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

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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
After

“The Art of Invasion” coming July 15th!

Most of us who battle invasive plants don’t find them beautiful.  Sometimes it takes an artist’s vision to see the world in a new way.  On Saturday, July 15th from 1 – 4 o’clock The Plants of the James River Project will present The Art of Invasion, an exhibit of botanical art and a family-friendly opportunity to learn more about our  native plant communities and the impact of invasives on them, enjoy guided walks, and make leaf rubbings and paper (from invasive plants of course!)

Join us at the James River Park Headquarters building, Reedy Creek Canoe Access,
4001 Riverside Drive, Richmond, VA 23225.  For all the details:

Plants of the James River Project Flyer-1

Chapel Island Habitat Blitz!

James River Association is at the helm on Chapel Island, leading the invasive removal and habitat restoration work there the fourth Monday of every month. Capital Trees is now partnering with JRA on the monthly projects.

volunteers digging and planting
Amber Ellis of the James River Association at the center of a splendid habitat restoration effort on Chapel Island. Thank you Altria employees!

This past Friday (“Earth Day Eve”), JRA, Capital Trees, and the park system  worked together on a special event on Chapel Island and in Great Shiplock Park with 70 Altria employees who spent a morning removing invasives, planting a whopping 600 native plants (from Garden Gate), and doing additional maintenance work.

Come on out and join JRA and Capital Trees on Monday, April 24th or a fourth Monday coming soon!   Visit our global calendar and click on the day’s event for contact information.  The more volunteers, the more we can accomplish.

Cheers for our Volunteers!

The Task Force held several events to mark National Invasive Species Awareness Week that did just that: raising public awareness of the consequences to our park system of dense invasions of invasive herbaceous plants, vines, shrubs, and trees.  The perpetually green carpets and tree-topping masses of wintercreeper and English Ivy and the pale green early leaf-out of Amur Honeysuckle in the understory dramatically display the harm done by these invaders that out-compete diverse native plant species.

Tree Stewards on Belle Isle, James River Association on Chapel Island, and Riverine Va. Master Naturalists at Pony Pasture led volunteer efforts on several days following a Saturday kick-off event at Pony Pasture that featured guided walks and removal demonstrations, the most popular of which by far was by RVA Goats. In areas overrun by monosystems of invasives where risk to native plant communities is little to none, goats are an excellent first phase of invasive management. 

We focused our efforts on “Free A Tree” projects: severing vines at the base of trees and pulling up the deep roots immediately around them.

Trees overwhelmed by invasive vines are robbed of water and nutrients, struggle to photosynthesize as they should, and are weighed down by thick, hanging vines that can completely conceal a tree’s own branches.

We wrapped up our NISAW events last Friday at Pony Pasture where we got a surprise work crew:  St. Christopher’s and St. Catherine’s students from biology and environmental science classes whose enthusiastic efforts helped us cap the week with significant progress (and laughs at their hijinks: mature native grape vines always make great swings!).   We learned that their teachers, Dr. Austin Sutten and Mr. Billy McGuire, include education about invasive species in their curriculum and value the opportunity to match class instruction with hands-on field work.  The JRPS is an ideal 600 acre outdoor classroom for incorporating invasive/native plant ecology into the foundation of science education.

Many thanks to all the volunteers who helped out during NISAW and we hope to see you in the park again soon!

 

 

5 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP

5 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP

Written by Meg Turner

Invasive plants can wreak havoc in your garden, and can also do damage in your  neighbors’ yards and beyond, aggressively spreading  by runners and by seed disbursal through air or  wildlife.  As the James River Park System Invasive Plant Task Force works to eradicate invasive species from the James River Park System, you can take these 5 steps to eradicate invasive plants in your own yard, creating a garden that is more beautiful and  that provides pollen, nectar, food and shelter for wildlife.

  1. Do no harm.  When planting your garden, refer to the list of the most threatening invasive plant species in Virginia, and do not purchase or plant those plants. The list can be found on the Virginia Department of Conservation Resources website.
  2. Remove any invasive plants living in your garden. Some of the most frequent invaders in Virginia home gardens are privet, Japanese honeysuckle, Japanese wisteria, garlic mustard, ground ivy and English ivy.  When removing invasive plants, it is important to remove the entire plant, and, when possible, to remove the plant before it flowers or sets seed. For more information on removal techniques, visit this website.
  3. Plant native trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses, ferns and groundcovers in the places where you remove invasives. Invasive plants love a vacuum, and will fill it, so plant soon after invasive removal.  Many nurseries now identify plants that are native, and some even have native plant sections.  Planting natives in conditions where they will thrive will add a natural beauty to your landscape, help inhibit invasive plant growth, and increase wildlife habitat.
  4. Remove English ivy growing in trees. If English ivy is left to grow into a tree’s canopy, it can eventually kill the tree. To save the tree, first use garden clippers to cut the vines around the base of the tree.  If the vines are too thick to cut with clippers, you may need to use a saw, being careful not to harm the trunk.  Leave the severed vines on the trunk, as removing them may harm the tree’s bark. Second, manually remove any ivy growing on the ground within two feet of the tree. This is easiest to do when the ground is moist. Periodically check your trees, and remove any ivy that reappears.
  5. Spread the word! Ask your local nursery to stop selling plants that are on the DCR’s invasive plant list (bring a copy of the list to share with them).  Host a neighborhood invasives workday, educating the neighbors about the dangers of invasive plants.  Check the JRPS Invasive Plant Task Force schedule for volunteer opportunities to remove invasives in our beloved James River Park System.