Cuban Treefrogs in the Panhandle

Cuban Treefrogs in the Panhandle

Photo by Dr. Steve Johnson

Treefrog calls are often heard with each rain event.  But, how about a “snoring raspy” call that begins after a day time light rain?  That may be a male Cuban treefrog trying to attract the girls.  Cuban treefrogs breed predominately in the spring and summer.  Reproduction is largely stimulated by rainfall, especially warm summer rains such as those associated with tropical weather systems and intense thunderstorms.

Range of Cuban treefrogs

The Cuban treefrog, Osteopilus septentrionalis, was accidently introduced to Florida in the 1920’s as a stowaway in shipping crates from the Caribbean.  Over the last hundred years, the invasive frog has managed to spread throughout Florida and the Southeastern U.S. by hitchhiking on ornamental plants, motorized vehicles, and boats.  Though occasional cold winters have created temporary population setbacks, new generations of Cuban treefrogs continue to be reported in north Florida, including the Panhandle.

An invasive species is generally defined as a plant, animal or microbe that is found outside of its native range, where it negatively impacts the ecology, economy or quality of human life. Cuban treefrogs come out at night to feed on snails, millipedes, spiders and a vast array of insects.  But, they are also predators of several Florida native frogs, lizards and snakes.  Tadpoles of the invasive Cuban treefrog have been shown to inhibit the growth and development of native Southern toad and green treefrog tadpoles when all of the species are in the same water body.  Additionally, a large female Cuban treefrog can lay over 10,000 eggs per season in very small amounts of water.

Panhandle citizens can help manage the invasive Cuban treefrog by learning to identify them and reduce their numbers.  All treefrogs have expanded pads on the ends of their toes.  Cuban treefrogs have exceptionally large toepads.  They also have a “big eyed” appearance due to their oversized bulging eyes.  Cuban treefrogs may exceed 6 inches in length, have warty-looking skin with possible blotches, bands or stripes, and vary greatly in color.  However, they can be distinguished from other treefrogs.  Cuban treefrogs have a yellowish wash where their front and rear legs are attached to their body.  Juvenile Cuban treefrogs have red eyes and blue bones visible through the skin of their hind legs.  The skin of the Cuban treefrog produces a sticky secretion that can cause a burning or itching sensation if it contacts the eyes or nose of certain individuals.  It is recommended to wear gloves and wash your hands after handling Cuban treefrogs.

It is important to document the locations of Cuban treefrogs in the Panhandle.  By placing short sections of PVC pipe in the ground around your home and garden will provide hiding places for treefrogs that enables you to monitor for Cuban treefrogs.  Cut 10 foot sections of 1.5-inch-diameter PVC pipe into approximately three-foot-long sections and push them into the ground about 3-4 inches.  To remove a frog from a pipe, place a clear sandwich bag over the top end, pull the pipe from the ground, and insert a dowel rod in the other end to scare the frog into the baggie.  If you suspect you have seen one, take a picture and send it to Dr. Steve Johnson at tadpole@ufl.edu.  Include your name, date, and location.  Dr. Johnson can verify the identity.  If it is a Cuban treefrog, upload the information by going to http://www.eddmaps.org/ and click the “Report Sightings” tab.

Once identified as a Cuban treefrog, it should be euthanized humanly.  To do that, the Cuban treefrog in a plastic sandwich bag can be placed into the refrigerator for 3-4 hours then transferred to the freezer for an additional 24 hours.  Alternatively, a 1-inch stripe benzocaine-containing ointment (like Orajel) to the frog’s back to chemically anesthetize it before placing it into a freezer.  After freezing, remove the bagged frog from the freezer and dispose of in the trash.  Ornamental ponds should also be monitored for Cuban treefrog egg masses especially after a heavy rain.  The morning after a rain, use a small-mesh aquarium net to scoop out masses of eggs floating on the surface of the pond and simply discard them on the ground to dry out.  Various objects that can collect water found throughout your yard need to be dumped out regularly to reduce breeding spots for both Cuban treefrogs and mosquitoes.

Vines, Vines, Vines:  What’s Growing Up My Trees?

Vines, Vines, Vines: What’s Growing Up My Trees?

We work very hard to maintain our gardens and then we look up and vines are growing 20′ into the trees.  I get asked frequently “what is growing up my trees?” My first answer is “probably the same things growing on your fences.”  These include Smilax species, commonly called catbrier or greenbrier, Vitis rotundifolia, referred to as wild muscadine grape, Parthenocissus quinquefolia or Virginia Creeper, and the one to be most careful with, Toxicodendron radicans, known by many as Poison Ivy.

Smilax Vine

Spring growth on the Smilax vine.

Smilax is a native vine that grows quickly in spring and all summer.  There are 12 species in Florida and 9 species commonly found in the Panhandle.  Besides being armed with thorns on their stems and some leaves, Smilax spreads by underground stems called rhizomes.  If you choose to ignore it, some species can cover your trees and the stems become woody and hard to remove.  This vine also produces fruit and seeds are dispersed by birds all while the underground rhizomes are spreading under your lawns and gardens.

Smilax Vine on Tree Trunk

Smilax can quickly cover a tree trunk.

Removal can be difficult and mowing the vines only encourages more growth.  When trying to remove by hand, wear heavy leather gloves and some eye protection because of the thorns.  Cut the stems about three feet above the ground which allows you some stem to pull on to bring it out of your tree.  You also then have a handle to pull and try to remove some of the rhizome from underground.  Digging rhizomes is time consuming, but gives you piece of mind that they won’t come back immediately.  Our family actually harvests the new shoots in spring and we use them like asparagus.

Wild muscadine grape is also native and difficult to remove.  Most of the vines in nature are male and only produce by runners along the ground and then grow upwards.  The female vine can produce 4-10 grapes in a cluster and then reseeds itself.

Muscadine on a fence.

Wild muscadine grape covering a fence.

Wild grape completely covers plants and eventually the plants underneath can die.  There are no thorns to contend with when removing wild grape, it is just time consuming, especially if it has taken over your fence or natural areas.

Virginia Creeper is a native vine, still considered a nursery plant in some areas of the country, and has bright red fall color.

Virginia Creeper

Virginia Creeper climbing a tree trunk.

It is most often confused with poison ivy because of having five leaflets per leaf whereas poison ivy only has three leaflets per leaf.  It spreads by seeds, runs along the ground, and is the easiest of these four vines to remove from your property.

Poison Ivy is a native vine distinguished by its three leaflets with the individual leaflets getting up to 6″ long.  This vine spreads by seeds and underground rhizomes.  What makes removal of this vine difficult is the urushiol oils which causes the skin rashes and blistering.

Poison Ivy

Poison ivy covering a tree trunk.

Care must be taken to cover up all skin and I recommend wearing waterproof clothes versus cotton which can absorb the oils and transfer them to your skin.  Under no circumstances should these vines be put on the burn pile, the oils can become airborne and then you can inhale them.

Here are a few helpful tips when battling these native vines.  First have patience and be dedicated, this removal will not happen over night.  It may take a year or two to rid your property of the original vines.  Be diligent though, because birds will continually land in your trees and deposit more seeds to get a fresh start.  Try to remove vines when they are young and just beginning to climb your trees and fences.  If you know you don’t have the time or energy to remove the vines from all your trees, at least cut the vines close to the ground to reduce flowering and new seeds.  Be careful with poison ivy because falling leaves still contain oils.  Once the vines start to have a new flush of growth, spray a non-selective herbicide on new growth and you should have good results.  Lastly, remember one person can make a difference in trying to reduce the number of nuisance vines in our communities.

Here are some sited references to help with your removal tasks.  Key to Nine Common Smilax Species of Florida. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/fr375.  Smilax is a Vine that can be Difficult to Control. http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/wakullaco/2017/04/21/smilax-is-a-vine-that-can-be-difficult-to-control/.  The Muscadine Grape (Vitus rotundifolia Michx.)  https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/hs100.  Muscadine Grape Vines: Difficult to Control in Your Landscape. http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/wakullaco/2017/03/24/muscadine-grape-vines-difficult-to-control-in-your-landscape/.  Parthenocissus quinquefolia: Virginia Creeper https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/fp454.  Identification of Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac, and Poisonwood. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/EP220.

Beach Vitex

Beach Vitex

Beach vitex in bloom is an attractive plant, which can make it more difficult to convince property owners of its harmful potential. Photo credit: Rick O’Connor, Florida Sea Grant

One of the biggest problems with beach vitex (Vitex rotundifolia) is its beauty. It has rounded, deep green leaves (with a silvery gray cast) and a beautiful little lavender-purple bloom. Like most weedy invasive plants, the plant was imported and sold as an ornamental groundcover for many years. Homeowners and landscapers planted it in coastal areas where it is well adapted to the salt and heat, and no one realized it would be so problematic. Ever since, beach vitex took root and has continued growing, unchecked, throughout the coastal south.

In this photo, beach vitex has overrun all native dune vegetation to form a monoculture. Photo credit: Randy Westbrook, Invasive Plant Control, Inc. bugwood.org

North and South Carolina started having big issues first, when beach vitex was planted deliberately to stabilize sand dunes after hurricanes. Soon after, a coastal restoration specialist with the Army Corps of Engineers realized the mistake. The vines run along the ground in such thick mats that native vegetation like sea oats can be choked out. The wide-spreading fibrous roots and tall profile of sea oats hold sand in place better than the beach vitex’s low growth and taproot, which have long term consequences for maintaining dune stability. The thick tangle of vitex growth is yet another obstacle for hatchling sea turtles in a long list of man-made problems that has made nesting and reproduction difficult.

The invasive vine beach vitex has taken over a stretch of sand on Pensacola Beach. Photo credit: Rick O’Connor, Florida Sea Grant

Eradication of the noxious weed has proved difficult. When a plant gets the nickname, “beach kudzu,” you know something went seriously wrong. Beach vitex produces millions of seeds in late summer and early fall, which are dispersed by wind, birds, and float over water. Unless removed before going to seed, even a small patch of the vine can expand rapidly. While not as prevalent in Florida, over 80 sites have been identified in the western panhandle with beach vitex. Due to these problematic issues, the plant was recently added to the Florida Noxious Weed and Invasive Species List, making it illegal to sell, grow, move, or release the plant.

To learn more about how to identify, report, and remove beach vitex, visit www.eddmaps.org or contact Rick O’Connor at roc1@ufl.edu.

Remove Invasive Species, Win Prizes

Remove Invasive Species, Win Prizes

February 22-26, 2021 is National Invasive Species Awareness Week.

February 22 to 26, 2021 is National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW). This is a time where many organizations involved with land management and conservation will be sharing information to educate the public about the issue of invasive plant and animal species. Living in Florida, we should all be well aware of the concerns with invasive species as we have experience with many, including the fire ant, kudzu, iguanas, climbing fern, and pythons. Oh my! Due to Florida’s climate and our many active ports, we are prime for introductions of many non-native species. These invasive species alter our unique ecosystems and can cause harm to us humans by blocking waterways (aquatic plants like Hydrilla), affecting our health (allergenic plants like Chinese privet) and the health of our pets and livestock (dogs allergic to tropical dayflower and cattle killed by Nandina). Since many of these pests were brought here for the ornamental landscape trade, gardeners have a responsibility to be aware of these invasive species and do what they can to control them.

A few of the most common invasive species you may find in your north Florida landscape. Clockwise from top left – Japanese climbing fern, coral ardisia, and heavenly bamboo. Image Credit: Bugwood.org

There are several great resources from UF/IFAS to help with identification and control of invasive species, from your local county extension agents to a slew of online publications and websites. This year, the Florida Invasive Species Partnership (FISP), of which UF/IFAS is a partner, is coordinating a pandemic-safe, stay-at-home Weed Wrangle to encourage Floridians to work on controlling invasive species. If you share your efforts, you’re eligible for prizes, including weed pullers and gift certificates for native plants! For more information, check out the website for the Florida Weed Wrangle Week event – https://www.floridainvasives.org/flwww.cfm.

For more help identifying and controlling invasive species, contact your local county extension office or visit this UF/IFAS website that is a clearinghouse of invasive species information – https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/natural-resources/invasive-species/.

Avoid Firewood Pests

Avoid Firewood Pests

Fire in fireplace

Be careful when bringing firewood indoors. Photo credit: Larry Williams

Your firewood pile could be “bugged.” Many insects like to overwinter in wood. A wood pile is an ideal place for some insects to survive the winter. They don’t know that you intend to bring their winter home indoors during cold weather.

During colder weather, you can unknowingly bring in pests such as spiders, beetles and roaches when you bring in firewood. It’s best to bring in firewood only when you are ready to use it. Otherwise, those pests could become active and start crawling around inside your house. Many insects are potential problems indoors and there are usually control options once insects move into your home. However, preventing the insects from getting inside is the best approach.

If you store wood indoors for short periods of time, it is a good idea to clean the storage area after you have used the wood. Using a first-in, first-out guideline as much as possible will reduce chances of insect problems.

It’s best to keep your wood pile off the ground and away from the house. This will make it less inviting to insects and help the wood dry. It’s not difficult to keep the wood off the ground. The wood can be stacked on a base of wooden pallets, bricks or blocks, which will allow air movement under the wood. The wood can also be covered with a waterproof tarp or stored in a shed. Regardless of how it is stored, avoid spraying firewood with insecticides. When burned, insecticide treated wood may give off harmful fumes.

Some critters that live in firewood can be harmful to humans. To avoid a painful sting or bite from insects, spiders or scorpions (no Florida scorpion is considered poisonous, but they can inflict a painful sting), it is a good practice to wear gloves when picking up logs from a wood pile.

Firewood can be a good source of heat during our cold weather. If you’re careful with how you handle your firewood, hopefully it will warm you, not “bug” you.

Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE! 2021

Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE! 2021

We are back with new topics and guest speakers for 2021! All sessions are Thursdays at noon CDT or 1:00 p.m. EDT.

There are two ways to join the Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE! webinars:

1. Facebook Live – Follow us on Facebook and follow individual webinar Events.
2. Zoom Webinar – Pre-registration is required for Zoom. Users must have an authenticated account (free at Zoom Link). Be sure you have security settings up to date to prevent connection delays. Links to Zoom registration will be added to the topic one week before the webinar and a closed captioned recorded link to YouTube will be available approximately one week after the program. (Underlined words have active links!)

 

Date

Topic

Panelists

12-1 pm CDT

2/4/2021

Weeds
Reference links

Dr. Chris Marble, Beth Bolles, Mark Tancig, Larry Williams

3/11/2021

Spring Vegetables
Reference links

Dr. Josh Freeman, Matt Lollar, Sheila Dunning, Evan Anderson

4/8/2021

Lawns
Reference links

Dr. Bryan Unruh, Dr. Pat Williams, Mark Tancig, Larry Williams

5/13/2021

Herbs

Beth Bolles, Julie McConnell, Mary Salinas, Trevor Hylton

6/10/2021

Ornamental & Turf Diseases

Dr. Phil Harmon, Stephen Greer, Larry Williams, Matt Orwat

7/29/2021

Beneficial Insects: Predators!

Dr. Adam Dale, Beth Bolles, Julie McConnell, Danielle Sprague

8/12/2021

Open landscape topics Q&A

Beth Bolles, Mark Tancig, Matt Lollar, Evan Anderson

9/9/2021

Beginning Beekeeping

Amy Vu, Ray Bodrey, Evan Anderson, Matt Orwat

10/14/2021

Invasive Species

Dr. Stephen Enloe, Dr. Pat Williams, Dr. Gary Knox, Sheila Dunning, Ray Bodrey

11/4/2021

Houseplants

Marc Frank, Dr. Pat Williams, Stephen Greer, Matt Orwat

12/9/2021

Selecting and Maintaining Trees

Larry Figart, Mark Tancig, Larry Williams, Matt Orwat, Dr. Ryan Klein

Missed a session and want to catch up?
All webinars are archived with closed captioning on our YouTube Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE! Playlist.