Monday, June 16, 2008

Week of June 15

Let the pepperweed war begin

By Joel Brown, Boston Globe Correspondent

NEWBURY, MA - The bikers and drivers passing by on Plum Island Turnpike, the fishermen on the riverbank, even the boaters eyed us curiously. Probably the pilots taking off from Plum Island Airport looked down and wondered what we were doing. On a sunny, scorchingly hot Saturday afternoon in June, we clambered around the muddy edges of the salt marsh yanking weeds.

But not just any weeds.

Perennial pepperweed - Lepidium latifolium to the scientists - is the latest invasive species to threaten the health of the Great Marsh. Our group of fewer than a dozen was an early scouting party in what's expected to be a summer-long battle against the pest. The war will likely go on for years.

"We're worried about pepperweed because it's such a strong invader," said Sarah Janson, who, as pepperweed coordinator at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, should know. "It replaces the native plants, trying to turn the marsh into a monoculture, a single field of pepperweed."

Already a major problem in Western states, the tenacious plant has begun to spread rapidly in Eastern Massachusetts and edge into New Hampshire. "The more we look, the more we find," Janson said.

"What might make pepperweed a little different," Jennifer Forman Orth, one of the authors of a key 2006 study of pepperweed, said by phone, "is that its spread is relatively new to our state, and that means we have a great chance to succeed in dealing with it."

Pepperweed likely arrived in California as a hitchhiker in a shipment of beet seeds from the Mediterranean in the early 20th century. No one knows how it arrived in New England, but the first reports came from Peabody in the 1920s.

Pepperweed remained relatively contained in a few spots in Eastern Massachusetts and Connecticut for decades before "exploding" in recent years, a progression typical of invasive plants, said Forman Orth, who is plant pest survey coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.

"I have been to Yakima, Wash., and stood in a solid two acres of pepperweed," Forman Orth said. "We don't want to see it that bad here." Pepperweed spreads not only by seed but also via rhizomes - underground stems that make it particularly important to pull up as much of the plant as possible.

You can't just discard it, either, because even a small segment of stem tends to sprout new plants where it falls. At the refuge, a driveway is now used for drying pulled-up pepperweed plants until they're no longer viable.

Unlike many native species, pepperweed doesn't mind salt, so it's especially suited to the marsh. Its seeds can even survive long immersion in salt water, so the tides can spread them.

Once rooted, Forman Orth said, the plant acts as "a salt pump," bringing it to the upper soil from below, making life even more difficult for its neighbors.

The Plum Island team's efforts involve either spraying a mild herbicide on pepperweed or uprooting it. Janson said the idea that pulling "could even be effective" came from the study by Forman Orth and her colleagues, which showed that in a few years it was possible to greatly reduce or even eradicate the plant in one spot.

Pepperweed is making inroads on New Hampshire's coast as well. "Early detection, rapid response," said Kevin Lucey, restoration coordinator for the N.H. Coastal Program, who came along to learn from Janson's efforts. "We're looking at the same model of community support" to locate and remove pepperweed in the Granite State, he said.

Janson has several pulls scheduled in the coming weeks. To participate, contact her at 978-465-5753, ext. 203 . In New Hampshire, call Lucey at 603-559-0026. Full Article


Eurasian milfoil to be pulled from Skaneateles Lake

Skaneatales, New York (WSYR-TV) - We all know what a pain it is to pull weeds from our yards. But can you imagine weeding a lake? A local non-profit has taken on this seemingly impossible task in an effort to eradicate a weed called Eurasian milfoil from Skaneateles Lake.

The weed first made its appearance in the 70s and it slowly began to multiply. Today, patches of milfoil cover between 15 and 20 acres of the lake.

Left alone, milfoil basically grows like a weed.

Larry Rothenberg, who is heading cleanup efforts on the lake, says the lake could eventually be filled with it if it’s not pulled out.

It's bad for boaters, swimmers and the lake's ecosystem. The only way to get it out is by hand.
Divers pull the weeds and feed them through a vacuum to the boat's deck, where a pipe spits the milfoil out into onion bags.

Luckily the group says it has caught the problem before it really gets out of hand. They hope to have everything under control by next summer.

Weeding the lake is a dangerous job that only paid professionals can take part in. But you can help the cause by donating money.

To find out how to donate to help cleanup efforts, visit the Skaneateles Lake Milfoil Eradication Project’s website: Website Full Article


Connecticut lakes to be surveyed

Lebanon, Conn. — Lake Williams has been chosen among 30 lakes and ponds to be surveyed this summer by the Invasive Aquatic Plant Program at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, announced Friends of Lake Williams Inc. this week. The surveys, which focus primarily on invasive plants, have been completed for 130 lakes or ponds, according to the Department of Environmental Protection Web site. The research will allow CAES to track the spread of invasive plants and to record the arrival of new ones. Article


The spring/summer newsletter of the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) is now available online at this link.


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