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The Maryland/District of Columbia Chapter of the Nature Conservancy presents… . The Weed Watcher/Buster Program. by Donnelle Keech Deborah Barber Virginia McDaniel Meredith Malone. What are invasive, exotic plants?.

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the weed watcher buster program
The Weed Watcher/Buster Program


Donnelle Keech

Deborah Barber

Virginia McDaniel

Meredith Malone

what are invasive exotic plants
What are invasive, exotic plants?
  • Invasive plant - a plant whose growth habit has a detrimental effect on natural ecosystems
  • Invasive, exotic plant - lives outside its historic range AND has a detrimental effect on natural ecosystems
Invasive, exotic plant

Japanese honeysuckle

(Lonicera japonica)

originally from Asia

Invasive, native plant


(Phytolacca americana)

originally from N. America

Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide

characteristics of invasive exotic plants
Characteristics of invasive, exotic plants
  • Rapid growth and maturity
  • Prolific seed production
  • Highly successful seed dispersal, germination and colonization
  • Rampant vegetative growth
  • Ability to out-compete native species
  • High cost and effort to remove or control
the goal of the weed watchers busters program
The Goal of the Weed Watchers/Busters Program

To locate and manage recentlyemerged infestationsof invasive, exotic plants on high priority sites in Maryland and the District of Columbia with assistance from an extensive network of volunteers

how does it work
How does it work?

Weed Watchers

Find the infestations

and report them

Weed Busters

Implement the plans

that TNC develops

TNC staff

Prioritize the infestations

and determine

management options

the weed watchers
The Weed Watchers
  • The goal of the Weed Watchers is to locate and inform staff of new or unknown occurrences of invasive, exotic plants on TNC preserves in Maryland.
the hit list
The Hit List
  • We determined the most threatening invasive, exotic species to Maryland/D.C. TNC sites and developed a short list on which to focus
  • The list helped us:
    • prioritize our management efforts and
    • prevent volunteers from feeling overwhelmed by a large number of plants to identify
the hit list1
The Hit List
  • We determined which species to target by:
    • surveying invasive plant management

professionals throughout Maryland and

    • researching current literature
  • We settled on 13 invasive, exotic species...
the hit list species are
Tree-of heaven

Garlic Mustard

Autumn Olive

Japanese honeysuckle

Bush honeysuckle

Purple loosestrife

Japanese stiltgrass

Canary reedgrass

Common reed

Japanese knotweed


Lesser celandine

Multiflora rose

The Hit List species are...

Volunteers- an essential resource

22 volunteers were:

  • assigned high priority sites to monitor,
  • trained to identify the hit list species and report occurrences to TNC,
  • taught compass and topographical map reading skills, AND
  • accompanied to their site for an orientation visit.
the lecture slide show ms power point presentation
The “Lecture”Slide show/MS Power Point presentation
  • Reviewed the Weed Watcher Manual
    • practiced infestation reporting methods (i.e. visit and hit reports)
    • reviewed flagging and mapping techniques to document the exact locationof infested area
  • Practiced plant identification using dried specimens
  • Practiced compass and topography reading
the lab a trip to rock creek park
The “Lab”A trip to Rock Creek Park

Practiced plant identification and navigational skills

Weed Watchers identify the Tree-of-heaven

the test
The Test
  • to ensure that all Weed Watchers were adequately trained
the following spring
The following spring...

The Weed Watcher reports came rolling in!

prioritization of infestations
Prioritization of Infestations
  • Once we received Weed Watcher reports, we needed a method of management prioritization
  • We consulted The Nature Conservancy’s Wildland Invasive Species Team (WIST)

our prioritization guidelines based on wist s weed management plan template
Our prioritization guidelinesbased on WIST’s Weed Management Plan template
  • What is the current extent of the species on or near the site?
  • What are the current and potential impacts of the species?
  • What is the value of the habitats/areas that the species infests or may infest?
  • How difficult is the infestation to control?
different goals
Different Goals

Depending on your organization’s goals, the guidelines you follow when prioritizing the management of infestations may differ from ours.

the weed busters
The Weed Busters
  • The goal of the Weed Busters is to implement weed management/control plans on Weed Watcher/Buster sites.
  • Once infestations are:

1) found by the Weed Watchers, and

2) identified as high priority for management, the Weed Busters attack!

who are the weed busters
Who are the Weed Busters?
  • Anyone can be a Weed Buster!
  • Volunteers sign up for Weed Buster workdays advertised in our volunteer newsletter, The Oracle
  • “On-call” volunteers join an email listserve and are notified of weed control workdays which are scheduled with little notice.
the results
The results...

We began to manage many infestations...

… on the land we protect!

what have we accomplished
What have we accomplished?
  • During the summer of 2001, Weed Watchers and Weed Busters located AND began to control 19 different invasive, exotic species infestations on 5 TNC preserves in Maryland.
resources to consider
Resources to consider
  • Access to volunteers and possibly interns
  • Time
    • to supervise volunteers and interns,
    • to review and prioritize Weed Watcher reports, &
    • to research the latest weed control methodologies
  • Herbicides and safety equipment, if permitted by your state
  • Funding
information sources multi regional
Information Sources: Multi-regional


  • TNC’s Wildland Invasive Species Team

  • National Plants Database

  • Department of Agriculture
  • University of Montana’s INVADERS Database

  • Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants

information sources mid atlantic
Information Sources: Mid-Atlantic


  • Virginia Natural Heritage Program

  • Maryland Native Plants Society

information sources organizations
Information Sources: Organizations
  • Maryland Invasive Species Council

email to learn more

  • Mid-Atlantic Exotic Pest Plant Council

send blank email to ma-eppc-subscribe to join listserve

  • TNC’s Invasive Species Listserve Digest

email Barry Rice with name & state/country at

  • State restrictions

Find out what your state’s restrictions are before preparing to apply

  • If your state’s laws do not prohibit herbicide use on the land you protect, see TNC’s “Guidelines for Herbicide Use” at:


Weed management requires ongoing

reevaluations and adjustments.

  • Shifting priorities will alter management objectives.
  • Learn which control methods are most effective through trial and error.
  • New species may be added to your hit list.
questions anyone
Questions anyone?

Contact us at the Maryland/District of

Columbia Chapter of the Nature Conservancy:

5410 Grosvenor Lane, Suite 100

Bethesda, Maryland 20814

(301) 897-8570

or email

Deborah Barber at