This week marked the 13th anniversary of the Montgomery County Weed Warrior program.
Ordinary folks from all over Silver Spring and the greater DC region gave up their precious hours of free time to remove invasive exotic plants from our local parks.
There are several exotic species of plants that are taking over our local forests including the so-called “curse of the south” aka Kudzu and forcing out local native species. Other notorious invasive thugs include (but are not limited to): English Ivy, Garlic Mustard, Tree of Heaven, Japanese Knotweed, Asiatic Bittersweet, and Multiflora Rose.
Can’t we let the native plants battle it out for themselves?
Unfortunately, many of the invasive exotic plants introduced to our gardens and landscapes are very successful and outcompeting and crowding out the native species and soon take over a forest. When all the trees are covered in ivy vines there is a monoculture and nothing else can grow. The result is a loss of biodiversity and this impacts the native animal population also. Birds lose their habitats and butterflies lose their nectar sources.
What can you do to help?
Join a local Weed Warrior program and take their free training programs to learn first how to spot the invasive plants and then how to correctly remove them. For instance, when removing a vine engulfing a tree to do not attempt to pull it down. Instead, use a sharp pair of pruners to cut out a section of the vine – make one cut as low as you can and another as high as you can – then remove the section. The top growth will die back from lack of nutrients and you will avoid harming the tree underneath.
The Weed Warrior program was started in 1999 by Carole Bergmann, Forest Ecologist for the Montgomery County Parks system. “I felt duty-bound to start the program to get those interested in preserving the natural world together and preserving our ecosystems,” said Bergmann. The group in Montgomery County now has over 500 volunteers and has spawned many sister groups in neighboring jurisdictions.
Weed Warriors receive the reward of a job well done for volunteering. They also get to enjoy the great outdoors, learn about local flora and fauna, and enjoy each others’ company along the way. Some Weed Warrior programs give out nifty items to identify volunteers working in the parks such as hats and gloves with the group logo on them.
For free Weed Warrior program training in Montgomery County and to learn more about non-native invasive plants, call 301.495.2464 or visit www.mc-mncppc.org. Classes fill up fast so plan ahead. They are offered monthly from March to October.
Kathy Jentz is editor of Washington Gardener magazine and is a long-time DC area gardening enthusiast. She has been a Weed Warrior for four years and is constantly battling Garlic Mustard in local parks. Washington Gardener is all about gardening where you live. She can be reached at www.washingtongardener.com and welcomes your gardening questions.