Life & Style
Getting Into the Weeds
Charlotte Pyle and Donna Ellis have worked together on the Connecticut Invasive Plants Working Group Symposium since 2002. Pyle is a co-chair for the 2020 online conference, while Ellis, a past conference co-chair, continues to assist. Here, they are speaking on invasive plant management for the Northeast Organic Farming Association. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Connolly )
The Connecticut Invasive Plants Working Group will hold its tenth biannual conference online Wednesday, Oct. 7. The group’s website offers numerous plant identification and weed management resources. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Connolly )
In the past, the Connecticut Invasive Plants Working Group provided a rogues gallery of displays to help visitors learn to identify invasive plants. This year, the online conference will use short videos to do the same during break times. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Connolly )
In spite of its attractive purple flower, water hyacinth is on the state’s invasive species list. It was part of a display at the 2016 CIPWG conference. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Connolly )
It was just an innocent-looking seedling in June, but by the end of August, Japanese stilt grass was like a toddler on a tantrum—you couldn’t ignore it.
A short six weeks ago, mugwort plants were hard to distinguish from chrysanthemums. Now, mugwort towers on its incorrigible spreading roots, and seems to say, “In your face, weed whacker.”
No question about it, by this time of the summer, invasive plants are visible, loud, and cranky. But invasive plant management is a year-round job and a sometimes perplexing one. Just ask Donna Ellis and Charlotte Pyle, two long-time members of the Connecticut Invasive Plants Working Group (CIPWG).
“About 25 years ago, we began to recognize a set of non-native plants increasing rapidly, spreading up roadsides, in wetlands, and in sites where the soil was disturbed,” says Ellis, a retired senior extension educator for UConn’s Department of Plant Science & Landscape Architecture.
The state botanist at that time, Les Mehroff, and Ellis convened the first meeting of the group in 1997. Soon, the meetings included federal, state, and town agency staff, non-profit conservation groups, members of the Federated Garden Clubs, researchers, nursery and landscaping representatives, educators, master gardeners, and interested citizens.
Whacking Weed-Related Problems
CIPWG’s role evolved as its members began to hold community lectures, invasive plant pulling parties, and guided walks. CIPWG members started to attend meetings of the state’s Invasive Plants Council, which reviews the state’s official list of more than 90 invasive plants each year (cipwg.uconn.edu/invasive_plant_list).
CIPWG continues to be involved with plant legislation and gathers public input on weed-related problems.
“By 2002, we felt the need to offer public outreach,” says Ellis.
The first symposium was at Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area in Burlington.
“The conference sold out and we had to turn people away,” she says. The next eight conferences were held every other year at UConn, where “The last few events sold out with 500 attendees.”
When 2020 planning began, COVID-19 seemed far away. Now, the entire conference has gone virtual, scheduled on Wednesday, Oct. 7.
“The transition to online delivery brought a steep learning curve,” says Charlotte Pyle, Ph.D., one of this year’s three co-chairs. “But the good news is that we can accommodate so many more people and attendees won’t have to drive long distances.”
Pyle is a retired ecologist whose career at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service brought her field experience with the insurgence of non-native invasive plants. She got involved with CIPWG in 2000.
“The invasive plants are not going away,” says Pyle. “They have a negative impact everywhere, from natural habitats to backyards and neighborhoods to highway corridors.”
Among the problems related to invasive weeds, Pyle lists wildlife habitat destruction, loss of habitat for native plants, interference with food production, and the massive amount of public and private funds that are devoted to solving invasive plant problems.
“Looking back 20 years, the planning team felt that public consciousness about invasive plant management has increased and the demand for non-chemical solutions has increased,” says Pyle. “With more invasive plants in the landscape, more people are asking for solutions,” she adds.
A Focus on Solutions
The 2020 symposium Realistic Solutions to Managing Invasive Weeds focuses on solutions for specific species and a wide variety of situations and management techniques.
The day will open with a look back at past topics and their current evolution, then continue with an invasive plant management roundtable. During six additional sessions, speakers will discuss weed management timing, techniques for managing large parcels as well as small, use of native plants, aquatic weeds, and Japanese knotweed removal. There will be an update on weed-related legislation. Break periods will offer topical videos on weed identification and related topics.
The symposium is suitable for people in a wide array of backgrounds, including property owners, community volunteers, master gardeners, land care and natural resource professionals, landscape architects, members of conservation organizations, and town committee members. All interested persons are welcome.
More information is available at cipwg.uconn.edu/2020-symposium.
Twelve organizations offer their members continuing education units for conference attendance, including Pesticide Applicator Recertification, Association of Professional Landscape Designers, Certified Connecticut Forest Practitioners, Certified Master Gardeners, Connecticut Accredited Nursery Professional, New England Society of American Foresters, Connecticut-licensed landscape architects, Connecticut Recreation and Parks Association, Massachusetts and Rhode Island Certified Horticulturists, Northeast Organic Farming Association Accredited Organic Land Care Professionals, and Tree Wardens Association of Connecticut.
Registration is $50 for early birds who sign up by Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 7. After Labor Day, registration is $65. The conference fee includes extensive resource material, available as downloads. Conference sessions will be recorded and available for later viewing by paid registrants.
Check out the CIPWG website cipwg.uconn.edu for lots of invasive plant resources, such as fact sheets and forms to help report weed sightings.
Kathy Connolly of Old Saybrook writes and speaks on horticulture and ecology. Reach her through her website www.SpeakingofLandscapes.com.