ST. PAUL — Registration is now open to become a Pesky Plant Tracker, a volunteer program that empowers citizen scientists to identify, observe, and report on invasive plants in their area.

The program, created by the Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center at the University of Minnesota, focuses on invasive wild parsnip and Japanese knotweed, two significant invasive species in the state. Pesky Plant Trackers collect valuable information on these species by observing and reporting seasonal changes in leaves, flowers, and fruits. This data informs MITPPC research on the control and management of these species.

“Gaining data from citizen scientists is so valuable to the research being conducted at MITPPC,” said Dr. Rob Venette, director of the Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center. “It’s really helpful to have as many people on the ground as possible observing these species. As we learn more about their basic biology, we’ll be able to better manage and control them.”

The observation season for these plants runs from March or April through October, so winter is the best time to get trained. Training includes the basics about invasive plants, resources for locating plants near you, identification tips for wild parsnip and Japanese knotweed, and instructions for data collection.

Trainings are entirely online.

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“Becoming a Pesky Plant Tracker is a great way to get active, learn more about the plants around you, and make a positive difference in our understanding of invasive species,” said Abbie Anderson, program coordinator. “We know that both wild parsnip and Japanese knotweed exist in the Red Wing area, so it will be convenient to collect data on a weekly basis.”

Becoming a Pesky Plant Tracker is open to anyone. Additional details about the program and registration information are available at https://peskyplants.umn.edu.

The Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center works across the state to deliver science- based solutions to protect Minnesota’s forests, prairies, wetlands, and agricultural resources from terrestrial invasive species. Funding for this program is provided by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Learn more at www.mitppc.umn.edu.