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!





Written by Meg Turner

Invasive plants can wreak havoc in your garden, and can also do damage in your  neighbors’ yards and beyond, aggressively spreading  by runners and by seed disbursal through air or  wildlife.  As the James River Park System Invasive Plant Task Force works to eradicate invasive species from the James River Park System, you can take these 5 steps to eradicate invasive plants in your own yard, creating a garden that is more beautiful and  that provides pollen, nectar, food and shelter for wildlife.

  1. Do no harm.  When planting your garden, refer to the list of the most threatening invasive plant species in Virginia, and do not purchase or plant those plants. The list can be found on the Virginia Department of Conservation Resources website.
  2. Remove any invasive plants living in your garden. Some of the most frequent invaders in Virginia home gardens are privet, Japanese honeysuckle, Japanese wisteria, garlic mustard, ground ivy and English ivy.  When removing invasive plants, it is important to remove the entire plant, and, when possible, to remove the plant before it flowers or sets seed. For more information on removal techniques, visit this website.
  3. Plant native trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses, ferns and groundcovers in the places where you remove invasives. Invasive plants love a vacuum, and will fill it, so plant soon after invasive removal.  Many nurseries now identify plants that are native, and some even have native plant sections.  Planting natives in conditions where they will thrive will add a natural beauty to your landscape, help inhibit invasive plant growth, and increase wildlife habitat.
  4. Remove English ivy growing in trees. If English ivy is left to grow into a tree’s canopy, it can eventually kill the tree. To save the tree, first use garden clippers to cut the vines around the base of the tree.  If the vines are too thick to cut with clippers, you may need to use a saw, being careful not to harm the trunk.  Leave the severed vines on the trunk, as removing them may harm the tree’s bark. Second, manually remove any ivy growing on the ground within two feet of the tree. This is easiest to do when the ground is moist. Periodically check your trees, and remove any ivy that reappears.
  5. Spread the word! Ask your local nursery to stop selling plants that are on the DCR’s invasive plant list (bring a copy of the list to share with them).  Host a neighborhood invasives workday, educating the neighbors about the dangers of invasive plants.  Check the JRPS Invasive Plant Task Force schedule for volunteer opportunities to remove invasives in our beloved James River Park System.



Free a Tree!

Free a Tree!

Written by Madge Bemiss

English ivy (Hedera Helix) is an aggressive garden ground cover, but when allowed to grow vertically, its thick evergreen vines will actually choke and strangle trees. As ivy climbs in search of increased light, it engulfs and kills branches by blocking light from reaching the host tree’s leaves. Branch die back proceeds from lower to upper branches, often leaving the tree with just a small green “broccoli head.” The host tree eventually succumbs entirely from this insidious and steady weakening. In addition, the added weight of the vines makes infested trees much more susceptible to blow-over during high rain and wind events and heavy snowfalls.  (Read more at )

As a ground cover English ivy is not as big of an invasive threat because these plants stay in a juvenile phase and do not flower or set seed. Only plants growing vertically mature to flower and set seeds that  are eaten by birds and spread to distant locations. Cutting down vines will save a tree, and prevent the potential spread of this invasive species.

In the James River Park System, English ivy and poison ivy often grow together. When cutting vines from trees, it’s important to be able to identify the roots – especially for winter work.  Poison Ivy vines are just as toxic as the leaves — a hazard year-round.


Learn How to Remove English Ivy

“Take Ivy Off Trees” – 

“Remove Large Expanses of Ivy from the Ground” – 

Join us in the Park!

If you would like to free some trees in the James River Park this winter, please sign up for one of our workdays at