Improving our eco-footprint always seems to mean being gentler on natural resources and often translates to, “don’t do that,” so it’s a welcome change when we can be green while using our potential for destruction. We can’t all remove dams to save rivers, but with very little training anyone can harness their destructive force to remove invasive plants. Managing invasive plants is important for ecosystem health and is an excellent way to blow off steam, get fresh air and exercise, and meet other folks who are giving back to their communities.
A Howard County Weed Warrior program removes invasive species in the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area (MPEA) between Columbia and Clarksville. This forest preserve suffers from an influx of invasive plants which can cause ecosystem imbalances affecting species and habitats.
Animals and plants that evolved together in this region rely on one another to hold together a complex web of species that provide services, such as habitat or food, for each other. When plants or animals from faraway are brought to a new area and find conditions suitable for their existence, there may soon be a problem.
One local invader is known as mile-a-minute or tearthumb (Persicaria perfoliata). This vine spreads quickly and is covered by small thorns as its common names suggest. This plant monopolizes areas by growing over other plants, weighing them down and blocking out the light they need to survive.
Last month I joined the MPEA Weed Warrior program as they put on leather gloves and began tearing these thorny vines out of trees and off of bushes in hopes of getting the plant into trash bags before its seeds could drop to the ground or be eaten by birds. In two hours we had filled 8 fifty-gallon trash bags and learned quite a lot while doing so.
Crew Leader Davey Rogner is very knowledgeable about plants and passed on some interesting information including this shocker: Invasive species cost our society over $142 billion/year according to the Federal Highway Administration.
The Weed Warrior program is closing down for the winter, but will be up and running again in the spring. They hope to triple their volunteer participation. Interested? Contact Davey Rogner @ DRogner@howardcountymd.gov, or 410−313−0476.Bill Mahoney November 2014