Boulevard to Reedy Creek Study Area
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Study area summary
The Boulevard to Reedy Creek study area includes approximately 56.6 acres of park land and was divided into six management units of various sizes. The lead organization for the baseline study of this park section was the Friends of James River Park. The task force field team in this study area identified a total of 24 invasive plant species across all management units, including:
- 12 species ranked with high invasiveness;
- 9 species ranked with medium invasiveness; and,
- 3 species ranked with low invasiveness.
Three of the six management units (1a, 1b, and 2a) were observed invasive plant cover from 50 to 75 percent (Cover Class 4), or greater than 75 percent (Cover Class 5). The remaining management units (2a, 3, and 4) had approximately 25 to 50 percent cover (Cover Class 3) of invasive plants. Throughout all management units, the worst invasive plant infestations typically included three species Chinese privet, winter creeper, and English ivy. Other invasive species observed in less abundance will likely continue to be problematic, including tree-of-heaven, mimosa, autumn olive, multiflora rose, Japanese stiltgrass, and Oriental bittersweet.
Important observations regarding the native plant community were also recorded by the task force volunteers. As in other park sections, the overstory is often dominated by native trees like tulip tree, white oak, American beech, southern red oak, northern red oak. The understory is composed of native saplings and shrubs such as ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana), mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), spicebush, bladdernut, and fringe tree, as well as herbaceous plants including jack-in-the-pulpit, Christmas fern, rockcap fern (Polypodium virginianum), and early saxifrage (Micranthes virginiensis). Volunteers also noted rock outcrop communities known for some rarer plant assemblages, particularly in the study area’s higher elevations where rock outcroppings atop higher hill slopes provide habitat for plants that thrive in xeric soil conditions.
Updates from the study area: Summer 2015 – Spring 2018
In 2015, VCU Life Sciences / Center for Environmental Studies Outreach adopted an area along the Buttermilk Trail west of the 42nd St Parking Lot for carbon sequestration research activities. A 1/10 acre plot was delineated within a mature upland beech/oak forest for ongoing annual data collection. The James River Park System Habitat Restoration Plan (Phase 1) scored the plot as 75-100% impaired primarily by two invasive vines, English ivy (4+) and Winter Creeper (3). Kudzu (1) was identifies entering a hillside west of the plot via the canopy, and poses an incipient threat. Our goal has been to remove all invasive species within the plot and to continue to expand the removal to adjacent areas to the north and west of the site.
Our longer-term objective is to keep cleared areas free of invasives and to continue to clear the areas from Riverside Dr. (upper boundary) down to the rail road tracks at the base of the hillside (lower boundary). These abutting hillsides and a ravine with a small stream to the west have moderate to high levels of invasive English ivy.
No plantings will be done in these areas because a healthy mix of native wildflowers and understory shrubs are currently present. After removing the invasives, we will monitor the cleared areas to document what plants re-emerge or return/recolonize.
From 2015-2018, eighteen work days were scheduled for volunteers to remove invasive species. During these days, 179 volunteers worked for 404 hours and collected 137 large bags of invasive plant material.
‘Free a tree’ activities took place on 2 days in the spring of 2018. English ivy and other invasive vines were cut and removed from the lowers trunks and ground around 211 trees within the designated plot and north, east, and west along the Buttermilk Trail.