WEST NEWBURY — The Open Space Committee is issuing a call for residents to join the resistance, saying the best way to stop the invaders is to catch them before they settle in.
The invaders, in this case, are a variety of aggressive plant species that interfere with native plant growth and wildlife on local trails and in parklands, backyards and gardens.
Resistance to these intruders comes in the form of a workshop planned this weekend to learn how to identify invasive plant species in the area. The brief tutorial will be followed by a site walk on a portion of the Riverbend Trail to put the information into practice.
The brainchild of Parker River National Wildlife Refuge biologist and West Newbury resident Nancy Pau, the workshop takes place Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m.
The workshop begins in the first-floor hearing room of the 1910 Town Office Building, 381 Main St., where Pau will discuss invasive species and demonstrate how to download the crowdsourcing app, iNaturalist, on a mobile phone.
Once downloaded on their phone, residents will be able to document the invasive species they observe and send the information to a place within the app Pau has created specifically for West Newbury.
Pau said she and the Open Space Committee have yet to decide how they will address the invasive species once they are identified and located.
“The first step is to figure out what is where,” she said.
While this country has an abundance of plants that are non-native, only those that are excessively aggressive — what the U.S. Department of Agriculture describes as plants that “do more harm than good” — are considered invasive.
According to MassWildlife, “Invasive species are one of the greatest threats to the integrity of natural communities and also a direct threat to the survival of many indigenous species.”
In other words, Pau said invasives take over native plants and ultimately affect biodiversity. The result is less variety in both plants and animals.
Once armed with information, the group will carpool to Riverbend to test what they have learned. The idea is to “create a small corps of citizen warriors armed and motivated to eradicate invasives,” committee member Marley Switzer said.
West Newbury enjoys healthy diversity in its flora and fauna, the biologist said, which is why she wants to empower residents to help keep it that way.
For example, she’s spotted black swallow-wort growing outside the 1910 Town Office Building. Native to southwestern and northern Europe, this invasive is known to grow quickly, covering other plants. It is toxic to the larvae of monarch butterflies.
While a charged mobile phone would be helpful for people attending the workshop, Pau stressed that a phone isn’t required to participate.
“A camera and a computer would work, too,” she said, adding that people who just want to come learn about invasive species are also welcome.
The free workshop is limited to 25 people and preregistration is required. To register for one of the few remaining spots, go to the Open Space Committee page at www.wnewbury.org.
For a list of invasive species in Massachusetts, visit www.mass.gov/service-details/invasive-plants.