Tuesday, Aug 21, 2012
Yellowstone National Park held its fifth annual “Weed Pull” in Mammoth Hot Springs on August 2nd.
More than 65 participants showed up for the event, with staff representation from maintenance, the park’s fire module, technology services, the Yellowstone Center for Resources, the division of resource education and youth programs (interpretation), and park volunteers.
No experience with plant identification was necessary – just a cold-blooded desire to kill nonnative plant species. Jennifer Whipple, the park botanist, rallied the troops to action with a short talk about the ecological havoc wreaked by nonnative species. She also gave identification tips for distinguishing look-alike native species from nonnative species so that no plants would die in vain.
With nearly 1300 vascular plant species found in Yellowstone, 218 nonnative species have been documented in the park. Yellowstone National Park treats approximately 40 species of nonnative plants a year. The enemy – targeted nonnative plants – were spotted knapweed, woolly mullein, hound’s-tongue, and bull thistle. Altogether, participants pulled 145 bags of nonnative plant species.
The event targeted areas such as the Mammoth Terraces, where manual or mechanical removal of plants works better than herbicides due to the concern for the thermal area. Pulling weeds in this highly photographed and visited thermal area provided an opportunity to interface with the public and educate them about the native flora and how nonnative species impact them.
The terraces have been highly impacted by weeds due to the harsh thermal environment, lots of ground that was in all probability free of vegetation historically (now often inhabited by nonnative species), and some of the earliest disturbance from human visitation. Other areas included a popular hiking trail near the Mammoth Terraces and a lake south of Mammoth Hot Springs.
The half-day event was followed by a community lunch provided by the Yellowstone Park Foundation. Participants deserve a special thanks for all their hard work pulling weeds. Coordinators of the event hope that participants left the event having learned a little bit about the park flora, engaged in helping to make the park a better place, and gained enthusiasm for pulling nonnative species everywhere in an effort to restore a natural ecosystem, contributing to a more valuable Yellowstone experience well into the future.
The event has garnered growing support since it began, as evinced by the record high participation this year.