This article will not tell you how to kill dandelions or keep your mother-in-law from visiting. It will offer a snapshot on how to get rid of chokecherry. As sure as rain turns to snow, land managers and others from around the state gather each October to discuss emerging invasive species issues. This year’s 20th annual workshop, “Invasive Species in Alaska: Where have we been? Where are we going?” will be held Oct. 22-24 in Fairbanks at Pike’s Waterfront Lodge.

“Choking out chokecherries” is one of many topics on the agenda for the three-day event organized by the UAF Cooperative Extension Service and the Alaska Invasive Species Partnership, formerly known as the Alaska Committee for Noxious and Invasive Plants Management. Although CNIPM, pronounced snip ’em, made for a catchy acronym, Alaska Invasive Species Partnership more accurately describes the group, which focuses on all invasive species.

Invasive pests know no boundaries. This makes collaboration critical. It was Michelle Hebert, in Cooperative Extension’s Tanana District office, who first brought agencies, local governments, tribes, private landowners and nonprofit organizations together 20 years ago. Early invasive species work centered heavily on inventorying and monitoring. Although early detection is still an important first step in thwarting the advances of invasive species, I now see a greater emphasis being placed on species management and control.

Gino Graziano, Extension’s invasive plants instructor, has looked at the efficacy of basal bark applications of two pesticides on Prunus padus — aka chokecherry, European bird cherry or mayday tree. Although in most places, chokecherry is used as the common name for Prunus virginiana, in Fairbanks we also use chokecherry to refer to both species.

Chokecherries are not wild. There are no indigenous cherries in Alaska. Any chokecherries found growing along roadsides and in the woods have escaped from cultivation. Autumn is a good time to see the extent of where chokecherries have spread. After the leaves have fallen from our birch and aspen, those of Prunus padus and Prunus virginiana still persist. You can see chokecherries marching along the Chena River. They are growing in natural areas at Creamer’s Field. We’d be lucky if there were plants that could choke chokecherries out but unfortunately, it’s the other way around. This exotic, non-native bully is quite adept at outcompeting native species important for moose and other wildlife.

In addition to pesticide effectiveness, Graziano looked at possible damage to nontarget species and compared summer versus fall treatments. Results indicated that October applications were effective when snow was not on the ground thereby extending the period of time when these materials can be used for chokecherry control.

The herbicides were applied to the lower portion of chokecherry stems using a backpack sprayer. I asked Graziano about using a hatchet to make cuts on the lower stems before spraying. He chuckled and replied. “You mean hack and squirt? This method is way too labor intensive when you have hundreds of trees.”

Helping to organize this year’s Alaska Invasive Species Workshop is Matt Labrenz. Matt recently joined the Tanana District office as our integrated pest management, IPM, technician. Cooperative Extension Service hasn’t had an IPM technician in Fairbanks for a few years, so we’re extremely glad to have Matt on board. Unlike the exotic, non-native species that are the workshop’s focus, Matt is local. He grew up in Fairbanks and worked in the area’s landscaping industry. Matt has been in Anchorage the past year, providing advice to homeowners, gardeners and commercial growers through Cooperative Extension’s Integrated Pest Management Program. He’s glad to be back home.

When I asked Matt about his interests, he didn’t mention fishing or sports, his response was working with small farmers on produce safety. Matt will make a great addition to our office.

For more information on the Alaska Invasive Species Workshop, contact Matt Labrenz at or 474-6855. Registration can be found at Pesticide applicators wishing to renew their state certification should note that continuing education units are available by attending. A free public lecture, “Invasive Species Risk Assessment in the Great Lakes,” will be held 6-7 p.m. Oct. 21 at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center, 101 Dunkel St., Fairbanks.

Julie Riley is horticulture agent with UAF Cooperative Extension Service in Fairbanks. She is thrilled to have Matt Labrenz join the Tanana District office. She is available at or 474-2423.