Category Archives: Texas Live Oak

Central Texas Gardener – Invasive Plants With Commander Ben

My invasive plant species interview with Central Texas Gardener aired today! Yea!

If you didn’t get a chance to see today’s episode on KLRU, our local Austin PBS station, you can watch my segment with show host Mr. Tom Spencer in the YouTube video above.

Central Texas Gardener - Invasive Plants with Commander Ben episode

Central Texas Gardener – Invasive Plants with Commander Ben episode

In my interview, I talk about how I got started with my work helping to educate kids of all ages about invasive species.

Commander Ben and a native Texas Live Oak have a watch party for today's episode of Central Texas Gardener.

Commander Ben and a native Texas Live Oak have a watch party for today’s episode of Central Texas Gardener.

You can also learn more about my Invasive Hunter Academy.

Thank you so much Mr. Spencer and producer Ms. Linda Lehmusvirta. I had a great time and you made me feel at home. 🙂

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Central Texas Gardener, Invasive Plants, Invasive Species, KLRU, Linda Lehmusvirta, Texas Live Oak, Tom Spencer

Ghosts of Invasive Species Past, Present, and Future in A Christmas Carol

This Christmas Carol tale begins on Christmas Eve with Ebenezer Scrooge, a man with a stingy heart, a disdain of native plants, and a phobia of dirty feet. His former business partner, Jacob Marley warns Scrooge of visits by three spirits.

Overnight, the ghosts lead Scrooge through his innocent past, misguided present, and possible dire future overrun by invasive species. They help to transform him into a man of joy and compassion, both with the family of his impoverished clerk, Bob Cratchit, and his diverse ecosystem.

I hope you enjoy my video from last year based on Charles Dickens’ classic tale of redemption!

Merry Christmas and happy new year everyone! I look forward to more adventures with you as we learn more about invasive species, science, and dyslexia in 2013!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under A Christmas Carol, An Invasive Species Carol, Battles with Invasive Species, Bob Cratchit, Charles Dickens, Christmas, Ebenezer Scrooge, Giant Reed, Invasive Plants, Invasive Species, Jacob Marley, Redtip Photinia, Texas Live Oak

Adventures with Austin’s Invasive Species Corps

Last weekend, I joined the Austin Invasive Species Corps to identify locations of Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense), an invasive species invading in the Long Canyon portion of the Balcones Canyonland Preserve (BCP).

I was happy to talk again with Mr. Chris Warren, a biologist with the BCP, and see the area that we helped to clear last year in my video, Titanic Struggle with Chinese Privet Ends with their Doom. (I’ll post another great video interview with him soon!)

Commander Ben and Biologist Chris Warren examine a small Chinese Privet.

It was nice to see a lot of native plants starting to grow back in the open spaces that the Chinese Privet plants used to occupy. We had pulled up a lot, but more were starting to creep back in and there were other areas too where the Ligustrum overran the native plants. (Sometimes the biologists in our group would call Chinese Privet by its scientific name, Ligustrum.)

Pulling up Chinese Privet with a weed wrench.

We used special weed wrenches to hand pull as much Chinese Privet as we could find. These heavy tools help to pull up the plant, roots and all, otherwise it could grow back from a stump.

It was a fun day filled with hunting invasives, hard work, and listening also to some wonderful presentations from many different people who are experts in the field of invasive species.

Know your invasive species: Chinese Privet

Small Chinese Privet plant (But they get much bigger!)

Chinese Privet is a woody bush with green leaves that break off easily and has lots of shoots growing out from the stalk.  It can sometimes be confused with the following native plants:

  • Elbow bush (Forestiera pubescens)
    How to tell them apart: Elbow Bush has branches that grow at 90 degree angles
  • Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria)
    How to tell them apart: The Yaupon has a tooth edge leaf instead of smooth edge leaf like the Chinese privet.

Unfortunately, Chinese Privet invaded the lower area of Long Canyon where it crowded out the native plants to create a monoculture.  Seeds from “Godzilla” sized Chinese Privet that were planted in the landscapes of homes up on a ridge, washed downhill, grew, and quickly multiplied.  This process happens over and over again when it rains and when birds carry the seed berries too.

In Asia, Chinese Privet’s native home, it stays in check because it has to contend with disease, parasites, and wildlife “eaters”.  Here in the U.S., Chinese Privet is essentially free of predators, and this allows it to spread aggressively.  Even our deer don’t like to eat it!  They prefer our native Texas plants instead.

As a non-native and pioneer species, this invasive plant can grow and spread quickly.

So why is it a problem if Chinese Privet establishes a monoculture in our area?

Know your Endangered Species: Golden cheeked warbler

Golden-Cheeked Warbler
Photo Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Well, it all has to do with water and the cute…and endangered…Golden-Cheeked Warbler.

The Golden-Cheeked Warbler, is a native bird and it uses the bark of the Ashe Juniper (Cedar) tree to make its nests.  These birds eat the larva of moths and butterflies that live on the Texas Live Oak trees.  Unfortunately, the Chinese Privet hogs the water and crowds out the the Cedars and the Oaks, and this eliminates the habitat and food for the Warbler.

This is especially troubling because the Golden-Cheeked Warbler is the only bird species with a breeding range confined to Texas from Palo Pinto County southwestward along the eastern and southern edge of the Edwards Plateau to Kinney County. The Balcones Canyonland Preserve is part of the Warblers’ habitat.

By clearing the Chinese Privet, we hope to create more habitat and food for the Golden-Cheeked Warbler.

Another opportunity to clear invasive species next month

Mark your calendars on Saturday, September 29, when the Austin Invasive Species Corps will get together again for a land management workday to fight against invasive plants in a new area of Long Canyon. This time, they’ll grapple with a team of two villains:

This is your chance to be an Invasive Hunter in action to battle against invasive species and help save the Golden-Cheeked Warbler!

Many thanks to Ms. Louise Liller, volunteer coordinator for the Austin Water Utility’s Wildland Conservation Division; Mr. Chris Warren; Austin biologists Mr. Darrell Hutchinson and Mr. Matt McCaw; and the valiant voluteers of the Austin Invasive Species Corp for hosting this event and making a difference for our endangered songbird and our native ecosystem.

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Ashe juniper, Austin Invasive Species Corps, Austin Water Utility's Wildland Conservation Division, Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, BCP, BCP wildland conservation, Chinese Privet, Edwards Plateau, Elbow bush, Endangered Species, Golden Cheeked Warbler, Ligustrum, Long Canyon, Mr. Chris Warren, Mr. Darrell Hutchinson, Mr. Matt McCaw, Ms. Louise Liller, Pioneer plant, Texas Live Oak, Wax Leaf Privet, Waxyleaf privet, Yaupon

The Amazing Invasive Hunter Man

An accidental encounter with a plant grafting experiment transforms a geeky biology student into the Invasive Hunter, a hero to the ecosystem’s native species.

The Invasive Hunter returns to battle King Ranch Bluestem (KR Bluestem), an invasive species overrunning roadsides and fields and stealing lunch money. His powers, however, do not go unnoticed by his cranky professor.

This video is part of Commander Ben’s “Battles with Invasive Species” video series.

Learn more about the plants talked about in this video:

And don’t miss seeing your friendly neighborhood spider-man at the movies too!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Battles with Invasive Species, Giant Reed, Grafting, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Species, King Ranch Bluestem, KR Bluestem, Spider-man, Texas Bluebonnets, Texas Live Oak, Texas Mountain Laurel

Commander Ben’s “An Invasive Carol” Video Featured in the iWire Invasive Species Newsletter

Wow! What a nice surprise on New Year’s Eve to receive the December 2011 issue of iWire, the monthly e-newsletter about invasive plants and pests in Texas, and to see that they featured my latest Battles with Invasive Species video, “An Invasive Carol”, as part of their newsletter.

The newsletter picture shows my Ghost of Christmas Present costume and my Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council (TIPPC) water bottle cozy that I got at the 2011 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference.

Watch my “An Invasive Carol” video and let me know which Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, or Future costume you like the best.

Thanks TexasInvasives.org! 🙂

Commander Ben signing off…

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Filed under 2011 Texas Invasive Plant Conference, A Christmas Carol, Battles with Invasive Species, Christmas, Giant Reed, iWire Texas Invasives Newsletter, Redtip Photinia, Texas Live Oak

An Invasive Carol (Battles with Invasive Species Video Series – Christmas Special)

This Christmas Carol tale begins on Christmas Eve with Ebenezer Scrooge, a man with a stingy heart, a disdain of native plants, and a phobia of dirty feet. His former business partner, Jacob Marley warns Scrooge of visits by three spirits. Overnight, the ghosts lead Scrooge through his innocent past, misguided present, and possible dire future overrun by invasive species. They help to transform him into a man of joy and compassion, both with the family of his impoverished clerk, Bob Cratchit, and his diverse ecosystem.

This video is part of my “Battles with Invasive Species” series to give kids of all ages a fun and humorous way to learn about invasive species. Here are other videos that you may enjoy too! 🙂

Commander Ben signing off…

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Filed under A Christmas Carol, Ashe juniper, Battles with Invasive Species, Chinese Privet, Giant Reed, Redtip Photinia, Texas Live Oak, Video

The Boy Who Cried Invasives

Greetings fellow invasive hunters,

Join a young sheepherder and Doctor Benjamin in this a cautionary tale for alarmist naturalists who fail to distinguish between native plants and nefarious invasives.

Enjoy!

Commander Ben signing off…

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Filed under Battles with Invasive Species, Giant Reed, Texas Invasives, Texas Live Oak, Texas Mountain Laurel