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Wetlands and their Plant Invaders

Written on: December 11th, 2019 in Outreach

The invasive plant, English ivy, taking over the forest floor and beginning to choke out native trees. Photo credit: DNREC’s WMAP

by Alison Rogerson, DNREC Wetlands Monitoring & Assessment Program

Every year we attend lots of public events and we meet so many great landowners who have wetlands on their property and want to know more. One of the most common questions we field is “What can I do to improve the health of wetlands in my yard”?

You don’t have to own 20 acres of flooded fields to make a difference! There are many common wetland stressors that are not an easy fix, such as ditching and channel straightening but addressing invasive plants is a great place to start.

Step 1

The first step is to figure out what’s a good plant and what’s bad. If you aren’t a botanist that’s ok- we can help you figure out what’s what! We created a handy dandy Delaware Wetland Plant Field Guide that is designed to help landowners identify native versus non-native or invasive wetland plants. It’s full of color pictures and easy to read. Follow the symbols that note which species are invasive.

Another great resource is a booklet put out by the Natural Resources Conservation Service called Mistaken Identity?. It addresses invasive wetland and upland species by type (e.g. tree, shrub, vine, grass) and common native lookalikes. Even though it’s winter now and many plants have died back or lost their leaves and flowers, you can still easily see some of the common invaders.

Replace invasive Japanese honeysuckle (left) with a native honeysuckle or swamp azaleas (right, photo by Bill McAvoy). Swamp azalea is a medium shrub that have fragrant blooms in the summer and colorful leaves in the fall.
Replace invasive Japanese honeysuckle (left, photo by DNREC’s WMAP ) with a native honeysuckle or swamp azaleas (right, photo by Bill McAvoy). Swamp azalea is a medium shrub that have fragrant blooms in the summer and colorful leaves in the fall.

Step 2

Step two is get rid of the unwanted. Wait until the humidity and bugs have died back if you need to. Many common invasive plants in Delaware such as Japanese honeysuckle, Phragmites, English ivy, and multiflora rose persist right through the winter so you can pick a cool fall day to tear them out.

Mistaken Identity? also has a great section on different means to control invasive plants such as using herbicides, cutting, hand pulling and girdling.

Different species respond better to different techniques so be sure to read the pages that specify which method is best. For example, Japanese honeysuckle can simply be pulled out by hand or by digging, but bamboo needs to be cut mechanically and sprayed chemically to be effective.

Multiflora rose is a plant commonly seen in Delaware's wetlands and forested buffers. It is most easily identified early in the year when in bloom, and was introduced to the U.S. as an ornamental plant. (Photo credit: DNREC's WMAP)
Multiflora rose is a plant commonly seen in Delaware’s wetlands and forested buffers. It is most easily identified early in the year when in bloom, and was introduced to the U.S. as an ornamental plant. (Photo credit: DNREC’s WMAP)

Step 3

Step three is to replace! Now that those nasty invasive plants are gone you can fill in with native options that are better suited for Delaware’s growing season (i.e. are suited for our temperatures and precipitation), won’t take over and invade your yard, and are better food sources for wildlife and pollinators.

There are a growing number of native plant sales every spring and fall where you can easily find species that fit your amount of shade, soil conditions and preference for flowers or fruit.

Can’t wait for one of the sales? Visit your local nursery and ask for natives only. Several local nurseries focus on natives only such as the Inland Bays Garden Center in Frankford, DE or for those up north Octoraro is just over the line in Kirkwood, PA.

More Information

Still craving more information? Tune into or join the Delaware Native Plant Society or the Delaware Invasive Species Council. They host talks, workshops and events, offer advice and look for volunteers to help with long-term plant demonstrations. Go native!


Riparian Forest Buffers

Written on: December 10th, 2019 in Wetland Restorations

Riparian buffers are planted areas specifically next to waterways, such as streams, ponds, wetlands, and rivers. These areas are extremely important to keeping our waters healthy.  They do so by filtering and trapping nutrients and sediment out of waters before they enter our local waterways.

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Spartina: A Name of the Past

Written on: December 5th, 2019 in Outreach

When we think of Delaware’s coastlines, nothing comes to mind quite like the beautiful, expansive marshes full of saltmarsh cordgrass blowing in the gentle sea breeze. Our team has become especially well-acquainted with this grass, known by most as Spartina alterniflora, as we have visited hundreds of tidal wetland sites over the years.

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Sassafras Landing: A living shoreline demonstration

Written on: September 16th, 2019 in Living Shorelines

On a warm July morning not long after the official start of summer, some 2 dozen volunteers gathered at Sassafras Landing, an unimproved boat launch popular with kayakers and duck hunters inside the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Assawoman Wildlife Area (AWA) near Frankford. Their mission: transplant nearly 5,200 plugs of native marsh grass onto what otherwise appeared to be a pristine white sand beach.

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Piedmont vs. Coastal Plain Wetlands: A tale of two regions

Written on: September 16th, 2019 in Outreach

If you spend a lot of time traveling around Delaware, you’ll notice that northern Delaware is very different from the rest of the state. That’s because Delaware is made up of two distinct geologic regions. The northernmost part of Delaware is within the Piedmont region, while the rest of Delaware lies within the Coastal Plain region.

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Confessions of Seasonal: Everlasting impressions

Written on: September 16th, 2019 in Wetland Assessments

Wetlands work is not for the faint of heart. I won’t sugar coat it for you. Its dirty. Its messy. Oftentimes pretty buggy (even though we really lucked out this year). Yep. Wetlands can be all of those things. But – they are also so much more.

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Pole Replacement Spawns Marsh Recovery Data

Written on: September 6th, 2019 in Wetland Assessments

When a power company needed to replace a utility pole in a wetland area that was a part of a national vegetation monitoring program within the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve (DNERR), staff at the Reserve worked closely with the power company and with other state agencies to maintain the integrity of the datasets being collected, but also took the opportunity to begin a study on how the marsh would recover naturally from the disturbance.

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Wetlands are Magicians of Water Quality Improvement

Written on: May 15th, 2019 in Outreach

by Alison Rogerson, Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program In our Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program we speak so often about the ecosystem services that wetlands provide or the beneficial functions wetlands perform daily.  We rattle them off in varying order “provide vital habitat for plants and wildlife, improve water quality, protect our coasts, act like […]

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Delaware’s Freshwater Mussels

Written on: May 14th, 2019 in Wetland Animals

Guest writer: Clare Sevcik, DNREC’s Nonpoint Source Program There are so many charismatic animals that make Delaware waterways their home. Most people living in Delaware can easily recognize a few of the most popular species: bald eagles, osprey, blue crabs, horseshoe crabs, beavers, river otters, and many more. But there are many more animals living […]

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Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program: Celebrating 20 years

Written on: May 14th, 2019 in Wetland Assessments

by Alison Rogerson, Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program Our Roots In 1998 the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s (DNREC) Environmental Scientist, Amy Jacobs (now with The Nature Conservancy), took part in a grant project held by the Delaware chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. This project developed […]

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Delaware Wetland Management & Assessment Program