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December Update

Updated: Dec 25, 2021

Short article to share

Each of our updates has a short article which we hope you will share in newsletters and on social media. Help us spread the word about native plants! See this month’s article on removing invasive plants at the bottom of this page.

Our native plant campaign has been very busy in 2021

  • Six “Ask the Experts” videoconferences

  • Third annual conference for landscape professionals

  • Social media followers

    • 3,900 Facebook

    • 1,400 Instagram

    • 600 Twitter

  • 115,000 page views by 72,000 unique visitors to the Plant NOVA Natives website

  • Fourth edition of Native Plants for Northern Virginia (coming out in January)

  • 3,900 subscribers to the monthly updates

  • Plant NOVA Trees - conceived in February, launched in September

Speaking of Tree Rescuers…

Over 130 people have already signed up to survey their communities and drop off brochures to alert their neighborhoods to the risk to their trees from invasive vines. A cute five minute summary is now on our YouTube channel along with the recording of a longer introductory webinar. You can read the details and sign up here.

Money needed for the tree campaign! Up until this year, Plant NOVA Natives has gotten by on about $3000 per year and many hundreds of volunteer hours, doing as much outreach as we can for free. But to launch the tree campaign, more funds were needed, and generous individuals and partnering organizations stepped forward to donate $9000 in seed money. We also received a $3500 matching grant from the Virginia Department of Forestry. We have spent $8,000 so far, and since this is a five year campaign, we now turn to you – the many individual supporters of native plants and trees – to donate what you can to keep the campaign going at its current high level of outreach.

Report your native tree and shrub plantings

Please help Virginia meet its tree-planting obligations by reporting your tree and shrub plantings here.

Next Steering Committee meeting – via videoconferencing – All are welcome. Thursday, ______, 10:00am-12:00pm. Check our Event Calendar for future meetings.

This month’s newsletter article to share – Please use this link for social media.

Party time on the disc golf course

We don’t usually associate the native plant movement or a tree campaign with sports, but players at the Giles Run Disc Golf Course see it as a natural connection. Their course, about a third the size of a regular golf course, was created in 2008-2009 by the Fairfax County Park Authority on land that was formerly mowed grass around the Lorton Prison. Unfortunately, disturbed land with a lot of edge habitat is an invitation to invasive non-natives plants to move in, and move in they did with a vengeance after the prison closed in 2000. The Oriental Bittersweet vine has been particularly problematic, turning the areas next to the fairways into a tangled mess and swallowing up the native trees and shrubs as well as the players’ discs.

Most people would probably just expect someone else to fix the problem, but disc golfers turn out to be a different sort. Organizers Tommy Donelson and Kemper Pogue started recruiting players to participate in invasive removal parties, complete with music from a portable speaker. Forty or fifty club members have joined in this fun and free way to build upper body strength, clearing out large swathes of invasives. They have also recruited other volunteers to help, starting the sessions with half an hour of education before tackling the job. Altogether, they have been putting in a hundred hours in nine sessions every month, year round.

Oriental Bittersweet is a particularly troublesome plant when taken out of its native habitat in East Asia and imported elsewhere, as it was for its pretty red and yellow berries which are used for decorations. It twines around trees, strangling them and bringing them down. It curls itself into impenetrable thickets. When cut down, it simply regrows stems that can reach high up into trees to latch onto the branches and keep going up from there. Eliminating it requires either pulling it up by its roots, some of which can be several inches thick, or using herbicides.

It did not take long for the disc golfers to understand that the invasives issue on their course is just one example of a much greater threat to our ecosystem in Fairfax County and the world in general. They are planning to eventually replant with native plants and have been spreading the word about how important it is for residents to take out invasive ornamentals from their own yards and use more natives to support the struggling ecosystem. Information about garden-friendly native plants can be found on the Plant NOVA Natives website. Meanwhile, they would be happy to invite others to their work parties. They can be contacted at There are plenty of opportunities in other parks as well to help with invasive removal. Cold weather (within reason) is no obstacle, since this is warm work.


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