National Park Service to Combat Invasive Plants in DC Area National Parks

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Date: March 16, 2017
Contact: Jeremy Barnum, 202-619-7177

WASHINGTON – National parks in and around Washington, DC, provide some of the area’s best opportunities to experience our nation’s history and enjoy nature. However, some unwelcome plant visitors threaten the long-term health and beauty of parks in the national capital region.

Non-native plants can disrupt and damage the very ecosystems and historical sites that draw visitors to national parks. Autumn olive might sound like a harmless plant, but the invasive shrub can grow up to 20 feet and crowds out native plants that need sunlight. The plant’s presence could seriously alter important historic landscapes in parks like Antietam National Battlefield. Wisteria, a woody vine that climbs up tree trunks to heights of 60 feet, is literally pulling down trees at Prince William Forest Park and if unchecked would open up gaps in the forest that allow other invasive species to establish themselves.

The National Park Service (NPS) has finalized a long-term strategy to reduce the impacts and threats from invasive plants and to restore native plant communities and historic landscapes for 15 national park areas in D.C., Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. The Invasive Plant Management Plan will guide park staff in standardizing and streamlining their treatment of non-native invasive plants. The plan will also help the NPS identify areas with the most urgent needs in order to address the most immediate threats to park resources. Each of the 15 area parks will develop an annual non-native invasive plant treatment strategy that is based on science, is cost effective, and poses the least amount of risk to people and park resources.

The Invasive Plant Management Plan helps parks prioritize and tailor their treatment of non-native invasive plants according to the environmental and landscape conditions found at a particular park. Techniques to combat invasives vary according to factors like whether the plants occur in water or on land or are growing on an historic structure. A golf course in DC and a healthy native forest in Maryland may both be threatened by the same invasive species, but the same treatment method may not be appropriate for both areas.

Effective methods of removing invasive plants in parks range from simply removing the plants by hand, with tools, and even prescribed fire, to the appropriate use of herbicide and USDA-approved biological controls. In some cases, traditional methods like livestock grazing or soil improvement not only prevent invasive plants but also enhance the cultural and historical heritage of a particular park.

Keeping wisteria off of Virginia pines at parks like Prince William Forest and preventing autumn olive from casting too much shade on little blue stem at Antietam National Battlefield are just some of the ways the NPS’s Invasive Plant Management Plan for the national capital region will ensure that the natural and cultural resources at these national parks are protected for future generations.

The 15 parks included in the Invasive Plant Management Plan are: Antietam National Battlefield, Catoctin Mountain Park, Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Greenbelt Park, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Monocacy National Battlefield, National Capital Parks - East, National Mall and Memorial Parks, Piscataway Park, Prince William Forest Park, Rock Creek Park, White House / President's Park, and Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.

Learn more about the plan at


About the National Park Service 

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 417 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Visit us at, on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

Last updated: March 22, 2017

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