Invasive plants might seem like no big deal, but the warning bell was sounded when the dunes at Second Beach were under attack. On April 25 at 6:30 pm in Town Hall, the Town's Conservation Commission sponsors an "Invasive Plants In Our Community" talk.
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MIDDLETOWN STRIKES BACK AT INVASIVE PLANTS
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (APRIL 18, 2022) – In the summer of 2008, the Town made headlines when news broke that the entire dune system at Second Beach was under attack.
The cause? An invasive form of beach grass called Asiatic sand sedge or Carex kobomugi, which was causing the dunes to flatten or pancake, thereby weakening the entire beach itself.
After aggressive treatment of the sand sedge by the Town, the dunes at the Sachuest Point Road summertime hotspot are stronger than ever. And a recent report from Town Engineer Warren Hall indicated only about 100 square feet of Carex kobomugi remain today.
But that doesn’t mean Middletown’s battle against invasive plants is over, far from it.
The Town’s volunteer Conservation Commission is sponsoring an informational meeting on April 25 at 6:30 p.m. from Town Hall titled “Invasive Plants In Our Community.” The session will feature an informational talk by an invasive plant expert from the University of Rhode Island’s Cooperative Extension.
“Our aim is to raise awareness and hopefully start a dialogue about how to address the challenges presented by invasive plants in our community,” said Melissa Welch, Conservation Commission member.
While the invasives in Middletown might not be as dramatic as the sand sedge example, that doesn’t mean they’re any less devastating.
It’s likely most locals have heard about invasives as a result of the prescribed burns held at the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge on occasion to get rid of them.
Welch said she first started looking into invasives last year after a resident approached her about the damage resulting from Japanese Knotweed. What she said she found was surprising, to put it mildly.
“Japanese Knotweed was brought to this country in the 19th century as an ornamental, but with few natural competitors, it has spread aggressively, outcompeting native plants,” Welch said. “Knotweed has a very strong root structure that can grow through asphalt and even brick walls. It spreads through underground rhizomes, by seed, and, when cut, even small pieces can re-sprout, so it can be spread through yard waste. It can grow 10 feet or more in one season, crowding out other plants and damaging landscaping. And, not surprisingly, once it takes hold, it's very hard to eradicate.”
Unsure about how much of a problem Japanese Knotweed was across the community, Welch said she started looking for it. What she found raised serious concerns, she said.
“The first place I looked was Paradise Valley Park and, sure enough, there was a large stand of knotweed in front of Paradise School, and it was so dense, it blocked the view of the schoolhouse from the road,” Welch said. “Once I knew what to look for, I started seeing it everywhere: along Bailey’s Brook behind Shaw's and in Middletown Valley Park, at Third Beach near the boat ramp, around Green End Pond, and more. It often takes hold where soil has been disturbed by construction or road repairs, and it spreads particularly quickly along waterways.”
The more she looked into invasives, Welch said she came to understand that Japanese Knotweed was not the only plant the Town needed to be aware of. Speaking with some of those in the land preservation field, Welch said there was consensus and concern about invasives.
Among those include bittersweet, multiflora rose and knotweed crowd that out native species, spoil scenic views, damage landscaping and can even harm structures such as walls and pavement.
“Other invasive plants that are prevalent on Aquidneck Island include Oriental Bittersweet, which can wrap around trees and eventual kill them; phragmites, which take over wetlands; and Multiflora Rose, which forms dense thickets, particularly in open fields,” Welch said. “Just because a plant is non-native doesn’t make it invasive, but ones that are particularly aggressive and negatively impact biodiversity, such as knotweed, fall into that category. Rhode Island is currently the only state in New England that does not ban or even have an official list of invasive species, according to ecoRI News."
Document Link: https://www.middletownri.com/DocumentCenter/View/4464/nycu-invasives