June Program Recap: Go Beyond Beauty

| Blog, Program Recap

By Linda Shuster, WORC Member

Go Beyond Beauty
Presented via Zoom June 21 by Shelly Stusick

Shelly Stusick is the Go Beyond Beauty Specialist at the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network (ISN). Go Beyond Beauty is one of several programs of the ISN, which is a Cooperative Species Management Area (CISMA). A CISMA is a partnership between government agencies, tribes, individuals, and other interested organizations who work to manage invasive species in a defined area. The ISN aims to control invasive species in its defined area and provide education regarding invasive species.

Shelly described characteristics of an invasive plant species. They are non-native, have few natural predators, and produce massive amounts of seed. There are three stages in our awareness of colonization by invasive species. The first is the introduction of the plant. Some invasive plants have been purposefully introduced for functions such as ornamental garden specimens, pest control, a food crop, or slope stabilization. Other invasives have been transported by accident. Invasive plants are spread through a variety of mechanisms, including birds, wind, tires, shoes, and dogs. Shelly strongly recommended the use of boot brushes after a hike whenever they are available in order to avoid spreading invasives that might be clinging to your boots or shoes. After introduction of the plant, the next stage is detection of the invasive species at a time when there are more limited and scattered populations. ISN aims to intervene at the introduction/detection stages. The final stage is widespread awareness of the invasive nature of the plant due to its colonization of many locations. The Michigan Natural Features Inventory has developed an excellent field guide to invasive species, which can be obtained in pdf format here.

The Go Beyond Beauty program aims to prevent the planting (introduction) of non-native ornamentals that are still being sold at nurseries and garden centers. It is a voluntary, non-regulatory program initially targeted toward garden centers/nurseries, but which now includes landscapers, landscape designers, and anyone else who has a garden. The ISN has ranked invasive ornamental species with regard to the risk they pose to our ecology, and the list can be obtained here. Go Beyond Beauty has targeted as “high priority” those species that provide the greatest risk. Participants in the program commit to not selling or using these high priority non-native ornamental species. The ISN currently has a total of 59 participating entities across four counties. They provide recognition of and promote these entities. There are also a variety of materials and resources available to participants.

Go Beyond Beauty is free; however, participants can enroll in the optional Achievement Program. There are Silver and Gold Achievement Levels for both garden professionals and non-professionals. Professionals pay an annual fee and receive additional recognition, as well as further education in invasive species. Non-professionals pay a one-time fee and can receive a site visit, information for managing invasives on their properties, and a recommendation of natives to plant based on the site conditions. A 3-year grant from the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program (MISGP) is allowing the ISN to expand the Go Beyond Beauty program throughout Michigan. There will be “hubs” located around the state. Multiple regional hubs allow for tailoring the program to the particular ornamental invasives that are problematic for that area.

The ISN recommends removing and replacing the non-native ornamental species it has identified as problematic whenever possible. Shelly presented examples of native plants that can serve as alternatives to the non-natives. These include Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) for non-native Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), Choke cherry (Prunus virginiana) for non-native Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana), and Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) for non-native Blue lyme grass (Leymus arenarius).

Finally, Shelly focused on methods for eradicating these invasive ornamental non-native woody and herbaceous plants. For both types of plants, the first and foremost method is to not plant them at all. Additional methods include mechanical techniques (pulling and digging, smothering) and chemical treatments. The process of removal is typically not ‘one and done.’ It frequently takes repeated trials to eradicate an invasive. Methods for disposing of the plants include composting; however, it must be done with caution if it is done at all. It may be possible to place plants in the trash, but people should check with their local trash collectors to determine whether and how to do this. The ISN has been hosting “Trade-Up” days which permit landowners to trade in Japanese barberry for a coupon that is good for a non-invasive alternative.

Shelly’s talk was informative and critically important for the preservation of our natural ecosystems. In addition to the useful information in her presentation, she developed a list of resources related to invasive plants, which can be downloaded here. The recording of the presentation is available on the WORC YouTube channel.

Note: Wild Ones River City Chapter is one of 59 partners of the West Michigan Conservation Network (WMCN). WMCN is a volunteer organization composed of environmental groups, governmental organizations, non-profit organizations, and private citizens all working together to address invasive species on a local scale. To learn more about invasives visit www.michiganinvasives.org/invasives101/.