Ivy Invasion: How to Get Montgomery Parks Weed Warrior Certified


Corrine Stephens

Group of 2022 WW trainees, which included two Montgomery College Students.

In Montgomery County, residents can participate in an environmental program called, “Weed Warriors”, that is focused on curbing the county of its non-native invasive species (NNIs). Residents participate in Weed Warrior Workdays to get certified to remove the NNIs from county parks. Using hand clippers, loopers, pruners, and gloves, volunteer ecologists will get training in various priority levels of vines and plants. Approximately 690 country residents have become certified Weed Warriors since the program was established by Corrine Stephens in 1999.

NNIs are quite difficult to control and must be targeted early on in open areas due to their rapid germination, growth, spreading, and reproducing. Additionally, NNIs have few known natural enemies. However, with proper tools, they can be identified and managed: pruners are hand-held devices, while loopers possess the leverage to create windows in spaces by removing larger branches. Volunteers will be trained in a to use these tools properly.

Weed Warriors’ first priority is identifying vines to pull, including English Ivy, Japanese Honeysuckle, Oriental Bittersweet, Porcelainberry, and Wintercreeper.

Mile-a-minute leaf and barbs. (Corrine Stephens)

Weed Warrior Workdays are held throughout the year at various parks, nature centers, and conservation valleys. Participating in the Weed Warrior Workdays is essential, as removing plant debris from public parks is not permitted by individuals who are not adequately trained and certified.

Also trained with a weed wrench, here’s me with hand pruners. (Chuck Woolery)

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), non-native invasive species cause massive losses to biodiversity and local economies. The monocultures may displace native plants, smother trees, and repel butterflies.

Oriental bittersweet. (Corrine Stephens)

Sign up for a Weed Warriors Workday Shift online at the Montgomery Parks Volunteer Center. To get the full Level One Certification and earn the Weed Warriors Card for Montgomery Parks, volunteers must attend two workdays, complete two online courses, shadow one park ranger, and shadow for one field training day.

200 bush honeysuckle uprooted by Weed Warriors, MLK Day 2022. (Chuck Woolery)

To sign up:

More information:

Identifying NNIs:

Note from the author:

After learning about threats to biodiversity in an Environmental Biology Lecture for Montgomery College’s Renaissance Scholars Honors Program, I personally pursued this program. The best advice I’ve received is, “when in doubt, don’t cut it out!” By being a volunteer with Weed Warriors, I’ve found an opportunity and a wonderful excuse to get outside. Furthermore, with the plant-identifying app called “Plant Net,” I can easily identify my surrounding living environment, which is a great mindfulness exercise for mental health.