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.
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.
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!”