Cities across the country are incorporating invasive vegetation removal programs in hopes of promoting healthy plant growth. The removed plants are usually nonnative and grow quickly, disrupting plant ecosystems and causing harm to the environment or human health.
In 2019, Fayetteville, Ark., created a bounty on invasive plants as a part of its Urban Forestry Program. Residents of Fayetteville receive a free tree or shrub to plant when they successfully remove a specific type of invasive plant from their property.
“The invasive program started as the Bradford Pear Bounty; now, it is simply the Invasive Bounty,” Fayetteville’s urban forester John Scott stated. “Our goal is to add all 18 plants to our invasive list. We started with Bradford Pear, then Bush Honeysuckle, Chinese privet, and this last spring Tree of Heaven was added to the list. I want to spotlight a different invasive plant each year.”
Scott noted the program has always been an educational tool, but he knows they could never be completely eradicated. The board has raised awareness of invasive plants in the area and chose native trees and shrubs to give away, as opposed to nonnative ones.
“The Urban Forestry Advisory Board came up with the idea, and I took it and came up with the details on how to make it work. We got the idea from the Burmese python bounty reward in Florida, and instead of money, we thought of replacement plants as the reward,” Scott said.
To promote invasive plant removal, there is also a group of advanced placement high school students who conduct experiments for science projects.
“They have been assigned a plot in an invasive part of the school’s grounds and are monitoring growth after removal. It has become part of the curriculum for the science class,” Scott said.
According to Scott, the first year saw around 20 participants. The program grew, and in 2021 there were approximately 45 participants and 120 trees and shrubs given away. There are currently four plants on the invasive list.
Fayetteville has seen more removal activity of invasive plants in the last year. He now receives messages and phone calls from residents about removing invasives on their property, usually seeking advice.
“My main advice is that this is a long battle and not ‘one-time removal, and the process is done.’ This process takes many years and continuous monitoring.”
In Chattanooga, Tenn., the city participates in a Weed Wrangle every spring, removing invasive plants from the area. The term “weed wrangle” is a registered trademark, coined in Nashville, Tenn., in 2015.
“The Weed Wrangle is community-focused education outreach during which the public is introduced to effective trash-plant suppression. I call them ‘trash plants’ because they have no ecological value,” the city of Chattanooga’s parks and outreach coordinator Sofia Rudakevych said.
By eliminating harmful plants, the Weed Wrangle cultivates healthy ecosystems and encourages native plant growth. The invasive plants overrun native plants, suffocating and choking out vegetation that is native to the area.
Rudakevych said many Chattanooga residents are responsive to the Weed Wrangle. The event includes volunteers who are educated on the invasive plants in the area with the hopes they will take the knowledge and restore the ecosystems native to the land.
Having a plan ready for reintroducing natives to the ecosystem once invasives have been removed is imperative, Rudakevych noted.
“A crucial step in any invasive plant management plan is to replace the invasives that were removed,” Rudakevych said. “Planting native plant species and seeds is an imperative procedure when managing invasive plant species. Nature will fill the void with more invasives — trash plants — if nothing else is available.”
Besides the Weed Wrangle, whichis held the first Saturday of March every year, Chattanooga also has Public Lands Dayin September and other volunteer days throughout the year. “The opportunity to educate the public is priceless. Having our citizens mindful of what they can do in their own yards to continue vigilant removal and prevention of trash plants is vital to restoring plant biodiversity,” Rudakevych said.