Celebrating Memorial Day by killing non-American invasive species on Water Street

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    I know tomorrow is a holiday, and most of you already have plans, but, if you’re up for a little fresh air and exercise, and don’t feel like going to the parade, I’ll be out at the Water Street prairie between 9:00 and 11:00 doing my best to eradicate the Spotted Knapweed that’s threatening our native plants, and I could use some help.

    As most of you already know, a little over a year ago, a lot of folks in the community came together to make over 3,000 seed balls (containing 8 species of native grasses and 27 species of flowering plants) and launch them by way of slingshot onto a vacant acre of downtown Ypsilanti known as Water Street. Well, happily, it looks like a lot of those flowering plants are coming back. Unfortunately, though, so are the invasive species we’re trying to displace, like Spotted Knapweed. I was on the site a few days ago and took out over 250 of the evil little fuckers, and I’m afraid that I only put a dent it in… And that’s why I’m heading back tomorrow morning, in hopes of digging out several hundred more before they grow to maturity and start putting out seed.

    Coming from Europe, Spotted Knapweed, for those of you who have never dealt with it before, is among the worst of the invasives. Not only does it spread incredibly easily, but, as it tastes terrible, few herbivores want to eat it. And, even worse, it has an incredibly long tap root, which aggressively sucks water from its neighboring plants, destining them for failure. And, as if that weren’t enough, Spotted Knapweed is also thought to be allelopathic, meaning that it releases a toxin from its roots that slows the growth of nearby plants competing for resources. As much as I love plants, I think it’s safe to say that this one sucks, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that its spread is putting our downtown native prairie in jeopardy.

    All is not lost, though. While they’re spreading like crazy, they’re easy to spot, and relatively easy to dig up. And, if we can get them out of the ground before they go to seed, those tens of thousands of flowering plants that we put in the ground may begin coming up soon.

    Again, I know it’s late notice, and I don’t really expect anyone to come out and help me on the morning of a holiday. But, as long as I was heading out, I thought that I’d at least mention it… So, if you have a shovel, and want to help, come on out to the intersection of Michigan Avenue and River Street tomorrow morning at 9:00.

    And, if you haven’t already, be sure to like the Water Street Commons on Facebook.

    And remember… “There’s no better way in the world to celebrate American superiority than by destroying evil Russian plants.” (It’s like we’re remaking Red Dawn with plants!)

    update: There were only two of us, but we put in a few hours of hard work and killed a hell of a lot of Spotted Knapweed. I stopped counting after digging up 750 plants, but I know, by the time that I quit, I must have passed the century mark. There’s plenty more, though, if you’d like to take a turn. (Remind me, and I’ll make a video showing you how to spot them, dig them up, etc.) Here’s a photo of one of our collection piles, to give you a sense of how much we got done.

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    [This Memorial Day post was brought to you by the best war movie of all time, Dr. Strangelove.]

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      5 Comments

      1. Eel
        Posted May 26, 2014 at 6:40 am | Permalink

        Man against Nature

      2. Eel
        Posted May 26, 2014 at 6:42 am | Permalink

        It’s a English major thing. You wouldn’t understand.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflict_%28narrative%29#Man_against_nature

      3. Posted May 26, 2014 at 7:05 am | Permalink

        If you can’t make it out today, but still want to help, you can go and dig up Spotted Knapweed on your own any time you like, 24 hours a day.

      4. Posted May 26, 2014 at 8:53 am | Permalink

        I was just reading up on this and it seems to be a good plant for grazing. Similar nutritionally to alfalfa, I bet goats would love it. I wonder if the city would let us rent some goats once a year… Would certainly make more sense than breaking our backs digging up everything we find. Or, more realistically, we could cut the plants down to ground level and take the clippings to some goats. Less labor intensive, feeds animals, everyone wins! Just found this article that talks about when this is most effective: http://www.joe.org/joe/2006october/rb6.php Looks like we’d want to do it twice a year. I’ve got access to some goats we could feed. :)

      5. Liz DMG
        Posted May 26, 2014 at 10:37 am | Permalink

        I saw this at about 10:50 this morning. We’ll try to get out there some evening. After it cools down.

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