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Invasive Management Area (IMA) - Volunteer Program


Climbing vines a problem? Shrubs with thorns keeping you from exploring the woods? Many invasive plants are preventing us from enjoying our forests and are degrading our natural ecosystems.

Want to help with parkland restoration or use cool tools? Students or scouts, do you need to earn some community service hours?

IMA is the program for you! Check out our Web site, then call or email us to get involved and help remove non-native invasive species and plant native species.

What is IMA?

The Invasive Management Area (IMA) Volunteer Program is a community-based project designed to reduce invasive plants on our parklands. This unique, volunteer-led program gives residents an opportunity to connect with people while taking care of the natural resources around us. IMA enables community members to help protect the plants and wildlife of Fairfax County's forests while spending time outdoors, meeting new people and restoring natural habitats.

IMA is more than just pulling weeds. Key components of this program are habitat restoration and a long-term commitment to the park. Invasive plant species are difficult to remove and control, but with the help of IMA volunteers, undesirable non-native, invasive plants are removed manually and native plants returned to the habitat.

Volunteers remove invasive plants The IMA project began in 2006 with just 20 sites. Since then, over 35 acres have come under IMA management. The goals are:
  • Focus community support and momentum to do something about non- native, invasive plant and animal species
  • Garner more community involvement and support
  • Educate the public about the effects of non-native, invasive plant and animal species
  • Participate in outreach opportunities regarding non-native, invasive plant, and animal species
  • Develop healthy woodlots with uneven-aged stands of mixed trees, shrubs and ground cover with a floor of leaf litter and debris that are free of invasive plant species

Currently, funding is provided by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in support of the Environmental Agenda. Additional funding was provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grant Program in 2007 and a donation from the Biz World students of Westlawn Elementary School in 2008.

What are Invasive Plants?

Mile-a-Minute/Devil's Tear Thumb

Invasive species are, generally, non-native species that cause ecological or economical harm. They share certain characteristics, such as being able to mature quickly, generate many offspring and can tolerate a wide range of habitats. For instance, Japanese stilt grass will produce seed in as little as 1% sunlight!

Because of the characteristics that allow a species to successfully establish in new territory, invasive species make terrible neighbors. They out-compete native species for the same resources, eventually reducing the populations of native species (and in some cases even removing species from a community altogether). Some invasive species have more complicated effects which have ramifications higher up the food chain, resulting in fewer native birds and wildlife. The third main effect of invasive species is that they have the ability to alter natural functions of communities and ecosystems.

Invasive List Focus for Study

Although the prevalence of invasive, non-native plants throughout parkland is of concern, habitat recovery following an invasion is still a relatively new concept. For the IMA pilot project, ten species were selected as a focus for study.

  • english ivy

    garlic mustard

    stilt grass

    Garlic mustard has been linked to poor regeneration of our native oak-hickory forests
  • English Ivy threatens the health of this tree
  • Stiltgrass is the dominant plant in the understory of this forest
  • Winged Euonymus or Burning Bush can escape cultivation and grow in the woods
  • Mile-a-Minute grows very fast forming a dense carpet
  • Japanese Barberry threatens the forest by altering soil pH and nutrients
  • Bush honeysuckle produces copious amounts of “junk food” berries that birds eat and disperse into our pristine forests; spreading this highly invasive shrub.
  • Pachysandra creates a monoculture; displacing and out competing native plants.
  • Once touted for its benefits to birds, Autumn olive, has now out-competed much of the other vegetation in some stream valleys.
  • Wintercreeper creeps along forest floors and up trees where it will mature and fruit, damaging the tree as it grows.

Invasive Backyard Plants Invasive Backyard Plants Brochure

Invasive Forest PlantsInvasive Forest Plants Brochure

gardening gloves

We thank our many partners for their continued support

  • Fairfax Master Naturalists
  • Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Earth Sangha
  • Fairfax ReLeaf
  • Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services
  • Virginia Native Plant Society, Potowmack Chapter
  • Weed Warriors, The Nature Conservancy

calendar The IMA calendar is full of opportunities to volunteer. Most IMA sites will focus on the removal of garlic mustard, a biennial herb that threatens native plants and animals in forest communities. This is a plant that is easy for even the youngest nature lover to pull.

To sign up, contact IMA Coordinator Erin Stockschlaeder at 703-324-8681.

IMA workday sign-ups must be received by Noon the day prior for weekday workdays, and by Noon on Friday for weekend workdays.

Check out our calendar to see what sites are convenient or are hosting workdays when you are available.

Contact us by email, or call 703-324-8681 for workday details (time, place, directions…)

Wear sturdy shoes, gloves, long pants and long sleeves, and bring some water. Tools are provided.

Enjoy the company of others who care about the environment while learning about our local forests.

There are well over 300 invasive plant species that have been reported from our area.

20 Species Selected as Indicator List
  • Burning Bush
  • Multiflora Rose
  • Japanese Barberry
  • Autumn Olive
  • Privet
  • Bradford Pear
  • Pachysandra
  • Bamboo
  • English Ivy
  • Oriental Bittersweet
  • Japanese Honeysuckle
  • Stiltgrass
  • Asian Wisteria
  • Chinese Lespedeza
  • Tree of Heaven
  • Garlic Mustard
  • Porcelain Berry
  • Mimosa/Silktree
  • Mile-a-Minute/Devil's Tear Thumb
  • Norway Maple

Contact Fairfax County: Phone, Email or Twitter | Main Address: 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035
Technical Questions: Web Administrator

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