Oneida County AIS program keeps tabs on lesser known invasives
On a day when severe weather was the headline news, the Oneida County AIS Team silently rode the whitecaps on Lake Minocqua to visit numerous beds of the invasive Butomus umbellatus, also known as Flowering Rush.
This aquatic invasive species typically goes unnoticed, blending in with our native bur-reeds and sedges. Flowering Rush has stiff, triangular leaves and can reach a height of three feet. In mid-summer it may send up a spray of white, purple, or pink flowers, but has been rarely seen flowering in Oneida County. Overall, 10 counties in Wisconsin have documented stands of Flowering Rush.
Once Flowering Rush moves into a waterbody, it has the ability to form dense stands of vegetation and rhizomes (fleshy underground stems) and can slowly begin to displace native vegetation. Changes in vegetation can reduce spawning habitat for blue-gills, crappies, and even walleyes.
“In thick stands, I have seen very little fish activity,” reports one natural resource manager. Muskrats, humans, ice movement and water currents can spread this plant. Therefore, even though Flowering Rush may be a lesser known and lesser widespread AIS, it still deserves the attention of resource managers.
On Lake Minocqua, resource professionals discovered Flowering Rush in 1989. It was then identified and mapped in 2004 at seven designated ‘sensitive areas’. These sensitive areas contain “critical habitat” or may “feature an endangered plant or animal”. It was these seven sites that the Oneida County AIS Team wanted to monitor and map for future reference.
The team confirmed that all sites visited that day did, indeed, contain the invasive Flowering Rush. Many of the visited sites had well-defined beds, including beds that partially encircled Fisher’s and Clumb’s Islands. Each site was videotaped, GPS’d, and a written description of the site will be logged for future reference. We hope to partner with various resource groups (including governmental and local lake associations) in developing a future course of action for these sites. Future management actions may consist of cutting plants, pulling plants, or no action (with mapping done each year).
What can you do? Promote and preserve our native aquatic plants (they will help keep out AIS!), report suspicious plant behavior, talk to your neighbor about AIS, volunteer to help a lake group or research project, and always remember to: inspect, remove, drain, and never move water, plants, fish, or mud away from any waterbody.