Not So Harmless Daisy

Today’s blog is a throwback to earlier this season at the end of May. I have not discussed an important project within the Wildlife and Ecology Department in the USFS Cordova Ranger District Office. To be specific the Ecology Department (we simply call Ecology) focuses on the monitoring and removal of invasive plants in the Cordova and Copper River Delta area. Invasive species and plants are an issue all over the world, however Alaska is a bit unique in that it is a state with a low population and is relatively isolated. Nevertheless, increase travel, development, and climate change have increased the risk for new introductions. A large portion of Ecology’s resources are dedicated to the monitoring and treatment of Elodea canadensis, commonly known as Canadian waterweed. I will discuss the specifics of this project in another blog. Efforts also go to another project which is the removal of invasive species found throughout town and down the road (in Cordova and closer to the Copper River Delta, respectively).

Above is how the flower of the Ox-eye Daisy looks like. Notice the yellow disc and white petals.

Above is a colony of Ox-eye daisy.

Around a little less than two months ago I was able to assist one of my co-workers, Haley with the removal of Ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare). Haley is a Student Conservation Association (SCA) intern who in my opinion is the resident invasive plant species expert. After all she has past experiences with invasive plant identification and removal in the Midwest. At any rate at first glance Ox-eye daisy looks like any other flower, a simple yellow disk surrounded by white petals. Nevertheless, as harmless as it appears the Ox-eye daisy has an invasive rank of 61. An invasive rank is determined by the species ecological impact, biological attribute, distribution, and its response to control methods. If a plant is ranked as 0 it poses no threat but the closer to 100 it is the higher the threat to the ecosystem, economy, and human well-being of the area. In this case of Ox-eye daisy if allowed to spread has the potential to decrease biodiversity of both plants and animals. Unfortunately it disperses relatively easy by wind, dung, and it is often sold at nurseries. It is also a host of many viruses that can impact other plants and is highly toxic to herbivores. Thus it cannot be a food source and instead competes with native plant food sources.

You may be wondering, if this plant is so invasive what are some ways one can eradicate it? Manual control methods are the best solution, however one has to be careful on how to do it. Cutting and mowing Ox-eye daisy helps increase dispersal so hand pulling and herbicide (depending on the site) is the best way to eradicate it. So Haley and I went down the road to the Copper River Delta with our plastic bags, fluorescently colored vests, and gardening gloves. From previous surveys Haley knew the location of the colony of Ox-eye daisy, it was right next to the road. Similarly to other invasive species, it is more likely to be found around areas that have been disturbed, such as the road and Copper River Delta sign. Once we arrived there we plucked the young Ox-eye Daisy that was just beginning to grow. Apparently it was an ideal time to eradicate due to the age of the plant. It was a lot easier to pull a young plant with a small taproot than a fully developed plant that has a taproot of about 3 feet! It is important to pull the entire taproot if not the same Ox-eye daisy will sprout back.

It took us a handful of hours to make a dent in the colony and after we collected them into the plastic bags the best way to ensure true eradication was to burn it. That’s right using fire (in safe conditions) is the best way to get rid of the Ox-eye daisy. Not only was it fun to burn this invasive plant but also it was a nice change of pace from office work. I remember I had been doing office work for the major part of the week and it reminded me of invasive plant removal that I had done in the past. Although this was on a small scale it was still enjoyable for me. I was glad to be able to help out and participate in a different project that I hear about on a daily basis. Having the opportunity to participate and assist in a variety of projects will allow me to determine if I will want to pursue said project in the future. That being said I do enjoy learning about invasive species and eradicating them but ornithology is still my priority. Surely, I can find a project in the future that incorporates both!  

Featured image is of Haley displaying how long the taproot of an Ox-eye daisy can be! We found this old stalk from a previous year.

Hillary Chavez
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