Invasive Plant Task Force - James River Park System

Pony Pasture and The Wetlands Study Area

Pony Pasture/Wetlands Study Area Map

map key

Click on map above to see detailed PDF.

Study area summary

The Pony Pasture/The Wetlands study area includes approximately 95.2 acres of park land and was divided into six management units of various sizes. The lead organization for the baseline study of this park section was the Riverine Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists. The task force field team identified a total of 21 invasive plant species across all management units, including:

  • 11 species ranked with high invasiveness;
  • 8 species ranked with medium invasiveness; and,
  • 2 species ranked with low invasiveness.

The most prevalent invasive plants across all management units were Amur honeysuckle and winter creeper. Amur honeysuckle is a highly invasive shrub species that was found in all management units, averaging greater than 50 percent cover (Cover Class 4). Similar to the Huguenot Woods Flatwater study area, winter creeper appears to be growing locally with high invasiveness along the forest floor and climbing up most trees, as evidenced by a percent cover greater than 75 percent (Cover Class 5) in four of the six Pony Pasture/The Wetlands management units. The high abundance of these two invasive plants resulted in very high overall cover class values (i.e., Cover Class 4 or 5) within five of the six management units. Only Management Unit “5b” was recorded with a lower cover class; however, invasive species in this management unit were still relatively high (Cover Class 3), due to dominant growth of Amur honeysuckle and English ivy.

Aside from the prevalence of Amur honeysuckle and winter creeper, other important results include the identification of two invasive shrub species with high invasiveness (Chinese privet and multiflora rose), which were found to be dominant components of the overall forest community within multiple management units. Further, other invasive plants that were not always dominant could be problematic due to their high invasiveness ranking, or evidence of their ability be highly invasive locally. These include tree-of-heaven, mimosa, Japanese stiltgrass, ground ivy, English Ivy, and Japanese honeysuckle.

The native plant community was also well documented by the task force volunteers within Pony Pasture and The Wetlands. Native species identified are representative of native plants typically found within the James River floodplain near the fall line. Red maple, white oak, bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis), hackberry, tulip tree, eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides), American sycamore, river birch, black walnut, sweet bay (Magnolia virginiana), black cherry (Prunus serotina), box elder, and silver maple (Acer saccharinum). The understory includes native shrubs such as spicebush and bladdernut, as well as an herbaceous layer with various grasses, wild ginger (Asarum canadense), Bear’s-foot (Smallanthus uvedalia), pokeweed, whitegrass (Leersia virginica), sunflower (Helianthus sp.), wood nettle, wingstem, sweet cicily (Osmorhiza claytonii), and tick trefoil (Desmodium spp.). Several native vine species are also present within the study area, including trumpet creeper, poison ivy, roundleaf greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia), muscadine, and Virginia creeper.

» Phase One Baseline Study Data Summary (PDF)

Updates from the study area: Summer 2015 – Spring 2018

The Riverine chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists (VMN) is the Task Force member organization that took the lead on invasive management and restoration efforts in the Pony Pasture section of the park; James River Park System management and the Friends of the James River Park have also led work projects.

Invasive Removal and Management
The majority of invasive plant removal and management has occurred in areas near the park entrance:

  • an area adjacent to the kiosk that is also the location of a native plant restoration;
  • areas between the parking lot and Riverside Drive;
  • and areas along and between the main trails heading east from the parking lot.

Species of focus: 

  1. wintercreeper (Euonymus fortuneii);
  2. English ivy (Hedera helix);
  3. Amur honeysuckle or bush honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii);
  4. privet (Ligustrum sinense);
  5. garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolate)

A priority has been protecting the existing mature tree canopy and future succession from engulfment by wintercreeper and English ivy by cutting the vines girdling trees and pulling back the ground cover vines surrounding the base of the tree. This effort, throughout other sections of the park system as well as at Pony Pasture, is known as “Free A Tree”.

A goal is to protect identified healthy populations of native plants from encroachment, specifically those located in the Wetlands area and some work progressed toward this goal in spring 2018.

Native Plant Habitat Restoration
Riverine VMN initiated two native plant habitat restoration installations in the late fall of 2016 and late fall of 2017 (James River Association partnered and funded the former) following concentrated removal of wintercreeper ground cover in an area adjacent to the kiosk bounded by paths.  

The following native plant species were planted in fall 2016:

  • Chionanthus virginicus (fringe tree)
  • Magnolia virginiana (sweetbay magnolia)
  • Callicarpa americana (Beautyberry)
  • Sambucus canadensis (Elderberry)
  • Vaccinium corymobosum (High Bush Blueberry)
  • Viburnum dentatum (Southern Arrowwood)
  • Clethra alnifolia (Sweetpepper Bush)
  • Euonymous americanus (Strawberry Bush or Hearts a’ Bustin’)
  • Chasmanthium latifolium (River Oats or Inland Sea Oats)
  • Elymus hystix (Bottlebrush Grass)

The following native plants were planted in fall 2017:

  • Heuchera americana (Alumroot)
  • Lobelia syphilitica (great blue lobelia)
  • Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower)
  • Amorpha fruticosa (indigo bush)
  • Corylus Americana (hazelnut)
  • Itea virginica (sweetspire)
  • Clethra alnifolia (sweet pepperbush)
  • Magnolia virgninica (sweetbay magnolia)
  • Aruncus dioicus (goats beard)
  • Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern)
  • Packera aurea (golden ragwort)

Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells) are abundant through this area and were planted around 2010 – 2011 in a project sponsored by the Friends of James River Park.

JRPS planted these additional native plants to the area between the entrance and the emergency vehicle parking spaces include:

  • Cephalanthus occidentalis (buttonbush)
  • Aronia arbutifolia (red chokeberry)
  • (Aronia melanocarpa) black chokeberry
  • Sambucus canadensis (elderberry)
  • Asimina triloba (paw paw)
  • Diospyros virginiana (American persimmon)

blue bells at Pony Pasture