Updated: May 30, 2024

Shantelle Malcolm-Lym, Maryland Association of Counties

Montgomery Parks has announced a record-breaking year for its Montgomery Parks Weed Warrior Volunteer Program, galvanizing the county in the fight against non-native invasive plants (NNIs).

NNIs are a growing threat to the environment of Maryland counties. NNI vines can strangle and smother trees. NNI shrubs can displace and shade out native plants that provide birds and other wildlife with food and shelter.  The Weed Warriors have been integral to Montgomery Parks’ efforts and enormously contributed to controlling NNIs in county parks. In 2023, the Weed Warriors logged a record-breaking 12,490 volunteer hours, freeing over 17,000 trees and shrubs from NNI vines and tackling other destructive plant species, such as multiflora rose and porcelainberry. Their work is a significant cost saving for the county parks department, reducing staff hours dealing with NNIs and benefiting the environment by using non-chemical methods to remove invasives.

“Weed Warriors do more than just ‘pull weeds,’” said Corinne Stephens, Weed Warrior volunteer coordinator. “Without the help of these community members it would be much more difficult to control invasive plants. Volunteers also help restore natural habitats by planting native plants and seeds that are cultivated at our Pope Farm Nursery facility. We couldn’t do it without them!”

The Weed Warrior Volunteer Program was created in 1999 to empower community members to help Montgomery Parks staff manage non-native invasive plants (NNIs) on parkland. Volunteers are taught to properly identify and manage specific species of NNIs using best management practices.

For more information on the Weed Warrior program, visit https://montgomeryparks.org/support/volunteer/weed-warriors/

Branching Out, Vol. 32, no. 2 (Spring 2024)

Branching Out is the free, quarterly newsletter of the Woodland Stewardship Education program. For more than 30 years, Branching Out has kept Maryland woodland owners and managers informed about ways to develop and enhance their natural areas, how to identify and control invasive plants and insects, and about news and regional online and in-person events.