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thank you

Once again, our annual letter has gone out, requesting donations to help support our efforts to deal with invasive Phragmites.

Again, replies and donations are coming in.

Again, they arrive with sweet notes, good wishes and encouragement.

Once again I am left nearly speechless, amazed at the kindness and generosity and support.

Together, we can do this!

Thank you!

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goats

After two days of tri-folding letters and stuffing envelopes, answering Emails, writing letters and writing and editing about a million words for twenty different articles, I was all ready to call it a night.

I had eaten my little bowl of buttered noodles and poured a big glass of red wine. I was headed for the couch. I wasn’t going to write another word tonight.

One last check of my Email…one unopened letter. The title: Goats. I knew what this was about.

“Don’t open it!” my tired self advised…but I opened it anyway.

So, here I am, in the middle of the night, at the desk.

I know.

Goats are an outstanding biological weapon against invasive plants.

No chemicals needed.

They eat Oriental Bittersweet. They eat Poison Ivy. They eat Phragmites. They eat Kudzu, for heaven’s sake!

We can’t use goats here.

Though they are a valuable, non-chemical helper in areas where invasive plants have totally taken over, the fact is, GOATS EAT EVERYTHING!

Goats will eat a sheet from the clothesline…or the clothesline itself. Goats will eat a tin can. Goats will eat Phragmites…and every single tender plant that grows near it, too. They would eat our Spring Beauties and our Dutchman’s Britches (both protected species). They would eat our Princess Pine (endangered). They would eat our precious Michigan Monkey Flower, of which Beaver Island hosts 20% of what is growing wild on the entire planet!

I wish we could do this without chemicals. We all do. Everyone wishes there were a better way. Though many people much smarter than I am are working on it, at this time we are applying the most proven, safest method of keeping our fragile eco-system intact.

Thank you for the information, but as for Beaver Island…NO GOATS.

cheyenne point

This photo, of a very healthy stand of invasive Phragmites, was taken at Cheyenne Point, right here on Beaver Island, just ten years ago!

Ed Leuck sent it to Pam Grassmick yesterday, and she forwarded it to me.

I was just there yesterday, at Cheyenne Point, with Pam Grassmick and three of the contractors that will be handling the Phragmites treatment here this year.

There is invasive Phragmites there, still, and it will be included in this year’s treatment. This year, however, there are scattered stalks, topping out at perhaps four feet tall…certainly nothing like this high, dense stand!

We are doing good work here on Beaver island, to preserve our natural wonders and keep invasive species in check.

Thursday, August 28th, there will be a Public Meeting at the Peaine Township Hall, at 4PM, to  address concerns regarding invasive Phragmites and its treatment. Please attend if you can.

Having now received the “go-ahead” from the federal agencies, we are hoping to get some volunteers to help with treatment on Garden, High and Whiskey islands. It’s not a walk in the park, but it is a day spent with knowledgeable, caring people in beautiful surrounding, for a  worthy cause. Please consider helping, if you’re able.

I continue to be impressed by the community support, and donations of time and money for this ongoing project.

I hope you’re all as heartened by the progress we’ve made as I am!

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Here we are, at the end of our “Top Ten Invasive Species on Beaver Island” list.

…And the number one invasive species on Beaver Island is [a drum roll would be helpful here]…

PHRAGMITES!!!

Common Reed.

Here on Beaver Island, just as in Michigan generally, two subspecies are present.

The native type of Phragmites, subspecies americanus, is a natural and beneficial part of our shoreline and wetlands vegetation. It may grow, at most, to be about six and a half feet tall. It grows as scattered stems that break down quickly, allowing other species enough light and space to grow beneath it. Stalks turn a lovely bronze color in the fall.

The invasive form of Phragmites,  subspecies australis, is much more robust. It begins growing earlier in the season and continues later in the fall than native Phragmites. It grows twelve to twenty feet in height and sends out rhizomes up to fifty feet in every direction. It forms a dense, impenetrable  wall of sharp edged grass that can dominate shorelines and wetlands within only a few years.

Invasive Phragmites does not provide food or shelter or protection to any animal in this part of the world. It is capable of taking over the natural habitat of many plants and animals, destroying our natural landscape.

Here on Beaver Island, we have much to protect. The water that surrounds us is our shelter and our joy. Our inland lakes provide hunting and fishing and boating opportunities. The view and water activities enrich our lives and bring tourists and visitors, which many livelihoods depend on.

Can you picture Beaver Island without its beaches?

Imagine a trip around the island without ever seeing the water!

Beyond that, Beaver Island has some rare treasures.

Many species – that grow in abundance here – are protected or endangered…or have been completely wiped out in other areas.

Do you know that the little Michigan Monkey Flower that grows wild at Little Sand Bay here on Beaver Island represents twenty percent of that species worldwide?

Phragmites could, if left unchecked, destroy the delicate balance that allows this little gem to thrive here.

We don’t intend to let that happen.

At my end,  we’re busy preparing for this year’s September battle against invasive Phragmites. Permits and bids and permission slips are being drawn up; resources are being gathered and accounted for; plans are being made.

Your continued concern, support and vigilance in this battle is priceless!

 

 

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Isn’t this a pretty plant?

Smells good, too.

It produces edible berries that birds love.

Sometimes it is difficult to make an invasive species out to be the “bad guy” that it is.

It’s certainly easier to dislike…Poison Ivy, say…than this lovely shrub!

Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus Umbellata), also known as Oleander or Japanese Silverberry has plenty of good things going for it, sure.

However…

  • The rapid growth and ability to provide a canopy of shade quickly displaces natural plants.
  • The ability to set nitrogen in the soil makes the ground too rich for many native species.
  • The berries are widely dispersed by birds, so spread is uncontrolled.
  • It has been noted that the variety of birds is reduced, in areas where Autumn Olive berries are the main food source.

 

Pretty as it is, this is not a plant we want taking over our fields and open areas.

Let’s continue to be watchful!

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Scots Pine is an evergreen tree native to Europe and Asia. “Scotch pine has the largest geographic range of any pine, from Great Britain, Ireland, and Portugal east to eastern Siberia. It grows above the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia and south to the Mediterranean”.  Mature stands of Scots Pine found in Europe are often quite beautiful, as the trees have a symmetrical shape (think Christmas tree!) and distinctive red-orange bark.

They rarely do so well here, though. Easily turned by wind and weather, unless grown in the controlled environment of a tree farm, Scots Pine is usually a crooked, misshaped tree.

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An invasive, non-native species like Scotch pine is a problem. Not only does it spread into open areas, but it displaces other native species. Scots pine is susceptible to disease and insect problems that can then infect native pines.

One of only three pine species on Beaver Island, Scots pine has very short, twisted needles (no more than two inches long) that occur two in a bundle. This makes it easily distinguishable from our native pine trees:the white pine has five needles in a bundle; the red pine, also native, has needles – two in a bundle – that are four to five inches long.

Once again, awareness is the first step in maintaining our precious landscape.

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Marsh Thistle.

Cirsium Palustre.

European swamp thistle.

Marsh plume thistle.

Many names for yet another invasive plant species.

This one has been described, “like purple loosestrife, with spines.”

Marsh Thistle is a member of the Aster family with origins in Europe.

It is an erect herbaceous biennial that can grow 3 to 5 feet in height. Once again, I go to the informative brochure, Top Ten Invasive Species, put out by the Beaver Island Association  for their excellent description:

[Marsh Thistle]has a rosette (circle) of leaves at the base that are long, spiny, and deeply lobed. The stem is thick, often reddish, and covered with hairy spines and equally spiny, hairy leaves. The pinkish-purple flowers appear at the top of the stem in a tight cluster, usually in June or July. On Beaver Island this plant is more likely to be found in moist areas than in dry sand.

The brochure goes on to warn that there are some similarities with the native Pitcher’s (beach) thistle, which is a federally threatened (and protected!) species. If in doubt, consult an expert.

The differences between a native plant and an introduced, non-native plant are vast, and have mainly to do with things that keep a plant in check. From things that slow a plant’s growth at a microbial level, to animals that may feed on it, to natural competition for light and nutrients, native species have checks in place. Invasive species do not.

When I spoke at the school, I compared an invasive plant’s advantage to the powers of Superman. If he had chosen to use his powers for evil, rather than for good, we wouldn’t have had a chance against X-ray vision, the ability to fly, super-strength, super-hearing and super-speed.

When invasive plants move in – usually the initial invasion is caused by the activities of man – there is nothing in nature to stop their progress. If left alone, they will forever change the landscape. We have to take control of the problem.

Marsh thistle forms a rosette the first year, and over-winters at ground level.

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The next year, it sends up a stalk, flowers, and produces thousands of seeds…which are then dispersed by the wind.

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Once introduced, “this plant can aggressively colonize natural areas, decrease biodiversity and compromise the ecological integrity of an area.” (USDA Forest Service)

Let’s not let that happen here!

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