National Invasive Species Awareness Week: March 3-8

By Katherine Hollins, Regional Stewardship Organizer – Eastern Lower Peninsula

Autumn Olive by Tracy Lee Carroll

Autumn Olive by Tracy Lee Carroll

Stewardship staff and volunteers here at MNA spend a lot of time thinking about, looking at, pulling, chopping, and otherwise dealing with invasive plants. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine what anyone did to keep busy before they arrived!

Since we spend so much time dealing with established populations, it’s easy to forget that the best time to manage invasive plants is when you barely notice their presence. That’s why the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) was established.

Garlic Mustard by eLeSeA

Garlic Mustard by eLeSeA

The MISIN website is host to a great collection of tools and information to help you keep an eye out for invasive plants that may have just arrived in your neighborhood. MISIN has a series of identification tutorials  to help you learn the distinctive features of different invasives, and a free app to let you submit information right from the field.

If the list of tutorials is overwhelming, try starting with some pretty common plants like autumn olive, phragmites, or garlic mustard. See if you can find them along the road or in your neighborhood. Once you’re familiar with those, move on to some less-common, but on-the-move invasives like black swallowwort. MNA staff and seasoned volunteers are always happy to help you learn new invasives at our regularly scheduled volunteer days.

Volunteers at a Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary workday

Volunteers at a Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary workday

What’s even better than early detection? Prevention! Check out this short video about preventing aquatic hitchhikers, or if you’re eager to cozy up on a long winter night, the US Department of the Interior put together a hefty guide to cleaning equipment and vehicles to prevent the transport of invasives. And if you’re planning some new landscaping at your house, you can use this app or pdf to identify alternatives to invasive plants.

There are also many national events going on during National Invasive Species Awareness Week. For a complete list, visit the NISAW website. The first step is raising awareness, so don’t forget to share what you learn with your friends and neighbors!

MNA Co-Steward Featured in Environmental E-Newsletter

Recently, the Sisters of the Precious Blood of Dayton, Ohio featured the efforts of the co-steward of Alta Warren Parsons Memorial Nature Sanctuary, Sister Marie Kopin, in their C.PP.S. Environmental E-Newsletter. We’ve reprinted the article with permission below:

Marie Kopin here hard at work, volunteers as a MNA Sanctuary Steward.

Marie Kopin here hard at work, volunteers as a MNA Sanctuary Steward. Photo by Katherine Hollins

Marie works with MNA in stewardship of nature

Sister Marie Kopin is a volunteer ‘Co-Steward’ of the Alta Warren Parsons Memorial Nature Sanctuary in Clare County, Michigan, near Farwell. It is owned and protected by the Michigan Nature Association (MNA), which has just celebrated it’s 60th anniversary year of existence in preserving vital types of plants and wildlife areas of Michigan. Marie is a life member of MNA. 

Parson’s Sanctuary boasts many kinds of terrain including some of the shoreline of Ferguson Lake. This preserve is listed as one of the ‘show piece sanctuaries’ of MNA in Michigan with easy access, a nice trail system, and various habitats including forests, swamp, a beaver dam, hills, and some flat land forest. As a MNA Sanctuary Steward, Marie visits this sanctuary several times each year, participates in workdays, contributes a mycological species count, and a yearly report along with her partner, ‘Buzz’ Parsons, son of the original donor of this preserve.

On a recent December work day, (note picture) Marie used a device made from PVC pipes to “paint” Round-up in an effort to remove ‘Autumn olive’, a dangerously invasive species overpopulating many Michigan fields and woodlands on freshly cut stems and branches of the invasive Autumn Olive Plant (Elaeganus umbellata). It is a dense brushy plant with sharp thorns which is now overpopulating many Michigan fields and woodlands. This species is starting to ‘take over’ a number of areas at Parsons Sanctuary, and is becoming a big nuisance in many parts of Michigan and in Ohio and other states as well. For more information go to and/or see an informative video at

To take a look at the ‘now’ range of distribution of this particular invasive species in our NE states, go to This USDA Forest Service map shows at least 15 counties in Ohio plagued with Autumn Olive, plus twice as many in Michigan.

A Rattlesnake Plantain Plant (Goodyera Pubescens), of the orchid family, grows at Parsons and hopefully will continue if invasive species are removed.

A Rattlesnake Plantain Plant (Goodyera Pubescens), of the orchid family, grows at Parsons and hopefully will continue if invasive species are removed. Photo by Katherine Hollins

MNA is one of the leading associations in Michigan which sponsors work-days to remove this and other invasive plants. Volunteers work hard in MNA’s growing collection of some 10,000 acres in over 150 nature sanctuaries. MNA is also one of the leaders in education of the public about prevention and control of these unwanted species so that Michigan forests can survive and not be choked out by unwanted plants. Marie enjoys being connected with this organization since the 1970’s when she moved back to Michigan. It has been an inspiration for her to work with people concerned about preserving our natural species and the environment.

In addition to her participation in the work days, Marie petitioned a county commissioner asking that the issue be addressed at an Isabella County Commissioners meeting in an effort to initiate an education and volunteer removal program. She notes that this invasive species problem started with a few plants bought from a nursery. Once established, the roots spread and are increasingly hard to eradicate. In addition, after eating the berries, the birds spread the seeds and the cycle continues. What are some invasive species in your area?

Copyright 2013, Sisters of the Precious Blood of Dayton, Ohio.

Visit the MNA website to learn how you can get involved as a sanctuary steward or volunteer.