For the first time in 17 years, Fort Leavenworth is conducting a vegetation survey to get a better idea of what is growing on post.

Katie Peterson | Staff Writer

For the first time in 17 years, Fort Leavenworth is conducting a vegetation survey to get a better idea of what is growing on post.

“The purpose of the survey is to have a baseline of what vegetation is out there and a rough estimate of the quantity of each species,” said Neil Bass, Directorate of Public Works natural resources specialist. “There are some rare plant species and some invasive species that will be nice to have pinned down to certain locations.

“One of the invasives it will be nice to have locations for is the tree of heaven,” Bass said. “There is an invasive bug, the spotted lantern fly, that seems to need tree of heaven but also feeds on domestic fruit trees, so removing all the tree of heaven could discourage the establishment of spotted lantern flies as they spread west.”

The survey, which is being conducted by the Kansas City District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is a yearlong survey that began with samplings in the spring and summer and will finish in October. The most recent sampling was Sept. 6.

“There are plants that flower at these different times of year, so getting a full year of survey was important to be thorough on what is out there,” Bass said.

Though reports have not yet been completed, Chris Name, biologist for the Corps, said the remnant prairies — the area on the bluff west of the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery — have the greatest diversity of plants.

“They had a larger variety of flowering plants,” Name said. “Fort Leavenworth has some impressive large trees, both in the bluff and uplands, but especially down in the floodplain near the river.

“There are pecans, sycamores and cottonwood trees that are truly breathtakingly large,” he said. “Check them out. Trees like that are hard to find in the developed world we live in these days.”

Flowering plants are not the only species that can be found on post. Some are invasive like Johnson grass and some are native like milkweed. Some plants are edible like the fruit of pawpaw trees and some are inedible like nightshade, but knowing the difference is important.

For example, both edible and inedible mushrooms can be found around post.

“In my opinion, it is really hard to differentiate between good and bad mushrooms,” Bass said. “If I can’t positively ID it, I don’t touch it.”

Edible mushrooms include puffballs, shaggy mane, coral fungi, morels, chanterelles, bearded tooth, oyster mushroom, boletes, chicken of the woods and hen of the woods. Inedible and poisonous mushrooms include amanitas, false morels, little brown mushrooms, jack-o-lanterns and green-spored lepiota, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation’s “A Guide to Missouri’s Edible and Poisonous Mushrooms.” To learn more, visit

Another species that can cause confusion is nightshade, which has a fruit that resembles black cherries. Nightshade can have drastic consequences up to and including death, Bass said.

There are ways to get rid of growing mushrooms and nightshade.

“Mowing (mushrooms) down will keep them taken care of and using herbicides for the nightshade,” Bass said.

However, if anything growing is unfamiliar, the No. 1 rule is to research it before touching or consuming it, Name said.

“Do your homework,” Name said. “Personal safety is paramount, so if you’re not completely sure, don’t eat it.”