You are here

Pesky Plant Trackers

Project background

We are seeking observers to report initial growth, flowering, and fruiting of two non-native invasive species in the Midwest and Northeast - wild parsnip and Japanese knotweed.

Wild parsnip, a carrot-like perennial that can reach 6 feet tall, poses human health risk due to a phototoxin produced by the leaves. Skin contact with the leaves followed by exposure to sunlight will cause severe blistering. Parsnip can be managed by mowing, but only prior to mature seed development to prevent spread, or herbicide application during specific stages of plant growth. Mowing too late can help to spread seeds.

Japanese knotweed is an aggressive, bamboo-like shoot that can reproduce without seed. Control is extremely difficult, but applying herbicides at certain stages of knotweed development can maximize their effectiveness and stop infestation.

Your observations as part of this campaign will enable land managers to correctly time management activities aimed at controlling these species. Researchers will use the phenology data you collect to understand relationships between accumulated temperature and life cycle events like initial growth and flowering. The researchers will then build models that use forecasted weather to predict the timing of these life cycle events.

2020 is the pilot year of a potentially larger effort to observe additional species in other regions of the country next year.

Join us!

You can contribute by reporting observations of wild parsnip and Japanese knotweed during the spring, summer, and fall. 

How to participate

1. Create an account in Nature's Notebook and create a site for monitoring phenology. See our specifics of observing if you need more details on getting started.

2. Select your plants. Identify one or more wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) or Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) and add them to your site in Nature's Notebook. You will make observations on this plant or plants repeatedly through the season, so make sure it is conveniently located.

3. Sign up to receive our Pesky Plant Trackers campaign messaging. You will receive messages approximately monthly during the spring, summer, and fall, providing early results, encouragement, observation tips, interesting links, and campaign-specific opportunities. Don't miss out!

4. Observe your plant(s). Report what you see (yes/no/not sure) on your plant periodically following the instructions for monitoring. We encourage you to observe your plant(s) 2-3 times a week. However, we welcome any observations you can contribute. Check out our Phenophase Photo Guides for tips on identifying these phenophases.

5. Report your observations. Periodically log into your Nature's Notebook account and transfer your observations from your paper data sheet into the online reporting system. Alternatively, you can enter your observations directly using our Android or iPhone smartphone and tablet apps.

Who we are

Pesky Plant Trackers is a partnership between University of Minnesota's Department of Forest Resources and the USA National Phenology Network. This research is funded by the Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center and is led by Dr. Rebecca Montgomery. Our team includes experts on the control and regulation of invasive plants. Contact Abbie Anderson for more information about how to participate. We are excited to have your help tracking these pesky plants!