It took decades for over twenty Ailanthus altissima and Paulownia tomentosa trees to tower over Riverside Drive and Buttermilk Trail west of the 42nd Street entrance to the James River Park System. But it took just four days to take them down and prevent regrowth of these two invasive tree species threatening the health and habitat of the park. Last week’s project was a partnership of the JRPS Invasive Plant Task Force, JRPS administration and invasive plant management team, the Friends of James River Park, and Arbor VA.
You might know the trees by their more common names, Tree of Heaven and Princess Tree or Royal Paulownia, and both are found not just in the Park, but on private and other public property. The Invasive Plant Task Force initiated the tree removal, long an item on its “Wish List”, made possible by a charitable donation by CoStar earlier this year. JRPS superintendent Giles Garrison supported the project and worked out the logistics that insured the safe removal of the trees by contractor Arbor VA along the guardrail of Riverside Drive, which was closed during the work. Arbor VA’s efficient, staged approach to the removal meant that JRPS invasive plant coordinators Laura Greenleaf and Gera Williams were able to immediately treat the freshly cut stumps with a targeted application of herbicide product to suppress regrowth through suckering.
Removing these trees reduces the stream of invasive tree seeds flowing directly into the Park and frees up space and resources for establishment of native tree and other plant species. It also moves a designated invasive management site on the Buttermilk Trail closer to the goal of less than 5% invasive vegetation. Since 2015 task force member Anne Wright has managed the site, organizing weekly volunteer events with hundreds of volunteers contributing to the removal of invasive plants, primarily English ivy groundcover. (After an August hiatus, events will resume this fall, so stay tuned to the FoJRP and Hands On Greater Richmond calendars.)
For more information on these two species:
Princess Tree | National Invasive Species Information Center
Ailanthus Control Methods FT0054 (virginia.gov)
Ailanthus is the primary host plant for the invasive Spotted Lanternfly, which also threatens some crop species and native species and was recently identified in Richmond: USDA APHIS | Spotted Lanternfly