Mapping invasive plant species in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems helps to understand the causes of their progression, manage some of their negative consequences, and control them. In recent years, a variety of new remote-sensing techniques, like Derivative Spectral Analysis (DSA) of hyperspectral data, have been developed to facilitate this mapping. A number of questions related to these techniques remain to be addressed. This article attempts to answer one of these questions: Is the application of DSA optimal at certain times of the year? Field radiometric data gathered weekly during the summer of 1999 at selected field sites in upstate New York, populated with purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria L.), common reed (Phragmites australis (Cav.)) and cattail (Typha L.) are analyzed using DSA to differentiate among plant community types. First, second and higher-order derivatives of the reflectance spectra of nine field plots, varying in plant composition, are calculated and analyzed in detail to identify spectral ranges in which one or more community types have distinguishing features. On the basis of the occurrence and extent of these spectral ranges, experimental observations suggest that a satisfactory differentiation among community types was feasible on 30 August, when plants experienced characteristic phenological changes (transition from flowers to seed heads). Generally, dates in August appear optimal from the point of view of species differentiability and could be selected for image acquisitions. This observation, as well as the methodology adopted in this article, should provide a firm basis for the acquisition of hyperspectral imagery and for mapping the targeted species over a broad range of spatial scales. ?? 2005 American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing.