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Missouri Environmental Education News
May 2019

Table of Contents: Feature: Invasive Plants--Early Detection & Control, Things to Look Out for in May, Kudos, MEEA News, Grants, Contests and Awards, Conferences, Workshops, Jobs, Teaching and Learning: Invasive Plants as a Multi-disciplinary Teaching Tool

Dear Friends of MEEA,

When my family moved from 10 acres in mid-Missouri to a postage stamp lot in suburban St. Louis, my then-kindergarten son bonded with an invasive bush honeysuckle in our new yard. This large shrub became his “hiding tree”, where he could sit up high, watch for wildlife, and spy on the many pedestrians traversing our busy corner lot. He sorely missed the abundant space and quiet on the land at our former home, and this plant provided him some much needed solace.

At first I was conflicted about what to do, witnessing the important function this plant served in cementing my son’s affection for the natural world but knowing how much it contributed to environmental degradation. I ultimately decided to share the deleterious effects of this species slowly over time and encourage him to let me know when he was ready for its removal. Simultaneously, we installed native plants and revelled in their beauty and function. It took at least four years to get buy-in, but today the honeysuckle is gone, my son delights in the other flora and fauna we see in our yard, and he always checks to make sure my plant purchases include natives.

As you read this month’s material on invasive plants, consider the importance of nurturing a love of nature as the precursor to eliciting action. And as you engage with others in the task of invasive species removal, I encourage you to remember this story in the hope that you’ll be gentle with yourselves and others. Often what seems an easy decision to one can be complicated and fraught for another.

Thank you for reading, and Happy May Day!

Lesli Moylan
Executive Director

Invasive Plants:
Early Detection & Control Safeguards Native Biodiversity

by Felicia Ammann, Missouri Prairie Foundation

We drive by them every day. Invasive plants line many of our highways and railroad tracks, fill roadside ditches, and invade natural communities, spreading beyond where they were originally intended. These sometimes seemingly harmless plants can wreak havoc on native habitats and aspects of our economy. They can choke out our native plants, which provide priceless ecological benefits for all and can threaten the wood products industry, hunting and fishing opportunities, and impact livestock production. It is important that we learn to identify and control these invasive species to perpetuate native biodiversity. Below is a list of a few common invasive species found throughout Missouri. Learning to identify and control these invasive species is crucial to protecting the natural resources on which we depend.

One of the most commonly known invasive plants in the state is bush honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii). Do not be fooled by its flashy red berries and sweet-smelling flowers: bush honeysuckle is a terribly invasive plant with little to no value to native insect populations and birds. The dense, fast-growing shrubs shade out native plants and sprout up everywhere, thanks to foraging birds dropping the fruit, especially along fence rows and woodland edges. These tough plants are some of the first to leaf out in the spring and the last to drop their foliage in the fall, thus being one of the easiest to identify and control. Bush honeysuckle, when young, is easy to pull out of the ground. If more established, a cut-and-treat method is better used, using glyphosate herbicide to “paint” the cut stem.

Pictured: Bush Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) Photo credit: USDA

Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) is an invasive evergreen groundcover that produces fruit as it climbs. Many nurseries still carry this known invasive because of its attractive evergreen foliage and its ability to rapidly spread across bare ground, choking out weeds and providing a dense cover. When it climbs, though, wintercreeper produces fruit that eventually spreads with the help of foraging birds. This plant will climb up trees and shrubs, robbing them of sunlight and nutrients they need, eventually leading to their decline. The best way to control wintercreeper is to keep it from climbing by cutting vines at the ground level and treating the stump. When young, this plant can easily be pulled from the ground.

Pictured: Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) Photo credit: Missouri Botanical Garden's Plant Finder

Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) (one cultivar of which is the Bradford pear) was widely planted in residences and commercial areas in Missouri and many other parts of the country, and is still available at some local nurseries. Callery pear trees are sterile; however, through cross-pollination of different cultivars, they produce fertile offspring that spread rapidly.

Pictured: Spreading population of Pyrus calleryana Photo Credit: Bill Ruppert

A resource of the Missouri Prairie Foundation’s Grow Native! program, the Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force, or MoIP, began a “Plant This, Not That” public education campaign that highlights native Missouri plants that provide beautiful white blooms and brilliant fall foliage, like Callery pears, but are much better suited to supporting the native web of life. The cut-and-treat method is best for eradicating these invasive trees; instructions on treating cut stumps of Callery pear with herbicide are here.

When removing any invasive species, it is important to replace the newly open space, preferably with native plants. If not immediately addressed, these highly disturbed areas can be an open invitation for other invasive species to move right in. Some invasive plants take a while to eradicate. Don’t give up! Check the area for new sprouts or seedlings often. Find resources for native plant alternatives at grownative.org and for identification and control of invasive species at moinvasives.org.

Felicia Ammann is the outreach and education coordinator for the Missouri Prairie Foundation. She can be reached at outreach@moprairie.org or 636-303-7418.

A Few Resources:

Things to Look for (or Look Out for) in May!

(check out all the green holidays)

What to Look for Right Now - MDC's list of What's Out There in May!

Kudos

Kudos to the four Missouri schools nominated by DESE and MEEA in 2018 for the US ED Green Ribbon School award: Herculaneum High School, Claymont Elementary, Highcroft Ridge Elementary, and Raintree School. Winners announced in May--fingers crossed for these MO Green Schools!

Kudos to the 59 schools that participated in this year's Green Schools Quest, sponsored by the US Green Building Council's Gateway Chapter. And congratulations to the 16 winning schools!

Kudos to the high school students at Lift for Life Academy in St. Louis for inviting MEEA and others to attend their "Inventions for Sustainability" Symposium. Very energizing to be around all that creativity and passion!

Kudos to the 4th graders at New City School for their efforts in getting the PawPaw designated as Missouri's State Fruit Tree. SB210 pending....

Kudos to Deah Powell, MDC Jr. Leader, for her leadership in conservation education, which led to her receiving scholarships from The Missouri Master Naturalists and the Missouri Department of Conservation. Check out her Hey It's Deah youtube channel!

And Kudos to Linda Lacy for her commitment to MEEA's Facebook presence! Thank you, Linda!

MEEA News

Coming Up in the Next Two Months

(These count for Environmental Educator Certification categories 1, 2 or 3. Visit the EE Certification page here)

EE Jobs details here

Invasive Plants as a Vehicle for Teaching Multiple Disciplines

The Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network (NMISN) developed invasive species curriculum for grades 6-12 in 2017 and can be found at https://www.habitatmatters.org/uploads/9/5/0/6/95066352/invasive_species_curriculum.pdf. The general information and ecological principles in the activities are applicable to Missouri. The Missouri Department of Conservation’s list of common invasives in Missouri provides a means to adapt this curriculum to the invasive plants of most concern in our state, but many invasives listed in the Michigan-based curriculum are problems in Missouri too.


The NMISN curriculum unit suggests ways to assess knowledge and share background information, then takes learners through three activities that connect multiple disciplines to the issue of invasive plants:

  1. “It’s An Invasion” game to illustrate how invasive plants can disrupt healthy ecosystems. Adaptation ideas provided based on feedback from teachers whose students have played the game.

  2. Guidelines for an outing to find and observe invasive plants.

  3. Town Hall Meeting role-play to discuss land management concerns related to an invasive species. Edits are offered below to use invasive bush honeysuckle, common throughout most of Missouri, in the town hall scenario. (NOTE: at least one role for the role play is problematic--the permaculturist was described as one who wouldn’t have any issues with invasive plants, which isn’t accurate based on my understanding. ~Lesli Moylan)

    Possible edits to the Town Hall Scenario for MO Relevancy, substituting bush honeysuckle as the invasive species discussed:

    Part 1: Introduction to Invasive Bush Honeysuckle, Lonicera maackii

    The United States Forest Service (USFS) has found a large bush honeysuckle population in our community in a park close to downtown – it is frequently accessed by community members. Bush honeysuckle is an invasive plant that is native to Asia. It has been known to invade many intact native plant communities especially woodlands. The presence of bush honeysuckle can reduce native plant diversity because it produces tons of berries spread by birds and is a fast-grower that leafs out early and stays green later than native plants. It can even release chemicals into the soil that impede the growth of other plants. This impacts wildlife and ecosystem functions. Honeysuckle has been valued for its effectiveness as a visual screen along property lines. Bush honeysuckle’s berries are enticing to birds, but offer little in the way of nutrition for migration. The effect is similar to if a track athlete ate jello and drank soda to prepare for a big race. Recent research has shown that bush honeysuckle creates habitat amenable to both mosquitoes and ticks. The USFS would like to know how the community plans to proceed regarding this issue.

    Part 2: Control Methods (This information should be provided by the “Local Expert from an Environmental Agency”)

    There are several control methods that can be used (and have already been used elsewhere). They include:

    • Prevention – Remove early colonizing individuals by pulling. Easy to do as these plants are shallowly-rooted.

    • Mechanical -- use tools like a mattock or pick axe to dig out mature specimens by the root. Can be difficult, but avoids the use of chemicals. Disturbed ground should be replanted as soon as possible to avoid new colonization.

    • Cultural – Grazing with goats has been shown to reduce bush honeysuckle, but this needs to be done generally in early spring when honeysuckle is the only green thing on the menu.

    • Chemical – Herbicides are available to control bush honeysuckle. General procedure involves cutting the plant down and “painting” the stem immediately with herbicide.

The NMISN power point presentation with background information (slide 1 pictured above) is excellent, and includes helpful notes for teachers with each slide. Consider creating MO-centric slides for Bush Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), Callery Pear (Pyrus calleryana), Autumn Olive, (Elaeagnus umbellata), and Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortuneii) for use with MO students. Below is an assessment of relative impact in Missouri for each of the invasives highlighted in the NMISN power point, according to Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force’s assessment maps:

On April 4, 2018, Dale Dufer took Invasive Bush Honeysuckle, aka Lonicera spp. or "Lonnie", to trial at the Old Courthouse in St. Louis. The video-recording (above) offers a lot of learning for teachers wanting to introduce the complex interrelatedness of ecosystems and human communities. Stay tuned as well for updates Kat Golden's (Earthways Sustainability Education Manager and National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow) work on lesson plans to stage mock trials of other invasive species with student groups!