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How to Avoid Spreading Invasive Species

July 8, 2011

Invasive species are often spread unwittingly by people simply enjoying the outdoors, hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, boating, or general recreation activities. Purple loosestrife creates thousands upon thousands of seeds per plant; plants like garlic mustard, thistles and invasive grasses all generate huge numbers of seeds as well. Loosestrife root fragments can also generate new plants; Japanese knotweed is another invasive that can propagate vegetatively, and root fragments from several other invasive species can generate new plants as well.


A large purple loosestrife infestation, capable of producing millions of seeds

The seeds and plant materials of invasive species can work their way into clothing, shoe and tire treads or stow away in gear and in a pet’s fur, and thus manage to travel far from their original infestation and start a new one wherever they land.

There are several very simple activities that can be done to prevent movement of invasive species:

  • Wear clothing and footwear that are not “seed friendly”. Avoid bulky knits as your external layer, try to wear gaiters to prevent seeds from sticking, and wear low tread shoes or boots wherever possible to avoid buildup of seeds and debris in the tread.
  • Clean your equipment before you bring it in to or out of an activity location, making sure to remove seeds and other living material. This can include your clothing and footwear, your vehicles (including boats, trucks, cars, ATVs), trailers, the fur and feet of any animals you have brought to use while hunting or trapping (i.e. hunting dogs), any traps used, bags used to carry equipment, bilges and live wells on boats, etc.
  • When you do remove seeds or other materials from your clothing and equipment, do not do so in or near a waterway; this can increase the spread of invasive species.
  • When moving off trail, attempt to avoid areas that are infested with invasive species. Not only can they be spread by contact with humans or animals, but some can cause irritation or damage to skin.
  • Attempt to stay on trail with motor vehicles, and attempt to minimize soil disturbance wherever you spend time outdoors. Disturbed soil is prime habitat for invasive species, and minimizing disturbance will reduce the habitat available.


If you hop into a wetland that looks like this, make sure to clean your clothing, boots and equipment before leaving, to prevent the spread of purple loosestrife!

A little diligence can drastically reduce the spread of invasive species. Spreading the word to friends and family can further reduce the spread, and engage more people in efforts to prevent invasive species spread.

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