by Ruth Douglas
A team, consisting of Peter Clark (Ivy Creek Foundation) and Rivanna Master Naturalists Tana Herndon, Dave Smith, Katha Bollfrass, and Ruth Douglas visited William Woods Memorial Natural Heritage Area to pull Wavy Leaf Basket Grass last week. Pat Klima joined to get some pictures and a good GPS reading for the first location of Wavy Leaf Basket Grass (WLBG) along the trail.
The trail we first walked was off to the right of the road that goes past the home of the two donors of the property, Mr. Williams and Mr. Lambert. Shortly after one spots their home, two abandoned roads branch off to the right, marked with red surveyors’ flags and red surveyors’ tape. We first took the road slightly uphill and to the left of the other one. I’ve been getting GPS readings from my camera, but they are nothing like the reading Pat Klima got and I don’t think mine should be counted on. Pat’s reading on that road, as we reached the first patch of WLBG we spotted was Lat. 37.9753599, Long. 78.59170359.
We found a number of patches that went down the hill, off to the right of the road, and marked them with flags 30, 18, 31, 29, 25, 22 and down the hill from 22 with flag 10. Also found a small patch just uphill from the trail, flag 12. We pulled enough to fill 1 black plastic bag.
We then went back to the primary road and took the other abandoned road down past a cemetery located to the left of the trail: Tana and Peter noted that it was this road that they’d been down when Tana spotted the first patch of WLBG back in July. We first spotted it somewhat past the cemetery, in the road, and marked it with flag 26. There was quite a lot of bittersweet and kudzu in that area, too. Along the trail we found more and marked it with flag 21, then 36, 22. We also encountered Ailanthus further along the trail marked flag 17, and more isolated patches of WLBG beyond that. We pulled 3 bags partially full. We ran out of time at that point and returned to the cars about 1:30.
We left several bags full for Pat Klima to pick up later in the day to incinerate.
I should also note that those in the group who had long sleeves got some WLBG seeds on them, and one person who had a cloth bag with tools put the bag on top of some WLBG that she’d pulled and placed in a bucket, and found some seeds on the bag. The seeds were not sticky at that point, but did attach to fabric. We have decided to stop pulling the grass for the season due to the seeds attaching to cloth, and this will only get worse as they get sticky.
Tucker Rollins of Albemarle Co. said he’d seen some WLBG along the railroad tracks and was not sure whether that patch was on county property or not. This brings up some interesting questions: Does this mean that trains could be the vector here, and if so, where did they pick the seeds up? Or are there are other infestations within an area near enough to the Williams Natural Heritage Area that seeds were transported from them to the area we found?
It seems clear that this is an extensive patch and we really don’t have any idea of its boundaries. It needs to be thoroughly surveyed, and sprayed with an herbicide as soon as possible.
Master Naturalists and others who are out in wooded areas should be on the lookout for more infestations. We need as many “eyes on the ground” as we can enlist.
(More information on this invasive plant can be found on the Virginia DCR fact sheet.)