Category Archives: Wildflower Center

Yum! Edible Invasive Species at the Wildflower Center during Nature Nights

Eating invasive species is a great way to get rid of them

Eating invasive species is a great way to get rid of them

Nature Nights returns to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center this Thursday, June 11, 2015, and I’m excited to let you know that I’ll be there with my Invasive Hunter Academy.

The Wildflower Center hosts this free, fun, and family event on Thursday nights during the summer. It’s a great opportunity for kids to enjoy learning about the plants, animals, and the ecology of Central Texas.

You’ll get the chance to create crafts, go on hikes and adventures, and listen to nature presentations. In addition to goodies that they can pick up as part of the nature night activities, kids 12 and under will also receive a free gift from the gift store.

Plants – They taste good!

This Thursday’s Nature Night is all about plants and how they taste good and can help us. We all know about fruits and vegetable plants, but what about invasive species? (Watch my video invitation to the Nature Night’s event on plants.)

Invasive species are not native to the ecosystem, and they can cause millions of dollars in damage to the environment and economy.

The best way to get rid of invasive species is to prevent their spread. If they’re already established, removal efforts can be time consuming and expensive. It may not even be feasible to get rid of them. For example, it’s not going to be possible to remove KR Bluestem from our Texas roadsides and fields, even with the Amazing Invasive Hunter Man’s help.

There is another way to get rid of invasive plant species…to eat them!

Join me at the Nature Nights event on Thursday, June 11, to learn about invasive plant species you can eat, including a variety of delicious Elephant Ear (Colocasia esculenta – also known as Taro) and Golden Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea).

Note: Always be sure to learn about invasive plant species to see if they are edible before you decide to eat them. (Kids, always ask your parents first.) For example, don’t try eating elephant ear raw. It’s inedible, but the variety commonly known as Taro, can be boiled or cooked to make it both edible and tasty.

In addition to learning about invasive species and sampling an invasive plant as part of the Invasive Hunter Academy, you’ll also be able to take a guided tour of the gardens, enjoy story time, and go on a scavenger hunt as part of the Nature Night’s event.

That’ll build up your appetite!

Videos for your invasive plants dining

While you’re snacking on invasive plants, enjoy some of my earlier Battles with Invasive Species videos:

Still hungry?

Did invasive plants wet your appetite for more invasive species?

2015 Summer Nature Nights Schedule

Young naturalists train to be invasive hunters during a previous Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Young naturalists train to be invasive hunters during a previous Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

There are many fun Nature Nights events planned for this summer.

  • June 11 – Plants
  • June 18 – Pollinators
  • June 25 – Snakes
  • July 9 – Springs, Streams and Ponds Ecology
  • July 16 – Harnessing Fire
  • July 23 – Birds of Prey
Learn about edible plants at the Nature Nights on June 11, 2015 (Image credit: Wildflower Center)

Learn about edible plants at the Nature Nights on June 11, 2015 (Image credit: Wildflower Center)

Hope to see you there!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Nature Nights, Wildflower Center

Which invasive species will you battle at the Wildflower Center?

Wanted: Invasive species - Needed: Invasive Hunters to protect our native ecosystems!

Wanted: Invasive species – Needed: Invasive Hunters to protect our native ecosystems!

This week starts a summer of fun at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. On Thursday, June 12, from 5-8 p.m. the Wildflower Center kicks off the first Nature Nights of 2014 with a focus on plants and play in the new Luci and Ian Family Garden. (The garden is new to the Wildflower Center this year, and I’m looking forward to enjoying it with all the kids.)

There will be lots of free kids activities, including habitat hikes, a scavenger hunt, big bubbles (oooh! I’m liking this!), ring toss, and lots more. You’ll even meet local nature celebrities, including Bill Oliver and The Otter Space Band. (I first met Mr. Oliver at this spring’s Milam County Nature Festival.)

Invasive species at the Wildflower Center?

There are a few plants that I’m sure will not be part of the plant petting zoo during Nature Nights, and they’re all invasives!

You can do your part to help stop the spread of these non-native plant species from overrunning our native ecosystem.

As part of my Invasive Hunter Academy during Nature Nights, kids will get the chance to learn about invasive species and their impact on our environment through these fun activities:

  • Visual activities (Is that an invasive or native plant that I see?)
  • Action moves (I attended my taekwondo class last night to brush up on the moves that I’ll teach you!)
  • Creating an action diorama featuring you battling an invasive species (You can take this home along with some other surprises!)

Graduates from the academy become Invasive Hunters, ready to protect their native ecosystems. We need young naturalists (like you and kids you know!) to become guardians of our central Texas galaxy!

Hope to see you there!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Nature Nights, Wildflower Center

Central Texas Gardener Tackles Invasive Species

Linda Lehmusvirta, Commander Ben, and Tom Spencer on the Central Texas Gardener TV set

Linda Lehmusvirta, Commander Ben, and Tom Spencer on the Central Texas Gardener TV set

Last month, I had the great honor of being invited to appear on the Central Texas Gardner show that is aired on PBS. When I arrived, I was met by Linda Lehmusvirta, the producer of the show. She took me up to the studio where the show is filmed and introduced me to Tom Spencer, the host of the show. It was so great to meet both of them and they made me feel right at home.

Before the show started filming, Mr. Spencer and I took our places on the set and talked about different things while the make-up artist prepared us for our close-ups! 😉

When the show was about to begin Ms. Lehmusvirta took my mom to the control room. (My mom said it was really cool!) Once everything was “quiet on the set”, the cameras began to roll and Mr. Spenser asked me all sorts of questions about invasive species, my blog, my videos, and my work with the University of Texas and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The 10 minute interview went by so fast! It felt more like a minute.

The whole adventure was so much fun and I am so happy I had the chance to meet both Mr. Spenser and Ms. Lehmusvirta. They’re the best! Many thanks to both of them! 🙂

The KLRU schedule for the Central Texas Gardener show with my interview is listed below:

  • Saturday, September 14 – Noon and 4 pm
  • Sunday, September 15 – 9 am

Updated: Interview air dates.

Started high school

It’s been very busy with lots of homework, but I’ve been enjoying my first few weeks as a freshman in high school at St. Michael’s Catholic Academy (SMCA). I’ve been using my Learning Ally iPad app for the audio of all my textbooks, including biology and my English books!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Central Texas Gardener, High School, Invasive Species, iPad, KLRU, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Learning Ally, Learning Ally app, Linda Lehmusvirta, PBS, St. Michael's Catholic Academy, Tom Spencer, Wildflower Center

Young Recruits Join the Fight Against Invasive Species at the Wildflower Center

Commander Ben fist bumps a new graduate from the Invasive Hunter Academy at the Wildflower Center

Commander Ben fist bumps a new graduate from the Invasive Hunter Academy at the Wildflower Center

This summer, I brought the Invasive Hunter Academy back to Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It was such a blast. I met lots of kids who had gone through the Academy last year, so they helped me bring a whole new battalion of Invasive Hunters through the Academy this year.

Invasive Hunter Academy at Nature Nights in 2013

Here are some pictures from this year’s Academy at the Wildflower Center.

Invasive Hunter Academy setup before the Nature Nights event

Invasive Hunter Academy setup before the Nature Nights event

With my Academy materials, I also show videos from my Battles with Invasive Species series. The Amazing Invasive Hunter Man was a favorite with this year’s young invasive hunters.

A growing battalion of invasive hunters are learning the secrets of the Invasive Hunter Academy

A growing battalion of invasive hunters are learning the secrets of the Invasive Hunter Academy

A crowd of young invasive hunters are learning about invasive plants. That’s Tea Time with English Ivy showing on the monitor.

Young invasive species hunters practice their action moves with Commander Ben

Young invasive species hunters practice their action moves with Commander Ben

Part of becoming an invasive hunter is learning the action moves to take down invasive species. Here I’m kiaping with a young invasive hunter with one of our taekwondo moves.

A kiap is an energy yell to get you psychologically ready for battle. It helps motivate you and frighten your enemies. (We felt the invasives quaking in their rhizomes when we kiaped!)

Julie Graham, Commander Ben, and Alice Jansen at the "Roots to Shoots" Nature Nights event

Julie Graham, Commander Ben, and Alice Jansen at the “From Roots to Shoots” Nature Nights event

My thanks to Julie Graham, Education coordinator, and Alice Jansen, Education manager, with the Wildflower Center for inviting me to be part of the fun Nature Nights event!

Young invasive hunters having fun creating their battles with invasive species action diorama at the Wildflower Center

Young invasive hunters having fun creating their battles with invasive species action diorama at the Wildflower Center

This makes it all worthwhile. Seeing the kids have fun and learn about invasive species and how to protect our native ecosystem.

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Alice Jansen, Amazing Invasive Hunter Man, Battles with Invasive Species, From Roots to Shoots, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Ms. Julie Graham, Nature Nights, Taekwondo, Uncategorized, Wildflower Center

Invasive Species Are No Match for Austin Citizen Scientists

Johnson grass is no match to the invasive hunter moves of Austin citizen scientists

Johnson Grass is no match for the invasive hunter moves of Austin citizen scientists

This summer, I trained as a citizen scientist with the City of Austin and the Wildflower Center to learn how to hunt the top 24 invasive plants in Austin, and I also joined other volunteers to map the locations of invasive species around Slaughter Creek.

Here are some pictures from our volunteer expedition:

Some ducks waddled up to join our Austin citizen scientist team

Some ducks waddled up to join our Austin citizen scientist team

We used ropes to divide the area into quadrants to report the invasive species that we found and the City of Austin team leaders recorded the locations on their iPad

We used ropes to divide the area into quadrants to report the invasive species that we found and the City of Austin team leaders recorded the locations on their iPad

A Chinaberry, an invasive plant, apprehensively eyes our mapping of Austin invasive species

A Chinaberry, an invasive plant, apprehensively eyes our mapping of Austin invasive species

We gave a thumbs down to the invasive species, Johnson Grass

We gave a thumbs down to the invasive species, Johnson Grass

We had a great time as Austin citizen scientist volunteers to help identify invasive species

We had a great time as Austin citizen scientist volunteers to help identify invasive species

Help identify and map Austin Invasive Species

If you haven’t had a chance to join with other Austin citizen scientists, August 15, 2013, is the last day to help the City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department collect data about the invasive species in the parks and lands around Austin.

Your friend,
Ben

P.S. Ms. Jessica Strickland recently moved to California. She was the Invasive Species Program Manager with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. You did a great job helping to educate citizen scientists across Texas about invasive species, and I’ll miss you! Best wishes with your next adventures! 🙂

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Filed under Chinaberry, Citizen Scientist, City of Austin, Jessica Strickland, Johnson Grass, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Slaughter Creek, Uncategorized, Wildflower Center

Secrets of the Invasive Hunter Academy

I wanted to film a video to thank Action for Nature for honoring me with their International Young Eco-hero Award for my work on educating kids about invasive species and for creating the Invasive Hunter Academy.

As part of the video, I share a bit about my background with invasive species and the secrets as to why the Academy is so popular with kids. I also talk about my experiences training young invasive hunters and bringing my Academy to the United States Botanic Gardens in Washington, D.C., and to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.

Thank you Action for Nature for your International Young Eco-Hero Award!  I will put it to great use to help educate kids of all ages learn about invasive species.

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Action for Nature, Eco-Hero, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, U.S. Botanic Garden, Wildflower Center

How Do You Support the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center?

My family proudly supports the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I first visited the Wildflower Center when I was four years old, and I’ve loved our Texas wildflowers and native ecosystems ever since.

Thanks, Wildflower Center, for featuring my exploits as Commander Ben, The Invasive Hunter, on your Passion for Nature video page.

I’m recovering from surgery from an old sparring injury, but I’ll be back in action again soon, so watch out invasive species!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Invasive Hunter, Invasive Species, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Texas Wildflowers, Wildflower Center