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 77 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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Where to find local prairie seeds

Narrow Leaf Purple Coneflower JulyFrom purple coneflower to butterfly milkweed, Iowa is home to beautiful native prairie plants. These forbs and grasses not only look pretty, but also provide habitat for Iowa’s pollinators and songbirds. Enjoy all these species have to offer by planting your own! Whether you’re looking to start a native garden or a full-fledged landscape, the right seeds can make all the difference.

INHF thinks having not just native, but local seeds is important for planting. Local simply means seeds that are sourced as close as possible to where they will be planted. This allows for plants to grow in areas that are well suited to accommodate their needs. Continue reading

How to make a healthy prairie

One of our main goals at INHF is to preserve, protect and restore Iowa’s prairies. In addition to creating beautiful landscapes, a thriving prairie ecosystem can prevent soil erosion, provide crucial habitat for wildlife and insects and promote water quality.

We’ve put together a hypothetical recipe for a healthy Iowan prairie. Our mix contains a balanced combination of grasses, sedges and forbs. Each ingredient was hand-selected for a central Iowa ecosystem, and the ideal ratio of grasses to flowering plants promotes optimal prairie health.

We used a grass, sedge and switchgrass mix, and eight varieties of forbs. Each forb serves a specific purpose. Milkweed, for example, provides a food source for pollinators. The greater the diversity, the more resistant the prairie will be to encroaching invasive species.

Want to concoct your own prairie? Contact a local conservation specialist or find a prairie seed dealer, listed under “Services,” here.

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Making history on Marietta

When settlers came to Iowa, much of the natural wonder of the land was lost to homes and crops. Today, there are few remaining untouched plots left in the state. That was in the 1800s.

The Marietta Sand Prairie State Preserve was one of those plowed landscapes, but some portions survived in their natural state. In 1983-84, a precious 17 acres of native prairie were purchased by Marshall County Conservation and then dedicated as Marietta Sand Prairie State Preserve. Then, in 2004-2006, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and Marshall County Conservation led the effort to add 212 acres to Marietta Sand Prairie State Preserve — including nearly 56 acres more of sand prairie remnant. Since 2005, INHF has been working to restore and revitalize the land through countless seed harvests.

And it’s finally paid off. On Saturday, Oct. 3 upwards of forty volunteers came together for INHF’s second-largest workday of the year. INHF members, volunteers, Iowa Prairie Network board members and Marshall County Conservation board officials were all present and eager to help out.

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Volunteers at the Marietta Sand Prairie State Preserve

“We truly could not have been that effective without the volunteers we had that day,” Mary Runkel, INHF volunteer coordinator said.

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Volunteers making apple cider

Workers collected seed to build up the once-plentiful seed bank within the land. Their efforts are extremely important to conservation as INHF works toward restoring this rare remnant sand prairie.

“It’s so important to INHF that we keep the seeds local,” Runkel said. “The seeds from Marietta will stay to grow at Marietta.”

The volunteer group was treated to fresh apple cider made with an apple press on site.

The seeds from this harvest will be sowed later next year, which will mark the final planting and restoration completion. Planting this final portion at last connects the preserve with prairie remnants and completes INHF’s original vision: To preserve this rare prairie legacy, and to create an extensive interior grassland habitat for songbirds, pheasants and so many other species.

 

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Lending a hand to the land

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(All photos by Lexi Ruskell)

Over 70 people lent a hand to the land on July 15 at Cedar Hills Sand Prairie in Black Hawk County. The event was a collaboration between six Iowa land trusts, including INHF, and the University of Northern Iowa’s Tallgrass Prairie Center, which hosted the Iowa Prairie Conference. The Nature Conservancy’s land stewardship team led the slightly overcast volunteer day, though the weather conditions ended up being perfect for working in the open space of the prairie. Continue reading

Picture perfect prairies

A tour participant photographs a wood lily at the Stinson Prairie State Preserve.

A tour participant photographs a wood lily at Stinson Prairie State Preserve.

On Saturday, June 27, INHF president Joe McGovern led tours of three prairies in Kossuth County, co-sponsored by INHF, the Iowa Native Plant Society and the Iowa Prairie Network.

INHF vice president and development director Anita O’Gara and land stewardship director Erin Van Waus also attended the tours. “The neat thing about the day is that we had a variety of attendees – people who know prairie really well, those that enjoy photography and those that haven’t ever set foot on a prairie,” Van Waus said. “So it was a nice mix of attendees of all ages.” Continue reading

DeCook Field Day

Buffalo roam DeCook's ranch in Monroe County. (Photo by Ron Huelse)

Buffalo roam DeCook’s ranch in Monroe County. (Photo by Ron Huelse)

INHF board member Mike DeCook will host a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day at his ranch in Lovilia on Tuesday, July 28, from 1-4 p.m. The afternoon will be an opportunity for guests to brush up on their pollinator, prairie and bison-grazing education. Continue reading

Iowa Prairie Conference 2015

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There will be a “field trip” to Quigley-Slattery Heritage Prairie during the conference. (Photo by Jessica Rilling)

Mingle with other prairie enthusiasts, get educated on the latest developments and network at the 2015 Iowa Prairie Conference from Thursday, July 16, to Saturday, July 18, at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. This year’s theme is “Working Prairies,” which reflects the evolving role of prairie in today’s landscape. Whether a dedicated prairie enthusiast or simply a citizen with curiosity, anyone is welcome to attend. Continue reading