Knocking out a noxious invasion

Bright yellow Scotch broom flowers lit up the open field on the corner of Day Road and State Route 305 last week.

But by Saturday afternoon, volunteers had slowly winnowed the bright display to a fraction of it's formidable beginning.

"It's beautiful and it's tough stuff, unfortunately it is extremely invasive and it crowds out the native species," said Asha Rehnberg, executive director of the Bainbridge Island Land Trust.

Members of the Land Trust and Weed Warriors joined forces to attack the large swath of Scotch broom, which had been building up on the conservation easement held by the trust.

"I think this is the third time we've been here," said Jeannette Franks, who helped to establish Weed Warriors five years ago. "Up until recently, a lot of plants such as English ivy and Scotch broom weren't such a problem. But now they are starting to reach critical mass."

This time around, the Land Trust and the Weed Warriors had help. More than 25 high school and middle school students were out in force Saturday morning, earning extra credit, fulfilling service requirements and learning what it takes to combat invasive species.

"I think the school district should be praised for the way they have involved students and have made working for the community part of the curriculum," Franks said. "This is learning in action. They will never look at invasive plants the same after they spend two hours removing them."

High school student William Whealdon used a weed wrench to leverage out the wiry roots of Scotch broom. Although he has pulled the plant before, he was on hand to earn extra credit for his high school biology class.

"We were studying invasive species a week ago and this is part of it," he said.

Weed pulling can become a habit for some students, who find themselves coming back to Weed Warrior events.

Justin Totura, an eighth-grade student at Woodward Middle School, has spent four afternoons pulling invasive species.

"I did it once and it was pretty fun, and it's good for the environment, so I did it again," he said. "This patch here is pretty big and there is a lot to be pulled out."

But by the time noon rolled around, many of the bright bushes had been pulled up and piled up for later removal.

The Saturday event is part of an overarching effort by the Land Trust and Weed Warriors to remove all ivy and Scotch broom from the island. Part of that drive includes an educational outreach element which is bolstered by the involvement of a younger generation in attacking noxious plants.

The Land Trust is hoping students will take what they know home and encourage more people to combat invasive plants on their own properties. To that end they are willing to supply plenty of support.

"Anytime you find a weed and you got the time, pull it out," Rehnberg said. "You can borrow a weed wrench from the Land Trust and we'll show you how to use it."

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