It's easy to drive along Indiana highways or visit a park and see invasive species and think that a particular public agency doesn't know about invasive species or doesn't care about managing them on their property. A recent post in the Indiana Native Plant Society (INPS) Facebook group reminded me that that isn't necessarily the case and that there are ways we can support these organizations in their invasive species and land management goals with just a call or email.
Per the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) website, "INDOT maintains more than 60,000 acres of medians and roadsides along Indiana’s roadways and strives to balance safety, costs, environmental protection, and aesthetics when maintaining roadside vegetation. INDOT’s vegetation management focuses on improving safety along highways by maintaining vegetation at a safe height for driver visibility. Vegetation management practices also preserve natural wildlife habitat and plants, control or remove non-native and noxious plants, and improve the overall look of roadside rights-of-way, promoting greener crossroads." INDOT has a Mowing and Vegetation Management Plan that addresses invasive species but, to my understanding, their budget doesn't allow them to implement it fully. There's only so much money to go around and no shortage of infrastructure needs. The conversation in the INPS Facebook group pointed out how important and effective it can be for citizens to "report concerns" related to invasive species in INDOT right of ways. These reports influence how INDOT resources are spent managing specific areas and also show the legislature and decision makers that the people of Indiana care about invasive species management. Placing a call or filling out the online form about specific areas of concern is a quick and easy way to influence invasive species management and show support for INDOT in implementation of their vegetation management plan.
You can report a concern by calling (855) 463-6848 or by filling out the form on the INDOT website here.
If you are a Facebook user, consider joining the Indiana Native Plant Society group. The group is a great place to observe or participate in conversations about native plants (and invasives), plant identification, get recommendations for natives for specific growing conditions and much more. Join the Facebook group here.
By Taylor Wilson, Urban Conservation Technician
Considering finally removing Callery pear trees from your property? Congrats! You’re taking a major step in the control of invasive species not only in your yard, but everywhere. These trees create small fruits with seeds that are transported by birds. By removing this species from your yard, you’re not only protecting you and your neighbor’s properties but also helping to conserve some of our beautiful parks and public lands.
Callery pear has largely been used as an attractive landscaping tree for new houses and neighborhood developments due to their fast-growing nature and attractive, shiny leaves. While they do have some positive qualities their poor structure, shallow roots, strong smelling flowers, and invasive qualities make them a nuisance in the home landscape.
Callery pear vs Bradford pear
You may have heard several different names for this tree, but what is the difference?
They’re actually all the same species, but different cultivars. A cultivar is a subcategory of a species that was bred for specific traits—Almost like different flavors of the exact same dish. Here is where those names come from:
Although callery pear cultivars are bred to be sterile, they can cross pollinate with other cultivars and with the original callery pear. Each time cross pollination happens, the species DNA revert closer and closer to the original callery pear species—thorns and all. This creates a positive feedback loop where cultivars cross pollinate, produce seeds that are scattered around by birds, the seeds grow into trees, and then those trees provide another mechanism for the cross pollination of the cultivar trees. These seeds that escape intentional landscapes can grow into fast growing and aggressive thickets.
This article won't go into detail about how to identify these plants. For more information, visit the links below or reach out to our office with questions.
If you have several callery pear trees on your property, you may have questions on what to work on first. As a general rule, you’ll want to remove any trees that are mature enough to produce fruit. Once they are removed from the property, there will be less seeds being produced, and it might lessen the number of saplings you have to remove from around the property. Alternatively, if you have several smaller trees growing you may want to remove them while they are young and still easy to manage. Callery pear is a fast-growing tree. Over the span of a year a tree might grow from hand pullable to requiring tools and herbicide. Or, over several years a tree might grow from being manageable on your own to requiring the help of a contractor or arborist.
There are a few methods for removal
Some smaller saplings may be able to be pulled by hand, or with the help of a tool like the puller bar from our tool loan program. You might find small trees in your landscaping, along fence lines, or in areas with bare soil and low traffic (around foundations, electric boxes, etc).
The herbicide suggestions in this section are based on the current best practices used by invasive species groups in Indiana. Other herbicides can be used but be aware of the herbicide’s half-life in the soil and relative safety. When using herbicides, the label is the law. When using any chemical control products, always read the entire pesticide label carefully, follow all mixing and application instructions, and wear all personal protective gear and clothing specified. For chemical control near waterways and/or where surface runoff into waterways is a concern, you are required to select aquatic label formulations of herbicides and adjuvants.
Native plants are key when you want to provide habitat and food for native wildlife and pollinators, have more colorful natural areas, and prevent the spread of invasive species. Some options are included below. For information on where to purchase these plants, check our webpage Where to Buy Native Plants
Taylor Wilson - Urban Conservation Technician
Tired of Invasives?
Winter is a great time to manage invasive plants and get a head start on spring management. Several invasive species can actually be easier to identify in the winter and early spring than in the summer. This can be because they’re evergreen, they have a distinct winter color, or they produce leaves before native plants do. Many people take advantage of this by working on invasive management during the winter, or by marking the easily identifiable plants, and then treating them when it's warmer. Below are several species that are easily identified during the winter months as well as species you can treat now.
What can you ID?
If you aren’t confident with identifying invasive species, the below species are easy to identify in winter and early spring. They can be marked, often with spray paint or flagging tape, and then treated when it’s warmer. Or if you don’t mind the cold, see “What can you treat?” below.
Manual treatment is any management that doesn’t use herbicide. Examples may be cutting, pulling, and mowing.
Chemical treatment is any management that utilizes herbicides. The following invasive species can be treated during winter months
With all this in mind, remember that the first step in the fight against invasive species is preventing them from spreading. Hiking is a wonderful winter activity but remember there are still invasive seeds on the ground. Use a boot brush or clean your hiking boots in other ways before moving between parks and other natural areas.
Good luck managing!
Diane Turner - Conservation Technician and Outreach Coordinator
As a landowner or farm operator, you face many decisions when managing your natural resources. When it comes to improving soil health, Hamilton County SWCD is here to provide reminders and tips to guide your decision making. Soil health is defined as the capacity of a soil to function as a vital, living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. Landowners that encourage healthy soils can not only sustain productivity but maintain environmental quality while enhancing plant and animal health. Some characteristics of healthy soils include good soil tilth, good soil drainage, large population of microorganisms, sufficient (but not excessive) levels of essential nutrients, and low weed pressure. Lets look closely at the recommended key soil health principles, that if incorporated into your practices, will help improve the health of your soil.
Soil armor (surface plant materials/residue) is important for reducing water and wind erosion, decreasing water evaporation, moderating soil temperatures, reducing the impact of energy from raindrops, suppressing weed growth and providing a habitat for surface dwellers, which are an important part of the soil food chain.
A continual living plant root either from the commodity crop, cover crop or forage crop provides carbon exudates to feed the soil food web, which is exchanged for nutrients for plant growth. This process is also important for soil aggregate formation, which increases soil pores for improved water and air exchange.
Minimizing soil disturbance, either biological, chemical, or physical tillage, enables the soil armor to persist. Biological disturbance includes overgrazing of forages that reduce soil armor and below ground biomass. Physical and chemical disturbance occurs from tillage burying crop residues and over stimulating microbial breakdown and excessive carbon release into the atmosphere.
Prairie plant diversity aided and allowed soils to develop prior to the introduction of annual cropping systems. Plant diversity uses sunlight and water to sequester carbon and other nutrients, preventing leakages into ground and surface waters. Understanding the four crop types — warm-season grasses and broadleaves, and cool-season grasses and broadleaves — is necessary for designing cropping systems that improve soil health. Livestock integration balances soil carbon and nitrogen ratios by converting high carbon forages to low carbon organic material, reducing nutrient transport from the soil, and promoting pasture and rangeland management in combination with cover crop grazing.
This fall the Hamilton County Invasives Partnership (HIP) and Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) are offering an invasive species trade-in program. For a limited time and as supplies last, property owners can show proof of removal of an invasive species on their Hamilton County property and receive one five-gallon native species specimen for free.
Over 80% of invasive species growing in Indiana are thought to have come from the landscape trade. Many popular landscape trees and shrubs such as callery pear species and burning bush easily escape landscape cultivation and take over nearby right of ways, roadsides, and natural areas. These infestations cause erosion, animal habitat degradation, and loss of important native plant species. While many property owners may not see their specimen spreading, birds delight in the high sugar berries of invasives like Asian bush honeysuckle and burning bush then deposit the seeds in natural areas as they fly. To encourage homeowners to remove these species from their properties, the SWCD is offering a trade-in program this fall. After showing removal of an invasive species via photo submission, Hamilton County landowners are able to receive a free five-gallon tree valued at over $50. The three native species available for trade include American hornbeam, hop hornbeam, and tulip poplar.
Landscape plantings of callery pear species, burning bush, Japanese barberry, and Norway Maple are the preferred species for removal but you can apply when removing other invasive species listed on the Official Indiana Invasive Species Council Invasive Plant List. Trades are limited to one per address. Learn more and apply at www.hcinvasives.org.
This fall six additional boot brush stations have been installed in Hamilton County as part of a Hamilton County Invasives Partnership initiative. These stations include permanent signage providing information on invasive species and how park visitors can help protect the natural spaces they love by limiting the spread of invasive species. A fixed boot brush at each station allows park patrons to wipe their shoes before and after using the trails. This prevents invasive species and other weed seeds that may be found on hiker’s shoes from being transported into the park and helps prevent existing invasive seeds from being transported out to other natural areas. Patrons are also encouraged to clean the paws of any furry hiking companions.
Boot brush stations can now be found at Cool Creek Park, the Fishers AgriPark, Ritchey Woods, Strawtown-Koteewi Park, Bray Homestead, and River Road Park. More information and a map of exact boot brush locations can be found at www.hcinvasives.org/bootbrush. More stations are planned throughout the county.
These stations were made possible through support from the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District, Hamilton County Tourism, Southern Indiana Cooperative Invasives Management, and the MIBOR REALTOR® Association.
Invasive species are species that are non-native, aggressive, and cause harm to the environment, human health, and the economy. The proliferation of invasive species in an ecosystem disrupts the complex and critical relationships that our native species have with their environment and other organisms and is responsible for degrading and destroying thousands of acres of Indiana’s native plant communities.
If you’re interested in joining, sign up for Strike Team event notifications at www.hcinvasives.org. Anyone can join and training will be provided during events. Pre-registration and completion of an online training is required.
Diane Turner, Conservation Technician and Outreach Assistant
Project Wingspan (PW) is a multi-year landscape-scale project supported by donations, sponsorships, and several grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to the non-profit Pollinator Partnership. Pollinator Partnership is working with a coalition of partners and an amazing team of dedicated volunteers to increase the quality, quantity, and connectivity of pollinator habitat across the Midwest and Great Lakes Region to support imperiled native pollinators and the vital habitat on which they depend.
Throughout the scope of the program, Project Wingspan will create and engage a network of volunteers by providing educational training on plant identification and seed collection protocols to ensure volunteers are competent and confident in their abilities to collect common native plant seed according to best management standards. Trained volunteers in collaboration with program partners will make targeted collections of local genotype native wildflower seed within designated collection zones. Learn more at their website. www.pollinator.org/wingspan
Diane Turner, Conservation Technician & Outreach Assist.
The Soil is Alive: Mobile Classroom project was the recipient of two grants of financial support during the 2021 calendar to assist in the completion of the classroom space inside the unit. The mobile classroom will be used to promote soil health across Central Indiana and is a collaboration between the Hamilton, Boone, Clinton and Madison County Soil & Water Conservation Districts. The project was initially funded by a Clean Water Indiana Grant is 2017. Since this time, the project as steadily moved forward toward completion, with project completion expected in the summer of 2022.
Duke Energy graciously provided $8,000.00 to the mobile classroom project through their Powerful Communities: Local Impact Grant program. Funds are planned to be used to complete the K-12 educational components inside the trailer.
Funding was also provided through the Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative and the United States Department of Agriculture. A $5,000.00 donation was received to strengthen and develop educational content through banners, signs, and mobile displays.
David Bradway - Conservation Administrator
I had a great conversation about natural corridors the other day with a local engineer. This conversation got me thinking about how conservation affects our everyday lives. As I’m sure many have noticed, lately there have been a lot of roadkill deer in the ditches and roadsides on my commute not to mention opossums, raccoons, and squirrels. Through development, our intrusion into their space causes wildlife to venture into places dangerous for animals and drivers causing interactions that are often detrimental to the survival of the animal and sometimes to the human as well. Taking these interactions into account when planning and developing land uses can reduce the frequency of these human/animal interactions.
Natural corridors can easily be added to development plans and masterplans. These corridors can serve as pathways for animal movement that keep them away from motorways. These corridors can also be used by people for recreation, meditation, a break from urban areas, and, possibly, alternatives to normal automobile commutes. One great example of this is the Potter’s Bridge Trail. To reduce commute congestion and greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, commuters could drive to the trailhead and walk, run, or ride to their destination in Noblesville, Westfield, Carmel and beyond. Commuters may even see animals along their way that are drawn to these corridors.
Looking ahead at further development in the county, these types of corridors could be planned into developments to link green spaces together as a natural highway for humans and animals. This could lead to fewer high-speed interactions with animals and fewer frightened commuters. Interactions in these natural corridors would be far less dangerous than auto/animal interactions on the road.
Another great example of a natural corridor are the wildlife overpasses over the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park in Canada’s Alberta Province. What look like normal overpasses from the road are, from above, a natural passageway for wildlife to safely cross the highway. These passageways are planted with pine trees and wildflowers and lined with fences to keep animals in the natural area and out of danger. Along with fencing-in the stretches of highway in these areas, these corridors have reduced mortality rates by 50% in some species of large carnivores and up to 100% in species such as Elk. These corridors are used by more species than experts expected from small to large mammals and even snakes and toads. Experts have even seen increased genetic diversity in grizzly bears because the corridor allows the bears to cross the highway. More great info from this decades old conservation project can be found here.
Are you interested in conservation projects? Do you have land you want to ensure stays natural? The Hamilton County SWCD offers conservation programs for landowners to ensure land can stay natural and animals will have safe areas to inhabit and move around the landscape without putting themselves and others in danger. Call or stop in to inquire!
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