SNA Nature Notes - Summer 2013

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Summer 2013

Gypsies Come Knocking

Photo of adult male and female gypsy moths

Edited by Susan Burks, Forestry Division Invasive Species Program Coordinator (DNR) and Lucia Hunt, Agricultural Unit Supervisor Plant Protection (MDA)

Big problems can come in small packages. One that is likely to have major impacts in coming years on SNAs in northeastern Minnesota such as Lutsen, Spring Beauty Northern Hardwoods and Hovland Woods is the gypsy moth. This European invader made a slow invasion of New England when it was introduced in 1869 in an attempt to breed hardier silkworms. With the advent of the automobile, gypsy moth spread has quickened and has now reached Minnesota, through a combination of egg masses hitching a ride on vehicles and outdoor gear, and wind-borne caterpillars. While the gypsy moth is suspected of occurring in small isolated pockets in northeastern Minnesota, they are wide-spread in much of Wisconsin and all of Michigan. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has proposed enacting regulations to quarantine Lake and Cook Counties in the spring of 2014 in response to monitoring data that has revealed higher trap counts and the presence of all life stages in recent years.

Oak, aspen, birch, basswood, tamarack, willow, and mountain ash are among the 300+ tree species the gypsy moth prefers. With an abundant supply of preferred trees in Minnesota the ramifications from the voracious gypsy moth caterpillars will likely be severe. Repeated defoliation events may kill trees or cause enough stress that other pests and pathogens can kill them.

So what can you do? Read up on identification and management of gypsy moths, and then follow these tips to slow the spread of this invader.



SNA Events

Photo of visitors on a guided hike

Enjoy a slice of summer at a program, or get your hands busy on a volunteer project, or take a guided stroll through an SNA. Come along on one of these fun events! A full list is available on the SNA Events Calendar.



Bear Head Lake State Park

What is the SNA Program?


Lost Valley Prairie SNA

Volunteer Project: Invasive Removal, Seed Collection


Grey Cloud Dunes SNA

Guided Hike




Site Highlight: Blaine Preserve

Photo of Blaine Preserve SNA

By Kelly Randall, SNA Outreach Coordinator

Expanses of great blazing star greet us as we enter the low-lying wetland on a warm July, the sun sinking toward the western horizon. The lengthening rays create that special luminous quality only found at sunrise and sunset. We are here to learn about this rare native community, the rare plants that inhabit it, and how to help preserve it.

Jason Husveth, our leader for the evening and the person who discovered the site as part of a resource inventory for the City of Blaine explains this wetland is called a graminoid rich fen, which is characterized by grasses and sedges growing in peat. It is significant for its high quality as well as the suite of more than 100 plants, including 13 rare species that grow here. Jason points out some of the rare plants including endangered twisted yellow-eyed grass, (Xyris torta). It's so small most people would likely miss its flowers amongst the much larger blazing stars, mountain mint, and steeplebush, not to mention the grasses, rushes, and sedges.

As we continue deeper into the fen the buzz of traffic on I-35W becomes more evident. We are in a rapidly developing part of the greater Twin Cities area and this fen is one of only a few remnants of its kind left intact. As the sun sets we move out of the fen and talk of the importance of maintaining it through the introduction of controlled burns and removal of invasive buckthorn, spotted knapweed, and reed canary grass. We part ways agreeing this is a very special place that deserves special protection.

All these factors: the high quality fen, the rare species, and the scarcity of native habitat left in this large metropolitan area are what led to the protection of this site as a Scientific and Natural Area known now as the Blaine Preserve SNA.

If you would like to experience this site on what we hope will be a similar summery evening, please come to the official dedication of this site on Thursday July 25th. The event starts at 6:30 with guest speakers and continues with walking tours and a stewardship activity.



Notes from Site Stewards

Photo of  at kitten-tails

It has taken awhile to get here, but it looks like warm weather has finally come and with it reports from site stewards monitoring SNAs across Minnesota. Their observations provide invaluable information to the SNA Program. Here are some interesting notes from recent reports:

  • Now that spring has finally sprung in the northwoods, stewards are reporting on the many birds they are seeing on their visits. John Gregor and Danielle DeNeui at Lutsen SNA reported seeing Black-capped Chickadee, Woodpecker (unknown species), Great Horned Owl, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Flicker, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Turkey Vulture. At Kawishiwi Pines SNA site steward Norma Malinowski has seen Ruffed Grouse, Nashville Warbler, Pine Warbler, Black & White Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Brown Creeper, Black-capped Chickadee, Broad-winged Hawk, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Mallard, Green-winged Teal, and Turkey Vulture.
  • Birds were also a site to see at Felton Prairie SNA where on April 7th site steward Zeb Lamp observed a flock of 10 prairie chickens on the Bicentennial Unit of this site. He also noted 13 prairie chickens near the Assiniboia Unit.
  • Bobbi Baker, site steward at River Terrace SNA, has been helping the SNA Program update records on the rare kitten-tails known to occur on this site. Kitten-tails just beginning to emerge are shown above.
  • On June 15th site steward, Jerry Ibberson helped host a volunteer project to remove invasive species at Clinton Falls Dwarf Trout Lily SNA. Poor weather made for few volunteers, but a dent was still made in the dame's rocket infesting the site.



Nature Notes is the Minnesota Scientific and Natural Areas quarterly e-newsletter. It seeks to increase interest, understanding and support of natural areas while promoting involvement in the protection of these special places.


Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).