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NYC Battling Invasive Species Creeping Across City's Parks

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - A plant problem is plaguing New York. With 10 percent of the city made up of natural areas, the land is quickly being taken over by invasive foreign species, reports CBS2's Valerie Castro.

Ripping up what's called the "mile a minute" plant, getting that name since it grows six inches a day. The fast growing vine is invading parts of Pelham Park in the Bronx.

"It kind of blankets everything but it comes up pretty quickly," said Leslie McIntyre of the NYC Parks Department's stewardship field staff.

parks invasive plants
Parks Department volunteers try to clear out invasive plants in New York parks. (Credit: CBS2)

A group of volunteers are combating the invasive plant together. It's not supposed to grow in New York, and like similar foreign plants, is causing a loss in biodiversity and damaging wildlife.

"What winds up happening is that these species replace the native plants that are really important to our native animals," said McIntyre. "We lose our native animals, we see an ecosystem decline."

If it's not addressed, the exotic plants could kill all the native trees the city just planted in this area, before they mature.

"A lot of places are really struggling to regenerate on their own," said McIntyre.

Volunteers are quickly learning how these efforts are effecting our ecosystem.

"It really helps the parks flourish and grow and help store extra carbon," said volunteer Elizabeth Wolff.

One 10-year-old boy is sacrificing one of his summer days off to be here.

"We need to keep our natural world and preserve it, so we don't lose it," said young volunteer Beck Smith-Freithe.

Biologists have catalogued more than 2,000 native species of plants in New York City's natural areas. They say every last one of them is at risk.

"The rate of the spread of invasive species has really been on the rise over the last several decades," said Sarah Charlop-Powers, executive director of Natural Area Conservancy.

She says one of the biggest threats the city's 10,000 acres of forest and wetlands is invasive plants. They come from around the world.

"It's also really common for invasive plants to move from one park to another because of birds or wildlife, distribute berries and seeds," said Charlop-Powers.

They may be fast growing, but these aggressive plants may have met their match in New Yorkers.

To find out how you can help, see the NYC Parks Stewardship website at

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