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What Are Weed Watcher Workshops?
Weed Watcher workshops are presented annually in the spring to help alert area residents to the Class A weeds considered to be of greatest concern and to train residents as ’50 mph botanists’, able to identify these invaders in local natural areas and along streamsides while driving throughout the county.
Each workshop consists of an introduction to invasive species control, a walk-through of the weeds of greatest concern, and time to practice identifying these plants with live samples. Participants receive a copy of our handy weed ID guide, which includes information on how and where to report infestations.
During the workshops, weed experts like Rob Emanuel of CWS and Kyle Spinks of THPRD explain why not all weeds are invasive. In order to be considered an invasive species, these weeds have to be more than simply unwanted. If an unwanted weed rapidly infests an area and has a negative impact on human health, economic productivity, or the surrounding environment, then Weed Watchers should be on the lookout in order to catch the invasive species before it establishes itself and the population explodes.
Do Weed Watchers Really Make a Difference?
Shawn Morford of the Rural Development Institute and certified Weed Watcher recently shared her experience:
“It would be fair to say as a direct result of the workshop, one of Oregon’s new invasive weeds, yellow archangel, was discovered and treated on state forest land before it took over and is currently under active treatment to keep it that way by Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF). I attended your Forest Grove workshop early in 2013 and discovered the archangel about a month later on state forestland adjacent to our cabin near Mill City. We were on the phone immediately with the local ODF office and Watershed Council to report it. ODF treated it during the summers of ‘13 and ’14. We keyed out a second invasive as Leopard’s Bane and that was also treated by ODF. As a result of education by ODF, our neighbors removed archangel from their landscaping beds too. To my shock, I continue to see archangel sold in landscaping nurseries and whenever I see it, I ask to talk with managers about it. Seems like a lot of education is needed with nurseries, not just the public. The public just buys what is pretty to plant without knowledge of the consequences. I have turned into a raging granny about archangel!”
Reports made after the 2014 and 2015 workshops resulted in actions to control giant hogweed, an invasive species whose sap can cause severe burns in sunlight. Previous reporting has also led to work controlling the spread of garlic mustard along Washington County creeks, protecting farms and natural areas from this invasive weeds. Garlic mustard can be especially frustrating to land managers because it emits a chemical through its roots that makes it difficult for any other plants to germinate and grow in the same soil.
Some Weed Watchers have even been successful in stopping the spread of invasive weeds from their sofas! Most online retailers will pay close attention to Oregon law that prohibits the sale of certain weeds in our state (called the quarantine list). Some are not aware of the different laws in different states, however. Invasive weeds like parrotfeather (an aquatic plant often released from aquariums) or yellow flag iris (a water-loving flower than can choke out wetlands) have been spotted online and reported to ODA, who contacts the seller to stop these plants from entering Oregon.
Why is Public Awareness of Invasive Species Important?
Invasive species threaten the stability of native plant and animal communities. They get in the way of native plants that do a better job:
- keeping soil in place and out of rivers,
- soaking up excess nutrients from fertilizers,
- providing shade to keep water temperatures cool for fish,
- providing somewhere for native animals to live, and
- providing food sources year round for pollinators and native animals.
Invasive species also create direct problems. Many provide attractive habitat for animals we consider to be a nuisance, like nutria. Some invasive plants like knotweed can also cause property damage to buildings and roadways, costing homeowners and tax payers money.
Learn more about invasive species and their impact in the Weed of the Month series. Or, join our newsletter for quarterly updates on new weeds of concern, control strategies, workshops and more!
Why Early Detection and Rapid Response?
During this time, invasive species may appear to be thriving but not necessarily taking over.
Yet for some of these invasive species that can reproduce with exceeding haste, this is merely the calm before the storm. Plants like giant hogweed and purple loosestrife produce more than 50,000 tiny seeds per flower head during the spring and summer months. Those seeds are transported naturally through movement of wind, water, soil, and animals, as well as by human activities such as hiking and driving.
That’s why the weed experts, including Tualatin SWCD, are recruiting help in identifying and reporting patches of weeds before a full blown invasion starts. Weed watchers are trained to identify the top threats, including for 2013 species such as garlic mustard, giant hogweed, and several varieties of knotweed.
They are then encouraged to report these invaders by any means necessary – the preferred method for all the technology-savvy among us employs a reporting mechanism via Google Maps, but for those of us who prefer a more traditional approach, a phone call to the invasive species office or to Lacey Townsend here at the SWCD will suffice. The important thing is to try to report the location and invasive species as accurately as you can – a photo can help in the latter, and Weed Watchers are encouraged to report infestations even if they aren’t 100% certain of their plant ID skills.
Report Invasive Species Infestations Now!
Or reach us at 503-648-3164 x121 or firstname.lastname@example.org for help reporting.
Weed Watcher Workshops Successfully Protect Washington County from Spread of Invasive Threat
In 2013 alone, 50 newly minted Weed Watchers were successfully trained.
The agencies working to eradicate these species in natural areas and along stream banks stand ready for an influx of reports, especially during summer’s warm weather and in the fall when changes in foilage make identification easier.
Although these agencies are less able to help manage weeds in urban areas, reports of these species in natural areas have resulted in direct control efforts spearheaded by these agencies working together to control the threat.
Additionally, through its restoration work in the field, Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District has removed invasives from more than 32 miles of stream corridor and more than 502 acres of land. More importantly, we’ve put vegetation back in place to prevent the weeds from returning and restore the ecological balance that protects clean water, fish and wildlife in our county.
Questions? Reports? Contact Us!