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November 2023 Update

The battle against English Ivy rages on. Please see the short article at the bottom of this page and share it as widely as possible.

Outreach of the month: Holiday gifts

You can spread the word and take care of your holiday shopping at the same time. The Native Plants for Northern Virginia guides make great gifts, as do yard signs, gift certificates for native plants, and a “gift of trees” to support Plant NOVA Natives. A gift of help in the garden or with invasives removal would always be welcome, too! Except for the Gift of Trees, we don’t earn any profit from these items. Our only purpose is to help you get out the message.

Partner of the Month – Audubon Society of Northern Virginia

The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia (ASNV) was one of the founding organizations of the Plant NOVA Natives collaboration and has been a major partner ever since. The Audubon-at-Home program sends volunteers to consult with residents and groups about creating wildlife sanctuaries on their properties. The Audubon-at-Home co-chairs have managed several small grants to support outreach to communities and to professional landscapers including Spanish-speakers. ASNV puts on educational webinars and walks, all offered for free or for a very low fee. Other programs include ongoing citizen science projects and the new Stretch Our Parks initiative, working with surrounding neighborhoods to build healthier habitats in, around, and between key parks. Join them!

Mini-grants for tree rescues awarded to 10 Fairfax communities

A total of 22 communities applied for the 10 available grants to save their native trees from invasive vines or trees. Many thanks to the applicants and to the many volunteers who did site visits to the communities to help them sort out their needs and create plans of action. The Audubon-at-Home program is available to any community that needs advice on how to turn their property into wildlife sanctuaries.

Help with energy conservation

This is a bit off-topic, but we want to make you aware of two opportunities to assist your efforts to achieve energy efficiency for your buildings.

  • Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions has received a grant to help Northern Virginia congregations through the process of making their places of worship energy efficient. In most cases it would start with a free energy audit, hopefully before the end of this calendar year.

  • Fairfax County community associations, nonprofit organizations, and places of worship are eligible for the County’s Energy Conservation Assistance Program. Projects that qualify for matching reimbursement grants include energy audits, LED lighting replacements, weatherization projects, smart thermostats, window replacements, ENERGYSTAR® appliance upgrades, solar panels, and cool roofs, among others. Details on the Energy Conservation Assistance Program page.

VDOT needs tree rescuers VDOT has worked out a process whereby you can apply for a permit, either as an individual or as an organization such as a community association, to clip invasive vines that are threatening trees in VDOT easements, assuming they are in areas where it is safe for volunteers to work. VDOT currently does not have a budget to do the work themselves, so saving those trees will require the community to step forward. Details here. (You will be volunteering for them, not for us – our Tree Rescuer program is purely educational.) The idea is not to turn VDOT easements into landscaped areas – quite the opposite. We hope to preserve these remnant habitats for the birds and other critters who need them as homes.

Addendum to last month’s article on leaving the leaves: It has been brought to our attention that although leaving the leaves in the yard is good, leaving them on hard surfaces or in drainage ditches where they are destined to wash into the storm sewers is bad! Our waterways are used to (and indeed depend upon) the normal amount of leaves that come from surrounding trees. They respond badly to the huge influx from our urban and suburban areas.

Report your native tree and shrub plantings

Please help Northern Virginia meet its tree-planting obligations by reporting your tree and shrub plantings here. So far 13,775 have been reported!

Report your tree rescues

Millions of trees are at risk from invasive non-native vines. You can help save them on your own land or by volunteering on public land. So far, 10,585 tree rescues have been reported in Northern Virginia. Please add your report here.

Next Steering Committee meeting – via videoconferencing – All are welcome. Thursday, November 30, 10:00am-noon. Check our Event Calendar for future meetings.

This month’s newsletter articles to share. Please use this link.

Controlling English Ivy Saves Trees and Combats Climate Change

English Ivy is everywhere, in our neighborhoods, along our roads, and in our parks. It climbs over fences, covers sheds, and carpets forest floors. Unfortunately, many people think English Ivy is a benign plant that grows in the shade, where nothing else grows.

The truth is English Ivy is harmful in many ways. Even if well-manicured and contained on the ground, English Ivy provides a resting spot for mosquitos on hot days or hides puddles where they can breed, and who wants that! More importantly, when it covers forest floors it displaces native plants, and eliminates needed and productive biodiversity. When it climbs trees it harms and eventually kills them, which eliminates the important environmental benefits trees provide, such as wildlife habitat, preventing stormwater from entering streams, cooling our environment, and combatting climate change.

Trees are one of our best tools for capturing carbon dioxide, which is necessary to fight global warming. According to the US Forest Service, America’s forests sequester about 16% of the annual emissions from the United States. Because trees are such excellent carbon sinks, there are large scale reforestation efforts underway. President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan calls for more than one billion new trees to be planted over the next 10 years. In addition, the government’s experts know that controlling invasive species that kill trees is an important strategy for enhancing carbon capture.

We as individuals also have an important role to play in controlling English Ivy at home and in our natural areas. Otherwise it covers everything in its path, and when left unchecked, English Ivy grows vertically (by rootlets on the stem). On trees, the weight of the vine weakens and breaks limbs, which can make trees more susceptible to infections, and over time the vines cover trees so totally that they die. But that’s not all. When English Ivy goes vertical it matures. It then will flower and set fruit. Birds then eat and disperse the fruit, spreading the English Ivy invasion.

Homeowners can protect their costly landscaping and help the environment by eliminating English Ivy from their gardens or, at a minimum, by keeping it from growing up trees. Wearing gloves, cut all the vines on a tree about two feet up and again at ground level. There is no need to pull the vines off the tree. Deprived of water and nutrients from the soil, the vines will wither. You will have to repeat this occasionally if you do not remove all the ivy. Hand pulling after a rain softens the soil is the best way to get rid of English Ivy. The debris should go in the trash. Do not compost it or put it out with the brush collection as it will continue to grow and spread in these locations.

The good news is that there are lots of alternative native ground covers that will support pollinators and our environment. You can find excellent suggestions in the Native Plants for Northern Virginia guide, such as Virginia Creeper and ferns.

You also can help our neighborhoods, forests, and parks by becoming a Tree Rescuer, or by working with organizations that do invasive management including pulling ivy. Working together, we can ensure the health of our wonderful trees and improve our environment, as well as our personal well-being, by spending time in nature.

By Elaine Kolish, Vice Chair, Fairfax County Tree Commission, Certified Master Naturalist


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Steele Nickle
Steele Nickle
Apr 16

The Audubon-at-Home program sends volunteers to consult with residents and groups about creating wildlife sanctuaries on their properties. geometry dash subzero

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