'Dandelion Warriors' to return to Denali in June

Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Dandelion warriors will descend upon Denali National Park and Preserve in June for the third annual battle against the familiar flower.

Although a run-of-the-mill weed in much of the state, dandelions are considered exotic pests at Denali, Park Service official Pat Owen said.

Armed only with digging tools and a fierce determination to protect the park's biological harmony, each volunteer will spend up to 32 hours over four days on hands and knees, rain or shine.

Dandelion seeds arrive at the park every summer, clinging to the tires of visitors' vehicles. Unfortunately, the areas most traveled by people are prime dandelion habitat.

Most of the work is done while the dandelions are in full bloom, so volunteers can distinguish them from similar-looking plants.

Although it didn't make much of a dent in the overall Denali dandelion population, volunteers last year yanked 500 pounds of the yellow weed from the ground, Owen said.

Once the plants are gathered, they're incinerated to prevent any seeds from scattering.

Many people would consider pulling dandelions a sorry way to spend a day, but Owen said there was a great deal of public interest.

A mention in a magazine garnered calls from people all over the country, who were excited about the opportunity, she said.

Their enthusiasm doesn't wane, even after they've spent hours on the job, Owen said.

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