Category Archives: Bastard Cabbage

Bastard Cabbage Takes Over Texas Wildflowers

 A tsunami of Yellow Bastard Cabbage flowers threatens to overwhelm Texas wildflowers

A tsunami of Yellow Bastard Cabbage flowers threatens to overwhelm Texas wildflowers

What are those tall plants with yellow flowers in your pictures with Texas Bluebonnets? The invasive species Bastard Cabbage is taking over Texas wildflowers, but there is a way we can fight back. Watch my latest Bastard Cabbage Takes Over Texas Wildflowers YouTube video.

The war rages on. The Texas Bluebonnet, Indian Paintbrush, and other Texas wildflowers are still battling it out with the Bastard Cabbage since I created the Native Plant Avengers YouTube video.

Commander Ben invites you to join the fight against the Bastard Cabbage

Commander Ben invites you to join the fight against the Bastard Cabbage

There are still a lot Bastard Cabbage invasive plants out there, but the good news is that more people know that the tall plant with yellow flowers is not native to Texas, and they can take steps to stop the spread of the invasive Bastard Cabbage and plant more native Texas wildflowers.

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Bastard Cabbage, Invasive Species, Texas Wildflowers

Commander Ben Talks About Invasive Species with Highland Lakes Master Naturalists

Thanks to my friend, Miss Sheryl Smith-Rodgers, I recently had the honor of speaking to the Highland Lakes Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists.

Commander Ben & Sheryl Smith-Rogers, Texas Master Naturalist, Highland Lakes Chapter

I had such a fun time giving my invasive species presentation to their group! Everyone was so nice to me, and they were passionate about protecting native plants. Plus, after my talk, they gave me a great goodie bag with some things to help me during my adventures fighting invasives.

Top three invasives for conversation starters

To start the day, the master naturalists group treated my Mom and me to a delicious lunch at an Italian restaurant in Marble Falls. It was a lot of fun chatting with everyone over a great meal (I had a salad) and luckily there were no invasives in sight there.

I had a good time talking with people over lunch about three invasives that they really dislike:

  • Bastard Cabbage (Rapistrum rugosum) – One lady talked with me about how her property is being over run by Bastard Cabbage, and how she is going to put it down Indian Blanket seeds to try and stop it.
  • Malta star-thistle (Centaurea melitensis) – Another person talked with me about how one day his property was great, but then invasives struck! His property was overrun by Malta star-thistle, KR Bluestem, and Johnson grass with a touch of Salt cedar…and don’t forget that insidious cursing plant…Bastard Cabbage.
  • Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) – Another lady talked about how Japanese honeysuckle is overrunning her property and how she and her husband just can’t stop it. It grows along their fence line so rapidly.

In my interview with biologist Mr. Darrell Hutchinson, “Austin Invasive Species Corps Aid Golden-Cheeked Warbler“, he talked with me about the web of interdependence in nature. I shared his insight with the group, and they found this analogy very interesting.

Next, I shared some information from my interview with with Dr. Jay Famiglietti, “Last Call at the Oasis: Interview series with Dr. Jay Famiglietti“, how he explained to me about the water, energy, and food nexus. They also found this really cool.

Presenting with my trusty iPad

After lunch we headed over to the group’s meeting area where we started to set up. I was amazed by how many naturalists were there! It looked like about 75 people, maybe more! I was really excited.

I had my iPad with me where I had prepared my presentation using the Keynote app. The group provided me with a great projector so that I could show my Keynote slides and videos on the screen behind me.

When it was time to start, everyone quieted down and Miss Sheryl gave me a great introduction.

Miss Sheryl Smith-Rogers introduces Commander Ben to the Highland Lakes Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist

During my presentation, I talked about:

  • How I got started as Commander Ben – the Invasive Hunter
  • What invasive species are
  • Some examples of common invasive plants in Central Texas
  • How I fight invasives, and
  • Why I started the Invasive Hunter Academy.

Then I showed the group three videos from my “Battles with Invasive Species” series:

All the videos got a great reception, but I think everyone especially enjoyed seeing the grumpy scientist in the Amazing Invasive Hunter Man.

I ended my presentation by sharing with the group some of my experiences with dyslexia, and the technologies that I use to write my blog and make my videos. Plus, I gave them a glimpse into what’s next for Commander Ben: Working more with invasives, dyslexia, and high school!

Everyone loves stickers

When I finished, everyone applauded and then Miss Linda O’Nan, vice president of the group, presented me with a goodie bag including a great Texas Master Naturalist hat! I also got to meet Miss Fredi Franki, president of the group.

Great goodie bag! Thank you!

Love the hat! 🙂

Commander Ben and Linda O’Nan, Vice President of the Highland Lakes Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist

Commander Ben and Fredi Franki, President of the Highland Lakes Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist

After my presentation, I chatted with all the master naturalists as they came and looked at the Invasive Hunter Academy stuff I had brought along with me. I noticed even the adults loved the stickers. Who doesn’t love stickers!

Thanks to Miss Sheryl for the great blog post of the event, Commander Ben Enlightens Us.  Be sure to check it out.  Miss Sheryl has a fantastic nature blog!

Many thanks to all the Highland Lakes Chapter Texas Master Naturalists! I had a great day and look forward to seeing you all again…maybe out in the field!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Apple, Bastard Cabbage, Dr. Jay Famiglietti, Dyslexia, Highland Lakes Chapter, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, iPad, Japanese honeysuckle, Keynote, Malta star-thistle, Marble Falls, Mr. Darrell Hutchinson, Sheryl Smith-Rodgers, Texas Master Naturalists

Invasive Hunter Academy Thrives at UT Austin’s Hot Science – Cool Talks

Commander Ben talks with high school students about invasive species at Hot Science – Cool Talks
Photo credit: UT Austin Environmental Science Institute

The UT Austin Environmental Science Institute (ESI) has a great Hot Science – Cool Talks series that brings scientists from UT Austin and across the country to talk about their neat science research. Kids of all ages are invited to attend.

Mr. Geoff Hensgen, ESI Outreach Coordinator, invited me to bring my Invasive Hunter Academy to their most recent event with Dr. Jay Famiglietti, “Last Call at the Oasis: Will There be Enough Water for the 21st Century?

I was excited to, but I wanted to add more information for high school students, since I knew they enjoyed coming to the Hot Science presentations. So I researched about some of the water problems caused by invasive species.

Invasive Hunter Academy Grows

I really liked the new info that I added to the Invasive Hunter Academy. I still have the three fun original steps to becoming an invasive hunter:

  • Know your enemy – Match up pictures of native and invasive plants
  • Know your action moves – Practice the three cool taekwondo moves to take down invasive plants
  • Create your action scene – Build a great diorama to take home

For Dr. Famiglietti’s Cool Talks event, I created a new presentation for young adults with some great information about my nemesis, the Giant Reed. I talked about:

Recorded locations of the Giant Reed around Austin
Source: Texas Invasives website

(1) What invasive species are and specifically the problems of the Giant Reed (Arundo donax). I showed how easy it is to find sightings of the Giant Reed and other invasive species that citizen scientists reported around the state by using the Texas Invasives database.

Giant Reed along the Rio Grande River near Big Bend National Park
Credit: Mr. John Goolsby, USDA

(2) The EPA is considering using the Giant Reed for biofuel because it grows fast and doesn’t impact the food industry. That’s great for a biofuel plant, but the Giant Reed can easily escape into the native ecosystem and take over as an invasive species.

Scientists are concerned that the spread of the Giant Reed to could create an economic and environmental disaster, and for that reason it should not be used as a biofuel.

Giant Reed along the Rio Grande River
Photo Credit: Center for Invasive Species Research

(3) Especially for Dr. Famiglietti’s freshwater talk, I added information about how the Giant Reed is a threat to the survival of the Rio Grande River because it:

  • Reduces the available water supply
  • Chokes waterways
  • Inhibits with power generation
  • Interferes with agricultural irrigation
  • Degrades water quality
  • Threatens the of health of native plants and animals by creating a dense monoculture and crowding out native plants

QR Codes Help Presentations Jump to the Web

I added QR codes to make it easier for people to access the websites that I talk about in my poster presentation. I first added QR codes when I brought the academy to the Wildflower Center as part of Nature Nights this summer.

I saw people use their iPhones and Android phones to scan the QR codes to access my website, so I wanted to add more codes for my Hot Science presentation to help bring people to where they could get more information on the web, like to learn more about the Giant Reed.

High School Students Graduate to the Academy

One of the Invasive Hunter Academy tables before the start of Hot Science – Cool Talks at UT Austin

The audience was older than my other academy presentations. There were many students from eighth graders to high school and college students. That was neat!

I enjoy bringing the original academy activities to kids all ages, but now I especially enjoy talking to the older students and teaching them about invasive species. (In these pictures, I still have my hand in a cast from when it got broken during a taekwondo sparring match. :-()

Commander Ben motions to how high (and higher!) the Giant Reed invasive plant can grow
Photo credit: UT Austin Environmental Science Institute

They found my posters very helpful, because a lot of students were there with their science classes, and they had notebooks that they were writing in for extra credit. I talked with them about the problems with the Giant Reed, and they took copious notes. I hope they all got great grades! 🙂

Invasive Hunter graduate shows off her “I’m an Invasive Hunter” sticker and Wildflower Center brochure
Photo credit: UT Austin Environmental Science Institute

They really liked my “I’m an invasive hunter'” stickers and went to my website on their phones to watch my videos too. They put the stickers on their shirts and books, and one of the high school freshman put it on his forehead. (Not recommended.)

Battles with Invasive Species Videos

Commander Ben before the start of the Hot Science – Cool Talks prelecture fun with the Native Plant Avengers video playing in the background

Mr. Hensgen is just the best! I want to thank him for inviting me to be part of the prelecture fun and the interview with Dr. Famiglietti. He gave me the best table because it was near the entrance to the auditorium, and he gave me a projector to play my Battles with Invasive Species videos on the wall during the event.

During the event, I played two videos:

One Freshman high school girl came back another time for two reasons: she was interested to learn more about invasive species and she had also left her iPod. 🙂

It was also great to talk again with Dr. Jay Banner, Director of the UT Austin Environmental Science Institute. I saw him being filmed for the Longhorn Network during the event. Thanks, Dr. Banner, for mentioning me during your prelecture slides!

Last Call at the Oasis

Dr. Jay Famiglietti’s Last Call at the Oasis presentation at Hot Science – Cool Talks

I also had a great time chatting with Dr. Famiglietti before his talk. I wished him good luck, but he didn’t need it because he did a great job!

I found one of the reserved chairs in the auditorium. (Thanks Mr. Hensgen!) and I noticed that they were much, much more comfortable than the regular chairs. (They were the same as the other chairs, but since they were reserved, they were extra comfy!)

Dr. Famiglietti talked about the making of his video, Last Call at the Oasis. It was released on DVD on November 8th, so be sure to check it out!

At the end of his talk, he showed a funny video with Jack Black about their drinkable, treated sewage water, porcelain springs.

Learn More about Invasive Species

Ms. Jessica Strickland and Commander Ben mapping invasive species at SXSWEco

My thanks to Ms. Jessica Strickland for all her help teaching me more about invasive species on the Texas Invasives website and at SXSW Eco. (I learned about the EPA considering to use the Giant Reed as biofuel from the Texas Invasives iWire newsletter. If you don’t already receive this monthly email newsletter, be sure to subscribe to iWire today.) I also learned about the Rio Grande River’s problem with the Giant Reed from presentations during the 2011 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference.

I also want to thank Ms. Alice Nance, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Education Manager. She gave me a lot of goodies to pass out during the prelecture fun. I had Wildflower Center brochures with discount coupons and Plant Hero badges and certificates. (Kids had a lot of fun with Plant Heroes too when I brought the Invasive Hunter Academy to Nature Nights at the Wildflower Center this summer.)

Next Hot Science – Cool Talks presentation

Commander Ben and Dr. Jay Famiglietti at Hot Science - Cool Talks

Commander Ben and Dr. Jay Famiglietti wrap up Hot Science – Cool Talks on a humorous note

Thank you again Dr. Banner, Mr. Hensgen, and Dr. Famiglietti for everything! 🙂 If you missed the event, watch my video interview series with Dr. Famiglietti and check out the webcast replay of Dr Famiglietti’s presentation. (It was ESI’s 80th Hot Science – Cool Talks event!)

I had a fantastic time, and I can’t wait until the next Hot Science – Cool Talks event on November 30, “The War on Cancer: 41 Years after Nixon’s Declaration“, with Dr. Mark Clanton.

Hope to see you there!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under 2011 Texas Invasive Plant Conference, Android, Arundo donax, Bastard Cabbage, Battles with Invasive Species, Big Bend National Park, Biofuel, Center for Invasive Species Research, Dr. Jay Famiglietti, Environmental, Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Science Institute, EPA, ESI, Extra credit, Geoff Hensgen, Giant Reed, High school, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Plants, Invasive Species, iPhone, iWire Texas Invasives Newsletter, Jay Banner, Jessica Strickland, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Last Call at the Oasis, Lights. Camera. Help., Monoculture, Ms. Alice Nance, Native ecosystem, Native Plant Avengers, Nature Nights, Plant Heroes, Porcelain springs, QR codes, Rio Grande River, Science class, Tae Kwon Do, Taekwondo, Texas, Texas Invasives, U.S. Botanic Garden, University of Texas, UT Austin, water, water conservation, water hydrology, water supply, Wildflower Center

Dr. Damon Waitt predicts the next big invasive species to threaten Texas rangelands

Last year, Dr. Damon Waitt predicted the onslaught of Bastard Cabbage, an invasive species with mustard flowers that overran our Texas Wildflowers. With my latest interview with Dr. Waitt, you can learn more about Yellow Star-Thistle, the next big invasive species to threaten our Texas pastures, roadsides, and rangelands.

Dr. Waitt is a Senior Botanist and Director of the Native Plant Information Network at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.

I interviewed Dr. Waitt for this video during the Invasive Species Workshop for Citizen Scientists in June 2012 at the Wildflower Center.

It’s been only a few months, but I look much younger in my first video with Dr. Waitt, Advances in the fight against invasive species in Texas, that I filmed during the Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference in November 2011.

Learn more about the invasive species that Dr. Waitt has talked about:

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under 2011 Texas Invasive Plant Conference, Bastard Cabbage, Citizen Scientist, Damon Waitt, Invasive Species, Invasive Species Workshop, Invasive Species: Secrets Revealed, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Wildflower center, Yellow Star-Thistle

Behind the Scenes of the Native Plant Avengers Movie Trailer

The Avenger’s movie opened this weekend, and it was great! I saw it in IMAX 3D and can’t wait to see it again!

I’ve been looking forward to this movie for many months. I like action movies, and this movie had plenty of action, as do my Battles with Invasive Species video series.

After I watched their second movie trailer earlier this year, I thought, why don’t I bring together a group of native plants to fight the battles that we never could against invasives. And thus was born the Native Plant Avengers.

Here’s my movie cast and how they relate to Marvel’s Avengers movie trailer:

  • Texas bluebonnet as Captain America. Both Texas’ state flower and our great American hero wear blue.
  • Bitterweed as the Hulk. The Hulk was a challenge to me. He’s green, but I couldn’t find native plants in my area that have green flowers. I picked Bitterweed because I thought the plant name suited the Hulk so well.
  • Indian Paintbrush as Thor. Both this colorful plant and this Norse god don themselves in red.
  • Bastard Cabbage as Loki (and the alien army invading Texas roadsides and fields). I picked this invasive plant because it was causing a lot of problems with native Texas wildflowers this spring. Bastard Cabbage also has yellow flowers like Loki’s headgear.

Originally, I wanted to include a native plant for Iron Man, but I was already using a red flowering plant for Thor, and I wanted to adapt some of Iron Man’s (and Nick Fury’s) lines from their trailer.

If you haven’t seen my Native Plant Avengers video yet, I hope you enjoy it. And if you’re a Star Wars fan too, don’t miss my In an Ecesis Far, Far Away… video.

Your friend,
Commander Ben

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Filed under Avengers, Bastard Cabbage, Battles with Invasive Species, Bitterweed, Indian Paintbrush, Texas Bluebonnets, Texas Invasives, Texas Wildflowers

Native Plant Avengers – Ecosystem’s Mightiest Heroes

Although hopelessly outnumbered by the invasive species Bastard Cabbage, Texas wildflowers assemble their combined strength to battle against the choking monoculture invading their ecosystem.

The loyal heroics of Texas Bluebonnet, the hulking presence of Bitterweed, and the lighting power of Indian Paintbrush bring their native plant diversity together in a desperate fight against their invasive foe.

Learn more about the vile invader Bastard Cabbage with these recent blog posts:

Your friend,
Commander Ben

P.S. Looking for more Avengers action? Don’t miss Marvel’s Avengers movie coming out in May!

Update: Learn more about the Texas wildflowers cast in Behind the Scenes of the Native Plant Avengers Movie Trailer

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Filed under Avengers, Bastard Cabbage, Battles with Invasive Species, Bitterweed, Indian Paintbrush, Monoculture, Texas Bluebonnets, Texas Invasives, Texas Wildflowers

The Unstoppable, Invasive Bastard Cabbage

Commander Ben gives Bastard Cabbage the business

There has been A LOT of interest in Bastard Cabbage (Rapistrum rugosum) lately.

If you travel along the roads in Central Texas and you don’t know about invasive species, you might think that the Bastard Cabbage is a nice, big wildflower on the roadsides. It’s not. It’s a terrible invasive plant that causes havoc by overrunning and towering over all the Texas wildflowers. The seedlings of the native plants don’t get light, and they die or can’t sprout and the Bastard Cabbage takes over, creating a monoculture.

Once you know what the plant looks like, you’ll see it everywhere. Instead of beautiful reds, blues, and other colors from our diverse native wildflowers, you’ll just see a suffocating blanket of yellow mustard colored flowers.

Is it unstoppable?

Dr. Damon Waitt, Senior Director and Botanist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, had a popular interview with Mr. Jim Swift on KXAN TV last month, and during the interview, Dr. Waitt said that he was very worried that it would take over Texas roadsides and fields and overwhelm the native species.

His interview inspired me to learn more about this terrible invasive, and I wrote a blog post about it, “Bastard Cabbage Fouls Texas Bluebonnets“. I’m amazed and happy to see the heavy web traffic that I’ve received from this post. It’s great that everyone wants to learn more about this invasive plant!

Learn more about Texas invasives with the iWire newsletter

The March issue of the iWire newsletter also talks about this invasive plant with their “Hello Bastard Cabbage. Goodbye Bluebonnets.” article. You can learn what you can do to help get rid of Bastard Cabbage too.

And thank you iWire for talking about my “Invasive Hunter Academy” for Kids’ Day during National Invasive Species Awareness Week in Washington D.C. in your March 2012 and February 2012 issues!

The February issue also introduces, Ms. Jessica Strickland, the new the Invasive Species Program Coordinator at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I was happy to meet her over Spring break. She was very nice and welcoming to me, but the invasive species better watch out!

If you don’t already get iWire, I encourage you to subscribe to this monthly e-newsletter to learn the latest news about invasive plants and pests in Texas each month.

Commander Ben…signing off

Update: See Native Plant Avengers – Ecosystem’s Mightiest Heroes – battle Bastard Cabbage

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Filed under Bastard Cabbage, Damon Waitt, Invasive Hunter Academy, iWire Texas Invasives Newsletter, Jessica Strickland, KXAN, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, National Invasive Species Awareness Week, Texas Invasives