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Volunteers in Washington D.C. Combat Invasive “Mile-a-Minute” Weeds to Protect Trees



Quick Smiles:

  • Washington D.C.’s “Weed Warriors” are a group of volunteers dedicated to preserving the capital’s trees by removing invasive species.
  • They have logged over 135,000 hours of weed whacking since 1999.
  • Weed Warrior events are open to anyone who wants to make a meaningful impact on biodiversity.

If you’ve ever driven around Washington D.C.’s beltway or strolled through Rock Creek Park, you might have noticed a group of people hard at work along the treeline. These dedicated individuals are the “Weed Warriors” of Washington D.C., a team of volunteers who have traded in their capes for gardening gloves to protect the capital’s trees from invasive species.

Since their inception in 1999, the Weed Warriors have been tirelessly working to prevent the takeover of native ecosystems by invasive shrubs, vines, and climbers. With around 600 non-native invasive plant species in the area, including the destructive “mile-a-minute” vine, the Warriors’ efforts are crucial in preserving the health and beauty of Washington D.C.’s trees.

The Weed Warriors have already logged an impressive 135,000 hours of weed whacking in Montgomery County alone. But their work is not limited to a select few. Anyone can become a Weed Warrior and join in the fight against invasive species. The group operates in two-hour shifts, either removing weeds or planting native species in their place.

Led by specially-trained volunteer supervisors and staff from the Montgomery Parks Department, these invasive species management events provide an opportunity for individuals to get certified and contribute their spare time to this important cause. Some Warriors even have their own designated areas in the D.C.-Metro region to maintain.

So why do these individuals choose to spend their free time battling invasive species? According to 74-year-old Barbara Francisco, a Weed Warrior and area resident, it’s a rewarding experience. “If I have any good mental health, it’s due to Weed Warrioring,” she shared. “You have a sense of accomplishment.”

The Washington Post’s Justin Moyer discovered that many volunteers in these groups are genuinely happy to be out in nature, making a meaningful impact on biodiversity. The Weed Warriors website explains that non-native, invasive plant species can disrupt the delicate balance of plant-animal associations that have developed over thousands of years. This disruption can lead to the elimination of familiar plants and animals.

For instance, NNI monocultures in meadows can pose a threat to butterfly populations, as they struggle to find the native host plants necessary for their survival. In forests, NNI vines can choke and suffocate trees, while NNI shrubs can outcompete native plants, depriving birds and other wildlife of food and shelter. Additionally, recent research has shown that NNIs can even alter soil chemistry and hinder the growth of mycorrhizal fungi, which healthy forests rely on.


If you feel inspired to contribute your time to this noble cause, you can visit the Montgomery County Parks website to find upcoming Weed Warrior events. The next event is scheduled for October 21st. Join your neighbors and embrace the opportunity to make a difference in nature.

Don’t miss out on this awesome chance to get involved and protect Washington D.C.’s trees alongside fellow nature enthusiasts. Share this opportunity with others and spread the joy of Weed Warrioring!