Written by Megan Phillips, Project Coordinator (Albany)
July 30, 2014
On Tuesday, July 29 a crew comprised of NYS Parks Boat Stewards and Invasive Species Strike Team members tackled various infestations in Hamlin Beach State Park. Regional biologist Meg Janis first taught the crew to identify swallow-wort in the forested area near Devil’s Nose. The aim was to remove the swallow-wort that already had seed pods and cut back existing growth to stress the plant until a contractor is able to come through and apply an herbicide. The removal work was conducted off the hiking path leading out to Devil’s Nose. There is an awesome view of the lake if you hike to the end of the trail (shown below).
Next, the group moved on to the lakeshore area near Yanty Creek Marsh. This area of the park features a car-top boat launch for kayaks and canoes, as well as a short nature trail that winds through the marsh. Meg showed us an example of oriental bittersweet (seen above). This invasive species is a nuisance because it quite literally strangles trees, causing branches to snap. We were amazed by how thick the vines could grow! When the oriental bittersweet is more mature, the stems become woody and even tougher to tackle. The woody stem also adds weight to the plant, which further stresses the trees and other plants that the vine can grow over. We found a large vine system of oriental bittersweet interspersed with a patch of jewel weed, which is a very useful native plant. If you crush the stems of the jewel weed plant you will find that they release an aloe-like juice which takes the itch out of poison ivy rashes and soothes the burn if you stumble into a patch of stinging nettles.
(Above left): Phragmites australis infestation near Yanty Creek Marsh. (Above right): Boat Steward Rick Clark finds a pregnant female brown snack in the Phragmites.
The Invasive Species Strike Team produced several machetes from their van full of tools and went to work cutting down stalks of Phragmites australis. Phragmites australis is an invasive reed that can grow to be up to 20 feet tall! As you can probably imagine, the species is very successful at shading native vegetation and preventing other plants from getting enough sunlight to grow. This species is difficult to combat because of its reproductive strategy. It has a dense network of rhizomes underneath the soil. This means that when we see one Phragmites plant, another plant could crop up 100 feet away and come from the SAME rhizome. Chemical control of the plant can be successful if applied to the shaft of the grass as well as the leaves. The plant then translocates the chemical underground into its root structure and usually dies off in a few weeks if the application is done at the correct time of year. The Strike Team isn’t permitted to use chemical control methods, so for Tuesday’s work we stuck to cutting, which stresses the plant and prevents rapid overgrowth of the immediate area. We are hoping that the native plants in the area, including jewel weed and wild cucumber, can now take a hold along the shoreline.
(Below): NYS Parks Boat Stewards and Invasive Species Strike Team members gather for a group shot near the Devil’s Nose swallow-wort control project area. Photo taken by Megan Phillips.