“I” is for Invasive; “N” is for Ninja

This past Saturday (January 8th) I had the opportunity to complete a few hours of direct service with the Baltimore Water Alliance (BWA) in the Herring Run Watershed.  I originally decided to confirm for the event thinking it would be a great opportunity to learn about the environment from experts in the field.  Being that it was January, I knew it would be cold and thus donned layers and layers of clothing, my oldest (and only) pair of work boots, and set off for the site.  I didn’t let the fact that it was snowing stop me, oh no….  I was NOT going to flake out. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, dirt and “the outdoors” is not really my thing.  Not that I don’t enjoy nature….  I just don’t like digging or immersing myself in it for too long.  However, along with my resolution to introduce five people to service, I also made a resolution to push my comfort zone; hence my enthusiasm for the invasive species removal.

Upon arrival, I was informed that this event was one of many events making up a program called Weed Warriors, sponsored by BWA.  I immediately imagined our group of volunteers as a task force of ninja warriors whose mission it was to wage war on the species that invaded our watershed.  Exciting stuff, huh?  We had Japanese-crafted curved saws complete with sheaths to be worn on the hip in sword fashion.  It didn’t matter that I had no clue what a watershed was. Nor that the invasive species against which we were waging war was English Ivy, a parasitic plant with vines up to four inches in diameter.  None of that mattered at all.  I was going to be a hero; maybe even a legend.

The event leader had us break into groups of two to tackle the ivy.  My partner (another AmeriCorps member and Volunteer Maryland Coordinator) and I started off chopping, cutting, and pulling away at the vines.

Two hours into the event, I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes and still had not mastered the use of the hand saw.  I experienced three moments of sheer panic when I thought I accidently rubbed against poison ivy (who knew you could get poison ivy in the winter) and afterwards, scratched my face.  On top of all that, I nearly chopped off my thumb….

Before getting involved with AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland, my understanding of “environmentalists” involved the image of people who recycled, and who grew their own produce.  I was one of the people who asked themselves: “Is this really worth it?”   After spending time as a Weed Warrior, I realized that there is great value in strategizing for invasive species control.  While I’m still conflicted on invasive species removal in the dead of winter (to think, there are volunteers and organizations that do this every week) I’m interested in finding out about other ways to prevent the spread of invasive species while promoting the use and spread of native plants.

What are some experiences that you’ve had working with invasive species and native plants? Share them with us here at Volunteer Maryland!

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4 thoughts on ““I” is for Invasive; “N” is for Ninja

  1. Tracey Gelner

    As crazy as it sounds, winter is actually a great time to remove invasive species. Two of the most obnoxious are English Ivy and Japanese Honeysuckle which remain green throughout the winter making them easy to spot and identify. Most of our native vines and flora are deciduous and therefore won’t have any leaves this time of year. At the beginning of December, volunteers at Chesapeake Natives pulled honeysuckle from a slope 250 feet long by 33 feet wide to help restore a native Lupine population. It was wonderful working in the winter when plants we would want to be careful about disturbing were deep underground and the invasives were still green. It is very sad to see so many areas destroyed by these invasive species. I have seen so many trees killed by these parasitic vines in our natural areas. Other invasives, like the Mile a minute vine are literally covering acres of our state parks. A simple way to help is plant native species in your yard, and encourage others to do the same. While we may never be able to eradicate the non-native plants from our natural areas, we can all help to restore our native plant populations by planting them in our yards and parks.

  2. Corrine, this is great! Thanks so much for coming out and also for saying nice things about Baltimore Weed Warriors despite all your trials and tribulations.

    Maybe you should bring your sister next time 🙂

  3. Pingback: Come together « Volunteer Maryland

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