Clara SchneiderClara SchneiderGreta MastroGreta Mastro

UPDATED Oct. 24: Two Arlington High School juniors, in partnership with the Arlington Conservation Commission, are taking part in the Pink Plants campaign, whose goal is to raise awareness about invasive species by spraying them with an eco-friendly pink paint. 

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Two sites in Arlington have been sprayed, one near Buzzell Field park and the other on the Minuteman Bikeway between Mill and Summer streets. By the end of October, these sites are expected to be cleared of two invasive species: oriental bittersweet and Japanese knotweed.

This effort may raise a question: What determines whether a species is dangerous? The AHS students involved are dedicated to educating the public on the true nature of invasive species and the threats they pose.

Let the students explain

Clara Schneider explains that these species “are not native plants” and therefore “cannot be eaten as food and cannot host insect species, removing valuable food sources for animal populations.” Their continuing presence means “ecosystems will collapse and populations of native species (which rely on native plants) will continue [on] a path of decline, possibly becoming extinct,” she says. 

Schneider, who spent time as an intern at Biodiversity Builders under native-plant expert Jean Devine, says the common misconception that all plants are “good” is “simply not true.” During her time with Biodiversity Builders, she had to persuade many people to “get rid of invasive plants they were attached to and plant more natives” in order to support local ecosystems. 

Invasive plants in Arlington pose risk to local ecosystems and and even to infrastructure. As Greta Mastro, the second AHS student, notes, “many of these invasive species are on the bike path, which is a public source of transport and used for recreation. Those invasives can harm the bike path, and the plants surrounding it. Any plants under knotweed are threatened because knotweed will block their sunlight.”

Invasive roots crowd out other plants

Arlington's Department of Planning and Community Development describes in a news release how knotweed “crowds out other plants and has an aggressive root system that can break up pavement and building foundations.” As for bittersweet, it “smothers plants and uproots trees due to its weight,” the release says.

Schneider and Mastro credit much of their knowledge about biodiversity and invasive species to Nature’s Best Hope, a book by Douglas W. Tallamy that encourages readers to to promote biodiversity on their own properties. They also cite Cecily Miller, a consultant for the Arlington Commission on Arts & Culture; Rachel Oliveri, sustainability coordinator for Arlington Public Schools, and Devine, who runs the Biodiversity Builders internship and Devine Native Plantings. Devine created the latter in late 2021 with a goal of “mentoring youth, adults and community groups through native-plant projects that restore biodiverse habitats and build climate resilience,” her website states.

Biodiversity Builders gives high-school and college students an opportunity to aid environmental causes and to learn about professional settings and careers related to environmentalism and land stewardship. 

Land stewards

The town Conservation Commission's land stewardship program has volunteers working toward protecting the 54 acres of conservation land across Arlington. Part of the responsibility of a land steward is to remove invasive species and to protect the acreage from soil erosion, destruction, litter and vandalism. The commission “always welcomes help from the public'' and hosts weekday hourlong meetings. Those interested can find times and dates on the commission calendar. Readers can learn about becoming a land steward on the commission website, particularly in the “Conservation Land Stewards” subsection, where those who wish can donate to the cause.

Some of the protected spaces under the jurisdiction of the commission are familiar to many Arlington residents – for example, Turkey Hill, Meadowbrook Park, Spy Pond Route 2 Path and Hills Hill. 

Much work is being done in Arlington to protect native species and build up biodiversity; there are many opportunities for Arlington students and other residents to get involved in local initiatives.

Oct. 4, 2022:  Textiles, mattresses no longer picked up Nov. 1


This news feature by Isla Jamieson, YourArlington's Arlington High School intern, was published Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022, and updated Oct. 24, to add link to photos.