519 East Sheridan Street, PO Box 609 • Eagle River, Wisconsin 54521 • (715) 479-6456 

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A (b)log of Natural Resources Info

By Guest Blogger Rosie Page, WIsconsin Headwaters Invasives Partnership (WHIP)


Plants Out of Place!

Partnering for a more native, invasive-free, campus


Dude, I cannot see us treating all these thistles in one day!



He wasn’t wrong. It seemed we’d never get to every rosette in that forest-lined meadow, but somehow a few hours later we took a moment to breathe and realized we had. The six-person crew from Blackwell Job Corps had lined up and carefully crossed the area three times and had treated each one. The herbicide would bind to the thistle rosette’s living green tissue and prevent a tall spiny stem from bolting and eventually dropping thousands of seeds into the soil. Best of all, doing it this early in the season meant that the chemical wouldn’t harm the native plants that were still dormant in the late Northwoods spring.



(Above) Removing invasive plants clears the way for the growth of native spring wildflowers, like this Jack-in-the-pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum, observed at TFT this May


Based out of Laona, Wisconsin, the Blackwell crew are young people training for careers focused on nature and preservation of natural resources, whether that means battling wildfires, maintaining national park facilities, or protecting sensitive habitats.  During their training they sharpen a range of outdoor skills, including invasive species management. Thanks to a lucky connection from a U.S. Forest Service colleague, I was able to work with them for a couple of days in mid-May this year, right at the perfect time for thistle treatment.




(Above) Crew members from Blackwell Job Corps line up to begin invasive species treatment at TFT’s west side on May 15, 2023


Since 2021, the forests at Trees For Tomorrow have undergone some changes, following significant storm events and a timber harvest to remove damaged trees. When a forest experiences this type of disturbance, the increased sunlight hitting the forest floor can encourage invasive species seeds like marsh thistle to germinate and flourish. Luckily, the TFT staff had recently completed an Invasive Species Management Plan, in partnership with my group, the Wisconsin Headwaters Invasives Partnership (WHIP). This plan laid out steps for handling new invasive plants, and identified important steps like containing the thistle, pulling new buckthorn seedlings, and removing spiny Japanese barberry which spreads quickly and fiercely on open soil. Our shared restoration committee of partners are also making plans for new signage to explain this process to neighbors, and to encourage them to join the cause to remove invasive species on their land as well. Since these plants can’t detect and respect property lines,  we really are all in this together.


That spring day we treated several acres of invasive marsh thistle (Cirsium palustre) that invaded the TFT wetlands years ago but is well on the way to containment thanks to increasing control efforts.  This species is steadily moving into northern Wisconsin from the east along highway corridors from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, flourishing in wet ditches and crowding out other wetland plants.  It’s never an easy fix; you have to be mentally prepared to repeat the treatment in multiple years as more seeds generate, and there are still rosettes we didn’t have time for that day.  But, on the other hand there are already signs of hope; with fewer thistles we’ve spotted new native wildflowers like Jack-in-the-Pulpit and trillium.  And with more and more young people equipped to treat invasive plants and educate others on the reasons why, I’d say we’re headed in the right direction.



(Above) WHIP and TFT staff are working to remove invasive marsh thistles (Cirsium palustre) like these, amongst ongoing restoration activities on campus 


If you spot plants that may be invasive, take action!

  • Visit the Trees For Tomorrow lobby for a brochure describing common invasive plants
  • Learn to recognize local high priority invasive plants at  
  • Remove seedheads of invasive plants, and dispose in secure trash bags
  • Keep an eye out for new plants spreading on your property, and report them to
  • Talk to your neighbors to encourage invasive plant recognition and management!
  • Contact WHIP any time with questions: 313.590.4419 or



(Above) An invasive thistle plant, shrivelled from herbicide treatment, surrounded by unaffected native grasses