Wanted: Dead or Alive- Wildlife Trees

Snag wildlife treeBy Charlotte Adelman

Compared with a living tree, more species of life benefit directly from the habitat and nourishment offered by trees in the afterlife. While a tree’s death causes wildlife dependent on its pollen, fruits or nuts to go elsewhere, the death enables crowds of other woodland life to move in and vastly increase the diversity of species it supports. The moment a tree dies, creatures ranging from birds to bacteria move in to dissolve, chew and disassemble the cellulose and lignin structure into food or habitat. A habitat has four essential components that make it suitable for a particular population of animals: food, water, shelter, and space. A wildlife tree provides three of the four of those essentials making it an important part of your backyard habitat to increase biodiversity.

Some 85 species of birds in North America nest in the dying and dead trees that we call snags or wildlife trees. Dead and dying trees are in limited supply, making them exclusive stopover sites for exhausted migrating birds, and for the bluebirds, American kestrels, wrens, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and chickadees. Cavities located over or near water are used by tree swallows, prothonotary warblers, wood ducks, goldeneyes, mergansers and buffleheads. Some species, like chickadees select a cavity with the smallest opening they can squeeze through. This prevents nest predators (blue jays, raccoons) and nest parasites (brown-headed cowbirds) from entering. Great crested flycatchers often hang a snake skin in the cavity entrance, to scare off intruders. Primary cavity users excavate cavities in the decaying wood, while secondary cavity users wait for a woodpecker to do the work before occupying and enlarging the cavity.

northern flicker escavates her nest cavityA dead tree also offers a place to build nests and a perch for hunting and observation (hawks, owls), safety from predators, and protection from the elements. Seeds, nuts and other food items stored in a cavity can determine which individuals make it through a particularly harsh winter, notes The Cavity Conservation Initiative. [i] The native bee larva and Lepidoptera (butterfly/moth) eggs that overwinter in tree bark also serve as food for birds and their spring nestlings. Mammals also use cavities in dead trees. Bats use natural and abandoned woodpecker cavities. Small mammals den in hollow trees. Flying squirrels prefer downy woodpecker cavities, which they line with shredded bark, or lichens, moss, feathers or leaves. Black bears sleep in the vast hollow trunks of huge sycamore trees that once sheltered entire pioneer families.   

The wildlife associated with snags play an important role in the dispersal of invertebrates. Peeling bark provides habitat for insects that wild birds consume. Protein-packed mushrooms -the fruiting bodies of fungi—attract more insects and hungry wildlife to the side of dead trees. When downed, hollow logs and dead trees are corridors used by predators as silent passageways through the noisy leaf litter. Below ground, a dead tree’s nutritional offerings eventually enters the soil, where they are further broken down and transported to different soil layers by the various decomposers.

Cavity conservation initiative
Decomposers including earthworms, firefly larva, ant colonies, snails, and crickets help return nutrients from the decaying debris to the soil, ultimately strengthening the forest’s ability to support life. Species that aerate, dig and fragment wood contribute to improved soil structure and quality. Decomposing wood, especially when accompanied by dead leaf litter, is a nutritionally rich and superior nursery for many seeds, such as shade-seeking wildflowers. Wood decomposers include bacteria, nematodes as well as types of fungi, called mycorrhiza. In return for delivering minerals (phosphorus, inorganic nitrogen) to the plant via its rootlets, the fungi receive moisture and carbohydrates from the plant, and sometimes a bonus in the form of special resistance to certain diseases.

A piece by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) from the UK urges “Bring your garden to life with dead wood”. Eventually, the structure of the dead tree dissolves and it falls over, becoming a “nurse log” because it provides a habitat for many organisms. Nurse logs are often hollow, and used for a variety of purposes by wildlife. When creating snags from dying trees, it is important that homeowners hire an expert tree service to remove branches and tops of large trees. Homeowners must make sure that whoever does the work is licensed, bonded, and insured, and understands your intention to make a wildlife tree. Contact local arborists for certified specialists who can competently create and maintain wildlife trees.

Cavity Conservation sign

To clearly communicate about wildlife trees between you and your neighbors, hang up these handy wildlife tree signs.These handy wildlife tree signs provide an opportunity to educate friends, neighbors, and the public about why a dead tree has been retained.

These aluminum signs are about the size of a sheet of paper and cost $10 (shipping included). For the signs, visit The Cavity Conservation Initiative’s Nature Store at:  http://cavityconservation.com/nature-store-2/

 

By Charlotte Adelman

Charlotte is the co-author of The Midwestern Native Garden, Midwestern Native Shrubs & Trees, and Prairie Directory of North America. Co-authored with Bernard L. Schwartz,  The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants was the winner of the 2012 Helen Hull Award from the National Garden Clubs. In 2014, Adelman was awarded an Audubon Chicago Region Habitat Project Conservation Leadership Award. Read more about her work in this feature article in the Chicago Tribune.

 

Additional Resources & Sources:

 Nancy Lawson article: http://www.humanegardener.com/life-after-death/

 Bernd Heinrich, Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death (Paperback)

[i] Value of Dead Trees for Birds The Cavity Conservation Initiative

https://wdfw.wa.gov/living/snags/

https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/OI/PublishingImages/SnagOrDeadTree4.jpg

A Bird’s Eye View Inside Some Nests

Although our local weather may not be as spring-like as we’d like, birds are responding to their nesting timelines all over the country.  Below are links to several special opportunities to observe the nesting behavior of a bird species including hawks, osprey, peregrines, eagles and hummingbirds.  Several links have been provided for eagle cams; each of them offers a view of different stages in the nesting. These links include live cams as well as recordings (both from this season and from previous years).  The pages usually include some information about the project and the individual birds’ histories. Because of the file sizes and depending on your internet speed, there may be delay times as the live-streams load.

If you have information on other sites, please share with Carol Rice at goforsix@aol.com.

Red Tail hawk’s nest by All About Birds Article and live video 

Recorded videos of hummingbirds building their nest and their babies 

Peregrine Cam in Baltimore, MD

Osprey Cam in Charlotte and Lake Norman (both in North Carolina)

Eagle Cams in Washington, D.C,Decorah, Iowa, and Minnesota

Kestrel Cam in Utah

Peregrine nest in Evanston, IL 

Habitat Products and Services Directory

Listed here are businesses and organizations that provide products and services for creating native plant gardens and natural habitats on private land in the CLC Chicago Region.
Directory:

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See here for a list of Product and Service Providers that have not yet created an entry in the directory database.
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Basic Mesic Prairie Plants

This selection provides diversity for a prairie garden of approximately 100-125 square feet, with several of each species planted as a group. The garden should be in a location that receives at least six to eight hours of sun with average moisture.

These plants provide for a continuity of bloom, diverse heights, color, and form. There will be a variety of plant-insect interactions.  The grasses selected are short grasses – a better choice for home gardens.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive. There are many other species that would be appropriate in a mesic prairie garden, but this selection constitutes a good starting place.

Genus/Species
(Latin name)
Genus/Species (Common name) Ht Color Bloom Time Spacing
Forbs
Agastache foeniculum Anise Hyssop 3′ Purple June – July – Aug – Sept 18-24″
Allium cernuum Nodding Onion 18″ Purple July – Aug 4-8″
Anemone canadensis Canada Anemone 1′ White May – June 6-12″
Asclepias tuberosa* Butterfly Weed 2′ Orange June – July – Aug 1-3′
Asclepias verticillata* Whorled Milkweed 1-2′ White July – Aug – Sept 1′
Aster laevis Smooth Blue Aster 4′ Blue Aug – Sept – Oct 18-24″
Aster novae-angliae New England Aster 5′ Purple Aug – Sept – Oct 2-3′
Baptisia alba White Wild Indigo 4′ White June – July 3-4′
Baptisia australis Blue Wild Indigo 4′ Blue June – July 2-3′
Coreopsis palmata Prairie Coreopsis 4′ Yellow June – July – Aug 1′
Dodecatheon meadia Shooting Star 1′ Pink April – May – June 1′
Echinacea pallida Pale Purple Coneflower 3′ Purple July – Aug – Sept – Oct 10-18″
Echinacea purpurea Purple Coneflower 4′ Purple July – Aug – Sept 18-24″
Gentiana andrewsii Bottle Gentian 2′ Blue Aug – Sept – Oct 1-2′
Geum triflorum Priaire Smoke .25-.5″ Pink May – June 6″
Heliopsis helianthoides Early Sunflower 5′ Yellow June – July – Aug – Sept 18-36″
Heuchera richardsonii Prairie Alumroot 3′ Green May – June – July 8-12″
Liatris pycnostachya** Prairie Blazing Star 4′ Purple July – Aug – Sept 6-12″
Lobelia siphilitica Great Blue Lobelia 3′ Blue July – Aug – Sept – Oct 12-18″
Monarda fistulosa Wild Bergamot 4′ Purple July – Aug – Sept 2-3′
Parthenium interifolium Wild Quinine 4′ White June – July – Aug – Sept 1-2′
Penstemon digitalis Foxglove Beardtongue 3′ White June – July 12-18″
Phlox pilosa Prairie Phlox 2′ Pink May – June – July 10-12″
Ratibida pinnata Yellow Coneflower 5′ Yellow July – Aug – Sept 18-24″
Rudbeckia fulgida Orange Coneflower 3′ Orange July – Aug – Sept 1-2′
Rudbeckia subtomentosa Sweet Black-Eyed Susan 5′ Yellow Aug – Sept – Oct 2-3′
Solidago rigida Stiff Goldenrod 4′ Yellow Aug – Sept – Oct 1-2′
Solidato speciosa Showy Goldenrod 5′ Yellow Aug – Sept – Oct 2-3′
Tradescantia ohiensis Ohio Spiderwort 3′ Blue May – June – July 12-18″
Veronicastrum virginicum Culver’s Root 5′ White June – July – Aug 18″
Zizia aurrea Golden Alexanders 3′ Yellow April – May – June 1-2′

* Good for mesic to dry sites. For mesic to wet sites, use Asclepias incarnata (Rose/Swamp Milkweed)
** Good for mesic to wet sites. For mesic to dry sites, use Liatris aspera (Button Blazing Star)

Genus/Species
(Latin name)
Genus/Species (Common name) Ht Color Bloom Time Spacing
Grasses
Bouteloua curtipendula Side-oats Grama 2′ Aug-Sept 1′
Schizachyrium scoparium Little Bluestem 3′ July – Aug – Sept – Oct 2-3′
Sporobolous heterolepis Prairie Dropseed 3′ Aug – Sept – Oct 2-3′

Perennial Plants for Birds, Lepidopteran Host Plants

These plants are listed in order of value for nesting birds (Source, Tallamy and Shropshire 2017, National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder).  The list is much shorter than the list of woody plants for birds since woody plants are hosts for a much greater number of lepidoptera.

With the perennials, there is little alignment between perennials hosting lepidoptera and perennials providing good or excellent food for adult birds.  Example – some of the composites host few lepidoptera, but are excellent sources of food for adult birds.  Pale purple coneflower, for instance, is not a high-ranking host plant, but a very good source of food for seed-eating birds.

Genus (Common name) Genus (Latin name)  No. of Lepidopteran species hosted
Goldenrods Solidago 57 *
Sunflowers Helianthus 52 *
Strawberry Frageria 45 *
Bluegrass (native sps. Poa 35 *
Joe Pye Weed, Boneset Eupatorium 33 *
Violets Viola 27 *
Trefoil, Deer Vetch Lotus 25 *
Leadplant, False Indigo, etc. Amorpha 22 *

Examples of perennials with low host value but high food value:

Genus (Common name) Genus (Latin name)  No. of Lepidopteran species hosted
Columbine Aquilegia 9 *
Bee Balm Monarda 8 *
Cardinal Flower Lobelia 3 *

*Provide good food source for adult birds

Woody Plants for Birds, Lepidopteran Host Plants

In selecting woody species for your property, keep in mind the needs of birds and beneficial insects. Native species are much more valuable in providing habitat, while contributing beauty to the landscape Most non-native species have little or no value in providing for the needs of birds and insects.

The woody plants are listed in order of value for nesting birds (Source, Tallamy and Shropshire, 2017, National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder). These species of woody plants are important due to the number of butterfly and moth species (lepidoptera) attracted to the species as host plants. Caterpillars are the major source of food for nestlings – even species that are seed eaters as adults. Some 95% of bird species feed their young on the larvae of butterflies and moths, and spiders.

For convenience, the list is divided into sections for trees, shrubs and vines, but the relative rank is maintained. Some 48 woody genera providing host value for lepidoptera species are included on the spreadsheet. There are additional natives offering habitat value. The list that appears on the CLC website was the results of a search on zip code 60010. To ascertain the plant list for your zip code, check the National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder and provide your zip code.

An additional column shows the importance of the woody species in providing fruits, nuts, or seeds for adult birds (Various sources, including Mariette Nowak, author of Birdscaping in the Midwest and George Adams’ Gardening for the Birds.). Although some woody plants may support a relatively low number of lepidoptera, they may be quite valuable as a food source for adult birds (Elderberry, for instance).

Woody plants also provide shelter and nesting locations. Hawthorns, Spruces, American Plums, Ninebarks, Roses, Viburnums, Maples, Junipers, Pines, and Dogwoods are among the woody plants offering excellent or good cover or nesting value.

Note: this list applies to Midwest region

Genus (Common name) Genus (Latin name) No. of Lepidopteran species hosted Value as Food for Adult Birds
TREES
Oaks Quercus sps. 342 Good – Several birds eat acorns
Wild Cherries, Plums, etc. Prunus sps. 283 (1) Excellent (84 bird species use)
Willows Salix sps. 254 (1) Good
Birch Betula sps. 224 Good
Aspen, cottonwood, poplars Populus sps. 218 Good
Maple, Boxelder Acer sps. 206 Fair (Though Boxelders attract insects that birds eat)
Hickories, pecan, other nuts Carya sps. 195 Good
Crabapple Malus 187 High
Elm Ulmus 157 Not rated
Pine Pinus 132 Fair
Basswood, Linden Tillia 126 Not rated
Ash Fraxinus 115 Will be impacted by EAB
Walnut, Butternut Juglans 114 Not rated
Beech Fagus 104 High
Hawthorns Crataegus 104 High
Pagoda Dogwood Cornus 78 (1) Excellent
Serviceberry Amelanchier 76 (1) Very high
Ironwood, Tupelo Ostrya 70 Good
Spruce Picea 61 Good
American Hornbeam Carpinus 56 Not rated
Witchhazel Hamamelis 55 Not rated
Locust Robinia 52 Not rated
Larch, Tamarack Larix 44 Good
Mountain ash Sorbus 44 Good
Hackberry Celtis 41 Very high
Honey locust Gleditsia 40 Not rated
Sycamore Platanus 38 Good
Holly Ilex 35 (1) Not rated
Blackgum, sourgum Nyssa 29 Good

See the National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder for additional species.
(1) In combination with shrubs of the genus
Not rated = sources used did not show a value of this species for adult food value

Genus (Common name) Genus (Latin name) No. of Lepidopteran species hosted Value as Food for Adult Birds
SHRUBS
Chokecheery, other Prunus shrubs Prunus sps. 283 (2) Excellent (84 bird species use)
Willow Salix sps. 254 (2) Good
Cranberry, Blueberry Vaccinium 162 Very high
Alder Alnus 132 Good
Blackberry, raspberry, others Rubus 105 Very high
Filbert, Hazelnut Corylus 85 Good
Dogwoods Cornus 78 (2) Excellent (Used by 93 Species)
Viburnums Viburnums 77 Good (Used by 35 species)
Serviceberry Amelanchier 76 (2) Very high
Native Roses Rosa 74 Good
Medowsweet, Steeplebush Spirea 52 Good
Sumacs Rhus 37 Good (Used by over 20 species)
Winterberry Ilex 35 (2) High
Sweetfern Comptonia 34 Not rated
New Jersey Tea Ceanothus 31 Good
Ninebark Physocarpus 30 Good
Sassafras Sassafras 29 Good
Elderberry Sambucus 25 Excellent (Used by over 100 species)

(2) In combination with trees of the genus

Genus (Common name) Genus (Latin name) No. of Lepidopteran species hosted Value as Food for Adult Birds
VINES
Grape Vitis 58 Very high
Woodbine, Virginia creeper Parthenocissus 27 Not rated

Teasel, Common & Cut-leaved (Dipsacus fullonum, Dipsacus laciniatus)

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Ecological Impact

  • Lack of natural enemies allows teasel to proliferate. If left unchecked, teasel can quickly form large monocultures excluding all native vegetation.
  • The teasel population has rapidly expanded in the last 30 years particularly along highway systems where mowing equipment aids dispersal.

Characteristics

This biennial plant grows as a basal rosette for a minimum of one year and in its second season sends up a tall flowering stalk and dies after flowering. The period of time as a rosette varies depending on how long it takes the plant to acquire sufficient resources to flower.

dried teasel
Previous Season’s Teasel

Leaves in the rosette are somewhat ovoid in young plants and become large, oblong and hairy in older plants. Leaves of the cut-leaved teasel are deeply lobed.

teasel leaves
Leaf of young cut-leaved teasel plant

The cut-leaved teasel’s leaves are joined at the stem so that they form a cup that will hold water. As a rosette, teasel develops a large tap root that may become more than two feet in length and an inch in diameter at the crown.

teasel stems
Spiny teasel stems

Cut-leaved teasel normally has white flowers from July to September while common teasel produces purple blooms from June to October. Stiff, spiny, leaf-like structures called bracts curve up from the base of the flower head. A single teasel plant produces more than 2,000 seeds which remain viable for several years. The seeds disperse in close proximity to the parent plant but can be transported longer distances by water or on mowing equipment.

teasel flower
Cut-leaved teasel flower head

Habitat

Teasel grows in open, sunny habitats in from wet to dry conditions. Optimal conditions seem to be mesic. In Illinois, teasel sometimes occurs in high quality prairies, savannas, seeps, and sedge meadows, though roadsides, railroad tracks, dumps and other heavily disturbed areas are the most common teasel habitats. Teasel is often found in large stands of tall plants of similar height.

teasel in field
Field of teasel

Similar Species

Invasive

Bull Thistle cila8_001__fmt
Bull thistle

Bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) has longer spines. The thistle flower is above the spiny base while the teasel flower comes out of the honeycomb sections. Thistle leaves are alternate while teasel leaves are opposite.

Native

  • Tall thistle (Cirsium altissimum)
  • Pasture thistle (Cirsium discolor)

These native thistles also have alternate leaves. Native thistles aren’t very prevalent.

Control Methods

Accurately identify cut-leaved and common teasel before attempting any control measures. If identification of the species is in doubt, confirm the plant’s identity with a knowledgeable individual and/or by consulting appropriate books or websites.

Common teasel drawing
Common teasel

Manual

For small populations, mechanical methods work quite well. Dig up young rosettes using a dandelion digger. As when digging dandelions, remove as much root as possible.

When the plants have sent up the flowering stalk, manual control is accomplished by:

  1. Cutting off the flower head, being sure to do so at the proper time—when it is flowering but has not set seed. Remove flower heads and dispose of them by bagging or burning. Flowers can release seed even after they are cut.
  2. Then cutting the plant at or below the ground level.
  3. Monitoring the area for plants that you may have missed. Perform a later inspection to catch any root crowns that re-sprout.

Herbicides

The most cost-effective control method for heavily infested sites is the use of foliar herbicides. Broadleaf herbicides are preferred over nonselective herbicides to minimize effects on nontarget plants. The rosette should be treated during the growing season.

  1. Spraying the plant when it is in the rosette stage should prevent it from developing seed heads. If rosettes are green into the fall, glyphosate can be applied then when danger to other plants is minimal or non-existent.
  2. Check after a couple of weeks to see if the treatment has been successful. Re-apply if necessary.
  3. Multi-year attention is necessary to control this plant.

Ineffective practices

Mowing and burning by themselves are not successful control strategies. Use them in conjunction with other approaches.

Citizens for Conservation
459 West Highway 22
Barrington IL 60010
847-382-SAVE (7383)

www.citizensforconservation.org

2011

Versatile Plant Selection for your Native Garden

The plants on this list were selected using the Cultural Guide in Prairie Moon Nursery’s catalog. Determinations as to moisture and light needs/tolerances are those of Prairie Moon Nursery. The catalog lists additional versatile species. Plants listed are shown in at least two light levels out of three, and three moisture levels out of five. (Data may change from year to year.) A number of the species also have plant-insect interactions.

  • Plants shown in all three light categories are shown with an ‘+’.
  • Plants shown in four (or more) soil moistures are indicated with an ‘*’.
  • Plants favoring Moist (MO), Mesic (ME) or Dry (DR) habitats are shown.

NOTE 1: Some scientific names have changed. This list is using the older, more familiar names. (Aster rather than symphyotrichum, for instance)

NOTE 2: Even though all these plants will grow in various conditions, many will favor one soil type over another, or one light condition over another. Also, similar but less adaptable plants may be a better choice for your site. The Prairie Moon catalog/website will have more information on the plants.

Ag – Aggressive plant
Rhiz – Plant spreads by rhizomes
Ann – Annual

Light/
Moisture
Genus/Species (Common name) Genus/Species (Latin name) Habitat
FORBS
Yellow Giant Hyssop Agastache nepetoides ME
Purple Giant Hyssop Agastache scrophulariaefolia ME
* + Wild Garlic Allium canadense Four
Nodding Wild Onion Allium cernuum ME
Praire Onion Allium stellatum DR
Wild Leek Allium tricoccum ME
Thimbleweed Anemone cylindrica DR
+ Columbine Aquilegia canadensis DR
Milkweeds
* Common Asclepias syriaca (Ag, Rhiz) Four
Rose/Swamp Asclepias incarnata MO
Whorled Asclepias verticillata (Rhiz) DR
Asters
Heath Aster ericoides (Rhiz) DR
* Forked Aster furcatus Four
Smooth blue Aster laevis ME
+ Calico/Side-flowering Aster lateriflorus ME
* New England Aster novae-angliae Four
Sky blue Aster oolentanglense DR
* White Wild Indigo Baptisia alba Four
Cream Wild Indigo Baptisia bracteata DR
Downy Wood Mind Blephilia ciliata DR
Wild Hyacinth Camassia scilloides ME
Partridge Pea Chamaecrista fasciculata (Ann) DR
Prairie Coreopsis Coreopsis palmata (Rhiz) DR
Tall Coreopsis Coreopsis tripteris ME
White Prairie Clover Dalea candidum DR
Purple Prairie Clover Dalea purpurea DR
Showy Tick Trefoil Desmodium canadense ME
+ Shooting Star Dodecatheon meadia ME
Pale Purple Coneflower Echinacea pallida DR
Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea ME
Cream gentian Gentiana flavida ME
* Prairie Smoke Geum triflorum DR
Western Sunflower Helianthus occidentalis (Ag, Rhiz) DR
Pale-leaved Sunflower Helianthus strumosus (Ag, Rhiz) ME
* Prairie Alumroot Heuchera richardsonii Four
Spotted Touch-me-not Impatiens capensis (Ann, Ag) MO
+ Dwarf Crested Iris Iris cristata (Rhiz) MO
Blue Flag Iris Iris versicolor (Rhiz) MO
Round-headed Bush Clover Lespedeza capitata (Rhiz) DR
Button Blazing Star Liatris aspera DR
Prairie Blazing Star Liatris pychnostachya MO
Marsh Blazing Star Liatris spicata MO
Michigan Lily Lilium michiganense MO
Great Blue Lobelia Lobelia siphilitica MO
Prairie Loosestrife Lysimachia quadrifolia MO
* Wild Bergamot Monarda fistulosa Four
* + Hairiy Beardtongue Penstemon hirsuta Four
* Wild Blue Phlox Phlox divaricata (Rhiz) ME
* Prairie Phlox Phlox pilosa Four
Obedient Plant Physostegia virginiana (Rhiz) MO
+ Jacob’s Ladder Polemonium reptans ME
Slender Mountain Mint Pycanthemum tenuifoleum (Rhiz) ME
Mountain Mint Pycanthemum virginianum (Rhiz) Four
* Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta Four
+ Wild Golden Glow Rudbeckia laciniata (Ag, Rhiz) MO
Sweet Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia subtomentosa ME
Brown-eyed Susan Rudbeckia triloba ME
Prairie Ragwort Senecio plattensis MO
Maryland Senna Senna marilandica ME
Starry Campion Silene stellata ME
* Compass Plant Silphium laciniatum Four
Prairie Dock Silphium terebinthinaceum ME
* + Solomon’s Plume Smilacina racemosa (Rhiz) Four
* + Starry Solomon’s Plume Smilacina stellata (Rhiz) Four
* + Grass-leaved Goldenrod Solidago graminifolia (Ag, Rhiz) Five
* Stiff Goldenrod Solidago rigida Four
Showy Goldenrod Solidago speciosa DR
* Ohio Spiderwort Tradescantia ohiensis Four
Blue Vervain Verbena hastata MO
Culver’s Root Veronicastrum virginianum ME
+ Common Blue Violet Viola sororia ME
Golden Alexander Zizia aurea ME
GRASSES
* Big Bluestem Andropogon gerardii Four
* Little Bluestem Andropogon scoparius DR
Side-Oats Grama Bouteloua curtipendula DR
Prairie Brome Bromus kalmii ME
* Canada Wild Rye Elymus canadensis Four
Silky Wild Rye Elymus vilosus ME
+ Virginia Wild Rye Elymus virginicus MO
* Switch Grass Panicum virgatum Four
Indian Grass Sorghastrum nutans DR
* Northern Dropseed Sporobolus heterolepis Four
SEDGES
Prairie Sedge Carex bicknelii ME
+ Commom Bur Sedge Carex grayi MO
+ Palm Sedge Carex muskingumensis ME
+ Penn’s sedge Carex pennsylvanica DR
Long-beaked Sedge Carex sprengelii ME
* Brown Fox Sedge Carex vulpinoidea Four

Reed Canary Grass (Phalaris arundinacea)

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Ecological Impact

  • Tenaciously invades disturbed areas
  • Produces a heavy layer of thatch which suppresses other vegetation
  • Reduces diversity of native plants and insects
  • Provides little shelter or food for wildlife

 

Characteristics

Reed canary grass is a perennial Eurasian grass originally planted for forage and erosion control. It grows from extensive rhizomes to form dense monocultures. The leaves are broad—as much as 0.4 inches—and are flat and rough. They are 31/2″ to 10″ long. Plants can reach to over 6-feet tall. A cool season grass, reed canary is one of the first grasses to sprout in spring.

leaves and rhizome structure
Broad leaves and rhizome structure of reed canary grass.

The plant produces leaves and flower stalks for 5 to 7 weeks after germination in early spring, then spreads laterally. Growth peaks in mid-June and declines in mid-August. A second growth spurt occurs in the fall.

ligules
Large, thin, membranous ligules protrude from the nodes where the leaves are attached to the stem.

The shoots collapse in mid to late summer, forming a dense, impenetrable mat of stems and leaves. The seeds ripen in late June and shatter when ripe. Seeds may be dispersed from one wetland to another by waterways, animals, humans, or machines.

seed head
Late-season seed head: tan, closed.

Habitat

Reed canary grass is found in dense stands along roadsides, in wetlands, ditches, stream and pond banks, moist fields, and wet meadows. It can grow on dry upland soil and in wooded areas, but it grows best on fertile, moist, organic soils in full sun, especially in disturbed wetlands.

 

Reed canary grass
Reed canary grass infestation along Flint Creek in Barrington

Similar Species

Non-native
Orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata) is an alien with narrow leaves (<0.1 to 3 inch) and a wider, less pointed seed head with short, stiff side branches at the bottom.

Native
Blue joint grass (Calamagrostis canadensis) is a native that is shorter than reed canary grass and more draping rather than upright. It is not invasive.

Control Methods for Reed Canary Grass

Phalaris arundinacea drawing
Phalaris arundinacea. USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Vol. 1: 170.

Reed canary grass reproduces primarily through spreading rhizomes. It is much easier to control small populations than to try to remove large, established infestations. Reed canary grass can also spread by seed. Any control method requires 5-10 years of monitoring and follow-up treatment to deplete the seed bank. Re-infestation is likely unless there is a population or seed bank of native species to provide competition. Use care to protect native species.

Large Populations

Prescribed burning in late spring should be followed by mowing or herbicide treatment to prevent seed production. It might be necessary to apply herbicide both in spring and in fall. Burning can enhance growth of reed canary grass if there are no native species present to provide competition. In wet conditions, first top kill reed canary grass with 1.5% active ingredient glyphosate, then burn.

Mowing in early/mid-June and in early October removes seed heads and exposes the ground to light to encourage growth of natives (if present).

Herbicide (glyphosate) applied in spring and fall (when other species are dormant) may be sprayed or wicked. In wet areas, be sure to use glyphosate which has been formulated for use near water. Use caution to protect native species. Cut back last year’s dead leaves in spring to improve effectiveness of herbicide.

In the absence of native species or a native seedbank, remove severe infestations of reed canary grass 12-18″ deep with a bulldozer. Reseed with native species.

Small Populations

In early stages of invasion, hand-pulling or digging may be successful. Remove new plants before they can reproduce vegetatively.

Cover small patches with black plastic for at least one growing season. Be sure rhizomes don’t spread beyond the plastic. Remove plastic; then seed the area with appropriate native species.

In July and August, tie large clumps of reed canary grass; then cut stems and immediately spray with glyphosate. Follow up with burning or mowing. Monitor for resprouting.

Wetland Protection

Careful monitoring of wetlands, especially following disturbance, can prevent major infestations. Reduce infestation from seeds from surrounding slopes by using erosion control on hillsides or by using catch-basins. New plants are easiest to spot in spring. Protect native species when removing reed canary grass.

Citizens for Conservation
459 West Highway 22
Barrington IL 60010
847-382-SAVE (7383)

2011

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

Impact on Forests

  • Out-competes many tree seedlings and other native vegetation.
  • Adversely affects native insects and other wildlife.

First-Year Plants

Garlic mustard is a biennial; it has a two-year life cycle. Seeds germinate in April.

Leaves: Clusters of 3-8 rounded to kidney-shaped leaves develop at ground level during the first growing season. They have scalloped edges, a wrinkled appearance, and remain green all winter.

Leaves
Leaves. Photo by John Hilty, Illinois Wildflowers

Second-year plants

Flowers: Small (1/4 inch), white, 4 petals, on the end of the main stem and side branches, blooms April through June. (see top of page)

garlic_mustard_petals_small
Four petals. Photo by John Hilty, Illinois Wildflowers

Leaves: Heart-shaped to triangular, 1-3 inches wide, coarsely toothed on edges, alternate on the stem, give off a garlic odor when crushed.

Height: Flowering stalks grow 1-4 feet tall.

Roots: Taproot is slender, white, and often has an S-shaped bend near the top.

Seeds: Capsules appear soon after flowering and quickly lengthen. Seeds are small, produced in a row inside the capsule, and black when ripe. More than 100 seeds per plant.

Garlic Mustard
Garlic Mustard. Photo by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Similar Species

Violet: leaves resemble first-year plants, but flowers bloom low and have 5 petals, leaf surfaces are less crinkly. No taproot.

Ground ivy: (creeping Charlie) spreads along the ground as a vine and has purple flowers.

Control Methods for Garlic Mustard

Control strategies must be applied for eight or more years until the garlic mustard seed bank is depleted. Methods may vary over time, depending on the extent of the invasion. Vulnerable areas, especially woodlands, should be monitored each spring to promptly detect new invasions and prevent re-occurrence. Mark areas where plants were found to aid in future monitoring.

Hand Pulling

For smaller infestations or where large groups of people are involved, hand pulling or digging garlic mustard can be effective.

If plants are pulled or dug before budding begins, they may be scattered about the area to dry out, preferably off the ground.

Do not put pulled plants in piles where roots may stay moist and development can continue.

Seed pods
Seed pods

Once flowering has begun, all plants must be bagged. Garlic mustard seeds can still ripen after plants are uprooted! (using energy stored in stems and leaves.)

Pulled plants may be put in plastic bags or large paper bags.

Bagged plants should be disposed of by burning, burying deeply in an area that will not be disturbed, or landfilling. (Please, do not burn plastic bags.) Let garlic mustard collected in paper bags dry thoroughly before burning.

Do not compost garlic mustard. Few compost piles produce enough heat to destroy all garlic mustard seeds.

To send bagged plants to the landfill, label the bags as ‘Invasive Plants – approved by DNR for landfilling’.

Cutting

Cutting plants a few inches above the soil surface just after the flower stalks have elongated but before the flowers have opened can be effective in preventing seed production and may kill garlic mustard plants. However, some plants may send out new flower stalks that require additional cutting. Monitor site regularly.

Herbicides

Extensive infestations – if too large for manual methods – can be controlled by using a 1% or 2% solution of glyphosate (there are many brands). Apply to the foliage of individual plants and dense patches in fall and/or very early spring. At these times most native plants are dormant, but garlic mustard is green and vulnerable. Glyphosate is a nonselective herbicide that will kill or injure all green non-target plants. Use caution during application, and spray so that herbicide neither drips from the garlic mustard leaves or drifts onto adjacent desired vegetation.

Use herbicides only when necessary. ALWAYS read the entire herbicide label carefully, following all mixing and application instructions. Wear recommended protective gear and clothing.

Weed Torch (for Wet Conditions)

Another method for spot-killing patches of newly germinated seedlings in spring is to “flame” them with a propane weed torch. Flames quickly kill tender seedlings, usually without permanently damaging nearby perennial plants. Use the weed torch cautiously, and only when conditions are wet. ALWAYS contact your local fire control agency prior to using this method. Burning permits may be required.

Preventing Further Spread

Clean shoes, pockets, pants cuffs and equipment thoroughly after walking or working in infested areas. Garlic mustard seeds are tiny and are often carried off in clothing, shoes and mud.

Survey your area for green garlic mustard plants. Plants can be spotted any time they are not covered by fallen leaves or snow.

When you find an infestation, remove plants that are producing seed first, working from the least infested to the most infested area. Then remove other plants, again starting with the least infested areas.

Monitor non-infested woodlands carefully and frequently. Removing one or two plants before they go to seed is much easier than removing hundreds or thousands later on.

Websites

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Garlic Mustard information includes a photo gallery and sections on identification, distribution and control.

Vegetation Management Guideline
Fact sheet from the Illinois Department on Natural Resources (2007)

Illinois Wildflowers
Page on website managed by John Hilty includes information and photos from Illinois locations.

Source

This page is adapted from Garlic Mustard – A Major Threat to Wisconsin’s Woodlands, by Paul Hartman and Sharon Morrisey, Univ. of Wisconsin-Extension, 2002. It was revised by Colin Kelly, David Eagan, Eunice Padley, Kelly Kearns, and Colleen Matula, WDNR, 2006. Photos from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.