Be a Hero: Volunteer and Help Save Our Trees

Every year since 2017, the James River Park System Invasive Plant Task Force has hosted a week of special events to observe National Invasive Species Awareness Week the end of February. This year is, of course, different. No kick-off event with guided botanical walks and information booth with “name that invasive plant” quizzes and native plant giveaways ideally situated near RVA Goats. And no crowded wrap-up party where we enjoyed a well-earned beverage, each other’s company, and music from The Richmond Indigenous Gourd Orchestra.

NISAW 2021 is instead an opportunity to put the park system’s (and all of Richmond’s) trees in the spotlight, offering ample opportunities to save the life of a park tree while learning how to do the same for trees in your own neighborhood. Task Force members will be leading volunteer events—with limited numbers of participants— at Belle Isle, Pony Pasture, Chapel Island, Reedy Creek, Buttermilk Trail, and Huguenot Flatwater the rest of February. Find out more on our JRPS Invasive Plant Task Force home page where you also can access the volunteer calendar for details and contact information.

These trees covered in English ivy vines are not happy or healthy. They aren’t really able to even be trees. Many mature trees in Richmond, both inside and outside our parks, are plagued by invasive English ivy and winter creeper vines.
After the storm: trees covered in English ivy came down on Riverside Drive
near Buttermilk Trail while others lean precariously.

Our double-whammy storms are demonstrating what the weight of snow and ice can mean for trees already weakened by infestations of invasive winter creeper and English ivy vines. Trees suffer many hardships that put them at greater risk of falling as a result of snow, ice, wind, and saturated soils; the grip of choking, smothering invasive vines is one indignity we can spare our trees. You can learn more about the threat invasive vines pose to Richmond’s trees in this article.

Snow blankets ivy-covered trees on Riverside Drive in the winter of 2017.

The JRPS Invasive Plant Task Force invites you to join the ranks of our volunteer tree heroes in the fight to save Richmond’s tree canopy. Please join us at one of our JRPS project areas for hands-on “Free-A-Tree” experience throughout the rest of February. Then bring those skills back to your neighborhood. We can save Richmond’s urban canopy, one tree at a time. Volunteer now.

Laura Greenleaf is a Certified Virginia Master Naturalist and a founding steering committee member of the James River Park System Invasive Plant Task Force. She lives near the Pony Pasture section of the park system.