The Emmet Conservation District is leading invasive species control and education events throughout the county. There are many types of invasive species organisms - they can be plants, animals (including insects, zebra and quagga mussels), or fungi. Some of the invasive organisms on our high priority list include: PLANTS:
Giant and Japanese knotweeds, as well as the hybrid: x Bohemian knotweed
Oak wilt (not yet in Emmet County, but is present in Charlevoix and Cheboygan Counties - PLEASE do not trim or cut oaks between April 15 and July 15, or even better yet save your oak work until the cold weather seasons, and PLEASE DO NOT move firewood).
Hemlock woolly adelgid
Emerald ash borer
Beech bark disease (a disease caused by a non-native insect that creates wounds on the trunks and bark of beeches which allows for introductions of a fungus that eventually kills the tree).
The Problem: As far as plants go, there are over 2700 plants in Michigan, and of those plants, over 1/3 are non-native (which is ALOT of non-native plants). Of those non-native plants, there are over a hundred invasive species in Michigan. Some invasive species cause more harm than others, and they cause harm in different and multiple ways.
Some invasive plants do so well when they become established that they physically displace and crowd out native species, which in turn, reduces species diversity, and food and habitat for native plants and animals, including birds, bees, and butterflies. Examples include invasive Phragmites (Phragmites australis subsp. australis), and the knotweeds. Invasive Phragmites is a problem in uplands as well as wetlands, and has become especially problematic along roadsides and shorelines. There have been efforts underway for many years in Emmet County and throughout Michigan to teach people how to identify invasive Phragmites, to teach invasive species surveyors and volunteers how to distinguish it from our native Phragmites (which is a beautiful plant, often with bright red stem bases and is fairly common around here), as well as to provide resources for eradication efforts. A fun and interesting fact about our native Phragmites - it is one of the oldest plants found in North America, and has been found in the seed records going back 40,000 years!
Some invasive plants cause chemical changes to the soils where they grow, favoring them and their offspring and often preventing other native species from germinating or surviving. Some examples include garlic mustard, autumn olive, and spotted knapweed.
There are some invasive plants are also known to cause human health issues, including wild parsnip (which is in the carrot family), which is becoming more prevalent along roadsides, ditches, fields, and many other areas. Wild parsnip causes photodermatitis, which can cause a skin reaction similar to poison ivy blisters: if a person's skin contacts the sap of the plant then exposes the affected area to the sun, the skin can develop painful rashes and/or blisters. Another blister-causing plant that can cause similar skin reactions is Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantagazzanium) - which is a HUGE white-flowered carrot-like plant. Thankfully we don't have that one here yet, though we regularly get reports of a very similar-looking plant called cow parsnip (Heracleum maximum).
We are still learning all of the ways that invasive species can negatively harm our environment and us. There is so much more to learn about this topic. Please be a good steward of our environment and wipe your shoes before you enter new natural areas, plant local native plants whenever possible, don't move firewood around, and CLEAN, DRAIN and DRY your boats (including emptying bilges) and fishing gear (including boots, waders, fishing lines, nets) to minimize the chances of transporting harmful invasive species.
The Emmet Conservation District has received a grant from the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Community Foundation through the Little Traverse Bay Protection and Restoration Fund to do some important invasive knotweed control and education work. We are super excited and will provide important updates! Please contact the Emmet Conservation District for more information.
Spring 2016 Controlled burn of Giant knotweed at the D&W Fresh Market in Petoskey by the Bear Creek-Resort Twp Fire Department.
Invasive Giant knotweed at the Victory Community Garden in Petoskey
Japanese knotweed along a park path in Harbor Springs.