Play Detective

Landowner tours their property with CVC staff

Crime and mystery novels are two of the best-selling genres of fiction worldwide. So there’s a good chance you’ve spent part of the winter cozied up fireside trying to pin down the criminal and solve the crime. Although spring invites us to put down the books and venture outside, you don’t have to stop playing detective.

Spring is the perfect time to identify problem plants on your property. Many invasive plants and insects show signs of growth or activity early in the season. If left to spread, infestations can reduce biodiversity and the natural beauty of your property by overtaking native plants and reducing food and shelter availability for animals and insects. Early detection and rapid response are critical for controlling infestations that reduce the enjoyment of your property, harm the environment and are costly to remove. 

Although winter is here for a few weeks yet, here are some species to watch for. Use a fun plant identification app, like iNaturalist, to help you confirm what you’ve found. Once you’ve made an ID, what to do next depends on the species and extent of the infestation. Small infestations of species like dog-strangling vine and garlic mustard require determination and repeated effort. But if caught early, they can often be managed by hand. If you’ve discovered a much larger problem, connect with one of our stewardship coordinators. We can help you determine the best course of action.

Close-up of leaves from the European buckthorn plant.
Invasive European buckthorn. Photo credit: USDA NRCS Ortwin Bourquinn 

European buckthorn

Also known as common buckthorn, this aggressive shrub can be a real thorn in your side. Often one of the first shrubs to leaf out in spring, look for woody stems with smooth, dark green egg-shaped leaves and a thorny tip at the end of its branches. Read more.

Young garlic mustard growing in soil.
Invasive garlic mustard.

Garlic Mustard

Find this herb in both sunny and shaded areas of your property. In early spring, look for rosette-shaped leaves close to the ground. The plants will grow about 30 cm tall with saw-toothed leaves and clusters of white flowers in May. Young leaves smell like garlic when crushed. Read more.

Close-up of hemlock needles with hemlock woolly adelgid sacs.
Invasive hemlock woolly adelgid. Photo credit: Liandrei

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

A threat to our beautiful eastern hemlocks, the woolly sacs of this aphid-like insect can be spotted in early spring and become more prominent closer to May. Find them attached to the twig at the base of the needle. Read more.

Clump of dog-strangling vine.
Invasive dog-strangling vine.

Dog-strangling Vine

Growing up to two metres tall, this invasive vine forms a thick mat to strangle out native species and prevent recreational enjoyment of your property. Look for light green stems that wrap around each other and smooth, green leaves with wavy leaf edges. Read more.

Learn how to identify and remove invasive dog-strangling vine.
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