5 MORE of Iowa’s most invasive species (and how to get rid of them)

We listened to your comments! Here are five more threatening invasive species in Iowa.

Autumn Olive

Autumn Olive

Autumn Olive
Identification: This shrub or small tree holds dark green, oval-shaped leaves, small, yellow or white flowers and bountiful reddish/pink fruits. 
Threat: Autumn Olive can survive in areas with poor soil quality, including along roads, pastures, open woodlands and prairies. The plant can survive without much water and is known to invade woodlands or grasslands.  
Removal: Small, sprouted plants can be pulled by hand, while larger shrubs require cutting. Apply herbicide to the leaves or freshly cut stumps, being careful not to affect native plants.  

Frank Mayfield

Creeping Charlie. Photo by Frank Mayfield via Flickr Creative Commons.

Creeping Charlie
Identification: Round, shiny leaves with a scalloped edge, and small purple flowers.
Threat: Although creeping charlie oftentimes doesn’t pose much of a threat to natural areas, this fast-growing ground cover can easily overtake grass, native gardens and landscaping in your yard.
Removal: There are several different ways to combat creeping charlie, and the best method depends on where the weed is located. In small areas, such as a flower bed, hand-removal can be beneficial, but make sure to completely remove the root system or the plant can regenerate. A thick layer of mulch in between plants can also choke out the weed. For grassy areas, herbicide treatment in fall and spring works well. Direct competition from a native prairie plot or garden has also proven to be successful. Keep in mind that creeping charlie is a persistent plant, and it usually requires a few years to completely eradicate.

Annie Roonie

Wild Parsnip. Photo by Annie Roonie via Flickr Creative Commons.

Wild Parsnip
Identification: Large, celery-like leaves and stems with small, yellow flowers. Usually two to five feet high. 
Threat: Wild parsnip is typically found along roadsides, in pastures and prairies or on field edges. They produce many seeds, which allows the plant to easily spread. The weed’s fluids also contain psoralen, a substance that causes skin to burn when exposed to sunlight. These burns often lead to severe blistering. 
Removal: Before attempting to remove wild parsnip, be sure to cover up any exposed skin. Then, work to eliminate seed production of the plant. This can be achieved through hand-pulling, digging out the roots or repeated mowing when the plant is flowering.  

Japanese Knotweed 1

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed
Identification: Hollow, brown, bamboo-like stems with greenish-white flowers. Mature plants can grow up to 10 feet tall.
Threat: Japanese Knotweed was introduced in the late 1800’s and was used for landscaping and erosion control. The plant has deep roots–up to nine feet–and spreads quickly. Knotweed colonies can grow in such dense clusters that they crowd out any other native plant life. The state of Iowa passed a law in 2013 prohibiting the import or sale of certain invasive ornamental plants, including Japanese Knotweed.
Removal: The plant should be cut down and the stump treated with herbicide. This method prevents re-sprouting, but may need to be done more than once. Small infested areas can also be covered with tarp to hinder growth.

Paw Paw

Leafy Spurge. Photo by Paw Paw via Flickr Creative Commons.

Leafy Spurge
Identification: This branching perennial features smooth stems and yellow flowers. 
Threat: Leafy Spurge shades out other plants, devours available water and nutrients and releases toxins that prevent other plants growth. The herb invades prairies, savannas, pastures, fields and roadsides. 
Removal: Introducing natural insect enemies of leafy spurge has been proven effective in some areas, but this requires professional assistance. Systemic herbicides are also effective, especially when applied in June as flowers and seeds are developing, or when the plant is moving its nutrients to the root in September. 

For more information about these species and other invasives in Iowa, check out the Iowa DNR’s guides.

Looking to learn more about invasive species? Contact Land Stewardship Director Ryan Schmidt at rschmidt@inhf.org or 515-288-1846, ext. 13.

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Seeds for the future

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Helen Gunderson during 2014 visit to DeElda Heritage Prairie. The prairie planting on Tuesday was on land up the hill to the right.

“Now I truly understand the sense of pride landowners get when seeing projects come to fruition,” Helen Gunderson said to me when we went to Pocahontas County to observe a 70-acre prairie planting on a portion of the 180 acres she recently donated to INHF with a reserved life estate. The property adjoins a 60-acre remnant prairie/pasture Helen previously donated to INHF, called DeElda Heritage Prairie (named after her grandmother, DeElda Lighter Gunderson).

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A few of the many bags of Carl Kurtz prairie seed for the May 2016 planting

Helen is an accomplished photographer and videographer and on that day we filmed and photographed Jon Judson planting the prairie seed (grown by Carl Kurtz, a longtime friend of Helen’s and INHF). She and I even got to hand scatter seeds along the terraces where the equipment couldn’t reach.

The 70 acres planted to CRP pollinator habitat surrounds a cornfield under transition to an organic operation by a young woman farmer, Betsy. Helen hopes that the new prairie buffer will help minimize cross contamination of the organic corn, as well as provide critical habitat.

Helen said that she had always thought the land would have more prairie someday, but it’s nice to see it happen during her lifetime.

For me, it was rewarding to be able to fulfill the dreams of a landowner, to support a young woman farmer and to give back to the earth — so that it can sustain the birds, insects, wildlife, water and air necessary for the existence of all life on the planet, for those who follow.

Thank you, Helen….
“Namaste prairie”

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3 events, 1 great weekend in the Loess Hills

There’s always a good reason to get outdoors, but this trifecta of events will make it impossible to stay inside. Join Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation in western Iowa over the first weekend of June. We’re celebrating our great state’s natural areas with a combined volunteer event, the dedication of a new Bird Conservation Area and the Loess Hills Prairie Seminar.  Continue reading

A Great Place Made Better

How much can 15 people accomplish on 175 acres in under two hours?

A lot, it turns out.

I was amazed at the giant oak and maple and sycamore trees!

I was amazed at the giant oak, maple and sycamore trees!

On Tuesday evening, April 26, volunteers from Kohls, Outdoor Alliance of Story County and Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation joined Story County Conservation to improve a site just south of Ames that’s destined to become the Ronald “Dick” Jordan Family Wildlife Area.

So this was our chance to experience the natural land where the Skunk River used to flow.

It’s not open to the public yet: INHF will transfer it to Story County after funds are raised to cover its purchase and restoration.

Some of us cut invasive plant species: mostly honeysuckle and multi-flora rose. Compared to many Iowa woodlands, there wasn’t much to cut. It felt good knowing we were keeping them from spreading and shading out the wildflowers – like the Sweet William that was in bloom all around us.

Here’s how we looked: before, during, and after attacking the multi-flora rose:

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Meanwhile, volunteers were removing the tires and scrap metal that dotted the area – many of which had been left behind by floodwaters over time or illegally dumped.

Jordan - heavy metal crew

Jordan - tire crew

In just two hours, Team Heavy Metal and Team Burnt Rubber hauled out a full truck of tires and a full trailer of metal – nearly all the clean-up that’s needed here!

 

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As darkness headed our way, we enjoyed a Victory Photo and went home dirtier, stronger and refreshed by our time in nature.

Jordan - crew after

UntitledI’m looking forward to my next visit – to walk where the river used to run.

 

Want to help the effort?

Learn more about Jordan Family Wildlife Area

Donate now to the project

Learn more about volunteering with INHF

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It’s a Lark! It’s a Crane! It’s the Big Day of Birding

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Explore southern Iowa’s Lucas County on Saturday, May 21, during the Big Day of Birding! This first-time event marries bird enthusiasts and conservationists as we count as many bird species as possible in 24 hours.

Lucas County is a popular spot for our feathered friends. The area boasts critical nesting habitat for rare species such as American woodcock, whip-poor-will and wood thrush. Plus, Stephen’s State Forest is home to a large number of woodland birds, including the vibrant warbler. 238 bird species have already been identified, and we hope to grow that number on the Big Day of Birding. Continue reading

5 of Iowa’s most invasive species (and how to get rid of them)

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An infestation of Garlic Mustard.

Invasive plant species are like the common cold: They’re easily caught, undesirable and if left untreated, can lead to something much more serious. Across Iowa, a variety of species threaten our native ecosystems. These weeds dominate and choke out wild and native plants, leading to less diverse native natural areas.

The following are five of the most common and threatening invasive species in Iowa.

Continue reading

Calendar photography submissions

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Iowa is a photographer’s dream: stunning landscapes, remarkable wildlife and spectacular natural moments. Every year, INHF celebrates this beauty in a nature calendar. We love highlighting the best of what Iowa has to offer and seeing our great state through your eyes—and lens.

We are now accepting submissions for the 2017 calendar.

If you’re interested in submitting photos for consideration before the July 1 deadline, you’ll find helpful resources on our website for more information. Also make sure to review our general photo submission guidelines. Questions should be directed to Kerri Sorrell at ksorrell@inhf.org or 515-288-1846, ext. 24.

Gift to Iowa’s Future Day celebrates Iowa landowners

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On Thursday, March 24, a group of Iowa landowners were honored at the state capitol building for gifts of conservation land, land value and conservation easements made in 2015. “Gift To Iowa’s Future” day is an annual celebration of private landowners and organizations who protect their land for natural resources and recreation opportunities. 2015 gifts totaled more than $10 million and protected over 4,500 acres in 15 counties.

16 of the 23 landowners honored worked in partnership with Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation to protect their land.

“Private landowners are instrumental in protecting Iowa’s land, water and wildlife,” said INHF President Joe McGovern. “Gift to Iowa’s Future Day is a chance for us to celebrate the generous contributions individual Iowans make to conservation each year. It is truly humbling to see the impact of these gifts across the state.”
Continue reading

5 things you didn’t know about the “Easter Bunny”

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Photo by Michelle Tribe via Flickr Creative Commons

Here comes Peter Cottontail — and he’s right in your backyard! The cottontail rabbit is one of Iowa’s most popular native species and can be found across the state. These cute critters are common, but still hold a few surprises. Here are five unusual facts about the species:

  • Female cottontails are slightly larger than the males, but the average rabbit weighs around two pounds and is 14 to 20 inches long.
  • In states with high agriculture production, like Iowa, cottontails seek out waste grains — including corn, soybeans and wheat — to eat in the fall and winter.
  • Cottontails have eyes on the sides of their heads, which makes it easy for them to spot danger without moving.
  • Most cottontails spend their whole life within a five-acre radius.
  • Ideal rabbit habitat in Iowa includes a mix of cropland, grassland, brushy woodland, briar patches and hedgerows.

Want to learn more about the cottontail rabbit? Check out additional information from our friends at the Iowa DNR under “Mammals,” here.

Happy Easter!