Maryland law enforcement officers, conducting a special aerial investigation of Montgomery County parkland, yesterday located 16 marijuana plants, some of them five feet high, growing in a family's private vegetable garden.

"They were right next to the turnips," said Trooper Wayne Moffatt of the Maryland State Police.

Moffatt, working with Officer Larry Kenna of the Montgomery County division of the Maryland-National Capital Park Police, said no arrests have been made and no charges filed. "The investigation is still under way," Moffatt said.

Moffatt and Kenna seized the plants at 15401 Comus Rd., outside Clarksburg in upper Montgomery County, after police riding in a helicopter spotted the familiar saw-toothed cannabis plants in the garden. The helicopter was at an altitude of 1,000 to 1,200 feet at the time.

"They went down for a closer look, confirmed that it was marijuana and radioed the information to ground units to investigate," said Park Police spokesman Tim Boyle.

Boyle said the helicopter search was the latest effort by Park Police, working with state police, to clear Montgomery County parks of marijuana plants. On Sept. 10, a helicopter search led police to 21 marijuana plants in Wheaton Regional Park in an area near Randolph Road, he said. Those plants, estimated to be worth $15,000, were confiscated and officials decided to follow up with yesterday's search.

Police did not see any marijuana plants growing in the parks this time, Boyle said, but they did find two large plots in Rock Creek Park where an estimated 50 marijuana plants had been harvested within the last week.

"They were growing in the area near Beach Drive, north of Knowles Avenue," Boyle said.

As the helicopter flew along Rte. 109 from Little Bennett Regional Park toward Dickerson Regional Park, police spotters saw the marijuana plants in the Comus Road garden, Boyle said.

Moffatt said the vegetable garden had been boxed with timbers and measured about 15 feet by 8 feet. The biggest marijuana plant was five feet high and was worth about $1,000, he said. "It had been trimmed to bush out," he said.

The garden was located 20 yards from a one-story frame house occupied by a couple with children, Moffatt said.

"The wife was by herself when we arrived," he said. "She denied all knowledge of the marijuana plants."