Invasive Plants Don’t Take a Winter Break

The work of the James River Park System Invasive Plant Task Force doesn’t end when cold weather arrives. In fact, we are scheduling more invasive plant fighting volunteer days during January and February. One focus will be on “Free a Tree” projects that break the bonds of invasive vines climbing up, overtopping, and weighing down valuable mature trees in the park. Our Free a Tree campaign will culminate the last week of February with NISAW, National Invasive Species Awareness Week (more about that below).

English Ivy growing up trees.
English Ivy growing up the trunks of trees.

Why are invasive vines a threat to the trees in the James River Park System and those in Richmond’s other parks? They weaken a tree by competing for water and nutrients; by reducing the tree’s ability to photosynthesize as they grow over and shade out the tree’s leaves; and by growing up the trunk which increases physical stress on the tree. Over years or decades English ivy and winter creeper trunks can grow to 6 inches in diameter. Fellow Task Force member Laura Greenleaf has a more complete explanation of damage done by English ivy in her article “The Holly and the Ivy”

Winter Creeper at Huguenot Flatwater
Winter Creeper at Huguenot Flatwater

Winter is an excellent time to focus on invasive English ivy and winter creeper.  Because they stay green all year, these vines are easy to spot on trees that have dropped their leaves. With  hand tools such as pruners, loppers or a pruning saw you can cut these vines at the base of the tree causing the entire part of the vine growing up the tree to die. For detailed instructions on how to free a tree see Laura’s step by step guide on Urban Forest Dweller

Volunteer cuts large vine at Pony Pasture
Volunteer cuts large vine at Pony Pasture

For the past three years the Invasive Plant Task Force has celebrated National Invasive Species Awareness Week in the James River Park System with a kick-off day at Pony Pasture and volunteer work days the rest of the week at our various work sites in the Park. Since we will not be able to hold a large event at Pony Pasture this year because of the pandemic, we invite you to free a tree on your property, or ask a neighbor if you can free a tree on his or her property. Photograph the tree before and after it has been freed. Post your photos on the Invasive Plant Task Force Face Book page

We will hold smaller volunteer work days during NISAW week (February 21- February 27, 2021). There is currently a 9 person cap on volunteer events at the Park.   However, volunteer invasive removal work days are ongoing throughout January and February. Sign up to volunteer at the FoJRP calendar or the Task Force calendar and join us as we participate in a socially distanced outdoor activity that is beneficial to your physical, mental, and spiritual health!

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