Let’s prevent this from happening in NY. If found, please report findings to iMapInvasives. Take note of your location, photograph the species and then upload!
A dense stand of kudzu along the Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park, photo courtesy of Shawn Gorman, Friends of Old Croton Aqueduct.
Dense stands of kudzu along the Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park in Yonkers were removed in 2016 by State Parks Invasive Species Strike Team, photo courtesy of Shawn Gorman, Friends of Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park.
State Parks Invasive Species Strike Team removes kudzu along the Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park, photo courtesy of Shawn Gorman, Friends of Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park.
Reminder: Poison ivy is another species with three leaflets, so be sure to brush up on your plant ID before handling these species.
Since 2010, State Parks has hired seasonal Invasive Species Strike Teams to perform removals of terrestrial invasive plants in New York State Parks and Historic Sites. The work of the Strike Teams allows Parks staff to identify and protect areas of ecological significance that are vulnerable to the growing threat that invasive species pose.
In 2016, two crews were hired, an Eastern Strike Team and a Western Strike Team. Each crew worked a 25-week field season (May 30 – November 18), camping out for much of the time and carrying heavy packs and gear to work sites.
The Eastern Strike Team covered Parks and Historic Sites in the Saratoga-Capital, Taconic, Palisades and Long Island regions.
Over the course of the field season, the crew visited 29 parks in 12 counties.
They worked on 38 different projects, targeting 32 invasive plant species.
The top three focal species were: Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus – 18 acres removed), Phragmites (Phragmites australis – 12 acres removed) and Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii – 10 acres removed).
Surveys and invasives removals were done on a total of 98 acres.
Much of the work focused on protecting rare elements including:
Karner Blue Butterfly and Sandplain Gerardia – federally endangered
Slender Blue Flag Iris and the rare Pink Tickseed – state threatened
Cerulean Warbler and Golden Winged Warbler – state listed species of special concern
A globally rare maritime grassland habitat
The Eastern Strike Team also spent a portion of their time surveying for the Southern Pine Beetle, an insect native to the southeast U.S., which has spread to the northeast, causing large-scale pine die-off on Long Island. The beetle has been detected in traps in State Parks in the Hudson Valley, but no confirmed infestations have yet been found in Pitch Pines in that region. Surveys were conducted in Schunnemunk State Park, Harriman State Park, and Minnewaska State Park Preserve.
Strike Team members David Hendler and Mike Ferri inspect a pitch pine for evidence of Southern Pine Beetle , photo by Casey Bannon, State Parks
Strike Team members David Hendler and Mike Ferri survey for Southern Pine Beetle at Schunnemunk State Park, Photos by Casey Bannon, State Parks
The Western Strike Team focused on the Finger Lakes, Central, Thousand Islands, Niagara, Allegany and Genesee Regions.
Over the course of the field season, they visited 22 parks in 15 counties.
They worked on 50 different projects, targeting 19 invasive plant species.
The top three focal species were: Pale Swallowwort (Cynanchum rossicum), Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) and Buckthorn (Rhamnus spp.).
Topping the ranks in numbers or volume removed were: 2.79 acres of Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) surveyed and removed, 35,025 Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata ) plants, 34 bags of Pale Swallowwort (Cynanchum rossicum), and 7 dumpsters filled with Phragmites (Phragmites australis).
Western strike team member Sienna McDonald conquers a honeysuckle plant, photo by Dallas Ortel, State Parks
Western strike team member Phil Bossert works on a pale swallow-wort removal project, photo by Sienna McDonald, State Parks
State Parks also hired two Forest Health Specialists to perform surveys for two non-native insect pests: Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) and Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). These surveys alert New York State Parks invasive species staff to new infestations, assist staff in identifying infested trees that can potentially be saved and allow for the identification and removal of trees that may pose a risk to the safety of park patrons. Forest Health Specialists also performed HWA canopy monitoring (tree-climbing) surveys at sites where HWA-infested trees had been treated previously with chemical insecticides. At these sites, the crew collected data on infestation levels and overall tree health in order to assist invasive species staff in monitoring the effectiveness of treatments.
Over the course of the 18-week field season, the crew was able to visit 17 different parks.
HWA canopy monitoring surveys were performed in 8 parks, and a total of 42 trees were surveyed.
All hemlock trees that had been treated with insecticides in previous years showed either no sign of infestation or signs of improvement.
Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) surveys were performed in 14 different parks, and the crew confirmed two new sites of EAB infestation.
Aquatic Invasive Species
The New York State Park’s Boat Steward Program is one of many boat steward programs throughout New York State. These programs provide targeted educational programming to increase awareness about aquatic invasive species (AIS) and other environmentally significant issues.
Did you know that NY State Parks adopted regulations in 2015 to help try to protect our lakes and rivers from the costly effects of invasive species? Find an FAQ about the new regulations here.
The regulations states that a boater:
shall not launch or retrieve their watercraft from a Parks-owned boat launch facility unless the watercraft’s water-containing compartments (livewell, bilge, bait bucket) are dry.
has inspected the watercraft to ensure that there is not plant or animal material attached to the motor, trailer, body of the vessel, etc.
The Boat Steward Program has stewards at many of our Parks-owned boat launches across the state who conduct educational boat inspections to provide step-by-step instructions on ways you can effectively inspect your boat and dispose of invasive species. These demonstrations are both free and voluntary.
Boat Stewards can help you learn about what to do to prevent spreading aquatic invasives and what to look for. They are primarily educators and do not play a role in the enforcement of regulations.
Many Parks-owned boat launches across the state are also equipped with disposal stations for aquatic plant or animal material. The disposal stations are designed to provide a place for plant or animal material to dry out in an upland area. The dried out material is typically collected and placed in the garbage to prevent any further spread.
When you come across a red-shirted Boat Steward, please stop and ask any questions you may have.
2016 Boat Steward Program Highlights:
2016 was the first year of a 2-year $500,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to expand the boat steward program at state park launches
16 stewards worked 30 launches within the Great Lakes Basin, Lake Champlain Basin, and Saratoga Lake
There were 21,431 voluntary inspections out of 22,344 boats (95% of boaters allowed their boat to be inspected)
2,982 boats were discovered carrying aquatic invasive species
54,627 boaters interacted with Stewards, with many boaters receiving education about Clean-Drain-Dry and aquatic invasive species
11 invasive species removal projects in partnership with Strike Teams and other partners
10 educational events
Approximately 500 bags, or around 12.5 tons, of water chestnut were removed from Selkirk Shores State Park.
One might think State Parks’ Invasive Species Staff are sitting around with their feet up, taking a break from the relentless tasks of the summer field season. That’s not at all the case. Winter months are filled to the brim with “To-Do” Lists. The seasonal break in the field season allows for more office related tasks, such as wrapping up the previous field season, checking data for quality control, working with volunteers, and prioritizing, planning, and preparing projects for the upcoming field season. These tasks require significant collaboration with other Park staff, NY Natural Heritage Program (who provides data and advice on protecting rare species and natural communities) and other agencies involved in invasive species management. But putting in the effort and office time early in the season truly pays off to make for a successful field season.
For the summer of 2015, we had two Invasive Species Strike Teams and one Forest Health Specialist Team working on State Park lands. The two strike teams each covered half the state, the Eastern Team covering from Long Island to Lake Champlain. The Western Team covered the State Parks west of the Binghamton-Syracuse line. The Forest Health Specialists also focused on Western NY, coming as far east as the Finger Lakes Region.
Check out what we accomplished this past year!
That is a lot of effort, both on the planning end, and by our hardy crew members! Without the hard work and commitment to excellence of our seasonal staff, the program would accomplish only a tiny fraction of our goals. Their eyes on the ground keep us informed of the details of each treatment area and provide us with feedback on the success or any recommendations for further actions. We listen closely to feedback from the crews and other Parks staff and partners to continue to improve and strengthen the Invasive Species Program each year.
So even though there is snow on the ground and temperatures are cold, we are still working on invasives issues and preparing for what we hope to accomplish in the upcoming field season.
For more information on the State Parks Invasive Species Strike Teams, see this blog post.
For more information on the State Parks Forest Health Specialists, see this blog post.
Post and photos by Alyssa Reid, State Parks Invasive Species Field Project Specialist
Invasive Species Strike Teams are an important part of environmental stewardship; they are the protectors and defenders of our native plants and wildlife! Invasive plants are fast spreading and can create ecological changes that crowd out native plants and alter habitats to make them unsuitable for native insects or animals. The goal of the strike teams is to manually remove these plants in areas of significance to protect our native biological diversity. A diverse landscape is healthier and more robust, better able to fend off threats and adapt smoothly to changes, such as climate change.
Above: Our 2014 Western Strike Team in Letchworth State Park, showing off all their hard work removing Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii). Japanese barberry is a commonly planted ornamental which escapes into forest understories and increases incidence of Lyme disease.
What is a Strike Team anyway?
The New York State Parks Invasive Species Strike Teams consist of seasonal employees who travel throughout New York State to remove invasive plants from the most valuable areas of our Parks. These teams of four camp near their project areas to accomplish the goals of the Invasive Species Program. All these removals are done with manual hand tools, such as pick mattocks, shovels, machetes and loppers. Our strike teams are always up for the physical challenge and have made incredible headway against some large opponents.
Above: A strike team member from 2012 who proudly showcases the large autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) he removed with hand tools, determination and brute strength. Machinery is used to remove large shrubs, but our strike team got there first in this case!
What are the goals?
Invasive Species Program staff has had many successes in controlling invasive species by carefully selecting projects geared toward terrestrial invasives, which can be controlled manually and through adaptive management.
Above: The 2015 Eastern Strike Team wishing everyone well from Grafton Lakes State Park, outside of Albany. You can see some of our most often used tools in this photo (From L-R: the ax mattock, pick mattock and loppers), as you can see, other essential elements in their toolbox include the hard hat and gloves!
Starting in 2008, six interns and volunteers assisted with invasive species removals state wide. Since 2010, State Parks has employed 46 seasonal staff to remove invasive species. In the past 5 years over 1100 new observation points were entered into the program iMap Invasives, a national database reflecting new sightings of invasives. On average, strike teams remove 19 different species per year at their project sites. Some of the native species which are protected by the invasive species program include: twinleaf, American Hart’s tongue fern, sky blue aster, cardinal flower, Chittenango ovate amber snail, the Karner blue butterfly, several warbler species, mountain mint, bushy cinquefoil, and slender blazing star.
Above: Two examples of native plants which benefit from strike team controls. On the left, the spring flowering twin leaf (Jeffersonia diphylla). On the right, the stunning late summer red of the cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), a plant loved by pollinators.
One of the best ways to reduce invasive species is avoid introducing them in the first place. Please check what is planted ornamentally in your yard and remove plants or shrubs which are invasive and replace them with natives. Learn more information about New York’s invasive species on the NYS DECs Prohibited and Regulated Invasive Species List