Panel addresses invasive species

TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

The Bristol Public Works Department, in conjunction with the Environmental Learning Centers of Connecticut, and the Bristol Garden Club, hosted a workshop on invasive species of plants and insects that are threatening the native ecosystem of Connecticut.

Held at the Bristol Public Library last Wednesday,  the event featured three speakers  executive director of the ELCCT, Scott Heth; Dr. Jeffrey Ward of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station; and Peter Picone, a Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Wildlife Biologist.  An invasive species is one that that is introduced to an ecosystem, but is not native to that ecosystem. This is problematic, the experts explained, because there are no natural checks and balances, which means that the invasive species can grow rampantly without a natural enemy in that area.

Heth discussed invasive plant species, which he defined as “organisms that are not native, which cause harm” to the biological diversity of a specific ecosystem.

In the Bristol area, invasive plants to look out for are phragmites (the common reed), the multiflora rose, the Japanese barberry, oriental bittersweet, the winged euonymus, the autumn olive, and the Japanese knotweed which is also known as bamboo.

Ward discussed invasive insects, such as the gypsy moth and Asian longhorn beetle, both of which can eat through trees at such a rate that tree species can die out in an area, or, are deemed in need of removal in order to reduce the spread of invasive insect species.

Picone shared list of plants that are native to Connecticut, which he recommends using as a resource for your landscape needs. These include the highbush blueberry, the red mulberry, dogwood trees, white oak, supar maples, the New England aster, goldenrods, deer-tongue grass, wild columbine flowers, mountain mint, black eyed susans, butterfly weed, and wild indigo.

All three experts offered advice on how to reduce threat of an invasive plant, such as cutting them down (effective on the Japanese knotweed), pulling up the plant (effective on the multiflora rose), smothering or burning the plant (effective on the Japanese barberry, but should only be when authorized so as to not cause a forest fire), or painting or spraying herbicides (the painting method is effective on the stump of the bittersweet in the fall, when the plant is pulling sugars down into the root.)

For more information, contact David Oakes, the Energy and Facilities Manager in the Bristol Public Works Department at davidoakes@bristolct.gov.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@BristolObserver.com.