MS. REBECCA SHEIR
But first, here's a question for you. What do the following items have in common?
MS. CAROLE BERGMANN
Kudzu, Porcelainberry, which is a grapevine, Bittersweet, Oriental Bittersweet, English Ivy, Wintercreeper, I can name a huge list.
And that huge list Carole Bergmann can name are non-native invasive species, all of which really stick in Carole's craw. As a forest ecologist for the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Carole is concerned about the ways non-native invasive species are harming plant life here in the D.C. region. That's why in 1999, she founded The Weed Warriors, a volunteer group dedicated to identifying and managing non-native invasives.
This week, I traveled to Wheaton Regional Park with Kathy Jentz, editor of Washington Gardener Magazine. We met up with Carole who talked about creating the Weed Warriors.
I started this program with an idea of a small training. It's only two hours, fill in your volunteer forms for the park. We give you a pair of leather gloves, a hat that says you're a certified weed warrior and a little green card that you can show people in the parks, then you're free to work in any of our 34,000 acres of parks.
And Kathy, you're one of these certified weed warriors. Can you talk about that?
MS. KATHY JENTZ
Basically, we get notices of organized weed warrior pulls that we can join in with or we can go out on our own should we have a local park that we see a great need.
And this is Carole. If you're someone who really likes to lead groups yourself, you can become a weed warrior supervisor like the General of our groups.
A master warrior.
A master warrior.
So can we head out and maybe do some weed warrior-ing of our own?
Yes. So here's a really good example of why I'm so concerned to get volunteer help because you can see here we are in Wheaton Regional Park, which really has a lot of acres of nice woods. And you're looking at a secondary succession of Tulip Poplar-dominated woods in very good shape with a nice understory of Spicebush. That's over there. Now right here, this whole area with nothing but Porcelainberry and you can see those vines that are on the trees on the edge.
We got rid of those vines because they are killing off as they did. They killed all the trees off here. Then they're killing off the trees on the edge and what happens then, you have a new edge. Those trees fall down. The vines move on to the next edge, kill that off and the forest is just getting eaten away. And it's not like anything new can grow up here. Anything that does grow up here that's native, the deer eat. So we have to keep the vines off these trees to plant this ground in the front with a native grass seed mix so that the seed bank, which is full of Porcelainberry and Mile-a-Minute seeds, can't come through.
Are those called Mile-a-Minute because they grow like crazy or...
You got it.
Most of the invasives are just victims of their own success. They're just too successful, too strong. I guess you could call them the bullies of the plant world. So the Multiflora Rose sounds wonderful, I mean...
It does sound rather lovely.
...who wouldn't want a Multiflora Rose in their garden? But then, once it escapes into the woods, it sends out shoots and we could probably walk over and see some here, and thorns and it just creeps, creeps and creeps and keeps going. And there's nothing to stop it. The deer are obviously not eating that vegetation.
So if I were a weed warrior, I would feel a little bit tested here. I mean, where do you even begin?
I think that's why for most of the weed warrior training, I do throw in -- and Kathy will agree with this, that I do each time say that you shouldn't be overwhelmed. That if you can take an area that means a lot to you and save at least a half dozen trees by cutting the vines at the base and then cutting them up as high as you can reach. Whatever you cut above that, it will be dead and you will then be able to control what's on the ground. That's for the vine level.
We do train people about the invasive shrubs, trees and herbaceous plants as well. But I think if people can just have a little success and if more and more people, they get their church group, their school group, their Girl Scout group, other people involved, I mean, that's the way to do it.
And it is true that you look at it this gorgeous forest and it is way overwhelming to think about cleaning this up on your own. But it's also satisfying in one way that if you work one tree at a time and after just two hours of work, you turn around and, bam, you're like, wow. I think it's amazing the transformation that takes place.
That was Kathy Jentz, editor of Washington Gardener Magazine and forest ecologist Carole Bergmann. For more information on the weed warriors and to see photos of some of the non-native invasive species we heard about today, visit our website, metroconnection.org
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