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Tree Rescuers handbook

Questions? Need more door-hangers?


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Here is how it works.
Spot trees at risk, in your neighborhood or any public area.
  1. Sign up to be a Tree Rescuer.

  2. Obtain your door hangers.

  3. Walk or drive around your community, looking for trees with invasive vines. You do NOT need to be able to identify the vines! Drop off a door hanger if

    • It's English Ivy (or Wintercreeper, which looks a lot like English Ivy on trees.)

    • It is tightly wrapped around and around a tree. Our native vines seldom behave that way.

    • The vines are way up in the canopy and smothering the tree. That can certainly happen with native vines, especially on shorter trees and shrubs, but identifying the plant is up to the landowner, not to you.

    • But do just familiarize yourself with what a big rope of native grape looks like, since it would be a shame if a homeowner cut that. In natural areas, you can sometimes be fooled by native grapes, Trumpet Creeper and Greenbrier which can be quite thick, but since our counts there are only rough anyway (and usually miss a lot of small trees), the occasional over-count is not a problem. Exact vine ID is only important for people who are about to cut a vine (Detailed ID instructions are here).

  4. Count the total number of trees in your reporting area that are at significant risk*, but drop off a door hanger with the owner even if there is just a small amount of invasive vines, since early intervention is better!

  5. Keep track of how many homeowners you have alerted and add that to your report. In residential areas, the important thing is to drop off a door hanger at every eligible property, since once we put the neighborhood on the map, no one else will be doing that.

  6. Designate chunks of land to report (see reporting forms above) such as all the properties within a block or in a community. Please keep separate records of residential and non-residential properties (business, right of way, park, community association land, and government land.) For the road right-of-ways, count the trees as part of the adjacent property if they can be safely accessed by the owner. If it would be unsafe for them to work there, or if that stretch of road has clearly been abandoned, count the trees separately as a road easement. (Don't bother with the limited access highways. We have a separate procedure for them.)


Some other ways you could help at-risk trees:


Other ways to participate:

  • Start conversations on or other local social media sites. Be sure and mention that it's only invasive vines that are a problem and that the native ones should not be cut! Take pictures of the problem or of successful tree rescues (but leave the houses out of the frame so as not to embarrass people).
  • If you have experience in vine ID, help new volunteers develop their skills.
  • In addition to our counts, report infestations of specific invasive plants on non-residential land via the EDDmapS app. It is very easy to use.
  • Volunteer with the parks. Most of them have procedures for you to volunteer to clip invasive vines. See these instructions for Fairfax County Parks and this list of contacts for other parks.
  • Volunteer for VDOT to clip vines in the rights of way.

Interested? Watch a video

Sign up here

Tools for community Tree Rescuers

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The first tree saved! A volunteer dropped off a brochure. A couple weeks later, he found that the homeowner had taken care of the problem! The ivy above will die back on its own.


Our goal:

14000 rescues by 6/2024

Major roads

215 miles surveyed so far

12,320  trees at risk


Residential properties surveyed

  • 2826 alerted

  • 14331 trees at risk

Non-residential areas

  • 9944 acres surveyed

  • 67835 trees at risk

As of 4/16/2024 (and since Sept. 2021)

Important tips

Keep it safe!
You should obviously stay on sidewalks and public areas, and stay out of train right-of-ways or any other dicey area.

Keep it neighborly!
Let people know that your are only there to help, not to police their properties or impose anything on them. It is normal for people to resist new ideas. Our goal is to gently introduce the concept of valuing native trees and controlling invasive plants, hoping that when people start to understand these basic points, they will gradually take an interest in creating habitat-friendly environments with more native plants. In any outreach campaign,  a 1% response rate is par for the course, so anything more than that would be wonderful (and would add up to a lot of trees saved!) We want to make the idea attractive and fun - and we definitely don't want to be confrontational. Be sensitive to how people may perceive you as you stare into their yard.

You might consider sending everyone a letter or starting a discussion on NextDoor or other local social media explaining what you are doing before you start dropping off brochures. The more buzz you can create in your community, the better.

(This is an educational program. But if you also end up working to control the vines yourself, please report it here.)

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* How do we define a

"tree at significant risk?"

1. Count any tree that is more than a couple feet high. Most trees are single stemmed (as opposed to shrubs).

2. Look for trees that are likely to be in serious trouble in the next 5-7 years. For example,

  • English Ivy more than a quarter of the way or so up the trunk

  • A smothering vine such as Porcelain Berry that is starting to cover the canopy

  • A strangling vine such as Japanese Honeysuckle that is twisted around the trunk

  • Branches breaking off from vines

4. Don't count trees where someone has already clipped the vines or where the tree is totally dead.

Significant risk

Hands-on training in vine ID

Occasional opportunities will be posted on the Events Calendar

If you can gather a group of ten or more volunteers in your community, we can help you lead an event

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Door hangers

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Series of three short videos in English

Series of three short videos in Spanish

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