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Ten years of nipping invasive species in the bud
3/29/2018 Volume XLVIII, No. 13

Do you have Japanese angelica, Siebold’s viburnum or trifolate orange in your yard? If so, they can spell trouble.

All three are invasive plants, meaning they’re alien to New Jersey and can spread widely. They’re not a food source for native wildlife, and they’ll aggressively crowd out native plants.

Japanese angelica, Siebold’s viburnum and trifolate orange are among several new invasive plants identified by the New Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team, a nonprofit dedicated to eradicating new invasive species before they can become established.

On Wednesday, April 11, the Strike Team will hold its 10th annual conference at Duke Farms in Hillsborough. “It’s a milestone for us,” said Michael Van Clef, the team’s science director, noting that the Strike Team was founded in 2008.

The all-day conference will inform land preservationists, park and open space agencies, landowners and farm organizations about emerging invasive species threats and what can be done to stop them. This year’s workshops feature rare species conservation, the newest emerging invasives, and the status of invasives in central New Jersey forests.

Van Clef said many New Jerseyans are not aware of invasive plants in our landscape. “If people see green, it’s good,” he said. “They think that if a piece of land is not paved over, it must be okay.”

But invasive species are now threatening the habitats of some of New Jersey’s most rare and endangered species, like bog turtles, golden-winged warblers and flowering swamp pink plants.

According to Van Clef, over 130 invasive plants have been identified in New Jersey. About 30-35 are considered “widespread,” meaning they’re found nearly everywhere and would be almost impossible to eradicate. They include mugwort, Japanese honeysuckle, garlic mustard, European privet, multiflora rose and Japanese stiltgrass.

Rather than attacking these widespread invasives, the Strike Team focuses instead on invasives that have not yet gained a strong foothold. “We practice early detection and rapid response,” Van Clef said. “If we know something’s an emerging threat, we want to get out in front of it and stop it.”

Right now, the worst of New Jersey’s emerging threats are forest shrubs like Siebold’s viburnum, linden viburnum and common buckthorn. All are tall, tolerant of shade, and able to out-compete native forest plants.

The Strike Team also focuses on invasive animals. Recently, they helped New Jersey Conservation Foundation eradicate Chinese pond mussels – never before seen in North America - from a former fish farm in Hunterdon County. The Strike Team also raises awareness of tree-killing insects like the Emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle.

Want to help? Here’s how:

  • Volunteer as a “detector.” Visit natural areas with your smartphone or tablet, look for invasive species and report them. Download the free app for photographing and reporting potentially invasive plants by going to
  • Volunteer as a “striker” on teams that are eradicating confirmed invasive plant populations throughout the state. Go to to fill out a volunteer form.
  • Pledge not to use any invasive plants on your property, even if the idea of “deer-proof” plants seems tempting. The Strike Team maintains a “Do Not Plant” list of invasive species that can be downloaded from its homepage at
  • Go native. Native plants provide food for insects, which in turn are eaten by native songbirds. They also produce fruits and seeds for birds.
  • Attend the April 11 conference to learn more about invasive species. To register for the conference, go to

Kudos to the New Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team for 10 years of working to protect New Jersey’s native species and biodiversity!

For more information about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at



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