Invasives – The Parallel between the 45th Parallels

I was hiking along a trail in the Patagonia region of Chile recently, enjoying the 30 mph wind in my face, when I first spotted it… scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius). What?! I was 7,312 miles from Oregon, and more importantly 8,455 miles from Scotland! What was it doing here?! There among the Andes Mountains, glaciers, lakes, Andean condors, and guanacos, I found not only scotch broom, but also ivy (Hedera spp) and velvetgrass (Holcus lanatus) among other things. Even Pablo Neruda, one of the most influential 20th century poets who lived in Santiago, Chile, was influence by the invasives around him.

“And I watch my words from a long way off.
They are more yours than mine.
They climb on my old suffering like ivy.”

I love to travel, and in the past I’ve traveled to places that were so different from Oregon that I didn’t recognize the invaders. Indonesia, Ecuador, the Middle East – all these places had amazing biota that were new and unfamiliar to me. Maybe these species were invasive, but I couldn’t tell! If anything, the species I did recognize were actually invasive in Oregon or my home state of North Carolina, but I was seeing them in their native habitat. For example,  lionfish (Pterois volitans) are an invasive species in North Carolina, but endemic to Indonesia, so when I saw them in their native habitat of Indonesia, I couldn’t get the negative invasive association out of my head! But the thing about Chile is that the 45th parallel also runs through it, so the climate, conditions, and plant composition can be quite similar to Oregon’s.

Pampas grass, which is considered invasive in Oregon, is actually native to Chile!

 

The Invasive Eye is something that we often talk about in the world of invaders. It’s the idea that once you learn to identify an invasive species, you suddenly start seeing it everywhere! Think about ivy…  once you learn that it is an invasive species, you start to see it along the riverfront downtown Corvallis, in the neighborhood parks in Philomath, and all along the Willamette River. I won’t even mention the amount of ivy on Interstate 205 northbound…The Invasive Eye can be a curse, for sure, but also a benefit. Maybe you spot a new invader on your walk through downtown, report it to Oregon Invasives Hotline or call your invasives coordinator at your SWCD (that would be me for Benton County!). We work to rapidly respond to new sightings of invasives, striving to eliminate any invaders early. We have responded rapidly to a new A-listed species in Oregon called oblong spurge (Euphorbia oblongata). The species has only been found in four locations in Benton County, so if you see it please let us know ASAP so that we can continue to keep populations limited.

Even Pablo Neruda couldn’t keep the ivy from taking over his trees!

 

Another example of Benton SWCD responding to invasive species reports was this last spring when someone came into our office to report Italian thistle (Carduus pycnocephalus) growing around the parking lots in downtown Corvallis. We were able to gather a great group of volunteers within days to run out and pull the Italian thistle from the known areas prior to seeds dispersal. We are working to continue to control this species in the downtown area by hosting another weed pull on March 18th. Register here if you’re interested in participating!

Weed pulls are a great way to help control invasive species. Benton SWCD continues to organize the Let’s Pull Together event – this year it will be on May 16, 2020! Check back on our website for updates! We also will be hosting three Paddle and Weed Pulls to hand pull aquatic invasives –  July 15, July 23, and August 13, 2020. Bring your own boat or borrow one from Willamette Riverkeeper!

The best way, though to control invasive species is through preventing them from occurring in the first place. Practice “Clean Drain Dry” methods when boating, and “Play Clean Go” methods when out recreating. Let’s continue to work together to conserve our natural resources for current and future generations of Benton County residents!