Sometimes Invasive Plant Warriors Are Four-Legged

The JRPS Invasive Task Force recently enlisted professional help with battling invasive plant cover, primarily wintercreeper vines and Chinese privet shrubs, at Huguenot Woods Flatwater, the  westernmost unit of the James River Park System.

A job well done; time to ruminate.

Twenty-one goats and sheep plus “watchdonkey” Ruth Ann from RVA Goats were stationed for nearly two weeks near the canoe and kayak launch within a large electric fence enclosure.  Their task:  to knock back the dense vining groundcover and understory shrub thickets that have obliterated native plant populations, easing the next stage of management for their human colleagues.

The RVA Goats work site is just a small part of the 36.4 acre Huguenot Woods Flatwater park system unit.

Huguenot Woods Flatwater may be the park system unit most severely impaired by invasive plant species cover. Most of the area is “in the red” with invasive plant  impacts exceeding 75% cover as demonstrated in the 2015 Baseline Study inventory map.  The Task Force inventory team  identified 21 different invasive plant species during the late summer 2015 assessment.

The impact on Huguenot’s tree canopy is the most horrifying with nearly every tree heavily cloaked in choking, draping wintercreeper vines.  These trees are certain to die prematurely and to not be succeeded because seedlings and sapling struggle to survive, let alone thrive, under the impenetrable carpet of vines that also rob trees of water and nutrients.

Conditions at Huguenot Woods Flatwater make it an ideal location to deploy an advance team of workers who tend to eat just about anything.  There is little risk of collateral damage to native plant populations because in areas of invasive  monoculture  there aren’t surviving native species communities of herbaceous plants (i.e., grasses, vines, and spring, summer, or fall wildflowers) or shrubs.

You might find Huguenot Woods Flatwater discouraging . . . or you might find it inspiring.   We never heard a complaint from any of the goats and sheep (even through the late September heat wave) and we’re pretty sure that if they could speak our language they’d say, “Could you give us a hand? How about two? Come save a tree!”

Rootstock Revival at Pony Pasture

Sometimes giving biodiversity a boost comes down to the simplest ingredients: digging a hole, watering it, and popping in a scrappy little bundle of roots.

Next spring and summer the demonstration restoration area by the rapids and kiosk at Pony Pasture should have some added color – the purple of Virginia Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) and the yellow of Green and Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum). Rescued “rootstock” of both of these locally native species came to us from a site slated for development; members of the Riverine chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists took the opportunity to diversify the herbaceous layer in this area where volunteers have been working to remove invasive wintercreeper ground cover.  Both species are well-suited to wooded, riparian habitat.

Might the root system be the source of the “spider” in the common name “Spiderwort”? We thought they resembled calamari!

We soon will be adding new volunteer days this fall to continue reclaiming this area from wintercreeper.  Be a habitat hero and join us!  Details will be posted on the Task Force calendar.

 

National Invasive Species Awareness Week

NISAW_2019

Learning and hands-on opportunities are scheduled in the park system Feb. 24 through March 2 as part of National Invasive Species Awareness Week.  Providing advice and hands-on experience will be members of the local volunteer groups making up the park system’s Invasive Plant Task Force.

Task Force coordinator Mary Wickham says, “The goal of our NISAW events is to encourage Richmonders to see the park system and their own yards differently. A little work goes a long way, and if we control the invasive plants at our own homes, we help improve the health of the park system and the James River watershed.”

Throughout the week from Monday, Feb. 25, through Saturday, March 2, you can join park staff and Task Force volunteers to remove invasives in a different area each day.

Click on the schedule above to see a PDF of all activities.

 

Fall/Winter Volunteer Days Begin Again at Pony Pasture

Sure, everyone loves just hanging out by the rapids, contemplating the force of the river, soothed by the sound of the roaring water. But . . . How can you truly relax knowing the park right behind you is being eaten alive by invasive plant species!?!?  That’s how I feel anyway.   So come join me and other Riverine chapter Virginia Master Naturalists as we expand our restoration area next to the Pony Pasture rapids by continuing to remove the carpet of wintercreeper and plucking out the resprouting wintercreeper in the section now thriving with native perennials, shrubs, and trees.   We will be there most Tuesday mornings starting at 9:00 a.m. between now and mid-December plus Sunday afternoon, November 11th. (We’ll add new winter dates after that.) Be sure to check our calendar: http://www.calendarwiz.com/calendars/list.php?crd=jrpcalendar&op=cal&month=10&year=2018

Showing your love for our park system by helping to save it makes the sound of those rapids even more like music to the ears . . .

 

Not Everything Green Is Good for the James River Park System

Not Everything Green Is Good for the James River Park System

Being “green” doesn’t always equal being “good.”

Many of the plants that are now green in the James River Park System actually threaten habitat for native birds, butterflies and other creatures.

Many of these plants are not native to our continent and are invasive species.  Chances are some of them are in your neighborhood, and maybe even in your own yard.

Bikers, hikers, kayakers, home gardeners, families — everyone can lend a hand in managing these unwanted visitors.

The first step is to learn what they are, what they look like and how to deal with them, in your yard as well as in the park.

National Invasive Species Awareness Week

Learning and hands-on opportunities are scheduled in the park system Feb. 25 through March 2 as part of National Invasive Species Awareness Week.  Providing advice and hands-on experience will be members of the local volunteer groups making up the park system’s Invasive Plant Task Force.

Task Force coordinator Mary Wickham says, “The goal of our NISAW events is to encourage Richmonders to see the park system and their own yards differently. A little work goes a long way, and if we control the invasive plants at our own homes, we help improve the health of the park system and the James River watershed.”

Here are some of the things you, your family and your friends can enjoy:

The KickOff from 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25, at Pony Pasture will explain invasives’ impact on local ecosystems and show you how to identify and remove the worst culprits. You can “free a tree” from invasive vines, take a guided walk with botanist Johnny Townsend, see the popular goats that devour the invasives, and possibly win a native plant to take home.

Watch talented botanical artists with the Plants of the James River Project at work at the Reedy Creek Nature Center from 2-4 p.m.  Friday, March 2, and take home their invasive species coloring book.

Throughout the week from Monday, Feb. 26, through Friday, March 2, you can join park staff and Task Force volunteers to remove invasives in a different area each day.


The James River Park System Invasive Plant Task Force is a partnership of 12 local organizations that joined forces in 2015 to address invasive plant coverage in the park. The Task Force partnered with VHB, Inc. to survey invasive plants for a baseline study that year and since then has collaborated to manage invasive plants and to restore habitat by planting native species in project focus areas.

For more information, contact Mary Wickham, marywickham51@gmail.com

Restoration Expands at Pony Pasture

On a clear, bright, and breezy Sunday afternoon five volunteers eased into the soil at Pony Pasture Rapids over fifty plants of species native to riparian areas in our region.  This is the second annual fall restoration planting in this area previously infested densely with invasive wintercreeper. Removal work is ongoing. 

We planted: Heuchera americana (Alumroot), Lobelia syphilitica (great blue lobelia), Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower), Amorpha fruticosa (indigo bush), Corylus Americana (hazelnut), Itea virginica (sweetspire), Clethra alnifolia (sweet pepperbush), Magnolia virgninica (sweetbay magnolia), Aruncus dioicus (goats beard), and  Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern).  We will be adding one more species, Packera aurea (golden ragwort), in another couple weeks when we’re prepared to clearly mark its presence to differentiate it from garlic mustard, an all too common invasive in this part of Pony Pasture with potentially lookalike leaves to the ragwort.

The November 19th planting was a project of the Riverine chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists.  All plants were sourced from our local native plant nurseries Garden Gate Landscape (Montpelier) and Reedy Creek Environmental (Richmond City).  Many thanks to Beth Farmer of Garden Gate and Bill Shanabruch of Reedy Creek!

Planting Time Has Arrived

Our work at Pony Pasture resumed the end of September and on November 19th members of the Riverine chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists will lead a planting project in an expanding restoration demonstration project near the parking area kiosk.   The plant list isn’t finalized yet, but we will be selecting shrub and herbaceous  species native to our region and suitable to riparian habitats.  For the past month and a half a small team of dedicated volunteers have alternated between tending to trees strangled by wintercreeper and English ivy vines along Pleasants Creek Trail and pulling wintercreeper ground cover in the restoration planting area; this means plucking out re-emergent wintercreeper in the area we planted one year ago and continuing to pull up the dense carpet of vines adjacent to it.  It’s vigorous work, but produces tangible results and reveals hidden treasures.  From under that mass of invasive vines we freed multiple spicebush shrubs, an American holly, and an ash sapling—-all native flora that can now thrive and support our native fauna.

Before
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