Here’s your chance to become a “citizen scientist” and help combat an invasive plant that impacts forests, crops, parks, vegetable gardens and even your attic.
University scientists are trying to find out how common buckthorn is in Ohio, Michigan and Iowa in an effort to develop strategies to manage it. Of course, they can’t do it alone, so they are enlisting as many people as possible to go looking for this prolific European import and report their sightings online.
“Buckthorn Watch” (http://buckthornwatch.org) is a program established by Ohio State University, Michigan State University and Iowa State University to map, study and manage this fast-growing shrub — which was introduced in the early 1800s by European settlers and can grow up to 22 feet tall, taking over disturbed areas along roads and railroad rights-of-way, near power lines, in fencerows separating crop fields, and on the edges of forests.
“We really want people to go out in the nice fall weather and look for buckthorn on their farms, properties, woods, parks or private land where they have permission to go,” said Mary Gardiner, assistant professor of entomology and director of the Agricultural Landscape Ecology Lab at Ohio State’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster.
All you need to know to become a buckthorn hunter is on the program’s website, including identification tips and more information on the impacts of this plant. But here’s a hint: it’s a preferred host for soybean aphids, which lower soybean yields, spread viruses to veggies, and are a favorite meal of the also-invasive multicolored Asian beetles — yes, the ones that invade homes by the troves every autumn!
Learn more about the impacts of buckthorn here.