Protecting Niles’ trillium flowers

Published 2:11 pm Friday, May 14, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The spread of invasive species is effecting habitats all over the world and that effect was recently confronted at Trillium Ravine Preserve in Niles.
The preserve, which was acquired by the Michigan Nature Association in 1983, is a beautiful, 15-acre tract of land known for its abundance of trillium flowers.
Sherri Laier, stewardship coordinator for the Michigan Nature Association, is concerned that this precious habitat is being changed by the rapid spread of garlic mustard, an invasive species that can quickly take over an ecosystem and dominate the landscape.
The Michigan Nature Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to natural history study, conservation education and protecting unique natural areas like the Trillium Ravine Preserve. Since being founded in 1952, the association has acquired 160 nature sanctuaries, through purchase or donation, across the State of Michigan.
On Wednesday, Laier and Niles residents Mike and Elinor Taylor, the local stewards of the property, spent the day at the reserve removing as much of the garlic mustard plants as they could find.
He said this rapid spread happens because of the plant's prolific seed production and the fact that garlic mustard seeds remain viable for five years.
Taylor is worried if the spread of invasive species continues, it will take away from the trillium growth and the beauty of this natural Michigan ecosystem.
Because the seeds are spread by foot traffic and animals, Laier and the Taylors were very concerned about eliminating the garlic mustard found along the foot trails of the preserve.
Taylor estimated the they had removed about 1,000 plants by noon on Wednesday.
Laier said garlic mustard was brought over by European immigrants in the 1800s as a salad green. The plant escaped their gardens and is now a problem all across the country.
She admitted it is a tasty plant that can be used in recipes like vegetarian lasagna, but because of its destructive qualities she has recently been travelling all over the state to rid this species from the association's many nature preserves including recent stops in Dowagiac and Decatur.
While walking along the trails of Trillium Ravine Preserve, she also pointed out a few of the other invasive species found here including honeysuckle and multiflora rose.
She plans to make a return to the area soon to confront the removal of these invasive species.
While the property is privately owned by the Michigan Nature Association, it is open to the public for nature walks along the preserve's looping trail.
Taylor wishes more people would come visit the preserve and take advantage of this hidden gem.
Trillium Ravine Preserve can be found by taking the Walton Road exit off of US 31, heading northeast on Walton Road and then turning right on E. Geyer Road. This will lead into to Riverside Road and the preserve is located along the right side of the road with a small wooden sign indicating the location of the trail.
The association is always looking for volunteers to help them with the upkeep of these natural environments. For more information, call (517) 655-5655.