Invasive Plant Management
Making a plan to remove the invasive plants on your property is arguably the most important thing you can do to preserve habitat, because once that habitat is destroyed, you will never be able to fully restore it.
Start with an inventory
Every site is different with a different mix of plants with differing densities of infestation. Furthermore each owner can have different priorities and objectives. Start with some kind of inventory and preferably a map of the invasives. There are many people who can help you identify your plants, including our urban foresters and Audubon-at-Home volunteer ambassadors.
Protect the canopy
Vines that bring down the canopy are a top priority. Once you lose canopy it takes a long time to recover it and light comes to the forest floor and changes everything.
On the one hand, it is good to remove invasive trees early, especially Tree of Heaven - removing that now may slow the spread of the horrible Spotted Lanternfly that has recently arrived in Virginia. On the other hand, if you take away too many trees at once, you open up the canopy and make it more vulnerable to invasives, so it may be best to get rid of Tree of Heaven first but remove other invasive trees incrementally.
Suggested Priorities List
If you are dealing with a large number of invasive plants, you probably can't work on them all at once. Below is an example of a plan to prioritize your efforts.
Give priority to
Invasive vines threatening trees
New arrivals – eliminate uncommon invasives and new arrivals before they can get a real foothold. Go for eradication.
Special needs and circumstances – It may turn out to be the case that taking out all Ailanthus or most of it should be a top priority. There may be other cases, like protecting some special ecosystem or rare plants that also require a high priority. Plants that are dangerous to the public could also become a priority.
Most damage – what invasive plants are causing the most damage
What is feasible – where can applying resources actually make a real, lasting difference
Shoot on sight list – which plants can we treat and get to the point where they are rare enough that we can actually stop what we are doing every day and go take them out whenever we find one. Trees and some less common plants are the first ones we are getting on this list.
If you can address all the above and still have capacity left to do more, then you can consider other factors like aesthetics, public reactions, public access, impacts on neighboring properties, and proximity to spreading vectors like public trails, streams that flood, etc.
A whole other set of criteria may apply if you have bodies of water and aquatic invasive plants to deal with. This can get into impacts on public recreation and public safety.
To stabilize a steep slope after removing invasives such as English Ivy, you can put down a jute fiber net made for this purpose.
Miscanthus (Chinese Silvergrass)
WIneberry: Before and After
Japanese Barberry: Before and After
Don't kill the native vines!
The berries of native vines are an essential food source for birds, with the right nutritional content timed to their migrations. They do not damage the trees they are climbing on. Examples are native grapes, Virginia Creeper and Greenbrier, but there are many others. Like most natives, some introduced species such as English Ivy climb straight up. But if the vine twists round and round a tree and squeezes the tree as it grows, it is probably an introduced species (an exception is the American Wisteria).
There are many organizations that need volunteers to do this. These groups are well set up to train you and ensure safety. Events take place year round and always need more help.
Invasive Plant Removal Contractors
We are listing companies for your convenience, but aren't endorsing any of them.
More typical removal methods:
Gone Native Landscapes
Land + Forest Conservation Co
Conservation Services, Inc.
Eastern Forest Consultants
Virginia Forestry and Wildlife Group
Natural Elements Plant Care
Care of Trees
Wild Ginger Field Services
Invasive Plant Control, Inc
Tennessee (but they serve Northern Virginia)
Including Forestry Mulching:
Blue & Gray Contracting
Grasshopper Tree Service