Local group plants new shrubs, removes invasive species from Niehaus Park

Dale Payne (Park Superintendent) and Emily Finch (Dubois County SWCD) pose with two other Park Department employees next to the freshly planted ninebark shrubs.

Visit Niehaus Park in Huntingburg and you might notice something different, new landscaping at the beginning of the walking trail. 

The three large burning bush shrubs once planted next to the trail sign have now been replaced with three Festivus Gold Ninebark shrubs.  

Why the change?

According to Emily Finch, Invasive Species Specialist with the Dubois County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD), it’s all part of an effort to replace invasive landscaping with native alternatives.

“More and more people are realizing that invasive plants like burning bush aren’t good choices. But we wanted to take it a step further and showcase the benefit of native landscaping,” Finch said. “These Ninebarks will be beautiful but also support multiple pollinators and insects, providing food for Indiana birds.”

The Burning Bushes at the entrance to the trail.

In fact, in 2020 Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) was classified by the Indiana Invasive Species Council as a Highly Invasive Plant, indicating they may ask for it to be regulated in the future. While landowners may be more familiar with invasives like Honeysuckle, Autumn Olive, or Multiflora Rose, Finch says Burning Bush is more widespread than we think:

“I’m seeing Burning Bush more and more when I inspect forests for invasive plants. In areas where it has had time to grow, Burning Bush creates such dense thickets that nothing else can grow there,” Finch explained. “It displaces our native plants but doesn’t provide the same food or habitat for wildlife. And the source of these plants are seeds spread from our landscaping.”

The shrub replacement is part of a larger project by the Invasive Species Awareness Coalition (ISAC) of Dubois County, with help from the Dubois County SWCD and a grant from the Dubois REC Community Fund. 

Earlier in the year, ISAC volunteers hosted a Weed Wrangle at Niehaus Park which covered several acres, removing invasive Burning Bushes in the wooded area along with other invasive trees, shrubs, and vines. They also worked with city park staff on how to identify and control invasive plants and according to Dale Payne, Park Superintendent for the City of Huntingburg, the help is appreciated:

“The Huntingburg Park Department would like to thank ISAC and the SWCD for the Weed Wrangle and helping to educate the Park Department on invasive plants,” he said. “Their expertise was enlightening as we were not trained in the picking out and getting rid of these species.”

ISAC hopes to return in the future to continue invasive removal efforts.

For more information on invasive plants in Dubois County, native landscaping alternatives, and how you can help, visit www.isacdc.org or call Emily Finch at 812-482-1171×3.