Send us tips/photos/videos


City arborist and volunteers tackle invasive species one park at a time

Add Your Heading Text Here

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Posted on: March 10, 2022


Wearing neon orange vests and crouching behind tall grasses and trees, City Arborist Dawn Taft and a crew of volunteers tend trees and tackle invasive species at Driskell Park. Every third Saturday of each month, they focus on saving trees and tending native habitats, with a particular eye to those invasives, according to Taft. 

City Arborist Dawn Taft and Marino Nunez crouch beside a tree to cut the roots of an invasive species.
Photo credit: Ilana Williams

“When we just remove without replanting … the area that we’ve cleared, it allows other invasives to come in,” Taft said. 

Taft said that porcelain berry and wineberry are persistent in the park. Depending on the season, the crew may also take on bush honeysuckle, English ivy and garlic mustard. 

Bamboo, which proliferates quickly, is a problem especially on the east side of the park, Taft said. Bamboo most likely spread to the park from a nearby home. 

“My fear is that’s how it came to get in the woods,” Taft said. 

Taft said the group mostly maintains the trees at Driskell Park but has also removed English ivy from University Hills and Japanese knotweed at 38th Avenue Neighborhood Park. Later this month, they will be working at Melrose Park.   

Taft’s volunteers learn skills that help them maintain their own property. 

“I had a lot of invasive plants in my backyard when I moved into Hyattsville,” said resident Brendan McCormick. “[I] figured I could learn how to get rid of them and help out.”

Brendan McCormick cuts an invasive species root that traveled up a tree.
photo by
Photo credit: Ilana Williams

McCormick said he’s pulled English ivy from his yard, but it’s already starting to pop back up. 

During the group’s February removal clean-up, Taft noted a vine growing up a tree and demonstrated how to cut the invasive’s root at its base. She used a saw to cut a chunk of the root. 

“English ivy on the ground is not so bad if you keep it off the trees,” Taft said. That same ivy, growing up a tree, can damage bark, leaving the tree vulnerable to disease.

English ivy takes over a tree in Driskell Park. Photo credit: Ilana Williams

Taft has been coaching Hyattsville resident Marino Nunez on the art and skill of removing invasives. Nunez started training in 2019 and is now learning how to lead with a crew himself. 

“I wish in my neighborhood we have people come to do this,” he said. “It’s nice.” 

Nunez, who was volunteering at the park before the pandemic hit, noted that the February gathering marked  his first time back since 2019. 

“COVID[-19] destroyed us,” Taft said. “We couldn’t meet at all.” 

In 2019, a group of volunteers cleared porcelain berry and bush honeysuckle from the northwest side of the park’s trail. When the volunteers returned to the park in 2021, they discovered porcelain berry completely covering the area they had cleared. 

“I don’t think anything [we planted] survived,” Taft said. “It was just these big mounds. They look like little igloos of porcelain berry where it had grown over our fencing.”  

February’s meet-up brought out the largest group of volunteers Taft had ever worked with. Taft plans to advertise her efforts in hopes that even more people will come. 

“Keeping it beautiful, having a space where we can enjoy and relax [and] have community is important,” Taft said.

Ilana Williams is an intern with the Hyattsville Life & Times.



The Streetcar Suburbs Spotlight

Local news and events straight to your inbox

Free! Cancel anytime.

Have a tip?

Send us tips/photos/videos

Related Posts

Native Gardening with Jimmy: Unfurling the mysteries of ferns

By JIMMY ROGERS Ferns awaken an ancient part of my brain. Observing low, herbaceous plants on any forest floor, I will often marvel at the...

Laurel Inner Space: Nature journaling: The art of slowing down in a frenzied-up world

By AGNES PASCO CONATY Nature teaches us a lot of things when we open our minds and watch. A mourning dove takes refuge in our...

The Science of the City: How 35 local investors helped pioneer community solar

By PAUL RUFFINS An important innovation in solar energy for producing both electricity and hot water was pioneered right here along the Route 1 Corridor....