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Natural Awakenings Richmond

Removing Dangerous Invasives from the James River

Native plants are quickly becoming more and more popular for planting as they attract pollinators, provide habitat for a variety of wildlife and thrive in our local climate with minimal irrigation and maintenance. 

Invasive species are organisms that have been introduced, whether accidentally or intentionally, to an ecosystem in which they do not belong. They can include plants, fish, insects or any other living being, categorized by their ability to out-compete native species and form a negative impact on their environment. They do this in a myriad of ways, including growing faster than native species, having no natural predators or diseases, smothering out habitat or poisoning their competition. 

Invasive species are not only dangerous to our environments and ecosystems, they can also be very expensive. National Invasive Species Awareness Week estimates that invasive species cost the U.S. $120 billion annually and affect over 100 million acres of land. Most of us see invasive species every day, and it’s likely that we have several invasive plants growing in our yards or on our properties. Some of the most common include English Ivy, Japanese Honeysuckle, Winter Creeper, Japanese Stiltgrass, Autumn Olive, Oriental Bittersweet, Chinese Privet, Tree-of-Heaven, Mile-a-Minute, and Garlic Mustard. 

There are things that can be done to minimize invasive species: 

1. Identify. We need to identify these pesky plants so we can begin removing them. Reach out to local organizations that specialize in invasive removal and replacement such as the Blue Ridge Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management.  

2. Remove. Get involved with invasive species removal on a larger level through volunteering with a group like the James River Association (JRA) and the James River Park System Invasive Plant Task Force. JRA offers monthly volunteer opportunities to remove invasive species at Chapel Island, which includes the opportunity to discuss invasive identification and treatment options. 

3. Plant Native. One of the most impactful and fun ways to make a difference is to plant native. This is one of five pledges in the JRA River Hero Homes program, which helps residents of the James River watershed implement river-friendly practices at home. Avoiding invasive plant species and using regionally native plants in conservation landscaping, rain gardens, riparian buffers and living shorelines can make a big difference for the river by helping to reduce pollution caused by stormwater runoff.  

Removing these unwanted pests from our yards and communities will help preserve the precious tree canopy, restore waterways and give native plants an opportunity to thrive.  

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