Land managers attempting to restore habitat and arrest the loss of biodiversity on a landscape scale must prioritize invasive species control. However, with limited resources and a seemingly endless supply of new invading organisms, we have to prioritize our efforts and deploy resources in the highest-impact areas. 

Recently, we asked supporters like you to document the occurrence of hemlocks and whether or not they showed evidence of infestation by an invasive aphid-like pest called Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, or HWA. That effort saved a significant amount of time that would have been spent hunting for hemlocks. By providing our contractor with a map showing exactly where the trees were located, we estimate that we cut our final cost by over $1,000.

Today, we’re asking for your help identifying and observing Ligustrum sinense, commonly known as “Chinese privet” or just “privet,” as well as annotating the phenology of existing observations on iNaturalist. Introduced in 1852, this species was planted on the grounds of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park as early as 1890 (Faulkner, et al.). The plant became popular as a dense and fast-growing hedge. Unfortunately, privet is still available today through the horticultural trade. 

Before we go further: Not sure what we mean by "phenology"? Here's a quick primer.

We’re excited to be collaborating on a study with UTC to help prioritize privet removal, and as part of that effort we’d like to ask you to contribute in three ways, at least two of which can be done at home (and if you have any privet at your home, all three can be done from home). 

Of course, observations on our property are also very helpful, but are not required for this research. If you do upload any observations on our property, they will be automatically added to our collection project, which now has over 1600 species recorded.

There are three activities that would help our research. Any one of the three can be

  • First, go find some privet! Observe an individual privet plant occurring in nature and upload it along with a location and time to iNaturalist. If you have a smartphone, your camera will upload time and location automatically, but you can also upload photos from any camera and add those details later from your computer. The videos below will show you how to make observations if you haven’t already started with iNaturalist.

How to make an observation on the iNaturalist app.

How to help identify on iNaturalist.

iNaturalist FAQs

  • Second, we also need help with identifications, which you can learn how to do in the video above. 
Here's a direct link to observations that people think is privet but still "needs ID." Keep in mind that you may encounter things that are not privet; the point here is to confirm or improve the community ID. I've pre-filtered to Chattanooga, but you could filter by state, county or a large library of places such at Reflection Riding.
  • Finally, if you have time to kill and an internet connection (Zoom meetings, anyone?), we also need help annotating the phenology (in this case, we’re most concerned with flowering and fruiting). 

The screenshot here shows the "Plant Phenology" tab for this species right now in the United States. Let's get rid of that grey line on the chart!

To do this, just head over to the Ligustrum sinense page, where we currently have 7,539 observations in the United States. 

Click the “Plant Phenology” tab from the main species page to see the existing data, and then click the gear up on the top right and select “Add Annotations for Plant Phenology.” 

You can also just click here to get started.

Once the observations load, click the first one and then click the "Annotations" tab up top. You can also ID from this screen, but it moves faster if you just stick with annotations and use your keyboard's right arrow to move to the next observation.

I recommend using the keyboard shortcuts, which you can find by clicking the keyboard on the bottom left side of the annotations screen. For phenology, the relevant shortcuts are: 

p then n: Add "Plant Phenology: No Evidence of Flowering" annotation
p then l: Add "Plant Phenology: Flowering" annotation
p then r: Add "Plant Phenology: Fruiting" annotation
p then u: Add "Plant Phenology: Flower Budding" annotation

If you’re half the geek I am, you’ll love doing this during your next boring conference call. Over time, we’ll see that grey line of observations without annotations start to go down and eventually go to near zero! 

Of course, if you have time to remove the privet you find, we’d love to hear about that, too! We offer volunteer opportunities and small group experiences where you can learn to identify and remove invasive species. Your observations will help our immediate study, but may also be used by scientists around the world at any time in the future because all of the data generated on iNaturalist is open and freely available to anyone with an idea and an internet connection.

Thanks in advance for the help! If you have any questions or need help, just reach out to our Education Director, Corey Hagen at [email protected] 

Posted by Mark McKnight  | Category: botany, citizen science

Frequently asked questions


We do plan to run camps. Here are the current details. We think we can run camps in late June or certainly by July. We'll post an update on our camps webpage once we have the official OK to open camp registration. Keep in mind that we are regulated by both the City of Chattanooga and the Hamilton County Health Department. We will follow all local and federal guidelines for providing a safe camp experience.


Great news! You can order online for delivery or pick-up. Browse our plant list and then fill out this interest form and we'll get back to you to schedule payment and delivery or pick-up.


Thanks for caring for our local wildlfie. We do not operate a rehab facility and cannot accept animals. Here are a couple of resources for you to try.

The Chattanooga Zoo can help with most wildlife. Call 423-697-1322 x5704 or follow prompts to get to rehab department , or email [email protected]

For Birds, turtles, chipmunks, call  (423) 593-3932
Raptors and Owls (423) 847-5757
Opossums (423) 255-6460
Rabbits and squirrels (540) 392-5428
Raccoons, Foxes and Skunks (423) 475-2691

To report a sick deer in TN, please visit this TWRA reporting site.

For all other wildlife issues, please contact your state wildlife resources agency. In TN, that's TWRA


We hope soon! We will be evaluating our field trip plans as the summer continues. We'll post an update on our field trip experience page once we have an official OK to open.

Posted by Mark McKnight

Dear Supporter,

The 50th Anniversary of Earth Day seems like a fitting time to reflect and update you on the conservation work we do here at Reflection Riding. For us, that work centers on native plant propagation (did you buy your plants yet?) and breeding one of the most endangered animals on the planet, the American red wolf. 

We were overjoyed when one of the female wolves born right here in our facility gave birth to a large litter last week. I was fortunate to be able to capture a single image and a short video of the new mother with her pups. You can almost feel how overwhelmed she must have been when you see that image. Very quickly after that shot, when the pups were only hours old, Ruby, the mother, moved the pups to another den box where we were no longer able to see them. Over the following days, it became clear that this litter would not be viable. 

While we generally do not interfere with nature, our team came to the conclusion that it was time to intervene, which we did successfully. At the suggestion of our national red wolf recovery team, we were able to remove the one living pup and cross-foster her with a litter of the same age in Salisbury, NC. Over the weekend and at a very emotional time, our team worked quickly to coordinate the necessary permits and travel plans with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and the red wolf cooperator, Rowan Wild, a part of Dan Nicholas Park in Salisbury, NC. I'm happy to share the photo below of our pup with her adoptive mother and siblings.

I name each of the organizations above because we are so grateful to them for all acting swiftly to help us ensure the survival of this pup. While anything can happen from here, I’m happy to report that the pup has been accepted by the new mother and appears to be healthy. We’re obviously disappointed to not have the pleasure of watching this pup grow up in our facility, but we’re hopeful for the future. The Species Survival Plan coordinator, Chris Lasher, has indicated that mothers who have not had success with their first litter often do find success with the second and future litters. Each of our breeding pairs is matched by the SSP to produce genetically valuable pups, so we won’t know for sure until our annual meeting, but we are hopeful that Ruby will be paired again for breeding next year.

We remain, like this species itself, resilient.

Below we share a few ongoing virtual learning opportunities, an update on summer camp, and more information on ordering your native plants. We hope you'll continue to get involved. Thank you for your continuing support. We are grateful for our community.


Mark McKnight

Grounded in Place: How Landscape Architecture & Good Planting Design Is Transforming Chattanooga

Join Matt Whitaker, owner and founding principal of WMWA Landscape Architects and Mark McKnight, President & CEO of Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center for a live discussion of the various projects transforming downtown Chattanooga right now. The stream will go live on Friday at noon Eastern. Sign up for a reminder via YouTube.

Creeping Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium reptans)

Creeping Jacob’s ladder is best grown in moist, humus-rich and well-drained soil in part shade. It tolerates full sun in cool summer climates. Although technically rhizomatous (using underground stems to asexually reproduce), plants do not creep as the common name somewhat erroneously suggests. It does freely self-seeds in optimum growing conditions. If conditions are favorable, this plant will spread out its area within a few years.

Read More
You can still participate from home in this year's City Nature Challenge!

Check out this recording of the live stream we broadcast earlier this week for details.
Learn More about the CNC

Summer camp update

Our team is currently evaluating options for summer camp this year. We appreciate your patience, and we'll have an announcement for you next week.

Spring Plant Sale

Check out the inventory below to order plants online! It's constantly changing according to our stock, and if you have questions or want recommendations, send an email to [email protected] or [email protected] 

Thank you for supporting our work to reconnect Chattanoogans to nature. There are so many ways for you to get involved in all we do. Here are just a few options:

Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our tax ID number is EIN #58-1311080.

Posted by Mark McKnight  | Category: newsletter

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