Land managers attempting to restore habitat and arrest the loss of biodiversity on a landscape scale must prioritize invasive species control. However, with limited resources and a seemingly endless supply of new invading organisms, we have to prioritize our efforts and deploy resources in the highest-impact areas.
Recently, we asked supporters like you to document the occurrence of hemlocks and whether or not they showed evidence of infestation by an invasive aphid-like pest called Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, or HWA. That effort saved a significant amount of time that would have been spent hunting for hemlocks. By providing our contractor with a map showing exactly where the trees were located, we estimate that we cut our final cost by over $1,000.
Today, we’re asking for your help identifying and observing Ligustrum sinense, commonly known as “Chinese privet” or just “privet,” as well as annotating the phenology of existing observations on iNaturalist. Introduced in 1852, this species was planted on the grounds of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park as early as 1890 (Faulkner, et al.). The plant became popular as a dense and fast-growing hedge. Unfortunately, privet is still available today through the horticultural trade.
Before we go further: Not sure what we mean by "phenology"? Here's a quick primer.
We’re excited to be collaborating on a study with UTC to help prioritize privet removal, and as part of that effort we’d like to ask you to contribute in three ways, at least two of which can be done at home (and if you have any privet at your home, all three can be done from home).
Of course, observations on our property are also very helpful, but are not required for this research. If you do upload any observations on our property, they will be automatically added to our collection project, which now has over 1600 species recorded.
- First, go find some privet! Observe an individual privet plant occurring in nature and upload it along with a location and time to iNaturalist. If you have a smartphone, your camera will upload time and location automatically, but you can also upload photos from any camera and add those details later from your computer. The videos below will show you how to make observations if you haven’t already started with iNaturalist.
How to make an observation on the iNaturalist app.
How to help identify on iNaturalist.
- Second, we also need help with identifications, which you can learn how to do in the video above. Here's a direct link to observations that people think is privet but still "needs ID." Keep in mind that you may encounter things that are not privet; the point here is to confirm or improve the community ID. I've pre-filtered to Chattanooga, but you could filter by state, county or a large library of places such at Reflection Riding.
- Finally, if you have time to kill and an internet connection (Zoom meetings, anyone?), we also need help annotating the phenology (in this case, we’re most concerned with flowering and fruiting). ￼
The screenshot here shows the "Plant Phenology" tab for this species right now in the United States. Let's get rid of that grey line on the chart!
To do this, just head over to the Ligustrum sinense page, where we currently have 7,539 observations in the United States.
Click the “Plant Phenology” tab from the main species page to see the existing data, and then click the gear up on the top right and select “Add Annotations for Plant Phenology.”
Once the observations load, click the first one and then click the "Annotations" tab up top. You can also ID from this screen, but it moves faster if you just stick with annotations and use your keyboard's right arrow to move to the next observation.
I recommend using the keyboard shortcuts, which you can find by clicking the keyboard on the bottom left side of the annotations screen. For phenology, the relevant shortcuts are:
p then n: Add "Plant Phenology: No Evidence of Flowering" annotation
p then l: Add "Plant Phenology: Flowering" annotation
p then r: Add "Plant Phenology: Fruiting" annotation
p then u: Add "Plant Phenology: Flower Budding" annotation
If you’re half the geek I am, you’ll love doing this during your next boring conference call. Over time, we’ll see that grey line of observations without annotations start to go down and eventually go to near zero!
Of course, if you have time to remove the privet you find, we’d love to hear about that, too! We offer volunteer opportunities and small group experiences where you can learn to identify and remove invasive species. Your observations will help our immediate study, but may also be used by scientists around the world at any time in the future because all of the data generated on iNaturalist is open and freely available to anyone with an idea and an internet connection.
Thanks in advance for the help! If you have any questions or need help, just reach out to our Education Director, Corey Hagen at [email protected]