If it’s green it’s good, right? Well, not quite. Invasive plants do add green to our surroundings, some quite strikingly. In the process, though, they cause serious environmental damage. Let’s take a deeper look at the problem with invasive plants and how they disrupt an ecosystem.
Invasives tend to grow quickly, out competing native vegetation for available nutrients. Invasive vines, especially, can overgrow native trees and plants, smothering out the sunlight. Native wildlife loses habitat when these changes occur.
Soil chemistry suffers at the hands of invasives, as well. When native vegetation is thriving in healthy soil, their root systems create stability, supply water and essential nutrients, and return more nutrients when they decompose. They help maintain the soil chemistry, its physical structure, and sustain essential soil microbes whose job it is to help store and supply water to plants. Non-native, invasive plant roots interrupt these unseen but essential processes which are the foundation of a healthy forest.
Nearly 100 residents have joined The Woodlands Township Invasive Task Force to combat these problems. This group of trained volunteers removes invasive plants from pathways and greenbelts, helping sustain our native species. You can help, too. As summer turns to fall, many invasives are at their most prolific and your help is needed. Keep your eyes open and report invasive species on the pathways when you see them. Not sure which are the bad guys? How about watching for just these three: Japanese climbing fern, nandina (sometimes called heavenly bamboo), and elephant ears. Learn and identify more with this guide to invasive species of the Galveston Bay Area. Then use The Woodlands Township 311 app on your phone to report your sighting of these plants.
If you would like to join the removal work, join us on August 15, 2020. The Environmental Services Department will host a training class on invasive species. You’ll leave informed, inspired and ready to join the Task Force. Register for the class using the link below.
Just what are invasive species? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an “invasive species” is non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration; and, whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm, or harm to human health. A number of federal and state agencies are concerned with invasive species including The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which battles non-native plants and animal species every day to maintain the health of our natural areas and waterways.
Closer to home, The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department is addressing the many invasive plant species that have infiltrated our pathways and open spaces, impacting native plants and trees. Since May 2019, nearly one hundred Township residents have attended classes on invasive plants, learning to identify them, monitor their spread and report data. This “Invasives Task Force” has also gone to work on our on pathways, removing hundreds of pounds of air potato vine, Japanese climbing fern, nandina, elephant ear, Chinese privet and other non-natives.
Texasinvasives.org offers a wealth of helpful information on invasive species in our state and region. Learn how to identify key invasives in our area and how to take action. Whether you are a boater, aquarium owner, gardener, hiker, pet owner or all the above, you’ll find specific tips to help stem the tide of invasive species.
Stop the spread
Once you’re familiar with our most common invaders, check your yard to see if you have any. If so, take a simple but important action for the health of our local environment by replacing them with natives. Then, consider increasing your impact even more by joining the Township’s Invasive Task Force!
You might also be interested in exploring the “Citizen Science” section of texasinvasives.org for advanced learning opportunities such as area workshops and online trainings. Citizen Scientists are volunteers who receive expert training to identify and track key invasives in our area. The information they gather is delivered into a statewide database and to those who can do something about it. The premise is simple. The more trained eyes watching for invasive species, the better our chances of lessening or avoiding damage to our native landscape.
We have all been staying home and away from our favorite activities, but we remain connected by community – one with deep roots and a rich history of volunteering.
Our forested community was once a dynamic gathering place filled with unique biodiversity. We live in the western-most part of the “Big Thicket,” an area unrivaled in the U.S. for flora and fauna richness. Over the centuries, as the population of the area grew, our community was developed and with that development came change. The number and diversity of species was reduced and non-native, invasive vegetation and animals were introduced, leading to issues like loss of native habitat.
In May 2019, The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department held a training class for volunteers to help alleviate the damage caused by removing invasive species from our pathways. The response by volunteers was overwhelming!
By December 2019, volunteers had spent more than 500 hours removing a huge amount of invasive vines and other non-native vegetation from green spaces so native plants and trees could thrive again. A record number of volunteers were hard at work in 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic brought a stop to these activities. . When the time is right, these volunteers will be ready to get back to their work and you’re invited to join them!
The Invasives Removal Task Force has quickly become an established community group and riding on their success, another volunteer opportunity presented itself for 2020. Growing concerns about our waterways have led to the creation of The Watershed Project. Our community is built around a complicated web of streams, waterways, bayous, ponds and lakes, creating many opportunities for them to be negatively impacted by litter, chemical runoff and invasive species. Being surrounded by so much water also means that there are any opportunities for volunteers to help manage the health of our waterways.
When the new Watershed Project was launched, earlier this year, more than 50 residents signed on to learn how to save water, reduce chemicals in our landscapes and waterways, and offer educational training to neighbors in their community. In the first two months of the year, more than 140 hours of time was recorded in water related training and volunteering. Yes, for now, projects, trainings and community educational outreachhave been postponed but we know it will return stronger than before. And when it’s safe for our community to come together again, we hope you will join us in working to make our outdoor spaces a healthy and vibrant place to call home.
To those who have volunteered in the past, THANK YOU! But, if you haven’t found your niche to serve and would like to know about upcoming opportunities, contact Environmental Services at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can be a part of the work to keep our community connected and healthy by serving as a volunteer. It works because of YOU.
Questions or comments? Email email@example.com
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The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department kicks off the New Year with a packed calendar of programs and events. We are ready to plant trees, create water-saving lawns, take down invasive plants, and get our hands dirty in the garden. There is something for everyone so read on and make plans to join us at these free events.
Learn how to implement simple actions throughout your landscape so that your plants can withstand common garden pests. Wizzie Brown, Program Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Services, will address practices to prevent most pest problems, control population levels of common pests, and how to do so in an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective way.
Free workshop. Registration is required. Register here.
Join The Woodlands Township, and community partner, the George Strake District of Boy Scouts of America, in celebrating the 44th annual Arbor Day Tree Giveaway. 12 varieties of native tree seedlings will be available, while supplies last. Come early for the best selection and be sure to bring your reusable bag to fill with trees and educational resources.
Since 1977 more than 1.5 million seedlings have been given to attendees to plant in their yard, in community open space reserves, and in forest preserves. Participate in one of The Woodlands longest standing traditions and help plant trees today to benefit our community for years to come.
For a complete list of seedlings available, visit here.
Three of Houston’s premier organic educators will teach a FREE workshop on the benefits of organic garden and landscape principles. If you are already gardening, thinking of starting a garden, or looking for a way to improve your yard, it’s time to ditch your synthetic fertilizers and toxic pesticides and garden with organics. Learn from the experts how to have a beautiful yard or garden free of chemicals.
Free workshop. Registration is required. Register here.
Learn how simple and easy it is to turn kitchen waste, yard trimmings and leaves into rich, handmade compost. Try out a variety of composting tools and equipment and learn how compost benefits plants, gardens and lawns.
High quality collapsible compost bins are available to purchase, at half price, to all those who attend.Regular price for a C.E. Shepard Compost Bin is $50. Class participants pay only $25.
This informal, interactive class is packed with great information and lots of fun. No registration required.
Volunteer today at the sixth annual Community Tree Planting. Township staff and volunteers will work side by side to help reforest a portion of the trailhead with a variety of native trees, wildflower seeds, and milkweed plants. This effort supports The Woodlands Township’s reforestation program as well as the Plant for Pollinators program that helps protect our native bees, butterflies, and moths.
All ages are welcome to volunteer and get their hands dirty. Registration is required. Register here.
Ever wondered what it would be like to be a beekeeper? Not sure where to start, what the neighbors will think or how much work it will take? Join us for a FREE presentation, led by Woodlands residents Lisa and Andrew Miller and hear firsthand from local beekeepers.
Lisa has four hives at her home that she and her son, Andrew, manage. Lisa has a wealth of experience in urban beekeeping and bee removal. She is a board member of the Montgomery County Beekeepers Association as well as a mentor to club members. Lisa and Andrew are members of Real Texas Honey, The Texas Beekeepers Association and they created The Woodlands Honey Company to sell their own local honey.
The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department wants you to volunteer!
Non-native, invasive plants crowd out native vegetation, degrade soil health and push out critical food sources that wildlife depend on. Volunteers are needed to work on scheduled days at specific sites around town to remove invasive species such as air potato vine, Chinese privet and Japanese climbing fern.
Since the efforts began in February 2019, more than 80 volunteers have been trained on identification and proper removal of invasive plants. A total of 350 volunteer hours helped remove 2,600 gallons of invasive species from pathways in the Township.
Register today for the unique chance to hear from Dr. Bob Randall as he shares how to have a successful organic vegetable garden with tips and tricks specific to our climate.
Dr. Randall has a lifelong interest in sustainable food production, gardening around the world until settling in Houston in 1979. As a founding member of Urban Harvest, Dr. Randall has helped establish one of the most successful community gardening programs in the Houston area.
Dr. Randall will cover a variety of topics in this 3 hour presentation including:
Spring gardening for Montgomery County
Garden site selection and preparation
Plant selection related to specific plant hardiness zone (9a)
George Mitchell established The Woodlands as a community in which we live, work, play and learn in harmony with nature. More than 40 years later his vision remains alive and well. Numerous efforts are made each year to continue this balance of community and nature, with much of the work accomplished by volunteers. In 2018, volunteers logged nearly 5,000 hours on environmental initiatives through The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department. This year volunteers are contributing to the community through two newly established initiatives, Milkweed for Monarchs and the Invasives Task Force.
Milkweed for Monarchs kicked off this summer when Environmental Services partnered with Nature’s Way Resources to grow native milkweed which will enhance pollinator habitats throughout The Woodlands. Native milkweed is critical to the survival of monarch butterflies; it’s the only plant monarchs will lay their eggs on and the sole source of food for monarch caterpillars. Unfortunately, it is in short supply due to habitat loss and growing more from seed is no easy task. But, the Township, Nature’s Way Resources and volunteers from the Heartwood Chapter Texas Master Naturalists have accepted the challenge and have spent more than 300 hours propagating over 13,000 seedlings. These seedlings will be planted this fall in rights-of-way, community gardens, parks and other projects. Additionally, a portion of the volunteer-grown milkweed is available to residents creating their own pollinator gardens.
If you’re interested in receiving milkweed for your home, church, school, or business garden, pick up a voucher at The Woodlands Landscaping Solutions event on Saturday, September 28 from 9 a.m. to noon. You can also get them at the Environmental Services Department offices at 8203 Millennium Forest Drive, The Woodlands, TX 77381 during business hours as of Monday, September 30, 2019. Redeem your voucher for 6 pots of native milkweed at either Alspaugh’s Ace Hardware or Nature’s Way Resources by November 16, 2019.
effort is underway to reestablish milkweed around The Woodlands, another group
of volunteers is taking action to remove
plants along pathways and open spaces. Non-native, invasive plants to be exact.
Invasives, like air potato vine, Japanese climbing fern and Chinese Privet,
crowd out native vegetation, degrade soil health and push out critical food
sources that wildlife depend on.
Volunteers in the fight against invasives are a dedicated group who received training provided by The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department. Volunteers work alongside Heartwood Master Naturalists on scheduled days at specific sites throughout town. The most recent training for invasives removal took place in August with forty-two Township residents and master naturalists making the commitment to serve on the ES Invasives Task Force. Dr. Hans Landel, Invaders Program Director for the UT-Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, provided instruction to the workshop participants. The next training is scheduled for February 2020.
Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department would like to thank all
volunteers for efforts to maintain our environment and for keeping George
Mitchell’s vision alive.
If you are interested in joining the
Invasives Task Force, starting a pollinator garden or participating in upcoming
volunteer opportunities, email firstname.lastname@example.org