News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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November 17, 2013

YOUR GREEN VALLEY: Nothing healthy about seeing green in mid-to-late November

Fall is in full force, the skies are gray and trees have shaken their leaves to the forest floor. The outskirts of dormant wooded areas are lined with a thick brush of green. While green may signify a healthy forest, there is nothing healthy about seeing bright green in mid-to-late November. What you are witnessing as you drive by is an invasive species called Asian Bush Honeysuckle.

Terre Haute resident Jane Morse remembers ABH in her parent’s garden growing up. She says it was her father’s favorite bush. As an adult when it came time for her to find a home, she was drawn to one with a yard full of the plant. It took her 20 years to find out just how bad the bush was when it encroached her property, invading landscaped areas.

Asian Bush Honeysuckle is not our only concern says Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society Co-Founder Ruth Ann Ingraham. Invasive species are a major problem in Indiana causing significant economic and environmental damage. The future threat of several known (but, so far, absent) invasive species is even greater — with the potential to cause billions of dollars of damage to Indiana’s economy. Other examples are the kudzu bug impact on soybean yields, Asian longhorn beetle’s impact on timber and thousand cankers disease’s impact on walnut veneer.

“If you don’t control invasive species, you can end up with a mono-culture. A mono-culture will eliminate diversity. If you don’t have diversity you are not going to have the morel mushrooms in the spring. You will not have the wildlife to hunt because their food source from a diverse culture will no longer exist,” Ingraham said.

Action through education

Ingraham is motivated to continue pushing the promotion of native plants for the fear of losing the richness and diversity in our forests. She encourages other communities to try some of the methods she has used to continue spreading the word. She writes about invasive and native plants on INPAWS.org. She helps to organize Nature Days in Brown County, an event that brings together people to learn more about the environment. One of the most personalized services she offers is a free landowner survey.  

“When on a homeowner’s property, not only do we look for the bad things but also we look for the good. I help the homeowner identify plants that should be protected by not letting them be consumed by an invasion of invasive species. I conduct written reports to remind landowners of what we saw and how to prioritize the control of those species. I also list all of the great things that we find, so that they feel good about themselves and good about the land they own,” Ingraham said.

To learn more about invasive species in Terre Haute, attend a work day at Dobbs Park. TREES Inc., in partnership with the park’s Nature Center and Sycamore Trails, conduct these days in which residents are taught how to get control of and fight the invasive plants. Volunteers are taught how to use different tools and are able to test tools that work to the best of their ability.

“Each bush, depending on its size and how it is rooted and what kind of soil, there is a different tactic for removing [it]. It helps people a lot to come out to Dobbs Park during a ABH pull and get educated with us and then they will better be able to make decisions on how to take ABH out of their own property,” Morse said.

In late October, the Indiana Invasive Species Council conducted an Early Detection and Rapid Response Workshop at Purdue University. More than 60 invasive species experts and interested citizens attended. Great discussion led to the unanimous decision that Indiana needs to have a central database for folks to report where they spot an invasive. Once an invasive is reported, an expert would travel to the site to confirm the area had been invaded. By mapping out areas, it allows citizens and officials to work together to prevent the invasive from spreading further.

It all starts with education, and a great place to start is at www.entm.purdue.edu/IISC.

Jane Santucci is an environmental freelance writer for the Tribune-Star. Santucci is a proud volunteer with TREES Inc. and Our Green Valley. She also sits on the Wabash Valley Goodwill Industries Board of Directors. Share your environmental stories and tips with her at JaneSantucci@yourgreenvalley.com.

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