Non-native, invasive plants pose a serious threat to the health of our parks. Find out more about the problem and how you can help!
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, or canopy layers of a forest.
Non-native, invasive species (NNIs) can alter the complex webs of plant-animal associations that have evolved over thousands of years to such a degree that plants and animals once familiar to us are eliminated. In meadows, for example, NNI monocultures can threaten butterfly populations because they can no longer find the native host plants they depend on for survival. In forests, non-native, invasive vines can strangle and smother trees. Non-native, invasive shrubs can displace and shade out native plants that provide birds and other wildlife with food and shelter. Recent research has shown that NNIs can even alter soil chemistry and disrupt the growth of the mycorrhizal fungi on which healthy forests depend. In short, non-native, invasive plants are causing significant changes in the composition, structure, and ecosystem function of our natural areas.
A typical non-native, invasive (NNI) plant has some or all of the following characteristics:
By their very nature, non-native, invasive plants are difficult to control. Often it requires a mix of mechanical, chemical and hand removal efforts to be successful. The key is to find NNI populations when they are small and remove them before they become established.
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 in how to identify NNIs and empower them to help Montgomery Parks’ staff to manage them. To date, Weed Warrior volunteers have logged more than 91,000 hours of service and have made an incredible contribution to the control of non-native invasive plants in Montgomery County Parks!
Here are two ways you can get involved:
Want to help tackle the invasives in your favorite park? Become a certified Weed Warrior! To become certified, you must be 16 or older and complete a 2-part online course, attend a 2-hour classroom training, and participate in a 2-hour field training with park staff. Once you finish the training process, you’ll be authorized to work anywhere on Montgomery Parks, M-NCPPC property on your own schedule and at your own pace. Please visit our “Weed Warrior Certification Training” page to sign up for an upcoming session.
Want to help, but not sure you’re ready to become a Certified Weed Warrior? We offer lots of group workdays throughout the year at parks across the county — no advanced training required. These workdays are led by specially-trained volunteer Weed Warrior Supervisors and/or Parks staff and they’re a great way to start learning how to identify and remove invasive plants!
Interested in joining in a Group Weed Warrior Workday? Please visit our “Weed Warrior for A Day” page to see our upcoming workdays or email our Program Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a special workday for your community, corporate, school group, etc.
Please remember to log your volunteer hours and keep your contact information up-to-date.
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.