Invasive Plant Species Education Event

Concerned about the impact of invasive plants in our parks and yards?

Learn how to identify the common invasive species & how to remove them from your yard, preventing spread to other places.

  • Participate in small group walks in the area to identify invasive plants present and discuss negative impacts of invasive species, as well as the importance of native species.
  • Play a matching game: Match cuttings of common invasives to the name of the plant.
  • Learn how to remove ivy from a tree so that the tree is not damaged and you are safe. Tools provided for those interested in removing ivy from a tree. Bring gloves if you can.
  • Identify and pull small privet from the ground, remove medium size ones with a weed wrench.
  • Concerned that a vine or shrub in your yard is invasive? Bring a small cutting in a ziplock bag. Perhaps we can help.

Our Most Hated Invasive Plants

These and other invasive plants are destroying habitat and elimating food sources for all the creatures living here with us. This demands our attention, both on our own properties and in our parks. Please help us limit and reduce the spread by removing non-native invasive plants on your property. We hope the informaion below will be helpful.

English ivy – Helix hedra

The problem is so bad that some ivy invasions can be seen in aerial photos.

This vine is a terror, a very aggressive invader of natural areas that threatens every plant from the ground up.  It eventually smothers everything in its path, including trees.   In addition, this plant changes soil chemistry and produces chemicals that prevent other plants from sprouting and growing.  Some areas of our parks are becoming ecological wastelands in part due to English ivy and some of the other plants below and this needs our attention.  

As the vine grows it searches for a vertical surface, usually a tree, to climb so that it can mature, forming flowers, fruit and seed.  Birds then eat the berries, fly away to perch somewhere else, and poop the seed where it will sprout and repeat the process.  A large ivy covered tree can produce many thousands of berries.  

IMPORTANT: Keeping ivy off of trees is key to limiting the spread to other places and saving our natural areas.  

More information available on page 133, Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas

Wintercreeper Euonymus fortuneii

Creeping into a park near you….

Wintercreeper is a fast growing, highly invasive landscape vine (juvenile form) or shrub (adult form), that was introduced to the US in the 1900’s as an ornamental ground cover.  An evergreen with glossy, dark green, elliptical leaves it can overtake and kill trees with dense growth that prevents photosynthesis, resulting in the death of the tree. Like English Ivy, wintercreeper spreads in its juvenile form by producing rootlets that sprout new growth when it comes into contact with moist soil. In woodland settings, wintercreeper forms dense mats that crowd out native plants. It can quickly grow up trees to reach the top of the canopy.With more sun at the canopy top, Wintercreeper matures, flowers and produces seeds. The seeds are dispersed by birds and  small animals.  The berries seen in the fall can also be a source of spread.

IMPORTANT: This plant is a very good example of why one should be careful when it comes to disposing of invasive plants. If wintercreeper is discarded in or near a wooded area such as a park, it could easily take root and become established.

Photo credit: Privet chinese James H. Miller & Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society,

More information available on page 131, Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas

Chinese Privet    Ligustrum sinense

Nectar and berries provide very little nutritional value. Birds feeding on the berries become malnourished.

A very common invasive species in our area is Chinese privet. It is an aggressive non-native species that can be found in just about any soil type, in sun to part shade. A semi-evergreen ornamental with small, glossy, elliptical leaves and opposite branching. It blooms from May to June with small, white flowers that have a very distinctive odor.  It has black to blue black fruits that occur in drupes at the tips of the branches, maturing in late August to September.

Brought to the US for use as hedgerows in the 1850s, privet has thrived and can now be found in forests, woodland edges, disturbed areas and your yard. Spreading from the roots privet can form dense,impenetrable thickets that shade out native shrubs and perennials.


Note: There a several species of Ligustrum that are used in landscaping. None of them are native to the US andsome of them are invasive. Please do not plant.

Photo credit: James H. Miller & Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society,

More information available on page 96, Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas

Japanese stiltgrass – Microstegium vimineum

The plant with hitchhiker seeds.

This annual grass produces many seeds that stick to fur, clothing, shoes, bike tires, almost anything!  It spreads rapidly and displaces native plants in natural areas, becoming a problem in many parks since the seeds area spread so easily. Did you know you can bring some seed home to your yard after visiting a park?   Shallow rooted and easy to pull, removal should be done before seeds form in late summer.   Please look for this plant in your yard this summer and remove it immediately if found. Note the white stripe down the middle of each blade.

Photo credit: Leslie J. Mehrhoff,

More information available on page 43, Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas

Tree of Heaven – Ailanthus altissima …or perhaps a devil of a tree?

Ailanthus altissima is an incredibly adaptable and fast-growing tree originating in Asia. Commonly referred to as “tree-of-heaven”, it is more aptly named “tree-from-hell” by those trying to slow down its spread. A female Ailanthus tree can produce over 300,000 seeds per year
which are dispersed by the wind and the roots and fallen leaves release a chemical which is toxic
to many native plants. As a result, Ailanthus can quickly take over an area.

Trying to eliminate trees by cutting them down only makes matters worse unless herbicide is applied immediately to
the cut stump. This is because a damaged tree will send up multiple new trunks from the roots
and create an impenetrable thicket.

Before attempting to remove Ailanthus, be sure to consult the informative factsheet from Blue Ridge PRISM:

Also, please be aware that there are several native plants (black walnut, ash, and sumac) that look similar to Ailanthus due to having large compound leaves with many leaflets. Ailanthus differentiated from other species by looking for the small teeth at the base of each leaflet.

More information available on page 112, Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Are

Tips for Control or Removal of Invasive Species

Additional links for both invasive and native plant information

Plant RVA Natives

Seedlings and small plants are very easy to remove. Don’t let them get bigger!

Clockwise from top left: English ivy, privet, wintercreeper, Ailanthus, Japanese stilt grass.

Photo credits: Ivy: Jan Samanek, Phytosanitary Administration, Privet : James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Wintercreeper: Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia, Ailanthus: Ohio State Weed Lab , The Ohio State University, Stiltgrass: Wilipedia

Habitat Restoration Workday

March is Richmond Invasive Species Awareness Month and so there are two opportunities in the near future to help remove invasive plant species from Crooked Branch Ravine Park. Would be really great to get ahead of that growth sprut that will come soon. Hoepfully at least one of these options will fit your schedule. There are a variety of things to do from pulling non-native seedlings to cutting ivy at the base of trees or removing it from the ground.

  • Tuesday, March 14 from 10-12 a.m.
  • and..
  • Sunday, March 19 from 2-4 p.m.
  • Crooked Branch Ravine Park
  • Map to site
  • Please bring your own hand tools if possible, though we do have a few to share.
  • Questions? Contact Us

March is Richmond Invasive Species Awareness Month

Invasive plant species occur in every city park, along streets and in most alleys, and on private property. They are so numerous in Richmond that they might appear to be normal, but they are far from normal and are causing harm!  Some examples:

Invasive plants / Biological Trash

  • change the soil chemistry and/or produce chemicals that inhibit sprouting or growth of native species.
  • shade other plants preventing their growth.
  • some simply become so prolific that they reproduce faster than our native species.

Impacts are

  • loss of tree canopy allows polluted water to enter our streams and neighborhoods are warmer, with some areas becoming urban heat islands. 
  • loss of native plant species that provide food and shelter for native fauna, decreasing populations and sometimes even threatening extinction.
  • threats to human health.

In Richmond, there are several volunteer groups working to remove invasive species from our parks, but did you know that some of these plants may have come from your yard?  Birds and other critters eat the berries and then spread seed to other locations; other seeds are dispersed by wind or other means.  This month we will be posting information about the most common invasive plants in the area with some resources about how to control them.  

Let’s try to stop the spread.  Look around your property for a plant that you should remove and perhaps volunteer for work in a park.  Both Reedy Creek Coalition and our sponsor, Friends of Forest Hill Park, have regular workdays.  Stay tuned for more information about specific plants as we work together to…

*Note that the term invasive refers to those species not native to an area.  The term aggressive is used for plants that are native, but can become numerous in some situations. Therefore, when we say “invasive” this refers only to non-native species.   

I Love Trees – Tree Walk

Our tree walk planned for Feb 12 was rescheduled due to the weather. Please see the new date below.

Crooked Branch Ravine Park is a wooded area with many beautiful, interesting plants and we would like to share some these with our neighborhood friends. We will do a little winter tree ID, talk about the benefits of the plants we visit, look for some lichen and fungi, and perhaps even delve into the leaf litter!

  • Sunday, February 19 at 2 p.m.
  • Duration 60 – 90 minutes
  • Crooked Branch Ravine Park
  • Map to meeting site
  • Limited to 15 participants. Sign up at this link. Comment: TREE WALK. You will receive an e-mail within one day confirming your space.
  • Please also use the link above if you have questions.

Reedy Creek Coalition Meeting

Our quarterly meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Monday, February 6 in the Westover Hills Library meeting room.

Discussion will center around invasive removal projects, upcoming events (a tree walk and Invasive Species Awareness Month) and other items as time allows.

Please note: This is an open meeting, but there are limits to the number of people allowed in the room.

If you plan to attend or if you have questions please contact us.

Help Wanted in 2023 – Crooked Branch Ravine Park

Project date has been changed to January 15th. See new post.

We had intended to have a workday tomorrow, December 15th, but looks like rain for most of the day. The next workday is planned for January 8th. Our focus is to continue removing non-native plants in the area where sheep grazed in the fall. This is important work and hope that you will join us at a workday in 2023.

Thanks to RVA Goats and Honey for working with us, to TrueTimber for removing two large Ailanthius, and for members of the James River Park Invasive Plant Task Force for their advice and assistance. And thanks to the volunteers who have worked with us in 2022!

Please contact us if you have questions.