New App Allows New Jersey Residents to get rid of Invasive Plant Life

April showers, check. May flowers, on the way!

At last, it’s the season of colorful blossoms in woods and meadows, and along roadsides and backyard edges. But sometimes looks are deceiving. Such is often the case with invasive plants.

Non-native, invasive plants may seem every bit as glorious as New Jersey’s native wildflowers. But if you’re a bird, insect or mammal looking for food, you may starve!

Native plants provide food for insects, which are themselves eaten by songbirds. Native plants also produce fruits and seeds that are eaten by birds, as well as leaves that are munched by white-tailed deer.

Many alien plants don’t play a role in the local food chain. The birds don’t like their seeds and berries, and the insects and deer barely touch their leaves. These non-indigenous plants can spread quickly, taking up large areas that would otherwise be occupied by a diversity of native species.

If you want to know which wild plants to yank from the ground and which to nurture, try out the new app offered by the New Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team.

The Strike Team is a nonprofit group dedicated to stopping the spread of invasive species whose presence is likely to damage the health of the environment. Each year the team creates a list of “target” species and asks our state’s residents to be on the lookout for them.

Using a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Strike Team recently developed a smartphone app that makes it easy to identify and report invasive species.

After downloading the free “New Jersey Invasives” app through iTunes or Google Play, all you have to do is scroll though the images and descriptions of invasive species — and then keep an eye out. If you spot a plant that looks like one of the target species, simply snap a picture, enter some information about the habitat, and submit. Your phone automatically tags the photo with GPS coordinates, so you don’t have to worry about entering an exact location.

Strike Team experts will review all submissions. Once verified, input from the app will be entered into the Strike Team’s statewide database, as well as a national database cataloguing invasive species across the United States.

Widespread invasive plants in New Jersey include mugwort, garlic mustard, Oriental bittersweet, purple loosestrife, Japanese honeysuckle, lesser celandine, watercress, wine raspberry and linden viburnum. They’re found all across this state we’re in, making eradication a challenge.

Emerging threats to watch out for in 2014 include Japanese chaff flower, water wheel plant, Italian arum, blue plantain lily, Scotch broom, birchleaf pear, seaberry, mock-orange, Spanish bluebells, purple stemmed dodder and blackberry lily.

Join the Strike Team and enlist your phone in the fight against invasive species! The Strike Team will appreciate your help … and so will native plants and the diverse wildlife that depends on them.

The Strike Team will hold a number of workshops around the state this spring and summer to demonstrate how to use the app. The team also plans to release a second app this summer, which will allow landowners to track and monitor eradication activities.

To learn more about the apps, visit the New Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team website at www.njisst.org.

And for more information on preserving land and natural resources in New Jersey, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at info@njconservation.org.