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Snakes and Buckthorn in Southeastern Minnesota


By: Tiffany Howard

Lately my crew has been given the task of pulling garlic mustard. Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is from the mustard family (Brassicaceae)which is related to cabbage, horseradish, broccoli, ect. You can tell it is the right plant because when you rub its leaves between your fingers it smells like garlic. Garlic Mustard is an invasive species that is detrimental to the species richness of the area because it out competes all of the native plants. Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have made great strides in removing garlic mustard by manually pulling in the spring and spraying them in the fall. They are easy to spot in the fall because they stay green after most things turn brown.

To my unfortunate discovery, buckthorn likes to hang out with the nettles! Luckily nature gives us some help as jewel weeds are close by for us to rub on our skin to relieve some of the stinging feeling. We have been doing this every day for weeks and we are just getting to end of season. As boring as that sounds, some days you cannot beat getting to walk through nature and see some beautiful country, some awesome flowers and animals.

We have also spent a couple afternoons looking for Timber rattlesnakes, they are an endangered species in Minnesota. For the most part, we go to known den sites and look for them.My crew did happen upon a new den site and it was pretty awesome as I have never seen one in the wild. ! As my crew and I were standing near the den, a co crew member of mine realized there was a baby snake at our feet outside, no wonder momma snake was so mad at us!  Now we will set up a camera and monitor the den for years to come and hope many more offspring will be born there!

I am enjoying my time down here in Southeastern Minnesota and am excited that we will be moving on to other projects like wild parsnip removal and cutting trees on bluffs after our mid-year retreat with Project AWARE in Iowa!