Rainy Day Virtual-Visit to Chapel Island with JRA

The James River Association is a lead organizational partner of the JRPS Invasive Task Force and has been stewarding Chapel Island since 2014!

Check out what’s blooming on Chapel Island this month and enjoy some scenes from the James River in this video by Amber Ellis, JRA’s Senior Watershed Restoration Manager.

Amber Ellis, JRA

Watch:  Rainy Walk on Chapel Island

For more information on garlic mustard, including how and when to remove it, you can find a fact sheet at Blue Ridge PRISM.

2/23 – 2/29: Task Force Hosts National Invasive Species Awareness Week Events!

For the third consecutive year the JRPS Invasive Plant Task Force will make National Invasive Species Awareness Week a local happening. Please join us at one (or more!) of our volunteer opportunities, walks, or talks. Check the calendar for details (coming soon!).

SUNDAY 2/23  1:00-4:00 p.m.  Pony Pasture

  • Invasive Ecology 101: stop by our tent for an introduction to why invasive plants are a problem, how to identify the most common local bad actors, and what to do about them for healthier habitat.
  • Volunteer opportunity (Free A Tree and more! See calendar)
  • Guided walks with professional botanist and Task Force member Robert Wright at 1:30 p.m. and 3:15 p.m.
  • Did we mention goats?  Yes, if you’ve been feeling goat-deprived, you will get the chance to see RVA Goats in action and learn about the role they can play in invasive plant management.

MONDAY 2/24 — THURSDAY 2/27  

More volunteer opportunities at:

  • Chapel Island/Great Shiplock Park (Monday 1:00-3:00 p.m.)
  • Texas Beach (Tuesday 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.)
  • Buttermilk Trail (Wednesday 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.)
  • Belle Isle (Thursday 9:00-noon)

FRIDAY 2/28, 7:00-10:00 p.m.: PARTY at The Westover (formerly Westover Station), 5047 Forest Hill Avenue

Experience the music of the Richmond Indigenous Gourd Orchestra and get to know your fellow invasive plant warriors over your favorite beverage instead of your favorite pruners or handsaw.

SATURDAY 2/29, 10:30 a.m.-noon: Reedy Creek Headquarters/Nature Center (4001 Riverside Drive)

“Heritage Matters” with Rob Evans, Natural Areas Protection Manager, Division of Natural Heritage, VA Department of Conservation and Recreation Learn why “heritage matters” when it comes to selecting plants for your own yard and how to control invasive plant species as you nurture your own corner of heavenly habitat. 30 minute lecture followed by ID walk and optional field work.







Sometimes Invasive Plant Warriors Are Four-Legged

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.

A job well done; time to ruminate.

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.

The RVA Goats work site is just a small part of the 36.4 acre Huguenot Woods Flatwater park system unit.

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!”

Rootstock Revival at Pony Pasture

Sometimes giving biodiversity a boost comes down to the simplest ingredients: digging a hole, watering it, and popping in a scrappy little bundle of roots.

Next spring and summer the demonstration restoration area by the rapids and kiosk at Pony Pasture should have some added color – the purple of Virginia Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) and the yellow of Green and Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum). Rescued “rootstock” of both of these locally native species came to us from a site slated for development; members of the Riverine chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists took the opportunity to diversify the herbaceous layer in this area where volunteers have been working to remove invasive wintercreeper ground cover.  Both species are well-suited to wooded, riparian habitat.

Might the root system be the source of the “spider” in the common name “Spiderwort”? We thought they resembled calamari!

We soon will be adding new volunteer days this fall to continue reclaiming this area from wintercreeper.  Be a habitat hero and join us!  Details will be posted on the Task Force calendar.


Fall/Winter Volunteer Days Begin Again at Pony Pasture

Sure, everyone loves just hanging out by the rapids, contemplating the force of the river, soothed by the sound of the roaring water. But . . . How can you truly relax knowing the park right behind you is being eaten alive by invasive plant species!?!?  That’s how I feel anyway.   So come join me and other Riverine chapter Virginia Master Naturalists as we expand our restoration area next to the Pony Pasture rapids by continuing to remove the carpet of wintercreeper and plucking out the resprouting wintercreeper in the section now thriving with native perennials, shrubs, and trees.   We will be there most Tuesday mornings starting at 9:00 a.m. between now and mid-December plus Sunday afternoon, November 11th. (We’ll add new winter dates after that.) Be sure to check our calendar: http://www.calendarwiz.com/calendars/list.php?crd=jrpcalendar&op=cal&month=10&year=2018

Showing your love for our park system by helping to save it makes the sound of those rapids even more like music to the ears . . .


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.


“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!