When I attended the 2015 First Detector Workshop, my horticulture experience conveyed the invasive qualities of burning bush, Japanese barberry and Callery pear. I knew I should not recommend them for landscapes; however, I had not realized they have become a problem in the Illinois wild. I needed more knowledgeable of the invasive plants and insects that threaten the Illinois ecosystem in order to relay that information to the community and volunteers that I serve.
As I drove around Illinois early that spring, I notice the spattering of invasive Callery pears in bloom. I did not know that these were derivatives of the very trees we planted in landscapes—escaped individuals will revert to a "wild type" that looks different from what we are used to seeing. I was compelled to give the public "landscape alternative" articles that go against industry standards when they threaten our ecosystem.
Information on the Rose Rosette virus was also presented at the workshop. A virus that is equitable across many rose types causes distortion of petals, buds, and new leaves have a reddish appearance with a proliferation of small thorns. A small microscopic mite spreads this virus, and once it takes hold the best treatment is a complete removal of plant and roots. I have suspected the virus while answering questions from the community and forwarded them to the University of Illinois Plant Clinic. While I was visiting family this year in Dallas, we found a roseless rose garden that had succumb to the virus. Knowing not only the existence, but the symptoms of the virus has allowed me to be a first detector in the area that I serve.
I also learned about a potential garden and fruit threat, Brown Marmorated Stink bug. It will start coming into our homes during the winter the way Asian lady beetles do, but eat up our landscape, fruits and vegetables. I have since found these in my own home and diagnosed them in my role as educator because First Detector's training taught me the characteristics with which to identify them.
I am excited about what I will gain from this year's workshop: They are going to teach me how to identify and distinguish between serious oak diseases, how invasive plants affect human health, and about upcoming forest insect pests. Most of all, I want to be the eyes in Livingston, McLean and Woodford Counties for potential threats that may become a detriment to the environment. The environment that I have pledged to protect.