pete native species.
Morris asked Van Clef to help get rid
of the carp. As they killed off the fish with
rotenone, a natural poison made from the
roots of tropical plants, they noticed clamlike mollusks neither had ever seen. Van
Clef reached out to his network, and eventually the shell was identified as the Chinese pond mussel, an invasive species that
had spread over Europe, but had not been
documented in North America.
The state strike team now has a grant
to eradicate the mussels and monitor the
ponds to ensure that none escape.
“This very much echoes the whole phi-
losophy of the strike team,” says Morris.
“You quickly identify species that are in-
vasive and going to cause problems, and
you deal with them before they spread.
Right now, it would be impossible to go
to the Mississippi River and get rid of big-
head carp. But by doing it back then, we
don’t have a problem in the Delaware.”
The strike team’s phone app is based
on a design developed at the University
of Georgia, a leader in the field. Users can
bring up the long list of invasives by name,
accompanied by identifying photographs.
Then, with a touch, they can send the
strike team a report of what they found
The team collects data from all over the
state and, using a kind of biological triage,
determines where best to deploy volun-
teers. Invasives are listed in four catego-
ries, from 0, which means fewer than 10
of a given species have been reported, to 3,
when up to 999 have been identified. When
a plant is all but uncontrollable, it is consid-
“That’s when I say ‘uncle,’” Van Clef told
more than 100 volunteers who gathered at
Duke Farms in Hillsborough in early April
for an annual conference on invasives.
Van Clef later made clear to the volunteers that the most important weapon in
this war is information. The worst enemies
may be people who don’t know the harm in
what they are planting. That’s why, besides
the smartphone app, the team’s website
contains an exhaustive Do Not Plant list,
and lists native alternatives. It warns
that an excess of deer can wipe out native plants, leaving the door wide open
for harmful non-natives.
UNTIL THE STATE ADOPTS a more aggressive stance, such efforts are about all that
blocks the way of the invaders. But in the
last year, the New Jersey Legislature has
finally gotten involved, though its primary
target is running bamboo, which, while
not a threat to forests and natural areas,
Van Clef says can be “an outright aggravation” bet ween neighbors.
Still, it is running bamboo that has
caught the Legislature’s attention, mostly
in response to a complaint from an Atlantic County nurse who bought a home last
year without realizing that her neighbor’s
bamboo grove was migrating into her yard
(story, next page).
Desperate for help, the homeowner
reached out to her local assemblyman,
Vincent Mazzeo (D-Northfield).
“This running bamboo, once it goes,
it goes,” says Mazzeo. “You can’t do any-
thing about it.”
Mazzeo introduced a bill (A-3452) that
would impose fines on real estate agents
who do not disclose the presence of bam-
CUTTING REMARKS: Great Swamp Invasives Strike Team volunteer Linda Jerdach goes after a young Callery pear tree with a large lopping tool. “For every
one we don’t get,” says Jerdach, “next year there’ll be 10 or 20 more.”
Of These Species
The New Jersey Invasive Species
Strike Team includes these
common plants (and dozens of