• Department

Ikes in Action: Controlling Those Troublesome Invasives

Maurie Houseman
Outdoor America 2021 Issue 1
Kudzu - credit Emma Frances Logan

Michigan >> The Dwight Lydell Chapter in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has many invasive plants common in the northeast United States. The chapter property encompasses 39 acres of woods and hills, a large pond and a small trout stream used for Save Our Streams training. Grand Rapids neighbors Cannon Township and both fall within Kent County, Michigan.

Invasive plants are a huge problem. Our Ikes can’t solve the whole problem nationwide, but we can make a big difference locally on our own properties and by conducting outreach to neighbors and local governments.

The chapter’s Ikes enjoy performing outreach to our neighbors regarding invasive plants. We found a huge problem with Asian bittersweet at our Cannon Township office park and discovered local officials were completely unaware of the issue. As a result of this outreach, Ikes met at the office park and cut bittersweet vines close to the ground and sprayed an environmentally friendly herbicide to kill the roots (we call it cut/stump), treating more than 600 vines from one-quarter inch to five inches in diameter.

All participants observed COVID-19 precautions by wearing masks and socially distancing. Cut/stump and foliar treatments (spraying the leaves with a diluted herbicide) directed by professionals were successful and the more than a dozen participants were very appreciative of everything they learned.

Currently we are prioritizing removal of two invasive species*:

  • Asian bittersweet (the kudzu of the north) is relatively new, extremely aggressive and replaces or harms native trees, even large oak trees. We focus mostly on the seed-bearing vines and we know this will be an ongoing effort.

  • Japanese barberry has small, very sharp thorns (deer won’t browse it) and the shrub attracts white-footed mice that make their home under the bush. The mice disproportionately harbor the blacklegged ticks that carry Lyme Disease. Member families, Boy and Girl Scouts, campers, and home-schooled families actively use the property, and many chapter activities are open to the public. As a result, we instituted tick control near all our trails and heavily used areas. Barberry is easy to kill and the seed bank is short-lived. We have killed most of it near any trails.

After the cleanup, participants signed up for future removals and the chapter is scouting sites within Cannon Township. Our members are also working with the Kent Conservation District and Cannon Township. The three groups sponsored and held a public Izaak Walton Learning Day, focused on invasives, at the office park. Public programs benefit the environment and also demonstrate what we Ikes already know: We can help the environment and still have fun outdoors.

Learn more about invasive species

* A few internet sites that contain good information about invasive species: U.S. Forest Service and National Invasive Species Information Center, both part of USDA.

Maurie Houseman is past president and outreach coordinator of the League's Dwight Lydell Chapter.