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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Conservation Grant from the Richmond Audubon Society

Richmond Audubon SocietySpecial thanks to the Richmond Audubon Society, who is providing a $500 conservation grant to support the purchase and planting of native plants for Pony Pasture in the James River Park System.

These native plants will replace invasive species that have been removed and will benefit bird species by providing much needed food and cover. We are grateful to the RAS for helping in our efforts to keep our community green and healthy for the wildlife and citizens of RVA.

For more information about the Richmond Audubon Society, visit their website.

5 hours + 5 Volunteers = 13 bags of wintercreeper

5 hours + 5 Volunteers = 13 bags of wintercreeper

In just a couple of days we’ve managed to free up a sizable area from wintercreeper (and loriope!) encroachment and the cleared space will be a focal point for our soon-to-be-scheduled early December shrub planting.

wintercreeper leavesSevere infestations like this one tend to be “monosystems”. That is, there isn’t much risk to native plants during invasive removal because so few have managed to endure.  Yet we always use caution and this Wednesday we managed to rescue a few Paw Paw and Hickory seedlings from the dense vines. As we continue to work in this area we’ll be watching out for the native bleeding heart and Virginia bluebells that volunteers have planted in the past.

Is it discouraging to heave thirteen heavy bags of vines with aching arms and have perhaps just a 15 x 20 foot area to show for it?  It can be.  But our goal is not to eradicate every invasive from every square inch of the park system.  Our goal is to tip the balance and, come spring, we’ll have retaken a significant oasis with native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants needed to host diverse populations of native insects, birds, and other wildlife.  As we expand healthy habitat in all sections of the park system we’ll be creating an urban wildlife corridor.

Keep an eye on our calendar for workdays and our December planting!

Native Dogwood at Quarry Rock

native-dogwoodA year ago, this rock face at the western end of Belle Isle was hidden in a forest of mature ailanthus and other invasive species. On Thursday, this native dogwood greeted Tree Stewards who organized planting it and more than two dozen other trees there in October. It has a long way to go, and so do our habitat restoration activities, but what a thrill to see it thriving now!