Stopping the spread of invasive plants in Wisconsin

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A group of people who work on roadsides or manage townships got up close and personal with some of Wisconsin’s invasive plants.

“Lots of ways for them to get introduced,” said Dr. Mark Renz, professor at UW-Madison. “And once they get a foothold, they just spread like wildfire in many cases.”

More than 130 species of these environmentally harmful plants are in the state. And the University of Wisconsin-Madison is trying to stop the spread.

“The problem is they’re spreading on our roadsides,” he said. “And we’re not doing enough to manage them on our roadsides.”

Highlights of the tour included prickly plants like teasel and wild parsnip.

“Wild Parsnip is a yellow umbrella-shaped flower and a lot of people know this because if they get the sap on their skin, it can burn their skin,” said Dr. Renz. “A really awful reaction.”

They cause erosion, attract ticks, and can be injurious to not only your health–as we saw–but your bank account.

“So some of these invasives in ditches are getting into our agriculture fields improving cost of production for farmers,” he said.

The best weapons against them are herbicides and timely mowing.

“As a Wisconsonite, we have a lot of people that are really concerned about land ethic and having sustainable, productive, and healthy ecosystems,” said Dr. Renz. “And I would argue that invasives are not a part of that picture.”

In the case of burns from Wild Parsnip, the best cure is Mother Nature. Some cases can take years to fully heal.
If you are interested in mapping out areas where invasive plants might be hanging out, Dr. Renz says you can reach out to your local municipality to volunteer.

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