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!