Spring has sprung, but not all that’s green is good.
Half a dozen people gathered over the weekend in the woods near the Goddard School to pull invasive plants. They call themselves “weed warriors,” a title used by an informal national network of groups fighting the spread of invasive plants.
Urbana resident Matt Seubert started the local weed warriors group in April, after learning how to identify non-native plants during a Master Naturalist course. On Saturday, the group met for its second pull in the Villages of Urbana.
The group focused on removing Japanese honeysuckle, a perennial twining vine, and a bit of garlic mustard, a four-petal white flower, that was growing in the same area, he said. Removing the non-native plants will likely save an elderberry tree that was growing there as well, Seubert said.
In the spring, there is a lot of green in the landscape, but not all green is good, said Fountain Rock Park naturalist Kelly Ketzenberger, who helps run a Frederick County branch of weed warriors that pulls weeds at the park.
Ketzenberger is a Master Naturalist, and she facilitated the class that Seubert attended.
“Everyone in the state has an invasive-species issue,” Ketzenberger said. “It’s everywhere.”
Volunteers have been pulling weeds at Fountain Rock Park in Walkersville for the past five years. This is the first year that there appears to be more good plants than bad, invasive plants, she said.
“It’s getting there,” Ketzenberger said. “It takes a long time.”
Urbana is just getting started on a long journey to remove the “dirty dozen” of invasive weeds from the villages. Non-native vines, grasses and flowers can look nice, but they compete with native plants that local species need for habitat and food.
Seubert’s home backs up to the woods, and he remembers going to his property line and thinking, “Oh, my gosh, they’re everywhere.”
Seubert started by pulling the weeds in his own yard, and then he went to his homeowner association to ask permission to begin pulling weeds throughout Urbana.
Seubert walks around the community and looks for bad infestations, which the group can target one or two at a time. There are a lot of wooded areas in Urbana, and a lot of invasive weeds, he said.
“I walk around and find an area that’s fairly accessible along a trail or path,” Seubert said.
Seeing new weed warrior groups pop up in communities is encouraging, because it shows that people are taking the knowledge and applying it to new areas, Ketzenberger said.
Volunteers are supposed to attend a training session before helping at a pull, so that they learn how to properly identify the problematic non-native species and avoid pulling native species that have similar features.
The training also provides safe methods for effectively removing the invasive plants. Several of the local invasive weeds are vines, which grow high up into trees. The last thing the groups want is for someone to pull a tree branch down on their head, Ketzenberger said.
Seubert plans to host more weed pulls this summer and another training event if there is enough interest.