Restoring the Native Habitat at Arlington’s Fort C.F. Smith Park

by Lisa Stern

(Photos by Kasha Helget unless otherwise noted.)

This October, volunteers gathered to help restore native plants to Fort C.F. Smith Park in Arlington County.  Read on to learn more about the planting and about the preparation work that goes into a native plant restoration project.

The fall is a great time to get out into the garden to plant before the chill of winter sets in! Last month, volunteers from Arlington Regional Master Naturalists, Fairfax Master Naturalists, and Tree Stewards spent the afternoon at Fort C.F. Smith Park helping to restore native plants back to areas where they belong and are most needed in the park.

Led by Scott Graham, the Natural Resource Technician for Arlington’s Natural Resources Management Unit, this important restoration project built upon work previously completed during a departmental volunteer day during which over 800 plants (12 different native species) were planted in one of the park’s meadows. The October work day completed the goal of planting 200 more, with all plants grown from seed in Arlington’s native plant nursery over the past year.

Photo of native plant meadow planted at C.F. Smith park

Newly planted meadow area. Photo courtesy of Glenn Tobin.

Photo of native plant meadow at C.F. Smith park in Arlington

Photo of existing meadow.

Volunteers planted Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca),

Photo of milkweed planted at C.F. Smith park

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).

Narrowleaf Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium), Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum), Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans), Goldenrod (Solidago), Virginia Wildrye (Elymus virginicus),

Photo of Virginia Wildrye planted at C.F. Smith Park

Virginia Wildrye (Elymus virginicus). Photo courtesy of Toni Genberg.

Bee Balm (Monarda), and Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), to name a few of the natives that citizens can also plant in their backyard habitats!

Photo of Little Bluestem planted at C.F. Smith Park

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium).

Prior to reaching this milestone of actually planting these natives at Fort C.F. Smith was an intensive labor undertaken by numerous volunteers who spent countless hours first collecting and propagating seed as well as divvying up grasses during the spring and summer months at Arlington’s native plant nursery. Led by Sarah Archer, a Natural Resources Specialist for Arlington County, part of this project involved Common Milkweed seed cleaning, which resulted in a couple of pounds of seed made ready for planting. Once all of the plants were ready to go, volunteers dug and placed them in the meadow.

Native restoration projects are a great way to get involved in Arlington’s parks and at the plant nursery. Volunteers just need to enjoy digging in the dirt, as everything else is supplied for willing hands—gloves, shovels, and trowels; and they can enjoy an opportunity to learn more about the environment! Nursery work is on Thursdays from 3–5 p.m. For more information about Arlington’s native plant nursery and volunteer opportunities, click here or contact Scott at: jgraham@arlingtonva.us.

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