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Events &Invasives &News &Plants dgregg on 26 Aug 2011

Water Chestnut Pull August 27 CANCELLED

The water chestnut pull scheduled for Chapman Pond, Westerly, on Saturday, August 27, is cancelled. With the approach of Hurricane Irene, many of our most reliable volunteers have informed us they will be busy with storm preparations and can’t make it.

We are rescheduling the Chapman Pond water chestnut pull for Saturday, September 10, from 8 am to 12 Noon.

Events &Invasives &News &Plants dgregg on 19 Jul 2011

Pull Water Chestnut for Fun and Profit…Well, Just for Fun

Volunteers are needed to help pull the invasive plant water chestnut (Trapa natans) from Chapman Pond, in Westerly, on Sunday, July 24, from 8 am to 12 noon. Meet at the DEM boat ramp off Town Landfill Road off of Rt-91 (Westerly-Bradford Road). Everyone should bring sturdy gloves that can get wet, clothes that can get wet and muddy, sun screen, and insect repellant. Canoes, kayaks, or small skiffs are welcome, but you don’t have to have one to help. If you bring a boat please bring life vests/jackets for you and your passengers. Plastic buckets (5-6 gallon size) or sturdy plastic totes are helpful so bring some if you can. Instructions will be provided. Call the Rhode Island Natural History Survey (RINHS) at 874-5800 if you have questions, or Larry at the Westerly Land Trust at 596-9796.

Water chestnut (no relation to the common Chinese-food ingredient) is native to Eurasia but is an invasive species in North America. It can grow vigorously and densely in shallow, nutrient-rich waters, obliterating native pond habitat, clogging waters to most recreational uses, and presenting a significant physical hazard to swimmers and waders due to its barbed seed pods. The discovery of water chestnut in Rhode Island in four water bodies is a serious development and one that must be handled aggressively to prevent damage to some of Rhode Island’s most valuable natural resources.

Luckily, water chestnut is an annual, meaning that if removed before their seeds drop, the plants cannot grow back. They are also fairly easy to remove, as they are lightweight and root loosely in soft pond-bottom substrate. Their seeds can remain viable for up to 12 years, so close monitoring of managed populations is necessary for some time to make sure the entire population has been removed.

The Westerly Land Trust, the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, the town of Westerly, and Rhode Island DEM have banded together to take the initiative of removing water chestnut in Chapman Pond before the population grows into an even larger problem than it already is. It is hoped that by connecting different parts of the community, a successful rapid response to an invasive species can occur, simultaneously raising interest and awareness of invasive species in Rhode Island. Please join us if you can.

Events &Exec's Blog &Invasives &News &Plants dgregg on 24 Jan 2011

Memorial Service for Les Mehrhoff Scheduled

RINHS received the email below this morning through the invasive species grapevine (or would that be bittersweet vine?). It is from the family of late invasive plant guru Les Mehrhoff and announces a date for a memorial service. Someone from RINHS will definitely be going so anyone from the RI area interested in attending the service, there may be an opportunity to car pool. Please contact Kira at the office if you’re interested.

“Hello everyone,
Jessie and I have finally settled on a date and time for the memorial service. It will be held at the Storrs Congregational Church at UConn. The date is Saturday, March 12th at 11:00 AM.

We also want to thank all of you for your beautiful cards, endearing notes and well wishes. We received such an outpouring of love that it really meant a lot to us and truly gave us the strength to move forward. We were also overwhelmed by the stories of how many lives Les really did touch or impact in some way…it just completely filled our hearts with so much pride. We always knew we had a really special guy in our lives.

Thank you all again and we hope to see you at the memorial service.
Sincerely, Olga and Jessie”

Exec's Blog &Invasives &Natural History &News &Plants dgregg on 03 Jan 2011

Memories of Les Mehrhoff

With the unexpected death, on December 22, of Les Mehrhoff, the natural history family lost one of its greatest, most visionary members. Les–botanist, ecologist, teacher, founder and leader and leader of IPANE (Invasive Plant Atlas of New England), and all-round invasive plant guru–suffered a massive heart attack at his home in Connecticut. Les was working hard right to the end on one of the greatest priorities in conservation, one that he did much to bring to all our attention–mitigating the environmental damage caused by invasive plants. Les had been a long time adviser and supporter of RINHS and was a frequent companion to RINHS staff, board, and members in the field, at meetings and conferences, and in all manner of regular communication. Les presented at three of RINHS’s annual conferences–1999, 2003, and 2007–each time addressing a different aspect of invasive plants. Whomever was the nominal keynote speaker at the CIPWG (Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group) annual meeting, everyone looked forward to Les’s appearances just as much.

Events such as Les’s unexpected passing, like the sudden loss of member and mycologist Doug Greene this spring, remind us how much we naturalists owe to each other for our interests and passions and how each such loss highlights a responsibility to share and promulgate those interests and passions so they do not pass with us, when it is eventually our time.

There will be a celebration of Les’s life organized in Storrs, CT, later in the winter and RINHS will pass word when we know more. You may also contact the RINHS office to be kept up to date. Les’s family has asked that we remember him by performing an act of kindness for the preservation of our environment.

Websites remembering Les include:
Published obituary
UConn Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Walking the Berkshires [blog]

Conferences &Invasives &Plants dgregg on 25 Oct 2010

Stiltgrass Symposium Available Online

If you were investing in invasive plants then you’d put a “strong buy” recommendation on Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum). This is a species that is already present in Rhode Island at a number of localities and that is proving difficult to combat. So to get all the latest information on a plant we’re probably going to be getting to know well, we’re super lucky that the the presentations from a Japanese stiltgrass conference, hosted by Illinois-based River to River Cooperative Weed Management Area, are available on line. Check them out at:
Stiltgrass Conference

Events &Invasives &Plants dgregg on 14 Jul 2010

Water Chestnut Pull, July 17, 2010

Volunteers are needed to pull water chestnut from Chapman Pond, Westerly, this Saturday, July 17, from 9 to Noon. Westerly Land Trust and RINHS are organizing a morning sortie to combat the invasive pond weed water chestnut in Chapman Pond. The infestation in Westerly, the third detected in Rhode Island, was found in 2009. It is growing extensively around the northeast corner of the pond. In fall 2009 a similar effort removed over 1,600 pounds of weed. Volunteers with canoes or boats suitable to the shallow, weed choked waters are welcome, but boat-less volunteers are also very welcome. They can sign on as a deck hand in someone else’s boat or help land the catch and put it into the roll-off. Bring life jackets, sun screen and sun hats, drinking water, and gloves that can get wet. Meet at the boat ramp at the north west corner of the pond, off of Rt 91 on the road to the Westerly town dump/transfer station.

View Chapman Pond, Westerly in a larger map

Animals &Bioblitz &Events &Exec's Blog &Natural History &News &Plants &Rare Species dgregg on 14 Jun 2010

BioBlitz 2010 A Success

The teams are just back in from BioBlitz 2010 and I’m sure people are working hard to unload gear, hang out sleeping bags and tents out to dry, and catch up on sleep. Thank you all for your tremendous efforts that made the event such a success. Thanks to the Block Island community for their help and hospitality. The preliminary count is 916 species, which is great by any standard and for an island and rainy weather, it is terrific. We have a lot of work to do to cross check the numerous data sheets, especially for the marine organisms, and we look forward to receiving the many specialist reports, so I am confident that the final number will be higher, perhaps approaching the magic 1,000 barrier.

A special shout-out to the art team. It was great to have you with us this year, you added a lot and helped put the biodiversity and the event into a whole new light. Should we be looking forward to a gallery show in the fall? Can’t wait.

Platanthera flava

Platanthera flava

Notable finds: American burying beetle, pale green orchid, wood duck, spiny skate, jonah crab, citrine forktail. We will post more details on the finds as they come in.

One special and sad note: Doug Greene, who had just done lichens for the BioBlitz, collapsed on his way to the ferry and, despite the best efforts of emergency medical personnel, died on the island. Doug helped in 7 RI BioBlitzes, incl. the 1st one, in 2000, and contributed to many other science efforts. We will be sure to get word out about a service or other memorialization when we know more.

Doug Greene, at the 2007 BioBlitz at Trustom Pond
Doug Greene, at the 2007 BioBlitz at Trustom Pond

Invasives &Plants dgregg on 19 Apr 2010

Conn. issues wetland invasive ID guide

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) has published an identification guide to Connecticut’s invasive aquatic and wetland plants. It can be downloaded via the below link (.pdf format, 8.8 MB). It’s dandy, so all you invasive species busters out there should take a look!
Conn. Ag. Exp. Sta. Guide

Events &Invasives &News &Plants dgregg on 07 Aug 2009

Help Pull Stiltgrass in Burlingame

Volunteers are needed to pull Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) at Burlingame State Campground, in Charlestown, RI, Thursday, August 13th, 2009, at 10:00 a.m.

RI Department of Environmental Management Park Naturalist Neil Anthes will lead the charge against this big-time bad guy of the plant world.

Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum), is an annual grass, native to Southeast Asia. The grass is believed to have arrived in the US in a packing crate of china delivered from Asia, and was first noted in Tennessee in 1919. Since then it has spread north and east.

Japanese stiltgrass can be most readily identified by the iridescent, silvery mid-vein on the upper leaf surface, and the “stilt-like” nature of the roots as they extend down from each leaf node.


In Rhode Island, the grass is considered an “early detection” species, of which there are five known locations throughout the state. The Burlingame site is largest of these, and includes locations within the adjacent Audubon Society of RI’s Kimball Refuge. It is found at camp sites and trail sides throughout the campground.

Japanese stiltgrass is of particular concern in forest environments, as it is well adapted to growing in low light conditions. The grass grows rapidly from July to September, forming dense mats, which cover existing native vegetation. Over the course of two seasons, dense stands of Japanese stiltgrass can out compete, and replace native herbaceous species. The grass is tolerant of moist conditions and so has the potential to spread throughout the wetland habitats surrounding the campground and along the Watchaug Pond shoreline. The seeds are buoyant and are easily carried through drainage ditches and streams. The seeds are also equipped with awns at the tip, which facilitate dispersal. The awns attach to bicycle tires, boots treads, animal fur etc. and then are carried further into the surrounding woodland habitat.

Because it is an annual, pulling before seed-set is an effective eradication technique. Removal of the grass by hand is easy, as it has short fibrous roots. August is the ideal time to pull the grass, as most of the seeds have germinated but most plants are only beginning to flower.

Please bring gloves and plenty of water, insect repellent and a lunch.

For more information and to sign up please contact either Neil Anthes via email at the following address: undefinedrecords@yahoo.com or Hope Leeson at the Rhode Island Natural History Survey (401) 874-5800, or hleeson@rinhs.org

News &Plants dgregg on 30 Jun 2009

Late Blight (think Irish potato famine) Found in Northeast

RINHS received the following text from the Massachusetts Introduced Pests Outreach Project, a collaboration between the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources and the UMass Extension Agriculture and Landscape Program, aimed at preventing the establishment of new pathogens and pests in Massachusetts. Visit their website for more information (http://www.massnrc.org/pests).

PATHOGEN ALERT: Late Blight of Potatoes and Potatoes

Late blight, a destructive disease caused by Phytophthora infestans, is a pathogen of tomato and potato plants that has recently been found in several states in the Northeast, including Maine, New York and Pennsylvania. The late blight has been identified on tomato transplants sold in big box stores and other garden centers under the brand name Bonnie Plants, and has also been found in a potato field in Pennsylvania. Because a few instances of late blight have now been detected on tomato plants in our state, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) is asking anyone growing tomatoes or potatoes to monitor them for signs of the disease, in order to prevent its further spread.

Late blight, the disease that was responsible for the Irish potato famine in the mid-19th century, is caused by a fungus-like pathogen that spreads through splashing rain or wind currents. Spores can disperse from one to several miles from the point of origin, with the infection spreading most efficiently in conditions of high moisture and temperatures ranging from 60° to 80°F.

Symptoms of late blight include small olive green or brown lesions on the upper surface of the foliage or the stems. Under moist conditions, there is a white, fuzzy growth on the underside of the leaves where the lesions occur, but the absence of this growth does not rule out late blight. Eventually the lesions turn black, leaves start to die, and then the entire plant dies.

This is a serious, destructive disease that can spread quite rapidly when conditions are right, infecting an entire field within days. Any gardeners who suspect they have tomato or potato plants infected with late blight should dig them up, place them in plastic bags, and dispose of them in the trash. Commercial growers wishing to control late blight should begin spraying fungicide immediately, even before symptoms are spotted. Spraying must continue regularly, using a product containing chlorothalonil, a state restricted fungicide which requires certification to use. Growers should be prepared to destroy the plants if the late blight starts to become severe.

For more information about late blight of potato and tomato, including diagnostic images, see the following websites:

Breaking Info from UMass Extension: http://www.umassvegetable.org/LateBlightAlertforTomatoandPotato.html
Fact sheet from Cornell University: http://vegetablemdonline.ppath.cornell.edu/factsheets/Potato_LateBlt.htm
Photos: http://www.hort.cornell.edu/department/Facilities/lihrec/vegpath/photos/lateblight_tomato.htm
Info about systemic fungicides: http://www.nevegetable.org/index.php/crops/tomato-outdoor?start=4

If you think you have seen late blight of potato and tomato in Rhode Island, contact the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Division of Agriculture, 235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908-5767, (401) 222-2781, http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/bnatres/agricult/index.htm.

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