Most natural communities support a great variety of native plants and animals. Such biodiversity is threatened when a few plant species take over and dominate the herbaceous, shrub, and canopy layers of a forest. Find out more about the problem with invasive plants and how you can help below.
Most natural communities support a great variety of native plants and animals. Such biodiversity is threatened when a few plant species take over and dominate the herbaceous, shrub, and canopy layers of a forest.
Overly successful non-native invasive species (NNI) can alter the complex webs of plant/animal associations that have evolved over thousands of years to such a degree plants and animals once familiar to us are eliminated. In edge and meadow areas, for example, NNI monocultures can reduce or destroy butterfly populations that can no longer find the native host plants on which their survival depends. Recent research has shown that pure monocultures of NNIs can alter soil chemistry or disrupt the growth of the mycorrhizal fungi on which healthy forests depend. NNIs are causing significant changes in the composition, structure, and ecosystem function in natural areas.
NNI plants are particularly difficult to control. Often it requires a mix of mechanical, chemical and hand removal efforts to be entirely successful. The key is to find NNI populations when they are small (Early Detection) and remove them before they establish (Rapid Response). The timeline is different for each species.
But some populations of invasive species have been here much longer kudzu (1876), wisteria (1916) and Japanese barberry (1875) have well documented histories associated with these plants’ use for landscaping. Other species were brought in accidentally, e.g. stiltgrass (as packing material) and mile-a-minute (contaminant in rhododendron nursery stock). These species are now wide-spread and the Parks looks at strategic methods to achieve local control.
A typical non-native invasive (NNI) plant has some or all of the following characteristics:
These plants present the most serious threats to natural areas in Montgomery County, including parkland owned and managed by Montgomery Parks:
In 1999, Montgomery Parks Forest Ecologist Carole Bergmann created the Weed Warrior volunteer program in response to the non-native invasive plant problem. The goal of the program is to educate citizens about identification and management of NNIs. So far Weed Warrior volunteers have logged more than 57,000 hours and have made a valuable contribution to the control of non-native invasive vegetation in Montgomery Parks.
Will you join the fight?
To become Certified Weed Warrior volunteers (age 16 and older), you must complete a 2-part online course, participate in a 2-hour field training session with a forest ecologist, and participate in a supervised workday with park staff. Supervised workdays are held the first Saturday of the month for two hours. Start time and location vary. Certified Weed Warriors will then be authorized to work anywhere on Montgomery Parks, M-NCPPC property on their own schedules and at their own pace.
Remember to log your volunteer hours and update your contact information.
Most of our Weed Warriors work alone in their neighborhood parks. However, once in awhile we’ll get together and join forces. Group projects with Certified Weed Warriors, and non-certified volunteers and any combination in between. Special Projects give community members the chance to learn about and work on invasive plants in their parks, without making the commitment to become full-fledged Certified Weed Warriors.
Interested in joining in a Special Project Warrior Events for a day? Click here to see our current volunteer office listings or email our Volunteer Coordinator at email@example.com to schedule a workday.
Native Meadow Returning to Life
After several years of selective invasive control, including many Weed Warrior hours, this year’s revisit to the Kingsley Schoolhouse meadow uncovered a number of the plants we installed last year (image right). Hopefully this means the meadow has turned the corner and will soon be dominated by native species.
Garlic Mustard Month Results
Weed Warriors made a difference! With the average volunteer pulling over 20 pounds of garlic mustard an hour, over 18,000 pounds of garlic mustard was removed from parkland.
Wavy Leaf Basket Grass
Six new populations of wavy leaf basket grass were reported since January 2013. All but one of the populations had several workdays with Weed Warriors hunched over working to remove every last piece of grass. Each population will need at least three years of monitoring, but the first step, finding it, was asuccess!
Give a Gift of Green!
You can also help by donating. Learn how you can give or dedicate A Gift of Green for various commemorative purposes, to honor a person, group or occasion; memorialize a family member, friend, or colleague; celebrate a birthday, an anniversary, or other special event. Visit the Montgomery Parks Foundation to learn more.