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The communications office of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin provides media with timely, accurate information about the Wildflower Center. Below are recent press releases related to Center events and to staff expertise on conservation practices, native plant gardening, nature education, and native plant resources and research findings. For more information or photos beyond those on the newsroom site, please contact:

    Media Manager
Barbra Rodriguez

June 13, 2012

Free Pest Detection Workshops

A $74,000 renewal grant to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center of The University of Texas at Austin will allow hundreds more Texans to take free workshops on identifying foreign insects and other invaders that may harm the state’s iconic landscapes. 

Using a previous grant, Jessica Strickland, the center’s invasive species program coordinator, has trained 140 participants in workshops statewide with funding from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). A workshop Saturday, June 16, at the center has more than 60 registrants already and still has openings. Houston and Rosenberg workshops will occur soon to end the initial grant. In addition, 353 volunteers have received online training this year on detecting invasive pests.

The renewal grant for the Sentinel Pest Network project will allow 10 more workshops to be scheduled starting in July. The grant is one of 321 APHIS-funded projects nationally as part of the 2008 Farm Bill to prevent the spread of plant pests and diseases that threaten agriculture and the environment.  The targeted invasive species cause damage, are not native to the United States and cost the country $137 billion annually.

The center’s workshops focus on identifying an African snail, a thorny Brazilian shrub and 10 other potentially devastating non-native pests that could reach Texas and harm its trees and other flora. “What is exciting about this campaign is that it is pre-emptive because it targets potential threats,” Strickland said, noting that participants are glad to help combat them.

Workshop participants will learn about invasive pests and plants on the “dirty dozen” list that include:

  • Emerald ash borer, which has reached 15 states since 2002, killing more than 30 million ash trees in Michigan alone. An estimated 340 million ash trees in Texas could die if someone brought infested firewood into the state, if it arrived in wood used for shipping from overseas, or in other ways.
  • The Asian longhorned beetle threatens many hardwood trees such as maple, elm, and willow. Four states have been affected so far, with $2.2 billion spent since 1996 on tree removal and replacement in New York city alone.
  • Cogon grass can invade roadsides, fields and other landscapes, forming a dense mat of thatch and leaves that choke out native plants and increases wildfire risks. The Southeast Asian grass has reached neighboring Louisiana and five other states.  Louisiana residents have also sighted cactus moth, whose larvae bore inside and eat the innards of prickly pear cactus.

The full-day, Austin workshop will involve a refresher session about Invaders of Texas, a program about tracking invasive plant species and posting sightings of them at www.texasinvasives.org for use by conservation professionals and others statewide. More than 1,500 Texans have already completed this programming run by the Wildflower Center and funded by the U.S. Forest Service Health Protection program and the Texas Forest Service. These Texans have reported more than 14,000 invasive plant observations. The afternoon will cover approaches to controlling and eradicating the 12 targeted invasive pests, as well as online tools for citizen scientists who help track them.

To register for upcoming Sentinel Pest Network workshops or request one in your area before July 2013, email jstrickland@wildflower.org. To learn more about the Wildflower Center’s efforts against Emerald Ash Borer, go to: http://www.wildflower.org/feature/?id=87

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