A Case of Mistaken Identity: Hydrilla vs. Elodea

Oftentimes, native plants and their invasive counterparts appear nearly indistinguishable to an untrained eye. These physiological similarities may allow the invader to remain undetected for years. This ability to remain concealed, hidden from early detection, paired with their competitive edge in resource acquisition is what allows them to turn into nuisances, capable of altering entire ecosystems. This secretive similarity in the nature of plant growth is an example of a case between two similar looking aquatic plants, Elodea and Hydrilla, which caused some excitement this summer.

Learn. Get Involved. Make a Difference.

Comparison of hybrid and parent species of honeysuckle. Left to Right: Morrow’s, showy, and tatarian honeysuckle leaves and flowers. Photo credit: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org

Over 75% of Vermont is beautiful forests – with more than 80% of that being privately owned – but much of that forest land faces a significant forest health threat in the form of invasive plants. It is up to each of us to do our part, whether on our own land or in our communities, to help protect Vermont forests for future generations. Even small actions, like choosing locally evolved plants for your garden or pulling up garlic mustard on town trails add up to make a big difference. At the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, our burgeoning Invasive Plant Program is working to help steward Vermont’s state-owned public lands and, through grant funded programs, help communities do the same with support by trained professionals.

Statewide Invasive Plant Phenology Monitoring Project

Go take a hike. Or a walk. Or a drive. Whatever gets you outside and looking at plants! This was the directive Lina Swislocki, the VT Forests Parks & Recreation’s Assistant Invasive Plants Coordinator playfully gave to volunteer observers. During the second full week of each month from April to September, these observers take note of all things invasive plants – getting up close and personal to collect data on invasive plant phenology.

Species Spotlight: Garlic Mustard

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is an invasive herbaceous biennial plant. It is thought to have originated in Europe where it was historically grown as food and medicine. It likely came to the Vermont region with colonizers in the 1600s – so long ago that many people don’t realize it didn’t evolve here – and has been widely seen in area woodlands since the late 1800s.

Gypsy (LDD) Moths Are Making A Comeback in Vermont

Many Vermonters around the state are encountering gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar dispar or LDD) caterpillars causing defoliation of their trees. This invasive insect arrived in the United States over 100 years ago and has been expanding its range ever since. LDD can be a significant defoliator (leaf eater) of trees and shrubs, and although they prefer oak trees, high populations will cause them to eat many types of leaves, including maple and pine. LDD  caterpillars can create a nuisance for homeowners, from the sights of caterpillars climbing the sides of residences and falling frass to the sounds of chewing on leaves.