October 2015
Texas Gulf Region CWMA Holds Braizilian Peppertree Removal Event in Port Aransas

The dunes and other natural areas around Port Aransas have been invaded by Brazilian peppertree (Schinus terebinthifolius), a non-native tree that is altering the native coastal prairie habitat in these areas. In an effort to battle the threat to Port Aransas' natural heritage, partners with the Texas Gulf Region Cooperative Weed Management Area worked with volunteers to remove invasive Brazilian peppertrees and replace them with native trees and shrubs. The work party focused on the edges of a seasonal pond in Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pature. Thank you to all who participated and contributed!

For more on the 
Texas Gulf Region Cooperative Weed Management Area, see their information on the Texasinvasives.org website.


Preparing lionfish for, and feeding the crowd at, the "Eat the Invasives" event.
Photographer: Hans Landel, LBJWC

Issues with Texasinvasives.org Website and Reporting

Please be aware that some particularly tricky issues have appeared with the Texasinvasives.org website, and with reporting observations both online and with the Android version of the phone app. A few users have reported not being able to submit observations on the website, with the website returning a message about memory problems (for the website, not the users!). Several users of the Android phone app have found that it will upload only a certain small and variable number of complete observations before it uploads some (again, a variable number) without the associated pictures. In addition, the website appears to have an issue with the "Report It!" reporting function, and some mapping problems. Earlier in the year, the "picaptcha" system that was used to prevent spam from being submitted on the site stopped working. It turned out that the company that hosted the server for that system went out of business without notice, so it took a while to figure out that was the problem and then to fix it.

We are working hard to fix these problems. The Android version of the app has been updated, so be sure you update it on your phone, but we don't know yet whether that revision will fix the problem.

We apologize for these issues. It is unclear why they have appeared now. Please accept our apologies; we know this can be very frustrating.

On a postive note, the update to the Android phone app now saves pictures you take from within the app to your photo gallery on the phone, so you have a copy of them.

Please see below for a review of tips on taking good photographs for submission.

TexasInvasives.org website


Invasive Spotlight:
Tropical Soda Apple
(Solanum viarum)

Tropical soda apple, a native to Argentina and Brazil, is an upright, thorny perennial subshrub or shrub that grows from 3 to 6 feet (1 to 2 m) in height, with prickly stems and leaves. It produces clusters of tiny white flowers, and green-and-white mottled young fruit that mature to yellow golf-ball sized fruit. Its fruit is sweet smelling and attractive to livestock and wildlife, which eat it and spread the seeds. Tropical soda apple remains green over winter in most southern locations. It is typically found in open semi-shaded areas such as pastures, ditch banks, roadsides, recreational areas, citrus groves, sugar cane fields, and wet areas of rangeland. It is usually found in soils that are poorly drained and sandy, but cannot survive extremely wet soils.

Tropical soda apple causes several problems as it has the ability to grow and spread quickly; each plant can produce approximately 50,000 seeds. Ecologically, it reduces biological diversity in natural areas by displacing native plants and disrupting ecological integrity. Its prickles can restrict wildlife grazing and create a physical barrier to animals, preventing movement through infested areas. Agriculturally, tropical apple soda infests crop fields and reduces usable pastureland, and can prevent cattle from reaching shade. This invader also serves as a host for several viruses and insect pests that attack important vegetable crops. In addition, tropical soda apple’s fruit contains solasodine, which is poisonous to humans. Because of these threats, tropical soda apple is on the Texas Department of Agriculture and Federal Noxious Weed Lists.

If you believe you have found tropical soda apple, please report this species.

To learn more about the trocial soda apple, see this entry in Texasinvasives.org.


Photographer: Charles T. Bryson (modified by Hans Landel)
Source: USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org



More News

Non-Native Plants in Gardens Support Lower Herbivore Diversity than Native Plants
A University of Delaware study examined the diversity of herbivores found on native vs. non-native plants in gardens. “Not only do native plants do a better job of hosting and supporting local insect communities than their non-native counterparts, but shows that non-native plants are compounding the problem of declining species diversity by supporting fewer herbivores across landscapes,” the researchers report. More information can be found at newswise.

EPA Loses Court Case Concerning Ballast Water Filtration
Many environmental groups are rejoicing as the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has ruled against the EPA’s decision to adopt international technology standards concerning ballast water filtration. Read more about the court’s ruling at the hill.

Invasive Grass Threatens Grasslands of Pacific Northwest
Botanist Mark Darrach has discovered three rare plants that call the Palouse region of southeastern Washington home. Unfortunately Ventenata dubia, an invasive grass mighty enough to kill cheatgrass and destroy this rolling grassland, was also discovered. Learn more about ventenata and the Palouse at pri.

Invasive Species Become Junk Food
Researchers from Ohio State University and the University of Georgia reexamined roughly twenty years of environmental studies regarding the relationship between predator and prey species. They found that overall, predators benefited from feeding on invasive species but only when native prey species remained the primary food source. Read more about the analysis at osu.

A New Study Reveals an Ecological Mirage
A salt marsh plant called smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) was thought to be a native of the Atlantic salt marsh ecosystem in South America until researchers recently discovered it was introduced roughly 200 years ago. This discovery highlights how misconceptions like this can create an ecological mirage or illusion of how an entire ecosystem evolves. Such misunderstandings can have huge impacts. Learn more at science daily.

Trading Invasive Species Using the Online Marketplace
Research done by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich set out to monitor floral trade online by creating a program that automatically monitors auction sites. They found that out of thousands of plants up for sale each day, roughly 500 of those species being offered were known invasive species. They also found a remarkable lack of enforcement concerning the governing of trade. Read more about their program, study and findings at trading invasives.

Microbial Invasions Mirror Invasions by Other Invasive Species
Researchers at the University of Groningen have discovered that microorganisms show biogeographical patterning and that microbial invasions follow the same generalized pattern animal and plant species follow when invading a new area. Learn more about their study and how microbes can be used to model ecological experiments at microbes.

Invasive Bird Brings New Threat
Indian myna birds (
Acridotheres tristis), an invasive species, endanger native Australian birds by driving them from their nesting sites. A new study has found that almost half the Indian mynas also carry exotic avian malaria that poses a serious health risk to native bird populations. Read more at phys.org.

Oriental Fruit Fly Puts Florida Agriculture on Lockdown
Farmers in South Florida are under quarantine as the Oriental fruit flies (Bactrocera dorsalis) have infested the area. The flies live for 30-45 days and a female can lay up to 1,500 eggs in a life time. She can lay up to 20 eggs at a time, which are deposited in fruits. This infestation is different from past invasions as the current wave of fruit flies are occupying areas with multiple host fruits. Learn more about the quarantine and how the USDA and Florida Department of Agriculture are dealing with the fruit fly at phys.org.

Analyzing Grain Networks to Stop Pests
Researchers at the University of Florida have analyzed how rail networks move grain throughout the U.S. and Australia to identify areas where grain is the most vulnerable to pests and pathogens. Read more about the study and its potential to improve control efforts at grain.

Feral Pigs Threaten Keystone Species in Australia
The Walpole Nornalup National Parks have two peat bogs that are home to endemic keystone amphibian and plant species. Roughly 10,000 pigs also call the area home and are responsible for aerating the peat as they burrow for food and wallows.This causes peat decomposition and habitat loss. Learn about how feral pigs and peat decomposition can affect the park at pesky pigs.

Migratory Birds Bring Pathogen-carrying Non-Native Ticks to U.S.
Tick species not normally present in the United States are arriving here on migratory birds. Some of these ticks carry disease-causing Ricksettia species, and some of those species are exotic to the US. The investigators estimated that more than 19 million exotic ticks are introduced into the US each spring. Currently, none of the non-native ticks have established a population, but there is precendence for this happening in the Carribean, and climate change may allow the ticks to spread. More information can be found at sciencdaily.com.

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

Some Tips for Taking Pictures for Submission

A very important step in reporting observations is to take a photograph of the invasive plant you have found. Because this photograph is used by experts to validate your observation, it is paramount that the photograph is of high enough quality that the expert can use it. Furthermore, if one of your observations has to be rejected because the image you submit is of poor quality, your time will have been wasted! For these reasons, let's take a moment to review some tips for taking photographs that will be useful in the validation process. Some of these tips can also be found in the training handbook, and in the online training.

  1. Take landscape (horizontal) not portrait (vertical) images; portrait images can cause problems during upload, and take up more room on the Texasinvasives.org website.
  2. Take close-up images, so the validator can see leaf and other characteristics. Pictures of whole plants in the distance are useful only if it is clear which plant you're taking a picture of, and if it clearly shows distinguishing features.  Use your discretion, always remembering that someone is going to use your picture to validate your identification of the plant.
  3. Put a plain background, such as your clipboard, a piece of paper, or bare ground, behind the specimen. This provides contrast.
  4. Include something in the image that will indicate the size of the specimen, such as a coin, pen, finger, or hand, or even a small ruler. Leaf size is an important characteristic of some species, such as the privets and largeleaf lantana.
  5. Be sure the plant in your photo is in focus BEFORE you upload your photo!
In addition, try to get to know the distinguishing features of the invasive plant you are photographing, so that you can do your best to capture those characteristics in your image. For example, a clear distinguishing characteristic of paper mulberry that separates it from the native mulberries is the pubescence (fine hairs) on the leaves and small stems. Capturing that requires a close-up with sharp focus. As another example, your plant of interest may be distinguished from other plants by having lighter undersides of the leaf. In this case, take a picture that shows both the upper and lower surfaces of leaves.
poor photo
This is a poor image because it's difficult to determine which plant is being referenced, and the plants are too far away.
which grass?
Which grass is this?
out of focus
Not in focus!
GOOD photo

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, which are free, 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 Texasinvasives.org designed to help organize and track volunteer-based eradication efforts.

Upcoming Workshops:

Saturday, December 12, 2015
Location: Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary (Houston, TX)
Contact: Bethany Foshée

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