Interstate 95 drivers, if you can take your eyes from the car bumper ahead of you for just a second, you may be looking off to the side at Tree-of Heaven, Bradford Pear and Porcelainberry, among other species. But the Maryland State Highway Administration says that’s not good.


Look familiar? Maryland wants to make it less so. It’s Porcelainberry along the Capital Beltway. (State Highway Administration)

They’re among the invasives that line up along the interstates, and the SHA is expanding a program to zap them. The latest effort will focus on I-95 in Howard County. The results should be similar to what Capital Beltway drivers see in Montgomery County and what Route 50 drivers have seen near the Prince George’s/Anne Arundel County line.

During the first part of the project, the sides of the highway are going to turn brown. The contractors on these projects use chain saws and clippers to attack the gnarly trees and vines. But they also use herbicide, resulting in the browning. The SHA says herbicide work is supervised by certified pesticide applicators.

The first phase of the I-95 project is scheduled to be done in spring 2018. It’s a long process of removing and treating the vegetation, then monitoring and treating any regrowth. Then the crews go back and plant native trees and ground-cover. Milkweed is an example of the type of plant that goes in during the restoration.

The work is very visible to motorists, but should not interfere with traffic, because it’s off to the sides and in medians.

The invasive species have overtaken grassy areas along the highways in the past 15 years or so, SHA Director of Environmental Design Sonal Ram said in a statement about the start of the I-95 work.

The invasives push out native plants, but the SHA doesn’t like them because they can reduce sight distances at some spots and block a driver’s vision of road signs. Some of the invasive species can wrap around trees and kill them, creating another hazard if the tree falls over. The vines also are a problem if they gum up the storm water drainage systems.