County Weed Warriors Help Residents Combat Invasives


“You can’t unsee it,” said Andrea Weir, a Millersville resident in the Park Retreat community. “Once we knew what it looked like, we couldn’t go anywhere without seeing it.”

The “it” Weir spoke of are the vast number of plants that have taken over parts of her community and nearly everywhere she looked.

Weir was working toward her Master Gardener certification when she volunteered for weed eradication events sponsored by Anne Arundel County. These volunteer events are set up by the Anne Arundel Weed Resistance (AAWR) team, an organization dedicated to controlling invasive species that endanger the health of natural areas. It was there that she met Loretta Jorden, volunteer coordinator for AAWR, and learned of the seriousness the problem of invasive plants pose in the county.

Weir moved into the Park Retreat community in 2014 while it was being developed. The small community of 16 homes backs up against the B&A Trail. To access the trail, residents pass by a piece of undeveloped land earmarked as reforestation land. A 1991 act requires developers to leave a portion of property undeveloped and designated forestation, conservation or reforestation.

“Just because something is green and has flowers doesn’t make it good,” Weir said. “I walked past this mess for years without giving much thought about it.”

A sure sign of spring in Maryland are the flowering trees and vines. But the clusters of small white flowers (Bradford pear) and lavender vines of Chinese and Japanese wisteria are not native to Maryland or even North America. English ivy and oriental bittersweet vines eventually take over trees large and small, wrapping themselves around native trees so tightly that the tree tissues bend and contort, causing girdling and adding hundreds of pounds of weight on fledgling trees.

“We need our native trees,” Weir said. “There are delicate relationships between native insects and mammals that have developed over years and years. When this overgrowth happens, it doesn’t provide any nutritional or survival benefits for the species that are supposed to be here.”

County forester Earl Reaves said overpopulation and inundation of invasive plants in Anne Arundel County is a huge problem for plant, animal and human life with no simple solution.

“When our ecosystems become out of balance, the ripple effect is tremendous,” Reaves said. “Invasive plants tend to drop harsh pollens that humans are more allergic to, they produce berries or fruit that do not contain the nutritional content migrating birds and small animals need, and some don’t need pollinators for reproduction but overtake the plants that do, which can affect our honeybees, gardens and farming. The number of ways invasive plants disrupt our environment is seemingly infinite.”

English ivy seeds have a 100% germination rate, making it difficult to eradicate. Plants and trees like oriental bittersweet and Japanese honeysuckle were introduced as landscape plants dating back to the late 1800s. From there, they got into woods, parks and farms.

“The thing about invasives is that they don’t have any natural competitors and totally take over,” Weir said. “Excellent examples can be found all along the B&A trail, or along routes 100 and 32. When these plants cover natural vegetation, it is impossible for the native trees to get light needed for photosynthesis.”

Weir and her husband, Bob, began the task of cleaning up their common area using hand nippers. The process was slow, but results could be seen almost immediately. Weir contacted county arborists to determine which trees were invasive and which native trees could be saved, and then contacted Jorden for assistance in removing invasives. She also applied for grants to help cover the costs of professional cleanup.

Jorden said the top ways residents can help to mitigate the further infestation of invasive plants are not buying or planting invasive species, educating the public and removing invasive plants from personal property and shared community spaces, and reaching out to the Anne Arundel County Weed Resistance Program for help on identifying and removing unwanted plants.

Neighborhood resident Lynda Wittig is part of the volunteer group working to clean up the common area.

“The area was so overgrown and the need to address it was obvious and very important,” Wittig said. “We are thankful that Andrea brought the issue to the attention of the HOA (homeowners association). At first, it seemed like an impossible task, but it’s amazing what’s already been done.”

To learn more or for assistance, visit the AAWR website at or contact 410-424-8294 or


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