A small army of volunteers gathered last week at Glacier National Park for its invasive plant “Bio Blitz.”
In total, 99 volunteers pulled 48 garbage bags of weeds, weighing in at 620 pounds.
The weed-pulling event, led by Dawn LaFleur, restoration and integrated pest management biologist for the park, took the volunteers on various trails to identify and then weed out both native and non-native invasive species.
The all-day event began at 10 a.m. with a class led by LaFleur (whose last name means ‘flower’ in French). LaFleur taught attendees various methods of identifying weeds, including spotted knapweed, St. Johnswort, houndstongue, and oxeye daisy.
“It’s the one everyone loves to hate!” LaFleur said about the oxeye. “It’s so beautiful but it’s a tough one to control.”
The daisies are one species that do get treated with herbicides in the park, LaFleur said. Though the event concentrated on only a selection of plants to be weeded out, there are 126 non-native invasive plant species in Montana, she noted.
LaFleur also provided a crash course in native and exotic plants, and definitions of weed and noxious weed. A weed, she said, is simply a plant out of place.
A noxious weed, on the other hand, comes with a legal mandate. If spotted on any property, the landowner is required to have a management plan for a noxious weed. Noxious weeds are threatening to agriculture and wilderness. They have great potential to harm native plant communities. A noxious weed restricts growth and establishment, thereby decreasing native diversity. They can decrease organic matter and nutrient availability in soils, and can alter the structure and function of native plan communities. Some noxious weeds emit chemicals that are toxic to all other plants.
The Boys and Girls Club attended, as did two Boy Scout troops, one out of Bozeman and the other from Sand Creek. A writer for National Geographic was also in attendance. Other volunteers were from the communities surrounding the park.
“The park is just one of my favorite places. Anything to keep it the way it is and keep it wild,” said Shelley McCoy of Whitefish.