News and Notes from Whitefish Dunes

The warning has been issued but how many understand the threat of invasive species? What is it, how are invasives identified, and which ecosystems do they threaten?

Invasive plants come from distant ecosystems and thrive in a variety of ecosystems throughout Door County. While steps have been taken at a state and regional level to identify and control invasive species, more attention and resources are needed to help prevent their spread in Door County.

There are a number of invasive plants that threaten Door County, and spring is a great time to spot them because they are usually the first to sprout and get their leaves. This shading poses problems for our native plants. Those that will be most visible in the coming month are: Common and Glossy Buckthorn, Amur’s Honeysuckle and Garlic Mustard. In June, Phragmites will begin sprouting in ditches, shorelines and along waterways. Plants, such as Common Buckthorn and Amur’s Honeysuckle, are still available in lawn and garden centers and are planted in hedge rows. Asking about native alternatives for lawn and garden needs can help reduce threats to native plant communities.

Invasive plants affect not just the plants they out-compete for resources, but they also affect the mammal and bird populations who use them for food and habitat. Christopher J. Whelan’s study on birds and habitat selection showed that American Robins who nest on invasive Amur’s Honeysuckle suffered higher predation rates than Robins who nested on native Honeysuckle*. This is due partly to the invasive Honeysuckle having lower branches in comparison. Therefore Robins nesting in invasive Honeysuckle were closer to predators. These birds depend on the lowest Honeysuckle branches to be high enough to protect them from predation, and they cannot adapt quickly to the lower branches. In this way, invasives are playing with evolution, as species cannot react fast enough to the alterations in their environment.

The threat of invasive species is one of life and death for individual plants, but there is hope for the unique ecosystems of Door County.

Door County’s state parks offer regular opportunities for citizens to help us control the invasive threat through presentations, educational materials, and volunteer work days where you can come be a part of the hope for Door County ecosystems!

Join the Friends of Potawatomi State Park to win the battle against Bell’s and Amur’s Honeysuckle Saturday, May 10 from 9 – 11:30 am and from 1 – 3:30 pm. Meet at the Picnic Area, near parking lot 2. Volunteers will receive a complimentary vehicle admission sticker for the day. All ages are welcome.

Other opportunities to tackle invasives species in Door County include a two day event at Whitefish Dunes State Park. Learn how to identify Buckthorn, options for control and removal, and see spring ephemerals May 12 and 13 at 1 pm. Meet at the Nature Center. Dress for the weather. Water, snacks and courtesy daily park sticker are provided. Sign-up by calling Whitefish Dunes State Park at 920.823.2400.

Finally, Peninsula State Park hosts Weed Warriors every Tuesday at 1 pm, where you can help keep Peninsula beautiful by pulling garlic mustard or monitoring a trail for invasive species. Call 920.868.3258 for program sites.

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