May 16-23 has been declared Oregon (and National) Invasive Weed Awareness Week!
This is the one week of the year to reflect on the invasive weeds impacting Oregon and for us to begin taking steps to combat these aggressive and harmful invaders.
What Are Invasive Weeds?
When many people think of “weeds” they conjure images of a common yard or garden pest like dandelions. While these weeds may be bothersome in home landscapes, their overall impact is minimal. These weeds are best described as “opportunistic” in that they spread only into areas that have been disturbed or artificially maintained. More troubling are those plants that are characterized as “invasive weeds”.
Invasive weeds are plants that live outside their historic geographical range, and whose aggressive growth has a detrimental effect on our social, economic, or ecologic resources. The three key components of invasive weeds are that they:
- Do not historically occur in our area, but have been brought in either intentionally or unintentionally through human action.
- Exhibit aggressive growth which displaces native or desirable vegetation, and will continue to spread unless actively managed.
- Have a negative impact on our community.
Why should you care?
Invasive weeds can have a negative impact on us in a variety of ways. Invasive weeds are known to:
- Displace native vegetation
- Reduce crop yields
- Harm fish and wildlife
- Adversely affect human health
- Damage property and infrastructure
- Reduce forage for livestock and wildlife
- Decrease property values
- Increase erosion
- Decrease water quality and quantity
- Limit land use
- Disrupt ecological processes
By preventing these invasive weeds from spreading and by actively controlling known infestations, we can minimize their impact.
Know It Before You Grow It
One of the primary ways that our invasive weeds spread is through the unintentional introduction by unwitting gardeners and homeowners. In fact, many invasive weeds were first introduced through the horticultural trade in part because they are hardy and easy to grow. Unfortunately, many of the traits that make a plant desirable, also lend themselves to becoming invasive. Because of this, it is very important to Know It Before You Grow It.
Before introducing new plants to your yard, take the time to educate yourself about the plant. Research the plant to know its requirements, and to determine whether or not it may be invasive. If a plant is invasive, don’t spread it further. Instead, choose a non-invasive alternative that can give you the same look in your yard, but won’t become a problem. Guides like GardenSmart Oregon and Western Garden Wise are great guides to help you select non-invasive plants for your yard.
10 ways you can celebrate Oregon Invasive Weed Awareness Week!
- Learn more about invasive weeds in our area. Check out the WeedWise program’s weed list. Learn to recognize some of our common invaders and keep an eye out for signs of new ones. Walk around your property or neighborhood and learn about the invasive plants growing all around you. Finding an infestation early on is crucial to stopping its spread!
- Join the effort. Although volunteer opportunities have either been canceled or postponed across the state, Oregon Invasive Weed Awareness Week is the perfect time to commit yourself to at least one volunteer weed pull or restoration event after your community has been reopened. In the meantime, you can start at home by joining others across the country in the Stay-at-Home WeedWrangle, sponsored by the Garden Club of America. Simply document your weeding efforts with a before and after picture and post to your favorite social media with the hashtags #WeedWrangle #StayHomeWeedWrangle and #WeedWise.
- Become a Weed Watcher. One of the best strategies for combating invasive weeds is to identify new infestations before they have a chance to spread. You can learn how to identify and report new infestations, by attending a remotely held weed watcher training. Check the Pacific Northwest Invasive Plant Council web page for an upcoming webinar training.
- Visit a natural area. Spend an afternoon social distancing at a local park, garden, or natural area and familiarize yourself with the flora in your area. But please respect any park closures that may be in place in your area.
- Read a book. There are countless field guides about invasive species. But for a quick introduction, we recommend that you download a free copy of Field Guide to Weeds of the Willamette Valley If you want to get really serious you can download a copy of one of the most influential weed guides ever made, Weeds of the West.
- Consider a donation. Our watershed councils and many local nonprofits are actively working to control invasive weeds. These organizations have been hard hit by the economic impacts of the coronavirus. They rely upon grants and donations to support their efforts. Learn more about local organizations working to control invasive weeds and consider donating your time or resources.
- Start a garden. Replace your invasive landscape plants with native alternatives. Our partners at the Backyard Habitat Certification Program have resources available to help you manage your home landscape for invasive weeds, and plant hardy native plants to benefit wildlife in our area.
- Help make policy. Oregon Invasive Weed Awareness Week is the perfect time to share your thoughts with policymakers. Write a letter to your local lawmakers. Express your opinions and concerns about the impact of invasive weeds on our communities and natural resources.
- Pledge to give invasive weeds the brush off! One of the primary ways that invasive weeds spread is through dirty boots and equipment. Join others in pledging to clean boots, shoes, and tires before and after recreating in an area.
- Spread awareness. Tell your friends, family, neighbors, and others about invasive weeds. Pick at least three people to talk to this week to raise awareness about invasive weeds. Encourage them to get involved with Oregon Invasive Weed Awareness Week in their own way!
Enjoy Oregon (and National) Invasive Weed Awareness Week and thanks for helping to spread the word and not the weeds!