New Invasive Species Discovered in Texas

In May, the observant eyes of landowners led to the discovery of a new non-native and potentially invasive species in Texas. Dennis and Denise Johnston came across a wildflower they hadn’t seen before on their ranch in Burnet County. Curious, the couple enlisted the help of Bill Carr, a Texas botanist at Acme Botanical Services. Mr. Carr identified the plant as blue hound’s tongue, Cynoglossum creticum. This plant has been identified in the U.S. only once before, in southwestern Missouri. It is native to the Mediterranean area, and has the potential to be invasive, having caused problems in pastures in some parts of the world. While a quickly organized pulling party spent three hours removing enough to fill two pick-up truck beds, there is still much remaining on not only the Johnston’s property but neighboring ones as well. Plans are being formulated to attack the plant next Spring.  Learn more about blue hound’s tongue.

See below, in the news items section, for another pest species, the bagrada bug, that has just been found in Texas.

BlueHoundsTongue flower and nutlets

Photo credit:  Bill Carr
Burn Local Firewood!

With summer upon us and vacation days in sight, it behooves us to rememeber that if we plan on campling, “Burn It Where You Buy It!”  Several pests can hitchhike in firewood, including the emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle, and the gypsy moth.  So please, if you are going to have a campfire, or even just an evening fire in your backyard fire pit, use only local or heat-treated firewood.
For more information, go to



New Zebra Mussel Public Awareness Campaign

As we mentioned in the iWire last month, a coalition of river authorities, water districts and municipalities across the state, led by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, kicked off the 2015 zebra mussel media campaign in May. The program, funded at $400,000, is designed to educate boaters, fishermen, and other water recreational users, as well as the general public, about the problems caused by zebra mussels and how to prevent their spread. Much of the focus is on the seven Texas lakes currently infested, as well as areas that are at highest risk for infestation by the mussel, including the Highland Lakes. The campaign, considered “the largest investment in public awareness since zebra mussels were discovered in Texas in 2009”, also informs boaters of their legal responsibilities. One of the main messages is, “Clean, Drain and Dry”.
For more information, see TWPD’s news release and their new webpage.

Learn more about zebra mussels at

Photo credits: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
The Ash Seed Conservation Project

The emerald ash borer has not invaded Texas (yet), but there is a program run by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center that is taking a precautionary path.  It involves collecting seeds from the various ash species across the state, and using them to establish a seed bank.  If the worst-case scenario comes to pass and populations of ash are decimated, the seed bank will be used to repopulate the damaged areas.  To ensure the seed bank represents the genetic diversity of each species’ different ecotypes, seeds are collected from individuals across the species’ ranges.
The program relies on volunteers to perform most of the seed collecting.  Already, almost 200 citizen scientist volunteers who have helped to collect over 125,000 seeds.  For more information on the program, including ways you can help and how to volunteer, go to its Wildflower Center website.


Invasive Spotlight:
Salt Cedar
(Tamarix ramosissima)

Salt cedar plants are spreading shrubs or small trees, 5-20 feet tall, with numerous slender branches and small, alternate, scale-like leaves. The pale pink to white flowers are small, perfect and regular, and arranged in spike-like racemes. The distinct petals and sepals occur in fours or fives. The fruit is a capsule.

Salt cedar (Tamarix) taxonomy is currently in a state of confusion. Eight species have been listed as introduced into the United States and Canada. The invasive species (which some specialists consider all T. pentandra) include T. pentandra, T. tetranda, T. gallica, T. chinensis, T. ramosissima, and T. parvifolia. They are all deciduous shrubs. Tamarix is native to a zone stretching from southern Europe and north Africa through the Middle East and south Asia to China and Japan.

Salt cedars have long tap roots that allow them to find deep water tables and interfere with natural aquatic systems. Because of this, they disrupt the structure and stability of native plant communities and degrade native wildlife habitat by outcompeting and replacing native plant species, monopolizing limited sources of moisture, and increasing the frequency, intensity and effect of fires and floods. They provide little more than shelter for native wildlife.

Management is difficult once salt cedar becomes established. It reproduces vegetatively as well as by seed. Each flower can produce thousands of tiny seeds. A combination of mechanical, chemical and biological management methods may be required.

Follow this link to learn more about salt cedar.

SaltCedar_small 2

Photographer: Steve Dewey.
Source: Utah State University,




A New Stink Bug Found in South Texas
The bagrada bug (Bagrada hilaris) has made its way into South Texas. Dr. Raul Villanueva from Texas A&M Agrilife and Extension Center warns that it will primarily affect winter crops, especially brassicas such as cabbage and broccoli. Learn more at bagrada bug.

Walnut Caterpillar on Pecan Trees in East Texas
The walnut caterpillar, Datana integerrima, feeds on the foliage of trees in the family Juglandaceae, which includes pecans, hickories and walnuts. They can strip the new leaves from the trees. Conditions appear to be favorable for them this year in East Texas. This article also suggest ways to control this pest. Learn more at Fort Bend County Agrilife Extension.

Fungi Hold Potential for Invasive Fire Ant Control
Researchers at the University of Maine are exploring the use of newly isolated pathogenic fungi, Ophiocordyceps myrmicarum in efforts to control the invasive European fire ant. While more studies are needed, researchers remain hopeful that O. myrmicarum and two other fungi will help reduce the fire ant populations. Read more about these fungi at

Biogeographic Barriers Redefined by Invasive Species
Researchers in Germany have been able to verify that human trade has led to a homogenization of gastropods across the globe. Learn more about the breakdown of biogeographic barriers and the role climate still plays in the dispersal of species at homogenization.

Can Invasive Shrubs Create New Nesting Opportunities?
Can invasive shrubs such as the multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) create successful nesting sites for native bird populations? Researchers in New York monitored more than 80 Veery nests in the spring of 2013 and found that these birds preferred non-native shrubs to native shrubs. Read more about the surprising new role invasive species are playing in native bird populations at songbirds.

European Trees as Sentinels in China
European and Chinese researchers planted European tree species in two sites in China to study potential invasive insect threats to Europe. The study indicated the greatest potential threat came from insects related to agriculture. Learn more about the study at sentinel trees.

Two Species of Silver Flies from Washington State Tested in Fight Against Hemlock Wooly Adelgid
A team of researchers at the University of Vermont, Oregon State University, and the US Forest Service are experimenting with two species of silver flies native to Washington State as biocontrol agents in the fight against the hemlock wooly adelgid. Early results from the experiment, conducted in New York state and Tennessee, are promising, but it is still early in the experiment. For more, see this Science Daily story.

NAIPC Presents Free Webinar on Aerial Control of Bush Honeysuckle
August 13 @ 3:00 pm EDT. This webinar, presented by the National Association of Invasive Plant Councils, will discuss traditional management techniques for bush honeysuckle, ongoing research and implementation of aerial applications, and future directions. Link to registration.

If you would like your invasive species event or news listed in the next iWire, please send the details to

Sentinel Pest Network and Invaders of Texas Species Workshops

Invaders of Texas workshops train volunteers to become citizen scientists to detect and report invasive species. Workshops include information on the Sentinel Pest Network which serves to increase the awareness of early detection of Emerald Ash Borer, Cactus Moth, Asian Longhorned Beetle, and other pests of regulatory significance.

Workshops are tailored to meet the interests of your volunteer group, and supplementary session examples include an introduction to the TX Invaders mobile application and the Eradicator Calculator, a feature on designed to help organize and track volunteer-based eradication efforts.

Upcoming Workshops:

Saturday, August. 29, 2015
Location: Austin
Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 26, 2014
Location: Houston area?
Stay tuned!

Also look for training workshops as part of The Nature Conservancy's coordinating efforts along the flooded Blanco River.

For more information or to register to attend a workshop, please visit the Workshop Page.