Hamilton County producers are eligible for a financial incentive to implement conservation practices
Visit theoutcomesfund.com for more information and to enroll.
David Bradway - Conservation Administrator
State and local environmental agencies will sometimes undertake large projects that show results regionally rather than by city or county divisions. One such project was conducted in 2020 wherein a multi-agency crew surveyed the West Fork White River and White River from its headwaters in Randolph County to the confluence with the Wabash River. I was able to ask some questions of the group. Drew Holloway with the Muncie Sanitary District Bureau of Water Quality, Kevin Gaston with Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and Sandy Clark with Indiana Department of Natural Resources shared their insight from the work they completed. Links to the data and referenced websites can be found in the interview below.
Can you summarize the project?
What was the initial goal of the project?
Were any outcomes gleaned through collected data for White River? Hamilton County?
How do sections of White River through Hamilton County look chemically, biologically, habitat?
Describe your thoughts on sport fishing in White River through Hamilton County.
Do your findings show anything about the level of conservation work done in Hamilton County?
Any plans for similar projects on other streams?
Taylor Wilson, Urban Conservation Technician
Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) might actually be everyone’s least favorite garden weed. Brought to North America in the 1600’s on accident, this weed has become a widespread problem throughout the USA and beyond. It infamously colonizes natural areas, roadsides, and is also an incredibly aggressive weed in lawns and landscaping beds. You might know it best by remembering running through the grass barefoot and stepping on thistles that were forcing their way through the lawn.
Canada thistle’s aggressive nature is due to its root structure. The root structure contains both vertical roots (taproots) and horizontal roots (rhizomes). Because of this, generally several Canada thistle shoots (the above ground portion) are actually part of the same massive plant connected by root system. So, usually when you pull a thistle, you’re just pulling out one part of a larger plant.
I once heard Canada thistle compared to a hydra—for every thistle you pull two more pop up. This is due to the resprouting response of the root system, and this is why manual control of Canada thistle can be really difficult.
This Cornell University page walks you through the identification of this plant. We also have several native thistles!
As mentioned above, manual control of Canada thistle can be very difficult—but is possible with years of consistent work. The goal is to “starve” the root system by removing green growth consistently, taking away the plant’s ability to photosynthesize. Herbicide treatment is usually far more effective and works more quickly, but may not be ideal for some areas.
An in-depth explanation of Canada management can be found here at this Purdue Extension page.
Canada thistle is one of the declared “noxious weeds” in Indiana and falls under the Destruction of Detrimental Plant law. Purdue Extension’s explanation of this law is listed below:
"Plants mentioned in this law are the noxious weeds listed in the code for county weed control boards. This law also empowers the township trustee to act to investigate and control the noxious weeds. A 48- hour notice can be issued notifying the property owner that the township trustee wishes to come on the property to investigate any noxious weed problem. Once a problem has been determined, similar to the weed board’s requirements, a five day notice has to be given to the property owner to start actions to control the noxious weed. If no action is taken the township trustee can either notify the county weed control board, if there is one, or initiate control measures themselves at the expense of the land owner. Once a bill has been sent to the property owner through registered mail or hand delivered, it has to be paid in 10 days. If the bill is not paid after 10 days it may appear on the land owner’s taxes that year."
Where to report
You can report instances of Canada thistle to the township trustee in the township the land is located in. Alternatively, you can always report it directly to the park, school, land manager, parcel owner, etc. To see who owns the parcel, you can utilize the county GIS program. On interstates and highways, you can report any invasive species via their online reporting system.
How can I get one started? A Garden Tower is very similar to your average garden bed, but with a larger price tag so it is not a necessary purchase. There are many less expensive alternatives that you can succeed with. These steps can be applied to any planting medium as well as plant or seed type. Depending on how your green your thumb is, one route is to start the seeds indoors, which is what I did in the spring. In years past, we’ve also purchased seedlings and transplanted them into the tower. If you’re an intrigued beginner such as myself, I’ll let you in on the guidelines I followed:
What now? Whether you decide to utilize the garden tower, a garden bed, or even start just one potted plant to try it out, anyone can do it! Gardening is a fun way to challenge and improve your skills, and you can watch yourself grow as a gardener as your plants grow too. It may seem overwhelming, so please stop by for more details, questions, and to check out our garden!
For more information, see this website: https://www.gardentowerproject.com/pages/how-it-works
Makayla Reel, Office Coordinator
Be cautious of water quality. It is possible to contract illnesses from dirty water. Giardia is a common illness to contract from dirty pond/lake water. The symptoms are unpleasant to cope with and it is not easily eliminated. Giardia is an intestinal infection caused by parasites. Many other parasitic infections camp out in lake and pond water. It is also worth mentioning that many diseases are zoonotic meaning it can be transferred to humans.
Leeches, ticks and turtles OH MY! Snapping turtles are the most common widespread turtle species in Indiana. From below your dogs’ paw can look like a tasty snack. Be sure to do research about the body of water you want to explore before going. You want to educate yourself on the types of species that may lay in wait.
Diane Turner - Conservation Technician and Outreach Assistant
Once users choose a particular native plant species, they may click on a plant to link to a printable species page with plant characteristics, notes, resources, and additional photos. See examples below of native species printouts.
Diane Turner, Conservation Technician and Outreach Assistant
The Karner Blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) was federally listed as an endangered species in 1992. This butterfly has a wingspan of only about one inch. The male has silvery or dark blue markings on its wings while the female is grayish brown bands of orange crescents.
Karner Blue butterflies are found in the northern part of the range where wild lupine grows native. The butterfly is most widespread in Wisconsin and can still be found in portions of Indiana (northern), Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York. Although Karner Blue butterfly habitat used to stretch across 10 states, it has now been eliminated from at least five of those states.
There are usually two hatchings of Karner Blue butterfly eggs each year. The first group of caterpillars hatch from eggs in April to early May from eggs that were laid the previous year. The caterpillars feed only on wild lupine plant leaves. About mid-May, the caterpillars pupate and adult butterflies emerge from their cocoon-like chrysalis by the end of May or early June. These adults mate, and lay their eggs in June on or near wild lupine plants. The eggs hatch in about one week and the caterpillars feed for the next three weeks. Those caterpillars then pupate and the summer's second generation of adult butterflies appear sometime in July or the beginning of August. These adults mate and lay the eggs that will not hatch until the following spring.
Many federal, state, and local agencies are working along with other partners to protect populations in their current habitats, as well as reintroduce the butterfly to habitat where it had historically been found.
A couple states are finding success in recovering populations of this tiny butterfly. Wisconsin and New York have attributed their success to the use of fire to manage the sandy landscape and the planting of blue lupine, the hearty plant on which larval Karner Blues feed during their short lives. A key factor has been the decision to burn key habitats every three to eight years, so pine and scrub oak don’t grow large enough to shade out the wild blue lupine, which requires direct sun exposure and, because of a deep root system, isn’t killed by fire.
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. Plus with 60k+ acres, INDOT can't possibly stay on top of what species are where - we can help by notifying them of problem areas (particularly important for troublesome species with narrow management windows like poison hemlock). 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!
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