By Ted Waddell
CALLICOON March 23, 2004 Huge clusters of ten-foot-high plants are invading the Delaware River valley.
Chop them up into 100 pieces or whack the heck out of them with razor-sharp sickles, and they regenerate into a hundred new plants.
Pull the weeds up by the roots, and the rhizomes are stronger than ever next year.
Dump herbicides on them, and they think its time for a second helping.
No, its not a green-hued bug-eyed alien from a Grade B sci-fi flick.
Its Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum), a non-native invasive herbaceous perennial that is enveloping the banks of the Delaware River and its watershed.
Its a plant that has a lot of local folks tied up in knots about how to get rid of it.
Its completely taken over the banks of Skinners Falls, said Alison Peck Smith, a member of the Callicoon Creek Park Committee. Along the river, you have to fight your way through.
Last year after working on the garden beds, the committee straightened up and noticed the view of the flowing waters was blocked by a stand of knotweed.
A view of the creek would be nice, recollected Smith.
So the committee used some of their Sullivan Renaissance grant money to start chopping down the pesky plant.
The stated mission of the Callicoon Creek Park is threefold: serve as a perpetually open space for the enjoyment of local residents and the general public; preserve and enhance the natural beauty and environment of the creek and the local hamlet; and provide an open-air facility for organized community functions.
Members of the committee include Ginny Boyle, Kathy Langley, Alison Peck Smith, Michael Chojnicki and Joseph Freda.
Our goal is to get rid of it in Callicoon Creek Park, said Smith. But its pretty much for naught unless we can get people who live up the creek to address the issue on their private property.
With the thought that whats up the creek usually flows downstream, and to give people on both sides of the river an idea of the scope of the knotty problem, Smith asked a couple of experts to present a program on the impacts of invasive plant species.
The grassroots informational meeting was presented at the Delaware Youth Center on Thursday by Jamie Myers, a biologist with the National Park Service (NPS) assigned to the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, and Rocci Aguirre, Catskill Coordinator for Trout Unlimited (TU).
Myers listed five non-native invasive plants as major threats in the river valley: Japanese Knotweed, Purple Loosestrife, Garlic Mustard, Multifora Rose and Japanese Barberry.
Also to be on the lookout for are Eurasian Water Milfoil and European Water Chestnut.
Our big star of the night is the Japanese Knotweed, said Myers. Its spread by the growth and fragmentation of rhizomes, which can spread 25-50 feet underground to make dense stands of monoculture which limits biodiversity in infected areas.
Myers said Japanese Knotweed invades degraded habitats such as riverbanks, and with a growth rate of up to 3-4 inches per day, it can overtake scoured shores and riverbanks, and forms extremely persistent and dense thickets which exclude almost all other types of vegetation.
Invasive plants are the second greatest threat to Americas native species, only trailing behind habitat destruction, she said.
Across the country, Americas natural heritage is being placed under seige by invading species of non-native plants, she added.
In the Delaware River valley, Japanese Knotweed is destroying wildlife habitat and degrading the wild and scenic beauty of the landscape.
Myers said the Japanese Knotweed and most other invasive plants are introduced from other continents and arrived in this country without their natural predators (insects and/or diseases).
This has caused a lot of the plants to proliferate and begin growing out of control, she said.
The NPS recently created a knotweed battle zone pilot project on federally owned property near the Lackawaxen, Pa. boat launch along the Delaware River, where Myers tests out different strategies for eliminating the troublesome plant.
The Nature Conservancy is battling Japanese Knotweed on Butternut Island, a group of upstream weed warriors has had success in controlling it at a river access near Hancock and folks in Livingston Manor have banded together to fight it along a local stream.
The move toward dealing with invasives is in its infancy, said Aguirre. The key to this whole thing is funding. . . . The big push is to coordinate our efforts.
The knotweed is the scourge of the river valley, he said.
Trout Unlimited has over 100,000 members in 450 chapters nationwide. Its primary mission is to conserve, protect and restore North Americas trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.
In 2000, the Delaware River Invasive Plant Partnership (DRIPP) was established to initiate a regional effort focused on reducing the negative impacts of invasive plants in the Delaware River watershed and advancing regional coordination and management.
Invasive plants alter soil composition, change water levels and water quality. . . . They are a major threat to the Delaware River watershed, said DRIPP in an informational flyer.
Also on the front lines of the fight against Japanese Knotweed is the Upper Delaware Community Knotweed Project, a volunteer communications network created in September 2003 to share information about the invasive plant species.
For information about the Japanese Knotweed (and other non-native invasive plants) including how to recognize them, eradicate them and what to plant in their place contact:
National Park Service, Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River at 570-729-7842; jamie_myers @nps.gov; or www.nps.gov.upde.
Rocci Aguirre, Catskill Coordinator for Trout Unlimited, at 607-498-4671; firstname.lastname@example.org; or www. tu.org.
Joanne Steinhart, project manager, DRIPP/The Nature Conservancy at 570-643-7922 ext. 12 or jsteinhart @tnc.org.
The Upper Delaware River Community Knotweed Project at updel email@example.com.
According to the NPS, additional information is available at several Web sites: