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Terrestrial Invasive Species Watch

Beaver Island Archipelago's
Terrestrial Invasive Species Program

The St. James and Peaine Townships Terrestrial Invasive Species (TIS) Program is part of a community effort to curb and/or eradicate invasive species spread in the Beaver Island Archipelago while promoting the knowledge, awareness and protection of threatened & endangered species. This program is intended to create a local base of information and action plans towards invasive species management efforts with the assistance of the community and all groups currently working throughout the islands towards the goal of protecting and valuing our native ecosystems. Together we can accomplish our goals of keeping our islands environmentally healthy, full of native biodiversity and purely beautiful! 

Help support the Islands' fight against invasive species by donating to the
Beaver Island Archipelago's TIS Program Fund!

We are grant funded, relying on grant monies along with donations for our program's continuation. Your donations will be used towards the purchases of field equipment, herbicides, outreach events and much more as we work towards educating the public while monitoring and protecting our native communities.
Thank you!

Terrestrial Invasive Species Administrator:

Shelby Harris
(231) 330-0422


Office Location:
37830 Kings Hwy St. James Township Government Center
Office Hours: Tuesdays & Thursdays 10am-2pm or By Appointment

What is an Invasive Species?

Typically an invasive species is not native to the area, can rapidly reproduce and out compete native species, does not offer sufficient sustenance for the ecosystem and reduces the biodiversity and overall integrity of the invaded area.
Invasive species are most often brought by people- whether knowingly or unknowingly via planting invasive species in your yard, seeds/spores on your shoes/vehicles, dogs/pets, fishing/camping gear, firewood, and others. 
Learning how to identify invasive species, their negative impacts and how to control them can benefit the island in our outdoor activities, real estate values, the island's economy and our environment.
Invasive plants are spreading on almost all private and public lands throughout our islands and we need the community's help to combat these unwelcome species.

  •  Invasive plants can decrease your ability to enjoy hunting, fishing, boating, mushrooming, gathering, bird watching, and other recreational hobbies we enjoy throughout the islands
  •  Invasive plants, if left unchecked, will limit many uses of our islands now and for future generations
  • Invasive plants can harm the natural heritage of our wetlands, fields, forests, shorelines, lakes & rivers
  • The longer we wait, the more expensive it will be to control these invasive plants
You can be a part of the solution by learning about Beaver Island’s invasive plants and taking action to prevent their spread!

Terrestrial Invasive Plant Species Identification

Help learn to identify the invasive species around the Beaver Island Archipelago
Any questions or concerns about species found throughout the islands please contact the TIS Administrator

Invasive Phragmites (Common Reed)
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Found along Lake Michigan shorelines, inland lake shorelines, as well as marshy and wetland areas or even road ditches.

Islands here have a native and an invasive phragmites species that can be difficult to tell apart.

If not controlled, the invasive species will out-compete native plant species, including the native phragmites, and over-take large areas of shoreline with stalks greater than 20’ tall of extremely dense stands.

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When scouting for these invasive species in the summer, remember to look for growing tall, green and dense “grass” stands that are shading out other species along shorelines or wet areas.

When mature, these phragmites will have large, brownish “feather-duster” seed heads at the top of their stems. Different from cattail seed heads which are "puffier" than phragmites.

When scouting during the colder seasons, invasive phragmites will be tannish with
NO reddish colors around their nodes/bases or leaves.

If you can get a closer look, pull on the stalk’s leaves; invasive phragmites will hold onto their leaves throughout the year and are hard to pull off, as well as again having NO reddish color where the leaves connect to the stem.

Here are some quick physical comparisons of the native and invasive phragmites but please report stands if unsure or in need of assistance identifying a species:

Invasive Species Native Species
Slightly ribbed & rigid stems Shiny, smooth stems
Silky, white/tan hairs found at stem node/base Reddish-purple color exposed along
stems and leaves
Tan and green stem node/base

Reddish-purple color at stem node/base
and no silky hairs

Dark, green-bluish leaves  Lighter green/yellowish leaves
Leaves stay on stem year-round and are hard to remove

Leaves fall off in the winter

Typically, taller in height and denser in stands compared to native species

Typically, smaller & less dense seed heads

Typically, larger “feather duster” heads than native species Coexists with other plants

Monotypic stands/no other species around  

phrag stem color difference      phrag stem difference   sead head phrag difference

dougtilleyphagmites2013 - Copy (2)   high-island phrag head  high-island- Christine - Copy  

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Phragmites is chemically controlled by MDARD certified herbicide contractors in late summer/early fall. 

For more information visit:

Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council

Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative

Narrow-leaf Cattail 

cattailnarrowvertThe Narrow-leaf Cattail is very similar to the native Common (Broadleaf) Cattail and will grow along side it in the wetlands where they can be found- even hybridizing. Helped described by its name, the Narrow-leaf Cattail will have leaves about 1/2" smaller in width than the native cattails' leaves. This characteristic can be hard to use in distinguishing one from another however. 

It is easiest to distinguish the invasive Narrow-leaf from the native cattail once the plants are mature in the late summer (August-September). Both have the known brown, "cattail" at the top of their stalks but the Common Cattail will have its one, solid flowering stalk while the Narrow-leaf will have ~1" gap in between its male and female "cattail".

typang_inflo04gf400 - CopyThe Narrow-leaf Cattail is more often found in populated and high trafficked wetland areas like boat launches, docks and popular beach outlets. This invasive will spread faster during low water levels and can also survive in deeper waters compared to the native Common Cattail.

broadleaf-cattail-reproduction-partsRemoval of this invasive species depends on a site-by-site basis but physical removal (if all rhizomes removed), cutting during drawdowns and when flowering, along with stem cutting followed by submergence have all shown progress in the control and management of the plant. Certain herbicides are also found to be effective.

(Left: Narrow-leaf Cattail, Right: Common Broadleaf Cattail) 

Phragmites is chemically controlled by MDARD certified herbicide contractors in late summer/early fall. 

For More Information Visit:

Midwest Invasive Plant's Network

Garlic Mustard (Poor Man’s Mustard, Jack-by-the-Hedge, Garlic Root)

Garlic Mustard is a biennial, herbaceous plant most commonly found in mature upland woods, alongside roads and trails, and the edges of fields and yards. This invasive plant is shade tolerant and can grow from 1-3ft in height when mature.

If not by its tall, single stalk found commonly growing with other Garlic Mustard in clustered groups, this plant can be most noticeable when flowering in early May. At the very top of the plant, you will find clusters of 4 small, white petals. Leaves are somewhat heart-shaped, with toothed edges and an alternating leaf along the stalk. When crushed, the leaves will smell like garlic.

Like most invasives, Garlic Mustard will out-compete native plant species if not managed. These plants will emerge and flower earlier than native plants, and are allelopathic- will release chemicals through their roots to alter the soil and kill neighboring plant species they’re competing with.

The best way to get rid of garlic mustard is manually pulling them out and disposing of them:

  • Try to pull up the plants before they seed (before June)
  • Pull plants after it rains- easier to pull whole plant & root from soil
  • Pull/shimmy plants up and at an angle- taproots grow at an “L” shape and will break off if pulled straight up
  • After you have pulled the plants, bag them up and throw them out with your garbage
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For More Information Visit:

USDA National Invasive Species Info Center

MSU Gardening in Michigan 

Morrow-s-honeysuckle-flowering_1 - Copy (6)Bush Honeysuckle

Growing up to a height of 6ft with its attractive flowers, red berries and full leaves, Bush Honeysuckle is a flowering shrub loved by many and planted in yards across the U.S.. However, along with native honeysuckles there are 2 invasive bush honeysuckle species found on the island; Morrow and Tartarian. It can be difficult to tell these species apart from the native species but there are a few easy distinguishing features.

IMG_8877_honeysuckle-stemCutting a small stem or branch of a honeysuckle will show that invasive honeysuckles are hollow on the inside while native honeysuckles are solid. The flower colors are an easy visible differences as well- invasive honeysuckles have pinkish/white flowers starting in early June through July, while native honeysuckles will have yellow flowers.

Honeysuckle_DanielleTassie-7When not planted ornamentally, Bush Honeysuckles prefer full sun and can be found along forest edges, sides of pastures & old fields, road & trail sides as well as in upland woods if provided enough sun.

If not managed these shrubs will form dense stands removing the biodiversity from an area while not providing much nutrition or benefit to the native wildlife.

honeysuckle compareSmaller shrubs and saplings can be removed by hand while larger Bush Honeysuckles can be removed by a puller, or cut and roots removed. If roots are not removed the plant will continue to sprout. For larger honeysuckles herbicide is recommended for more effective results.

It is important to try not to disturb the soil too much where Bush Honeysuckle is removed as this is prime area for other invasive species to invade and grow or even more honeysuckle. Seeds are dispersed by wildlife and complete eradication of an area can take several years.

For More Information Visit:


images - CopyAutumn Olive (Japanese Silverberry)

A flowering shrub found along fields, woodland edges and road or trail sides, and even growing on bare mineral substrates (sides of gravel roads for instance). This invasive can grow up to 20ft and is drought tolerant, relying on native wildlife to spread its seeds. 

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Can distinguish this invasive by its “silvery” color on the underside of its leaves along with its fragrant, pale yellow and bell-shaped flowers during June-July. The stems are speckled and sometimes thorny. Autumn Olive will also have abundant red/pinkish fruits during August-October.

autumn-olive-4To remove smaller Autumn Olive hand pulling is effective when done over a period of time (several years depending on population size and consistency) or using a puller on larger ones to remove whole plant along with the roots. If too large to pull, cutting and removal of the roots is required to have full effect or the invasive will grow back two-fold. Herbicides used after cutting (cut-stump treatment) can help in effectively eradicating this invasive shrub.

The Puller-bear can be used to help pull these shrubs and their roots fully out of the ground. One is available to sign out at the Beaver Island Transfer Station.

For More Information Visit:

Michigan Invasive Species Webpage 

European Swamp Thistle (Invasive Marsh Thistle)

The European Swamp Thistle or Invasive Marsh Thistle is found throughout the BI Archipelago aggressively spreading south with help from habitat disturbances like logging and development and threatening native thistle species. This herbaceous biennial prefers moist soils such as White Cedar Swamps, fens (frequently flooded areas like ditches and marshes or) or acceptable forest openings. With its single, thick & spiny stem growing up to 5ft tall, this invasive thistle can be easily noticed from the road or trail side. 

swamp thistle stem - Copy     european swamp thistle head - Copy (2)   Europ. Swamp thislte - Copy - Copy

The Invasive Marsh Thistle can look similar to the native thistles but can be differentiated easily by its threatening spines found along its stem as well as its leaves and flower heads. The native Swamp Thistle will be smaller, have no spines along its stems and possesses a single pinkish/purple flower head at the end of its branches rather than tightly grouped clusters. 

The native and federally endangered Pitcher's Thistle looks somewhat similar to the Marsh Thistle possessing less threatening looking spines-but only near the base of its flower heads, of which bloom into a single cream/pinkish color flower with non-spiny, gray/greenish foliage. The Pitcher's Thistle also prefers dry, sandy habitats near dunes and lakeshores. 

Native Swamp Thistle

native swamp thistle head    swamp-thistle_0815_164129 (1) - Copy

pitchers thistlepitchers thistle plantPitcher's Thistle

To eradicate European Swamp Thistle, consistent hand pulling or cutting/mowing when the plant is not seeding towards the late summer has shown to be effective.

For More Information Visit:

MISIN Webpage 

US Forest Service 

spotted_knapweed_flowering1Spotted Knapweed

Spotted Knapweed is a difficult invasive species to combat as its a short-lived biennial with deep taproots that can regrow even when the above-ground plant is removed, can have its seeds stay in soils for up to 5 years and chemically attacks neighboring plants to create barren monocultures. 

spotted_knapweed_rosettes_gravel2Found in dry, open areas (fields, dunes, roadsides, yards, golf courses) this invasive can also be confused easily with native species like Wormwood and Pitcher's Thistle having irregularly lobed, gray-green foliage in its first year of a rosette form and its mature form growing 2-4ft tall and being very "thistle-like" with long branched stems and pinkish/purple flowers at the ends.

5-knapweed bractsSpotted Knapweed can be distinguished from other plant species by looking for its "spotted flowered heads": stiff, dark "bracts" in the shape of upside down "V" throughout the flower head.

In order to remove Spotted Knapweed constant mowing and hand pulling- removing as much of the tap root as possible, is required. LONG SLEEVES & GLOVES should be worn when hand pulling Spotted Knapweed as it can cause serious skin irritation. 

For More Information Visit:



We would like to thank all of our collaborators, community workers and volunteers who have helped and worked so hard in the immense and on-going challenge of keeping our islands healthy, explored and protected. This job would not be possible without you and our continued devotion to the native biodiversity our islands have to offer.

Beaver Island Association
MNFI (Michigan Natural Features Inventory)
MDNR (Michigan Department of Natural Resources)
NLMIC (Northern Lake Michigan Islands Collaborative)
Little Traverse Conservancy
LTBB of Odawa Indians (Little Traverse Bay Band)
GTB of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (Grand Traverse Band)
CAKE-CISMA (Charlevoix, Antrim, Kalkaska, Emmett - Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas)
EGLE (Environment, Great Lakes & Energy, (formally DEQ))
USFWS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council
MISIN (Midwest Invasive Species Information Network)
CMU Biological Station
Michigan Clean Water Corps
MSU Extension Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program
UofM Obtawaing Biosphere (University of Michigan School for the Environment & Sustainability)  
The Nature Conservancy
GLIA (Great Lakes Island Alliance)
NFWF (National Fish & Wildlife Foundation)
Antrim Conservation District
Charlevoix Conservation District
Charlevoix County Road Commission
Charlevoix County Sheriff's Department
Great Lakes Commission
Tara's Meadow Retreat & Education Center
St. James Township
Peaine Township
Beaver Island Community Center
Beaver Island Archipelago Trails Association
Beaver Island Chamber of Commerce
Beaver Island Dark Sky Committee
WVBI 100.1FM 
Beaver Island Community School
Beaver Island Historical Society
The Port of St. James Association
Amik Circle Society 
Beaver Island Boat Company