Fighting the Infamous Five

Volunteers use knowledge (and a little tech) to hunt down invasive plants on New Hampshire's seacoast.

Garlic mustard – it sounds like an extraordinarily delicious topping for your hamburger or hotdog, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, Garlic mustard is an unwanted guest at any Granite Stater’s BBQ this summer (though you can eat it – it tastes delicious)!

Garlic mustard is one of the “Infamous Five” invasive plants that are threatening New Hampshire’s coastal environment. To prepare for that threat, volunteers are training as "Weed Watchers" at Lubberland Creek Preserve in Newmarket.

Led by Joanne Glode, Southern NH Stewardship Ecologist for The Nature Conservancy, and Kevin Lucey of the DES Coastal Program, the training focuses on 5 “Early Detection Species” – invasive plants that either are just getting to New Hampshire or aren’t here yet (that we know of). We fully expect them to flourish if and when they do arrive - unless we find them first! This training educates citizens in the seacoast area to identify these top 5 early detection species of concern, which include ornamental jewelweed, coastal pepperweed, Jimson weed, garlic mustard, and Japanese stiltgrass, and what to do if one is discovered on the seacoast.

Each of these “Infamous Five” plants poses ecological, human health, and economic concerns in our communities. Coastal Pepperweed crowds out native plant species in salt marshes and has already been found in Massachusetts and Maine. To date, its presence around Great Bay is still unknown. To ensure coastal pepperweed doesn’t gain a foothold here, our volunteers will be helping to search the salt marshes of Great Bay for this plant throughout the summer. 

Jimson weed has already appeared in a few small stands in New Hampshire sand dunes. If ingested, this plant is highly poisonous. To curb its spread, volunteers will be slathering on their sunscreen and heading to the beach to help scout for this species on our sandy shores. Once found, volunteers can use a mobile app (“IPANE”) to report their finds, and help direct future control activities. 

“Folks living in the seacoast area are no strangers to invasive plants. Most people have a pesky bittersweet vine or multiflora rose in their yard that they are relentlessly yanking out,” says Joanne. “Our new Weed Watchers are doing a true service for the natural lands of the seacoast by protecting them from the next round of invasive species. Through their observations, we’ll be better informed as to when and where a new species of invasive plant is detected so we can quickly act to control these populations before they become the next ubiquitous backyard weed.”

As part of Weed Watcher Training, volunteers have been pulling a population of garlic mustard from the Lubberland Creek Preserve that was first identified in 2011 by the Conservancy’s Early Detection Program. During their last outing, volunteers spent 2 hours pulling the plants. They didn’t top any hamburgers that day, but they did fill over 30 garbage bags with their finds!
For more information on any of these species, or to join in the volunteer monitoring effort, please contact Joanne Glode.


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