VCU Rice Center

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Invasive aliens at Rice Center

In April, VCU’s Chris Gough, Ph.D., led a group of master naturalists in the removal of invasive alien plant species at the Rice Center. “Invasive species” are non-native organisms that may adversely affect habitat by out-competing native species.

The focal species for eradication was Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense). Native to Asia, Chinese Privet is now found in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky. The invasive plant is an escaped ornamental that now grows wildly throughout most of Virginia. Chinese Privet often dominates the shrub layer of forests, choking out Virginia’s native herbaceous plants and understory trees.

Other invasive plant species in high abundance at the Rice Center include Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicer jonica) and Japanese Stilt Grass (Microstegium vimineum). Eradication of invasive species is difficult because plants often have robust seed production, and many withstand mowing, clipping and burning. Often, every tissue of the plant must be killed, from the root to the shoot. During the day-long invasive removal event, plants were clipped at the base of the stem and a biodegradable herbicide was applied to the local root systems.

Efforts towards invasive flora will continue with the lofty goal of total elimination.

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Chris Gough, Ph.D., drags large pieces of Chinese Privet from
the fringe of woods near the Education Building.

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Here are before and after shots of a stand of Chinese Privet near the pavilion.