Tag Archives: plants

Invasive Hunter Academy joins Nature Nights at the Wildflower Center to Teach Kids about Invasive Species

Since I was very young, I’ve always enjoyed Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.

Nature Nights are a great way for families, especially younger kids, to learn about wildlife, plants, and the ecology and ecosystem of Central Texas. On the following Thursdays from 6-9 p.m. this summer, you can listen to presentations, go on hikes, and take part in nature activities and crafts.

2012 Summer Nature Nights Schedule

  • June 21: Butterflies
  • June 28: Hummingbirds
  • July 5: Power of Plants
  • July 12: Birds of Prey
  • July 19: Bats
  • July 26: Snakes

Admission to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is free during Nature Nights. It’s a ton of fun for kids and adults too, and kids under 12 can also get a cool free gift from the center’s store.

Become an Invasive Hunter

I’m bringing the Invasive Hunter Academy to Nature Nights on Thursday, July 5, during the Power of Plants event.

I created the Invasive Hunter Academy as part of Kids’ Day during National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW) at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington D.C. earlier this year.

As part of the academy, I’ll teach you how to spot invasive plants, how to defeat your enemies with your invasive hunter moves, and how to create an action scene to capture your battle with invasives.

Learn more about the Invasive Hunter Academy:

Thank you Ms. Alice Nance, Wildflower Center Education Manager, for inviting me to be part of your wonderful Nature Nights event!

I hope to see you during Nature Nights, and be sure to join me on July 5th to learn how to become an Invasive Hunter!

Your friend,
Ben

Leave a comment

Filed under Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Ms. Alice Nance, National Invasive Species Awareness Week, Nature Nights

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

1 Comment

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

USDA Celebrates Commander Ben and His Invasive Hunter Academy

Thanks, Ms. Kelsey Branch, APHIS Biologist, for the fantastic blog post, “Meet USDA’s Youngest Ally in the Fight against Invasive Species: Ben Shrader, Invasive Hunter”

I had a great time with Ms. Branch in Washington D.C. during National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW) from February 26 to March 2, 2012, and during NISAW Kids’ day at the U.S. Botanic Garden, I enjoyed teaching kids about invasive species as part of my Invasive Hunter Academy.

It’ll take more than a day or week to take down these invasive species, so the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has declared April as Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month.

Learn more about invasive species:

2 Comments

Filed under 2011 Texas Invasive Plant Conference, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, APHIS, Hungry Pests, Invasive Hunter Academy, Ms. Kelsey Branch, National Invasive Species Awareness Week, NISAW, Texas Invasives, U.S. Botanic Garden, United States Department of Agriculture, USDA

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

Leave a comment

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

Bastard Cabbage Fouls Texas Bluebonnets

Commander Ben beseiged by Bastard Cabbage

What a nice surprise to see Dr. Damon Waitt on TV last night! Dr. Waitt is the Senior Director and Botanist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

He was talking about Bastard Cabbage (Rapistrum rugosum), also known as Mediterranean Mustard. It’s a terrible invasive species that is overrunning Texas wildflowers, especially our beloved Texas Bluebonnets.

I first learned about Bastard Cabbage from him last fall in my video interview with him at the 2011 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference. He said that this plant was the invasive species that really worried him.

Seeing Dr. Waitt interviewed by Mr. Jim Swift on KXAN reminded me of that plant, and I had to go out today to learn more about it.

Invasive Species Create Terrible Monocultures

Bastard Cabbage crowds out the wonderful Texas bluebonnets and creates a terrible monoculture. It towers over the bluebonnets, and the rosette at the base of the plant and long tap root steal resources that could have gone to the native Texas wildflowers.

They have a long stem and small yellow flowers. When I saw it when I was younger, I thought it was a native Texas wildflower.

Fight Back Against this Invasive Plant

In the KXAN article, Dr. Waitt said that with enough seed, Indian Blanket wildflowers might be able to compete with this invasive plant, but that’s a hard fight to win.

Bastard Cabbage overruns Texas Bluebonnets along highway 360 in Austin, Texas

Dr. Waitt said it’s best to hand pull Bastard Cabbage. I did my part pulling some up on highway 360 in Austin, and I took some down with my moves from the Invasive Hunter Academy. I also took a plant sample for my herbarium.

He said that on a 10 point worry scale, he’s at a 9.5. If Dr. Waitt’s worried about our Texas Bluebonnets, we should all be worried too!

Thanks, Dr. Waitt, and the Texas Invasives website for teaching me about this terrible invasive!

Your friend,
Commander Ben

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

Update: Bastard Cabbage Takes Over Texas Wildflowers

1 Comment

Filed under 2011 Texas Invasive Plant Conference, Bastard Cabbage, Damon Waitt, Herbarium, Invasive Hunter Academy, Jim Swift, KXAN, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Texas Bluebonnets, Texas Invasives