Invasive Plant Removal: Why does your local watershed group think this is important?

Crooked Branch Ravine Park acts like a sponge, soaking up rain water and keeping it where it falls.  It is also home to many native plants that support wildlife, including warblers and other song birds on their long migrations.

CBR map
The circle indicates the approximate location of Crooked Branch Ravine Park.

Protecting areas like this will help keep the rain where it falls and help improve water quality; this need is great in urban areas with lots of impervious surface.   Unfortunately, this little park has many non-native, invasive plants and over time they will threaten the tree canopy (natures’ best invention for capturing rain water).  And, as native species are lost so is the diversity that supports wildlife.

This is important work. We would appreciate your help.

  • Sunday,  January 6 from 1 – 3 p.m.  or as long as you can stay.
  • Bring gloves and hand clippers.  An old screwdriver is sometimes helpful for removing ivy from trees; we will show you how.
  • Bring a friend!

Map to meeting site


Reedy Creek and a small tributary, Crooked Branch, flow through Crooked Branch Ravine Park.  This small, passive park is home to many native trees, shrubs, and perennials that could be lost to advancing invasive plant species, particularly English ivy and privet.  Reedy Creek Coalition will resume  our invasive removal efforts now that the weather is cooler.

  • Please  join us on Saturday, December 8, 2017 from 1 – 3 p.m.
  • We will meet at the end of Northrop Street where there is a path into the park.
  • Bring gloves, pruners, and, if you have one, a small saw for cutting large ivy vines.
  • Only have an hour to spare?  That’s quite alright.  Every little bit helps. 
  • Map to meeting place

The area where we will be working has oak, hickory, maple, black gum, fringe trees,  wintergreen, cranfly orchids, and other native species.  The diversity of species in just this small area speaks to the value of this park.

Striped wintergreen will soon be overcome by English ivy.

Invasive removal-Crooked Branch Ravine Park

We intend to tackle the English ivy growing up trees this coming Sunday.  This effort will have positive effects beyond this small park since English ivy only produces flowers, fruit and then berries only after it climbs a vertical surface.  The vines above the cut will die and there will be no berries for the birds to eat and then spead the see to other locations.  It’s also a relief for the tree!

We will meet on Crutchfield Street across the road from the sports fields of George Wythe High School. This important work and we would really appreciate your help.



  • Sunday,  November 4 from 1 – 3 p.m.  or as long as you can stay.
  • Bring gloves and hand clippers.  A small saw if you have one
  • An old screwdriver is sometimes helpful for removing ivy from trees; we will show you how.
  • We do ask that you bring your own water.
  • Bring a friend!
  • If you have never done this type of work before we will glady show you what to do.

Invasive Removal, Covington Road

Reedy Creek Coalition plans to plant a small area of park property along Covington Road with native trees and shrubs; this will be done in sections over the next 2-3 years.  Over time these new plants should transform the area from a wildlife “unfriendly” site to one that provides food and shelter.  Other benefits are cleaner water and a cooler environment.  Our efforts will start with invasive removal and we hope that you will join us.

  • Sunday,   October 21  from 1 – 3 p.m.  or as long as you can stay.
  • Bring gloves and hand clippers.  A small saw may be useful if you have one.
  • We do ask that you bring your own water.
  • Bring a friend!
  • If you have never done this type of work before we will glady help you identify the plants that need to be removed.
  • Questions:  Contact us at

Map to the site

There are some trees along the edge of the property, but more will be better. 



Plan to Plant for the Watershed

Have you ever really thought about where the water goes when it rains?   In urban areas much of that water is intentionally directed to a storm drain and most of that ends up in a stream.   The primary intent -to reduce flooding- is accomplished most of the time, but this storm water transports pollutants, causes stream bank erosion, and makes conditions intolerable for most aquatic life.  Many consider it the root cause of all watershed evils!

This system of storm drains, concrete channels and the like seemed a good idea at the time, but as development and urban sprawl increased, so did the storm water runoff and the damage it does.  We need to re-think how we manage this water.  The answer, strange as it may seem, is to keep this water where it falls and let it soak into the ground.  We don’t want your basement to flood, but please do consider what you could do to keep some of your rain on your property.   Mother nature protects watersheds and water quality with plants.  Our best and easiest option is to mimic nature.

Trees are better than anything man every invented when it comes protecting and improving water quality and they do this in several ways.

  • Raindrops falling directly from the sky hit the ground with enough impact to compact soil over time making it more difficult for water to soak in. Raindrops that encounter leaves or branches first don’t hit the ground so hard.
  • Leaves, branches and bark catch and hold some rain. Some evaporates and some falls to the ground later, both reduce the chance of run off.
  • Roots create a route for water to more easily soak into the soil.
  • The network of roots helps hold the soil, reducing erosion.
  • Leaf litter under the tree is another place to capture some water. It will also create a soil high in organic matter that acts like a sponge to soak up and hold water.

Perhaps you already have some large trees.  Mimic nature again and make this watershed friendly landscape even better by adding layers.   Small, understory trees and shrubs will capture even more water.   If possible, allow some of your lawn to become a layered landscape too and add some lovely perennials.  Please use native plant species and keep your leaf litter.

We should all take responsibility for the rain that falls on our property.   One well landscaped property will make a small impact, but collectively we could make a big difference.  Join your neighbors to create the largest protected area you can.   This will also provide habitat, food and cover for birds and other critters who are now quite dependent on us to provide for them.


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More ideas for protecting our watershed can be found here

Urban Stream Syndrome


Reedy Creek suffers from Urban Stream Syndrome.   

You can help!

Nitrogen and phosphorus are nutrients that are found naturally in the environment.  However, a lot of human activities create excesses of these nutrients.   For example, the fertilizers you might put on your lawn or garden or the detergent you use to wash your car each probably contain nitrogen and phosphorus in some form.  Pet waste contains nitrogen and phosphorus too.  When these things wash into stormwater drains, they ultimately end up in our creeks and steams.   There, either of two things can happen.  If it‘s just a little bit of nutrients, and the water flows slowly through the environment, plants and microbes can take care of the nutrients, changing them into forms that are harmless to the environment.

Unfortunately, a lot of streams in our cities suffer from “Urban Stream Syndrome”.  This could mean that the water does not flow slowly (maybe it’s been channelized) or that the amount of nutrient input is just too much for the plants and microbes to handle.  Those nutrients ultimately end up in our nation’s coastal areas, including the Chesapeake Bay.  Here, those excess nutrients affect the habitability of the water for other species by causing harmful algal blooms and “dead zones” of water with low oxygen.

Over several months during Fall 2016, students from the University of Richmond studied Reedy Creek for a Microbial Ecology class.  They found that the creek shows a lot of the characteristics of urban stream syndrome, including high numbers of indicator bacteria, high nitrogen levels, and low levels of dissolved oxygen.  However, they also found that after the water passed through Crooked Branch Ravine Park and approached its merger with the James River, levels of at least one chemical containing nitrogen (nitrate) declined to a normal level.  What this means is that the microbes and plants in the park were doing their job!

Within urban environments, natural areas can provide us with “ecosystem services” like reducing nutrients in stormwater.  It’s up to us, however, to make sure we don’t overwhelm the system. We can do this by planting rain gardens that absorb stormwater, picking up pet waste, and by thinking about what we let wash into the storm drains.  We can also advocate for sensible and forward-thinking urban planning that incorporates as much nature as possible

Dr. Amy Treonis, Associate Professor of Biology, University of Richmond


The Hip Waders Journal is a series of posts about watershed issues with suggestions for how to improve water quality and support the local ecosystem right from your own yard.  Click the link for easy access to all posts.


The Problem with Lawns


Did you know that lawns cover nearly 10% of the Chesapeake Bay watershed?  And turf grass covers a much higher percentage of the land in many urban and suburban areas.  Unfortunately, all of this lawn is a major source of water quality problems in Reedy Creek as well as the Chesapeake Bay.

Why do lawns have a negative impact on water quality?  Consider a lawn that is managed by frequent mowing and always kept cut at a low height.  During the hot and dry weeks of the summer, the lawn dries out and the soil becomes hard.  When a thunderstorm finally provides some relief, much of the water from the hard-driving rain runs off the lawn because the ground acts more like concrete than soil.  So the first consequence of lawns is that they can contribute a lot of stormwater that reaches Reedy Creek very quickly.  In turn, this leads to streambank erosion and harms aquatic life.  Second, as stormwater runs across a lawn, it can pick up a variety of pollutants (e.g. soil particles, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, dog poop) that damage Reedy Creek as well as the James River and Chesapeake Bay.

What can you do to prevent degradation of Reedy Creek from lawns?  The first step is to manage your lawn to minimize potential impacts to water quality.  Do not cut the grass on a strict schedule.  Mow the grass when it reaches a height of approximately 4 inches and use the highest setting on your mower.  Taller grass shades out weeds, promotes deeper root growth, and reduces evaporation.  That means the lawn will not turn into “concrete” as quickly and will do a better job of infiltrating stormwater (i.e. reducing polluted runoff).  To minimize pollutants, eliminate the use of toxic chemicals; quickly repair any bare spots that could release soil particles; and use the minimum amount of fertilizers, preferably organic fertilizers such as compost and mulched/shredded leaves.  (Now that the city is not picking up leaves, this is a great way to make them disappear!)  Organic fertilizers provide nutrients over a long period of time as well as improve the soil.  Lastly, leave the grass clippings on the lawn to recycle the nutrients and help build the soil.

The second step you can take to prevent degradation of Reedy Creek from lawns is to replace unnecessary grassy areas with native plants that have existed in the Richmond area for millennia.  Any combination of native grasses, perennial flowers, shrubs, and trees will provide greater environmental benefits than lawn.  This is because the root systems of these plants grow much deeper into the soil than turf grasses, sometimes reaching depths greater than ten feet.  These plants can reach all of the water and nutrients they need once established.  No need for watering or fertilizers or toxic chemicals that can runoff into Reedy Creek.

There is one more critical benefit of replacing lawn areas with native plants.  Lawns are virtual “biological deserts” – very few insects, birds, amphibians, etc.  Have you noticed that the most frequent birds in most urban yards are European starlings and house sparrows?  Both species are native to Europe and don’t even belong in Richmond.  By contrast, areas with native plantings will draw a host of native birds including gray catbirds, brown thrashers, rufous-sided towhees, and white-breasted nuthatches – not to mention winter visitors like white-throated sparrows, juncos, and cedar waxwings.  In short, native plants provide all of the resources needed to support a thriving food web from butterflies to bees to birds.

For a humorous look at lawns, check out the following short piece:

For a more detailed exploration about the benefits of replacing lawn with native plants, visit the following website:


front yard
Lawn once occupied this space where native species now benefit bees butterflies, birds & others.
back yard
Replace grassy areas with trees, shrubs and perennials.  Keep only the lawn you really need.   

Is Part of Your Yard in Reedy Creek?


What do you think of when you hear about polluted streams or rivers? For most people fertilizers, pesticides, and petroleum products come to mind, but soil particles that wash in to the stream are also a significant source of pollution and can change the entire ecology of a stream.

• Light is blocked, aquatic plants don’t grow.
• Habitat is destroyed when sediment fills the spaces between rocks where the smallest organisms live. Small fish and others have no place to hide from predators.
• Food sources, both plant an animal, are limited.
• The once complex ecosystem of the stream becomes simple; there is little diversity. Organisms that are tolerant of these conditions predominate; sensitive organisms may be completely lost.
• This affects the terrestrial food web as well.

This is what has happened in Reedy Creek and most other urban streams. Human activities cause much more erosion than would occur naturally.  Habitat has been degraded and we no longer find the diversity of organisms that would exist in a healthy stream, including the stonefly nymph featured on our logo.  If you live in the Reedy Creek watershed, there is good chance that a little of your yard has washed down to Reedy Creek, the lake in Forest Hill Park, and the James River. The contribution from your property may not seem significant,  but the cumulative effect from residential properties has a big impact on local streams and beyond. Here’s how you can help…

• Look for evidence of erosion on your property, especially bare patches of ground on slopes or near driveways and walks.
• If the problem is caused by water running from a downspout or impervious surface during a rain, redirect or capture that water.
• Reduce erosion potential by planting these areas with perennials, shrubs, or trees. The roots of plants will help hold the soil. Shrubs and trees are best where possible and native species are always best.
• Do everything you can to keep rain water on your property.

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Even if your yard doesn’t appear to have a problem, water that leaves your property often ends up in your local stream, causing erosion or picking up sediment on its way to the stream and contributing to stream bank erosion once it gets there.

Help bring the stonefly back to Reedy Creek.

RIP invasive plants!

We have decided to cancel this project due to the forecast for thunderstorms and many mosquitos in the work area.   Hopefully we can reschedule soon.


Crooked Branch Ravine Park, a small park on the south side of Richmond, is home to a diverse urban forest, some lovely native shrubs and perennials, and the critters that depend on such places.  Many of these plants are threatened by non-native, invasive species.  We can either do something to change the situation or we will eventually lose both the canopy and understory layers.

Maintaining a healthy canopy also allows more rain water to stay where it falls; this reduces runoff (and therefore the possibility of flooding downstream) and improves water quality.  Another important reason to care for this little patch of forest in our urban watershed.

Please join us for invasive plant removal!

  • Sunday,  June 3 from 1-3 p.m.
  • Bring gloves and hand clippers.  An old screwdriver is sometimes helpful for removing ivy from trees; we will show you how.
  • Bring your own water.
  • Bring insect repellant.
  • Bring a friend!

Map to meeting site

hickory canopy

The Reedy Creek Logo: What does it mean?


Our Reedy Creek logo is very simple, but says a lot about what we think is important.


The leaf over the top represents canopy as well as understory shrubs and trees, perennials, and other plants.  A healthy canopy, composed primarily of species native to the area, protects streams, improves water quality,  cools the air in summer, and provides life support services for animals from insects to mammals.

The blue at the bottom represents the stream, of course.  A healthy stream should be clear, not muddy; rocky streams such as our should have clean bottoms with little silt and should be free of obvious green algae during warm weather

The stonefly in the middle represents what’s missing from Reedy Creek because of human activity.  This insect lives in water during its nymphal stage* and requires good water quality to survive.  We have changed the entire ecology of the stream!

nymph is the immature form of some invertebrates, particularly insects, which undergoes gradual metamorphosis  before reaching its adult stage.

Please stay tuned for more!