James River Flora


My name is Eileen Nakahata and I am a biology and environmental science major and soon-to-be senior. This summer, I am working with Dr. DeBerry to inventory the vascular plant species in the James River Park System. In other words, I am making a list of the plant species present in each section of the park.  Knowledge of species composition in the park is critical to understanding the ecology of the park’s plant communities, and will serve as an important tool for management efforts and future research.  Though a partial inventory was completed by environmentalist Newton Ancarrow in a subsection of the park over 40 years ago, this will be the first floristic inventory of the whole park system.

Currently, there is a major invasive species assessment and removal effort spearheaded by a diverse task force including volunteers, environmental consultants, VCU, and park staff. This research will be used to assess floristic quality and identify priority areas for conservation, which will inform selection of the most important sites for invasive species control, conservation, and other restoration efforts and provide information to support ongoing research in physiological ecology of invasive species at VCU.

The James River Park System cuts right through the middle of the city, just minutes away from high rises, railroads, and residential neighborhoods. It is composed of a number of smaller parks spread out along the banks, floodplains, and the adjacent riparian zone of the James River on its course through the City.  The park system includes Belle Isle and a number of other well-loved parks, which altogether receive over a million visitors per year. If you haven’t been, I recommend you head down to the river and check one of them out next time you’re in town.


  1. conorsmith17 says:

    Invasive species seem like one of the most annoying and difficult challenges one faces when trying to improve the ecology of a particular area. I know you are just doing an inventory right now, but I was just wondering if in your research you have encountered any plant species that you know have failed to be eradicated as of yet? Additionally, are there any invasive plant species that the general student body is not aware of on William & Mary’s campus? Good luck with everything!

  2. esnakahata says:

    Invasive species are incredibly difficult and expensive to eradicate in any case, but especially in a park like this, where they are constantly being reintroduced by floods, visitors, and the gardens of homes adjacent to the park. I’m not sure I understand your question. Do you mean invasive or native species that have not yet been eradicated? In the case of invasive species, nearly 50 have been identified in the park, and removal efforts are just beginning. In the case of native species, it is likely some native species have been displaced invasive species, but, without a previous inventory to compare it to, we cannot determine if, how many, or which native species have disappeared from the park. In answer to your second question, there are a number of invasive species on campus and in the College Woods. If you’re interested in working on that problem, you should check out SEAC Restoration.

  3. Fascinating work, you beautiful botanical goddess!