Last week the OVF had a visit from a group of young environmental enthusiasts. They call themselves the Youth Conservation League. They function as a program of the RI Natural History Survey. Their goal is to travel all over the state of Rhode Island in order to assist local community organizations with invasive species removal. The OVF has had a problem with invasive species all throughout its property in town. We have mild invasives such as phragmities, multiflora rose and autumn olive. However, in the last few years we have seen an absolutely horrible invasive species called Black Swallow-wort take root and flourish.
Black Swallow-wort, a plant in the Milkweed family, poses a huge problem for the surrounding plants and the Monarch Butterfly population. Monarchs are unable to determine the difference between the common Milkweed plant and the Black Swallow-wort. (Science believes that it is a chemical signal secreted by the plant). It is common knowledge that milkweed contains a toxin that is poisonous to many other animals. The Monarch Butterflies are able to eat the Milkweed, metabolize and store the toxin, acting as a defense against predators. The Black Swallow Wart is much more potent than the Milkweed. The Monarchs eat the Swallow-wort and are unable to process the toxin, thus leaving the caterpillars unable to continue their lifecycle by forming a chrysalis.
The Youth Conservation League came over to the island for a few days and the OVF was able to get their assistance for a few hours to help us remove some of the Black Swallow-wort from the grounds. In doing so, I had the opportunity to work with them hand in hand. Suzanne Enser and assistant leader Taylor Ryan led them. Some of the other members include Gage Whiblen, Sky Cameron, Aurora Weil, Ben Cuell and Jaz Gonzalez.
With their help they were able to remove almost all of the Black Swallow-wort on the property. For more information on the Youth Conservation League visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/RINHSYCL