Get Volunteer Help with Invasive Species Infestations In Virginia's Parks and Natural Areas
The Virginia Master Naturalists and the Virginia Native Plant Society held the second annual statewide Invasive Plant Removal Day on Saturday, May 1, 2010. Virginia Master Naturalist Chapters, Virginia Native Plant Society Chapters, neighborhood organizations, local parks and recreation departments, non-profits, nature centers, state and national parks, and other community groups were all organizers for local events.
With the permission of the landowner, events were hosted and publicized on www.virginiamasternaturalist.org/invasives with information about the location, time, volunteer needs, and target species.
In 2010 Invasive plant removal events were held in 27 locations. Most were in Northern Virginia, but there also were events in central Virginia, Richmond, the Northern Neck, and southwest Virginia. More than 300 volunteers, including Master Naturalists, scouting and other youth groups, neighborhood associations, and other community volunteers, came to assist with the efforts. Together, they contributed more than 750 hours of service and removed more than 75 bags of invasive herbaceous plants, plus many acres of woody plants such as autumn olive. Their works sites covered more than 50 acres, and their service and additional in-kind donations are valued at more than $15,000. The site leaders reported that the volunteers increased their ability to recognize invasive plants and their knowledge about the negative impacts that invasive plants have in natural ecosystems. Several leaders also reported that they were able to educate park users and passers-by about invasive species issues.
In 2009, local organizations posted 41 invasive plant removal events across Virginia. More than 400 volunteers, including Master Naturalists, scouting and other youth groups, neighborhood associations, and other community volunteers, came to assist with the efforts. Together, they contributed more than 1300 hours of service and removed more than 250 bags of invasive plants. Their service plus addition in-kind donations are valued at more than $27,000.
Invasive species are non-native species that cause ecological or economic harm. They are widely recognized as a costly and leading threat to healthy ecosystems. They out-compete native species for the same resources, eventually harming trees, wildlife, and water quality. Invasive plants have taken a firm foothold in many parts of the state and everyone's help is needed to reclaim our natural areas. The Virginia Invasive Plant Removal Day is an opportunity to engage our citizenry in these efforts.
VDACS Issues Beach Vitex Quarantine
Due to concerns about the highly invasive characteristics of beach vitex (Vitex rotundifolia) the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has issued a quarantine on this species in the cities of Virginia Beach and Norfolk, and Accomack and Northampton Counties. The quarantine restricts the movement of the plant into or out of the regulated areas. The plant as been sold as a dune stabilizer. However, in North and South Carolinas beach vitex has proved to be a highly aggressive invader and quickly grows beyond its intended setting. It outcompetes native species of dune vegetation, including sea oats and American beach grass. Since first discovered in Virginia 2008 on the Chesapeake Bay shoreline in Norfolk, it has be found on Assateague Island and in Virginia Beach. The Department of Conservation and Recreation recently placed the species on their list of invasive plant species in Virginia [link: ] and identified it as “highly invasive.”
Treekillers May Hitchhike on Your Firewood
Emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle, and gypsy moth are but a few of the invasive species that kill our native trees by the millions every year. They also may hitch a ride to their next meal in firewood you may be moving with you to your favorite park or campground. For this reason, it is important to get your firewood from sources close to where you will light your next camp fire. To learn more about the threat of exotic pests being moved on firewood, go to Don't Move Firewood.
VDACS Issues Quarantine over Tidewater to Control Spread of Red Imported Fire Ants
After 10 years of battling red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) in southeast Virginia, the Departement of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has issued a permanent quarantine of materials that may transport this aggressive invasive species to other parts of the state. As stated in a press release on August 4, 2009, the quarantine primarily restricts movement of "soil, plants with soil attached, grass sod, used soil-moving equipment, used farm equipment, hay/straw/pine straw, honey bee hives that have been in contact with the ground, and logs, pulp wood or stump wood with soil attached." These materials may be moved within the quarantine area. A certification process has been established and inspected items found to be free of red imported fire ants may be transported out of the quarantine area.
Red imported fire ants are small red or black ants that swarm their prey and have a powerful sting. They were first introduced into the United State in the 1930s and discovered in Virginia in 1989. For more information on the quarantine and the fire ant, see the following pages at the VDACS website:
2009 Invasive Species Bill Passes General Assembly
During its 2009 session, the General Assembly passed legislation that establishes the state's commitment to addressing the invasive species that threaten the Commonwealth through cooperation and coordination of government agencies, the business community, conservation organizations, and public citizens. The legislation directs the Secretaries of Natural Resources and Agriculture and Forestry to "coordinate the development of strategic actions to be taken by the Commonwealth, individual state and federal agencies, private business, and landowners related to invasive species prevention, early detection and rapid response, control and management, research and risk assessment, and education and outreach."
This legislation builds on work achieved through previous legislation and executive directives while not limiting the effort with an expiration date. The new legislation affirms the need for a state invasive species management plan and for that plan to be implemented and routinely updated. The Secretary of Natural Resources serves as chair and the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry as vice-chair of an advisory group tasked with development and implementation of the state invasive species plan. Such an effort has already been underway and this new legislation assures the work will continue beyond the current General Assembly and administration.
Read the 2009 Invasive Species amendment to the Code of Virginia (20kb PDF)
Beach Vitex on the Move, Govt Agencies Moving on Beach Vitex -- June 2009
New locations of beach vitex (Vitex rotundifolia) have been discovered in Virginia Beach. Beach vitex invades sand dunes and displaces native vegetation and alters critically important sea turtle nesting areas. Originally introduced for dune stabilization, is has been found to be highly aggressive. It turns out that beach vitex does not provide stabilization. Native dune plants, such as sea oats, have fibrous root systems that hold sand in place. In contrast, beach vitex has a long narrow tap root that anchors the plant but not the sand. Thus, dunes dominated by this species are undercut by wind and wave action. For more information, see this brochure from the Carolinas Beach Vitex Task Force. (488kb PDF)
In 2007, risk assessment conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Carolinas Beach Vitex Task Force stated that this species poses a serious threat and could cause environmental and economic harm, but through cooperative efforts beach vitex could be eradicated before it spread throughout its potential habitat.
In June 2009, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Servicies released a letter requesting concerned nursery owners, landscapers, and citizens throughout the Commonwealth to refrain from selling or distributing beach vitex. Read the VDACS letter (712kb PDF).
Wavy-leaved Basket Grass in Northern Virginia -- December 2008
In July 2008, wavy-leaved basket grass (Oplismenus hirtellus ssp. undulatifolius) was discovered on a property owned and managed by the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) in Fauquier County. As news of the discovery circulated, a report of an 80-acre occurrence discovered in 2005 in Shenandoah National Park came to light. Recent experience with the plant in Maryland indicates this species is highly invasive. PEC quickly applied control based on advice from Maryland invasive species specialists who have several years experience with basket grass. Control had already been implemented in Shenandoah. Since September, other occurrences of wavy-leaved basket grass were reported, including a 20-30 acre patch at The Nature Conservancy's Fraser Preserve on the Potomac River in Fairfax County. Most alarming, it appears it can invade healthy mature forest even more aggressively than Japanese stilt-grass (Microstegium vimineum). For more information on wavy-leaved basket grass, see Maryland's Department of Natural Resources excellent web page.
Beach Vitex in Norfolk -- December 2008
In September, beach vitex (Vitex rotundifolia) was discovered by Lee Rosenburg, manager of the City of Norfolk Environmental Services, on a primary dune at Willoughby Spit. Beach vitex is a known beach dune invader in North and South Carolina. North Carolina is seeking to list the plant as a noxious weed. The plant at Willoughby Spit covered a 50 foot by 20 foot area. It was reported that the plant was not known to be at that site in 2007. A low woody shrub, beach vitex grows rapidly and crowds out native species such as sea oats. Although originally planted for erosion control, it does not appear to be as effective as native plant species in maintained a high dune profile. The vitex has been treated with a wetlands-approved herbicide, Habitat, and the site will be monitored and control applied by Environmental Services as necessary. There are unconfirmed reports that the plant has been used to stabilize ditches throughout Virginia Beach. More information on beach vitex can be found at the Carolinas Beach Vitex Task Force website.
Purple Loosestrife Infestations Mapped and Controlled in Northern Virginia -- September 2008
During the summer of 2008 Michael Rolband and his staff at Wetland Science and Solutions Incorporated (WSSI) volunteered time and effort to map and trea occurrences of purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) in Fairfax County. Purple loosestrife, listed as a noxious weed in Virginia, is an aggressive invasive plant that has infested thousands of acres and reduced biological diversity in wetlands across the U.S. Thirty-two states, including Virginia, ban or restrict its sale.
In July 2008, Rolband began seeing numerous plants bearing bright, pinkish-purple flowers along the Dulles Toll Road in Fairfax. He recognized the plant as purple loosestrife. As a wetland scientist, he knew the damage it could do. After contacting various state agencies, including the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, he learned there is no state program for mapping and controlling purple loosestrife. So Rolband took on the responsibility himself. WSSI crew mapped 32 purple loosestrife locations in Fairfax, Prince William, Fauquier, and Loudon Counties and the city of Arlington. In 2007, the Reston Association mapped 53, and Fairfax Park Authority mapped one location, for a total of 86 locations. All this data can be seen the Purple Loosestrife in Northern Virginia map (PDF, 1.4 mb) and on the map at iMapInvasives.org.
In the summer of 2007, Nicki Foremensky, Reston Association Watershed Manager, led an effort to map occurrences of purple loosestrife on shorelines of lakes in Reston. Using the GIS data, private landowners with loosestrife on their land were identified and a letter was sent requesting permission to enter their properties and remove the noxious weed. Volunteers, guided by Foremensky and her staff, hand-pulled and bagged over 50 bags of plant material. Similar efforts were conducted in 2008.
In 2008, WSSI sprayed with herbicide or removed by hand the purple loosestrife at 26 locations. Rolband and others hope that a broader partnership can be formed to continue this work next year before this species becomes a much larger -- and more expensive -- problem in Virginia's wetlands. Many thanks to Rolband and his colleagues for their work to protect our Commonwealth.
Newly Discovered Emerald Ash Borer Infestation in Fairfax County -- July 2008
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced the discovery of emerald ash borer (EAB) infestations at two locations in Fairfax County. Both infestations appeared to be many years old. EAB is a tiny invasive insect that infests all types of ash trees. The infestation is usually fatal to the tree. The insect was accidentally imported into the United States in the wood of a shipping crate. EAB infestations were first discovered in Michigan in 2002. It has since spread to Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Maryland. An infestation discovered in Virginia in 2003 was successfully eradicated by state and federal agencies. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the lead agency in the state for plant pest infestations.
For more information on EAB, see these websites:
DCR Phragmites Control Efforts -- October 2006
During the 2006 work year (Sept. 2005 - October 2006), a total of 270 acres of Phragmites was treated on DCR Natural Area Preserves and State Parks. 109 acres were aerial treated with glyphosate and 22 acres were aerial treated with imazapyr on 4 NAPs and 2 State Parks. Additionally, 57 acres were treated with glyphosate with ground-based equipment and 81 acres were treated with imazapyr with ground-based equipment on 4 NAPs and 3 State Parks. The NAPs and State Parks involved include: Dameron Marsh NAP, Hughlett Point, NAP, Bethel Beach NAP, North Landing River NAP, New Point Comfort NAP, False Cape State Park, Belle Isle State Park, York River State Park, Westmoreland State Park and First Landing State Park. DCR staff is eagerly awaiting the 2007 growing season to measure results of these treatments. Early indicators suggest that imazapyr is a highly effective treatment that will help land managers restore many hundreds of acres of native marsh vegetation.
VISC management plan approved -- December 2005
The Virginia Invasive Species Council, then chaired by Secretary of Natural Resources W. Tayloe Murphy, Jr., unanimously approved Virginia's first Invasive Species Management Plan. The plan was crafted by a team of stakeholders from state and federal agencies, local governments, and private interests, including The Nature Conservancy and the Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association. Read the plan.
- Zebra Mussel Eradicated from Millbrook Quarry -- May 2006
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) has confirmed that the Commonwealth’s only infestation of zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha), a notorious invasive aquatic species, has been exterminated. Eradication of this noxious species from the 12-acre, 93-foot-deep quarry pond is believed to be the first successful eradication of zebra mussels from a large, open body of water in North America, and perhaps the world. Read the full press release. (20 kb PDF)
Visit the DGIF Millbrook Quarry zebra mussel web site
- Regional agencies join forces against exotic invaders -- May 2005, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay's Bay Journal
When Bay region officials learned four years ago that zebra mussels had been found in the headwaters of the Susquehanna River, they responded with letters to New York officials urging them to stem the spread before it was too late. Read more.
- Zebra Mussel sighting distribution -- 2005, US Geological Survey. Read more.
Emerald Ash Borer
- USDA Amends Emerald Ash Borer Quarantined Areas -- Nov. 4, 2005, APHIS
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service today announced it is amending its existing emerald ash borer (EAB) regulations by adding areas in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio to the list of quarantined areas, and is restricting the interstate movement of regulated articles from these quarantined areas. Read more.
- USDA Announces Additional $28 Million to Fight Emerald Ash Borer – March 23, 2005, USDA
Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman today announced an additional $28.2 million in emergency funding for the emerald ash borer (EAB) eradication program. Read more.
- Invasive plant taking over Virginia's Eastern Shore – Jan. 3, 2006, Virginia Pilot Online/Associated Press
The common reed is a good-looking plant. It grows tall and slender, its feathery crowns glowing golden in the late-afternoon sun, and bobbing as one in the gusts that sweep this seafaring village. Read more.
- Battling Alien Invaders: Making war on phragmites and other flora that take no prisoners – Sept. 15-21, 2005, Bay Weekly
It’s not a glamour job, tromping through the marsh in hip-waders and canvas jumpsuit to slash through thick, endless clumps of reeds in the hot sun. Read more.
Mid-Atlantic Panel on Aquatic Invasive Species (MAPAIS) Launches New Web Site -- April 2007
MAPAIS is one of six regional panels administered by the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force, an intergovernmental organization dedicated to preventing and controlling aquatic nuisance species as authorized by the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act (NANPCA) of 1990. Visit the new site.
Tiny Insect Threatens Ash Trees -- March 2007, Baltimore Sun (requires free registration to read)
Efforts escalate in the attempt to stop the spread of the emerald ash borer in Maryland, and potentially the rest of the East Coast states. Some 17,000 trees have been targeted for removal in a 21 square mile area in Prince George County. Last year, Virginia officials successfully stopped an infestation in Fairfax County. Read more.
Laurel Wilt Disease -- January 2007
In coastal Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, a recently discovered beetle, Asian ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus), has been found to transport a fungus (Ophiostoma sp.) that causes a wilt disease and mortality in tree and shrub species in the laurel family (Lauraceae), including red bay and sassafras. Learn more. (offsite PDF)
Maryland state agencies train citizens to help fight purple loosestrife
A new program in Maryland will train volunteers to recognize and report occurrences of the highly invasive purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicarium). The Maryland Departments of Natural Resources, Transportation, and Agriculture have teamed up to control this species. They are seeking volunteer assistance from and offering training to Maryland citizens to help achieve their management goal. Location information is critical to prioritizing control projects. A new web site describes the plant and offers an online reporting form.
Asian Soybean Rust Development in 2005: A Perspective from the Southeastern United States -- January 2006, American Phytopathological Society
The American Phytopathological Society (APS) presents an overview of the history, current status, monitoring and management of soybean rust. Read the article.
For more news visit:
- Maryland Invasive Species Council
- Mid-Atlantic Exotic Pest Plant Council
- Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council
- Mid-Atlantic Regional Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species