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Environmentalism, with a splash of destruction please

Students removing multi-flora rose at MPEA.

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.

Students removing multi-flora rose at MPEA.

Stu­dents remov­ing mul­ti­flora rose in the MPEA.

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.

Mile-a-minute with seed, growing on top of native and invasive plants at the MPEA.

Mile-a-minute with seed, grow­ing on top of native and inva­sive plants at the MPEA.

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

Green Tip

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