Oak wilt resurfaced in Glenville this year. After battles with this invasive tree pest in the town in 2009 and 2013, DEC flyovers revealed another site in Sanders Preserve, and a neighbor’s vigilance brought to light another site in a residential neighborhood. Considered one of the worst forest pests that New York is currently battling, oak wilt is a huge concern for the forestry community and could have devastating impacts on all species of oak found in the state.
Oak wilt was first identified in Wisconsin in the 1940s, but may have been present in the U. S. before that. Currently its affects are most strongly felt in the Midwest and Texas, though the range expands upwards north into PA. It is currently reported in New York in Brooklyn, Long Island, Glenville, and Canandaigua. Fortunately there are few enough locations that the DEC has been running an extermination campaign, working to eradicate this fungal disease when it appears in upstate areas. The door-to-door outreach took place on two cold mornings in January, notifying homeowners within a half mile area of the two sites about the pest and its symptoms. The public meeting (attended by 49 Glenville residents) to announce the eradication plans was on January 31st, and the goal is to have the infected trees removed by April 1st.
Now at this point you may be asking, what exactly is oak wilt? It is a fungal infection of all species of oak trees, though its effect is most visible in the red oak family, where it can kill a tree in a matter of weeks. It is most visible through the leaves of the tree, which start to bronze uniformly at the tips like they were dipped in paint. These leaves often start to fall off the tree, still green, around the fourth of July. The symptoms have been described as a “tree heart attack,” clogging the transport mechanisms through the tree with the fungus. Species in the white oak family are not immune either, though they exhibit less symptoms they can be passive carriers of the fungus.
One of the reasons that this is such a difficult pest to manage is that there are a few ways that the disease spreads. Locally, the fungus can spread through the root connections between trees, most present in trees of the same species, though links between different kinds of oak species are also common. This is the reason a buffer zone of trees is often cut when treating for oak wilt, there can be asymptomatic trees within root-reach of obviously infected trees. The disease can also ‘jump’ up to five mile through a common species of beetle, which after feeding at a fungal tree, go to a fresh wound (often caused by pruning or construction) on a healthy tree. For this reason, it is recommended that trees be pruned in the winter, and not in the months of March-September. The DEC diagnostic laboratory is preparing for a monitoring project later this year to determine the most active time of year for this beetle to make more exact pruning recommendations to both homeowners and arborists.
PRISM staff have been working to help the DEC with outreach efforts regarding oak wilt. If you think that you have a tree that is infected on your own property, the DEC runs a hotline at (866) 640-0652 which you can call to have a DEC technician come take a sample of the tree in question that will be tested at the labs at Cornell. Community involvement is huge when taking on a tree disease of this magnitude. The oak is one of the most ecologically important trees in our state, providing animals with food throughout the winter through its acorns, supporting a vast number of insect herbivores with nutrients, which then in turn feed our birds. While it is hoped that the efforts in Glenville puts a stop to the northern movement of the fungus, it is important that all forest owners keep an eye out for the symptoms in their woodlots in order to protect oaks on their property, and statewide.
This week I traveled to the New Hampshire coast to attend the Northeast Aquatic Plant Management Society’s (APMS) Annual Meeting. A variety of individuals from private industry, state government, academia, and non-profits were present, all with the common interest of furthering the field of aquatic resource management. The conference began with an aquatic plant identification workshop with bins of the most common to some pretty unique native plants, as well as invasive plants and included a quiz to test your knowledge. This was a great opportunity to refresh identification skills during the off season.
The conference had a diverse array of talks ranging from ecosystem and human health effects of algal toxins, management of Hydrilla verticillata in waterbodies with various stakeholder groups, sensitivity of different plant species to a brand new, soon to be registered aquatic herbicide, the potential of copper to control starry stonewort (Nitellopsis obtusa), and much more.
The NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservtion’s Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator spoke on the great strides our state has taken in preventing the spread and establishment of AIS resulting from legislation such as the Prohibited and Regulated Species List, updates to the Navigation Laws requiring AIS signage at public boat launches, and most recently, Part 576 requiring users of any waterbody to clean, drain, and dry (or treat) their boat before launching into public waters. She highlighted the success and future expansion of boat stewarding programs across the state (including in the CapMo PRISM) and the role of the PRISMS in early detection and management work statewide.
The conference was all around informative and provided a great opportunity to network with other regional professionals. Though the New England lighthouses and ocean views will be missed, I have brought back new ideas and perspectives for the 2018 season in the CapMo.
-Leah Gorman, CapMo PRISM Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator
Whether it’s a small hobby farm or a large scale farm, all farmers should be aware of the invasive species that can be growing in their fields. Just a few are Jimson Weed, Canadian Thistle, and Russian Knapweed. All are similar because they overtake overgrazed pastures, barnyards, and fields.
Jimson Weed is an important invasive for farming operations; it is poisonous to all livestock animals. Not only can it be a problem in underused fields, overgrazed pastures and in the barnyard, but it can also be a problem in crop fields, particularly soy beans. Farmers should be watch out for this plant and taking appropriate measures to make sure that it’s not present where animals are grazing. They will most likely avoid it because of the odor and taste, but in sparse pastures, they could be tempted to consume it if they are hungry enough. If the farmer is producing hay and silage they should make sure that all the Jimson Weed has been removed prior to harvesting because this can contaminate the feed, making the animals sick. The seed of Jimson Weed can contaminate grain which most commonly effects chickens. The use of herbicides is the most effective way to eliminate Jimson Weed, just remember to take proper precautions. Although many animals have gotten sick from Jimson Weed, it is more common for humans to get sick from this plant. Children especially because they think the flower is pretty and end up ingesting it.
Canadian Thistle is another common invasive species in fields. It reduces pasture capacity and forage as well as overtaking native species. It can produce up to 3,000 seeds annually and the seeds can last in the ground for up to ten years. This plant can be poisonous to livestock, but only in large quantities, therefore Jimson Weed is a bigger concern for the animals. This is a tough plant to get rid of, therefore a foliar herbicide plan should be used in both the spring and the fall. Stinger is a product that is relatively specific to thistles and knapweed that has been shown to be effective on this plant. Mowing before the flowers come out is also beneficial, but they plant can flower multiple times during the season. Pre-flower mowing just once will not help decrease the amount of plants. Farmers should also know that tillage stimulates growth and can cause more seeds to spread and more plants to grow.
Last but not least is Russian Knapweed. This stubborn plant is slow to start, but once it is established it can spread aggressively. It can produce up to 1,200 seeds per year. Livestock generally avoid this plant because of its taste but it isn’t good for them to ingest in hay. Horses are especially sensitive if they consume Russian Knapweed because it can cause a fatal neurological disorder that affects the muscles that allow them to swallow. This puts the horse at risk for starvation. To help remove this plant from pastures, herbicides can be helpful. Farmers can mow in two to three intervals before the seeds set to decrease seed and shoot production. They can also use deep cultivation to help eliminate this plant however do not use shallow cultivation.
These are just a few out of the many plants that can cause harm to field production as well as livestock. Farmers should be aware of these plants due to their effects on animals.
-Jess Holmes, CapMo PRISM Project Assistant
This November, all three PRISM staff members attended the annual CCE In-Service at Cornell’s Ithaca Campus. The programming ranged over the course of the three day conference, from how to structure environmental messaging, advances in beneficial insect predators of invasive species, the use of drones in conservation, and the annual reports from each PRISM's Coordinator, which was tackled by Capital-Mohawk PRISM Coordinator Laurel Gailor. Her presentation’s theme was “At the Crossroads,” which pointed out how the Capital-Mohawk region is an important area in terms of transportation, shipping, and at the confluence of major waterways of New York, the Mohawk and Hudson rivers.
While we are literally at the crossroads of major highways and rivers (making the Capital-Mohawk region an extremely important area to work on invasive species that make use of those pathways for statewide spread), the PRISM itself is at a crossroads in terms of staffing and funding. Two coordinators, myself and Leah Gorman, have been brought on this year and we are currently in the final stages of application for the five-year grant that secures the PRISM funding through the DEC. All of us here at the PRISM are looking towards the future, increasing seasonal staff positions for the summer to tackle a variety of projects. We will again be utilizing the DEC ESF Intern program to bring on boat stewards and terrestrial scouting interns, starting to fill in data gaps in our region to access areas that are ecologically valuable and where we know relatively little about what invasives are found there. We also hope to bring on a Hemlock-specific intern due to the recent findings of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) in the Adirondacks and Schenectady County, to both scout for HWA and Elongate Hemlock Scale as well as assist with outreach and citizen science efforts to access the spread of these tree pests for the purpose of slowing down their spread throughout our state.
Biocontrol was a large part of the conference, especially with the Hemlock Initiative opening their new lab to all conference participants. Myself and Leah toured the facility, where they work to raise the HWA biocontrol beetle, Laricobus nigrinus. Other promising biocontrol insects are being researched at Cornell for both Water Chestnut and both kinds of Swallowwort, both extremely invasive plants that have taken over large areas of New York. Cap-Mo is currently looking into how we can take part in statewide testing and monitoring of these insects and their effectiveness, as well as using tried and true mechanical methods of invasive species prevention and removal. We encourage anyone in the region who is currently working on projects that deal with invasive species to contact us, we will help however possible.
In short, we have a great year ahead of us, and ideas for future projects were plentiful at the In-service. We are thinking about all avenues possible for us to help control the spread of invasive species in this coming year, both in the region and in the state at large. Today, the PRISM steering committee is meeting to work on the yearly workplan, which will help guide our efforts as we progress through the calendar. We may be at the crossroads here in the Capital-Mohawk region, but rest assured, we will make the right turn.
Our 2018 Workplan created on 12/7/17 is available for viewing here!
One species that tends to get people's attention when it comes to invasive species is Japanese Barberry. This species, commonly used for landscaping around homes and businesses, comes in different colors and shapes, which make it such a popular shrub. It provides a barrier between properties, with the added security of small thorns that run up and down the stems. However, the reasons that it has become so popular in our cultivated landscapes are also reasons that this plant is one of the most widespread invasive shrubs on the East Coast, and a prime vector for Lyme Disease.
Lyme Disease has been well documented as a problem here in the East. The Center for Disease Control calls it one of the fastest growing diseases in the U.S. and a significant reason for this increase is due to the invasive plants clogging up our forest understories. Plants such as Japanese Barberry, Japanese Honeysuckle, and others are not browsed by the deer, which prefer the native plants surrounding them. this leads to increased space for these invasives to flourish. Lyme disease is commonly known as a tick-spread disease so many people may be left wondering, what do plants have to do with it?
Invasive plants make up so much of our forest biomass at this point that animals utilize them to the best of their ability. Though many native species skip over these invasives when looking for food, the low branches of barberry provide perfect habitat for two species, ticks and mice, which are the main vectors of Lyme. Mice are drawn by the cover and thorns that protect them from predators such as raptors, and the ticks are present in the foliage, waiting for a meal. The ticks latch on to the mice, where they acquire the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. The public health problem that we have with Lyme now started in our gardens in the 1800s.
Barberry has been popular due to its ability to tolerate a wide range of environments. It produces many seeds which then get spread by wildlife into our forests and fields. Its so popular in fact that many people became upset when it was finally downgraded to prohibited from its restricted designation. It is a best-seller in many nurseries, specifically because it is hardy and deer don't browse it. I have heard people say things like "well, maybe I'll go to Pennsylvania and bring some back," as if our NY forests did not already have barberry in spades. People in the nursery industry are hard at work trying to find an exception or cultivar to get past the regulations, or simply trying to get the species taken off the prohibited list. To me it seems that they are missing the point. It takes so long to get a species designated as prohibited, most often plants don't make it on that list until they have become a widespread problem. By designating a species as prohibited, the state is saying that they finally have enough evidence to conclusively prove that this species causes more problems then it has benefit, and people trying to get around these regulations in whatever way possible shows that Lyme Disease, ecological impact, invasive potential... those things matter less to them than having a shrub that they don't have to put that much effort into.
The state has said if you already have a barberry plant in your yard, you don't have to get rid of it. But on the other hand, if you value the nature of New York State or have kids that enjoy using that lawn without the worry of ticks and Lyme Disease... maybe it'd be best to grab a shovel or a pickaxe and take that invasive shrub out of the ground.
Don't miss that tap-root.
NBC New York is starting a five part series on Lyme Disease. You can watch the first part here.