Application Period Open for ARMN Fall 2016 Training Class

Identifying non-native invasive plants

Learning to identify nonnative invasive plants at Fort C. F. Smith

Macro-invertebrate stream monitoring

Assessing stream health by observing collected macro-invertebrates

“I love ARMN and opportunities it offers.”

“I enjoy the broad spectrum of volunteer projects/opportunities, the many continuing-education possibilities, the good networking between the local nature groups and organizations/agencies /events, and the exchange of information about nature stuff, events, organizations—and more!”

~Current ARMN master naturalists

Do you have a great interest in nature? • Do you want to learn more about insects? • birds? • mammals? • reptiles? • geology? • aquatic and terrestrial ecology? • native and invasive plants? • parts of nature you didn’t even know existed? • Would you like to help keep our natural world healthy or share what you learn about nature with neighbors/schools/the larger community?

Then apply now to train as a master naturalist during ARMN’s 14-week Fall 2016 basic training course. No prior experience is necessary—just your interest in the natural world.

Classes will be held on Tuesday evenings from 7:00 to 10:00 pm, from September 6 through December 6, 2016, at Long Branch Nature Center, 625 S. Carlin Springs Rd, Arlington, VA 22204. Four Saturday field trips will be scheduled at parks around the area.

Learn more about the program on the website under Training ( See the Apply tab ( for the application form, which you can fill out and deliver to Long Branch by mail or in person no later than August 20, 2016. Space in this popular course is limited, so act now.

Contact: Caroline Haynes (703-525-3614) for questions.

We hope to see you in September!

ARMN Members Win Environmental Education Challenge

At last month’s ARMN chapter meeting, members Mary McLean and Melanie LaForce re-enacted the skit that won them the Golden Paddle at the February 2016 conference of the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education. Here, Mary reports on the the premiere of “The Secret Lives of Migrating Blue-hatted Boobies.” Marion Jordan provided the photos of the June re-enactment.

by Mary McLean

ARMN members Mary McLean and Melanie LaForce teamed up to win the Golden Paddle in the annual Challenge at the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) conference last February. MAEOE is a nonprofit organization that serves teachers, natural resource managers, nature center staff, and environmental program managers with dynamic training programs, workshops, conferences, awards programs, networking opportunities, and educational resources. The conference provides professional development opportunities that are relevant beyond Maryland’s borders, which is why Mary and Melanie attended.

Once there, they were intrigued by the Challenge, a fun highlight of the program. Past Challenges have included making a sculpture from recyclables, creating a song, or acting out a pantomime. This year’s Challenge was to to present a skit that interpreted MAEOE’s mission “to encourage, engage, and empower the community to understand, responsibly use, and promote the natural world.” Armed with with a bag full of detritus props, all of which had to be used, Mary and Melanie decided to go for it in a skit they entitled “The Secret Lives of Migrating Blue-hatted Boobies.”

photo courtesy of Marion Jordan

Mary McLean and Melanie LaForce as “Blue-hatted Boobies”

The skit began with empty-nester boobies Mary and Melanie playing “Go Fish” while waiting to migrate. The female spotted signs of fall (a handful of leaves thrown in the air). The male got ready by preening with a lint roller. They both fattened up with a handful of Tootsie Rolls and cotton balls thrown from the audience.

Then they debated, “How do we migrate?

How about a National Geographic video? ~Nah. Player broken.

A Chesapeake Bay book map? ~Nope, won’t go far enough.

What would “James” do? (a book about James Monroe.)

Then the male had an idea (a plastic light bulb over the head).

“Let’s use these! Then we can see to fly at night!” (a reading headlamp and a patriotic flashlight.)

As they flew over the ocean, the male spotted a (tiny, green plastic) sea turtle far below.“There goes a flying fish!” (a bubble-blowing form), he observed, as it “flew” out into the audience.

“We made it to Costa Rica!” the boobies shouted. The female sang and played her “maracas” (sponges) and the male yelled “Fore!” while swinging a toy golf club.

Another successful migration!

The End.

The skit was a clear favorite of the conference attendees and Mary and Melanie took home the Golden Paddle—a canoe paddle printed with each year’s winning team since 1997. The win also marked the first time that the paddle traveled from Maryland to the “other side of the (Potomac) river.” As Challenge winners, Mary and Melanie get to keep the paddle until next year’s conference when they will choose the format of the next MAEOE Challenge.

courtesy of Marion Jordan

Mary McLean and the Golden Paddle


Arlington County Recognizes ARMN’s Eric Midboe as “Outstanding Volunteer”


Eric Midboe, an Arlington Regional Master Naturalist, has received one of 14 “Outstanding Volunteers for 2016” awards from Arlington’s Department of Parks & Recreation.

He was acknowledged for his regular care for animals at Long Branch Nature Center, as well as for being a cheerful ambassador to center visitors. Eric has also worked on complex grounds projects and used his background in aerospace and marine sciences to assist staff with other challenges around the nature center.

The Director of the Arlington County Department of Parks & Recreation expressed appreciation for Eric’s willingness to go above and beyond for a program that does so much for so many.

Congratulations, Eric!

Master Naturalists Visit the Shenandoah Valley’s SCBI

ARMN member Mary Martha Churchman reports on a rare and valuable opportunity to visit the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia.


The author (front, center) and fellow ARMN members on the SCBI tour (photo courtesy of Caroline Haynes)

by Mary Martha Churchman

On June 7, 17 Arlington Regional Master Naturalists traveled to Front Royal, where they were joined by 7 members of the Banshee Reeks Master Naturalists chapter to tour the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) []. The 3,200-acre facility is not open to the general public, but docent-led tours are provided by appointment to selected groups.

Following a brief orientation film in the auditorium, the naturalists filled two vans to tour the grounds. Knowledgeable docents drove and narrated as we viewed the pastures and pens where various species are studied and bred for reintroduction to natural areas and zoos, both domestically and internationally. These include Black-footed Ferrets, Scimitar- horned Oryx, Red-crowned and White-naped Cranes, Dama Gazelle, Tufted Deer, Eld’s Deer, Przewalski Horses, and—of course—the charismatic Cheetahs.

While Congressional appropriations fund the permanent staff and facilities, the institute’s research projects are subsidized by grants, some international. The Scimitar-horned Oryx, for example, are funded by the United Arab Emirates and will be released into the Sahel (sub-Saharan Africa) as game. Eld’s Deer will be reintroduced to Southeast Asia as prey to support the tiger population. The ancestors of the ferrets have successfully colonized in Colorado.

Many of the rolling-foothill meadows are planted in grasses that are mown to feed not only the animals at SCBI but all the hoofed stock at the National Zoo. In turn, manure from the zoo is brought back to Front Royal, composted, and reapplied to fertilize the fields.

In addition to the featured animals, we witnessed other projects of special interest to master naturalists. The docents spoke passionately about the fight against invasive plants at the sprawling facility. The staff work with volunteers to control Autumn Olive, Multi-flora Rose, and Oriental Bittersweet, among others. In addition, research is underway to exclude deer from selected plots and observe the changes. Virginia Working Landscapes [] is trying to rehabilitate unused fields.

Local volunteers monitor bluebird houses, which produced 175 fledglings in one recent year. Several experimental garden plots highlight strategies for reintroducing native plants. SCBI hosts one of fifty sites of the Natural Environmental Observatory Network (NEON) [], which continuously observes 14 data points and is the site of an annual overflight to monitor environmental conditions. Apart from the ongoing research, the SCBI also has a cooperative academic program with George Mason University to train a new generation of conservation biologists.

At the end of the tour we were able to get out of the vans to stretch at the grassy racetrack, a legacy of the years from 1911 to 1948 when the property was a U.S. Army Cavalry Remount Station that was used for veterinary science. The use persisted through ownership by the U. S. Department of Agriculture. Since 1975, the National Zoo has conducted conservation biology at the site, first through its Conservation and Research Center and from 2010 as the SCBI.

Spring Wonders in Potomac Overlook Regional Park

ARMN volunteer and Master Gardener Joanne Hutton reports on spring’s largesse in the native plant garden at Potomac Overlook Regional Park (with photos by the author unless otherwise indicated).

by Joanne Hutton

Spring rains yielded floral abundance this year, and the unfolding of spring at Potomac Overlook Regional Park’s Shady Native Plant Demo Garden was glorious—if you got there in between the showers. This is a space that ARMN maintains for public enjoyment and edification.

The PORP garden was the brainchild of, among others, Long Branch Nature Center naturalist Cliff Fairweather, and has enjoyed support and donations from the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, Virginia Native Plant Society, Earth Sangha, Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia, and the Arlington Regional Master Naturalists. It is coming into its own in its fifth year, even as it is a work in progress. We’ve learned a lot about what the deer like to eat in a setting to which they were already habituated, especially geraniums, goldenrods, viburnums, ninebark, and some asters.

We have watched the lovely Woodland Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum) establish under a dogwood and twine with the Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens). The latter is a very quiet little groundcover, and I’ve discovered that, while it’s happier with the drainage a small slope offers, this year it bloomed happily the first week of June, despite the rainy conditions.

The Sweet Wake Robin (Trillium erectum var. vaseyi), also called the Stinking Benjamin, was also in bloom, although I confess I didn’t inhale it deeply. This plant is hardly “erectum,” which is why it’s treated as a separate species in some references, and is likely more common farther south. It has various medicinal (and also toxic) properties, and the freshly unfolding spring bracts are edible. To my mind they are too beautiful to consider harvesting.

Sweet Wake Robin (Trillium erectum var. vaseyi)

Sweet Wake Robin (Trillium erectum var. vaseyi)

(Trillium erectum)

Sweet Wake Robin, a.k.a. Stinking Benjamin

Deer do NOT browse on the Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea) that has spread to several beds and throws a golden haze over them in March and April. Similarly, deer avoid the native Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) that’s created a rich green border under the Carolina Allspice (Calycanthus floridus). Another delightful groundcover, Green and Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum), has eluded predation. Like the Partridge Berry, it prefers decent drainage, especially during winter months. It’s a merry little plant that bloomed this year for nearly two months and is still going strong. Try it in your garden, if you haven’t already. Better yet, come to a work party (look for upcoming events on the ARMN Volunteer page) and we’ll dig you a piece!

Green and Gold (Chrysogonum  virginianum)

Green and Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum)

Ferns are only occasionally sampled by deer, and you can see at least eight different species in the demo garden. Some are delicate and others like the Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) are statuesque.

Photo 4 Cinnamon fern fertile spikes (Joanne Hutton)

Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) spikes

There are always things to see in the park. Some of them require a careful eye—to discover a recently emerged toad, uncover a baby box turtle not two inches long while weeding, or spot the source of warbler songs in the high canopy above.

American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus)

American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus)

Photo 6 Baby box turtle (Elizabeth Gearin)

Baby Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) (photo courtesy of Elizabeth Gearin)

We are grateful for the support of the new park manager, Doranne Pittz. If you come to visit PORP, please introduce yourself to Doranne, who is new to Arlington. She has promised to install a sign to explain the garden’s purpose. And we are working on garden markers to highlight the valuable species that flourish in the shade and offer something for everyone—even the White-tailed Deer.

ARMN Joins Central Rappahannock on Visit to Crow’s Nest

Article and photographs by Suzanne Dingwell

ARMN member Suzanne Dingwell reports on a joint visit to the Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve with members of the Central Rappahannock Master Naturalist chapter.


Mike Lott (pointing) describes the preserve’s mixed-hardwood forest.

Glorious weather presided over the field trip to Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve ( on April 16, when ARMN joined the Central Rappahannock Master Naturalist chapter for a guided walk. The Stafford County preserve encompasses almost 3,000 acres of mixed-hardwood forest, and both tidal and nontidal wetlands, all dressed in spring’s finest. We had the pleasure of being led by the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) Mike Lott, the regional supervisor for Crow’s Nest. Mike’s extensive knowledge of the history and the ecology of the area were put to good use as a series of mini-talks at strategic locations along the trail; everyone learned something new and interesting!

Mike told us that the beautiful preserve was almost paved over at several points recently and it took a lot of perseverance and a little luck to enable DCR to finally save the area from bulldozers. Now the challenge for DCR is balancing the need to protect the preserve, while at the same time allowing public access. Public support is needed to make sure funds can be available to manage lands they already own and to fund future purchases. Master naturalists can play an important part in helping to educate the public in how they can be visitors who “do no harm” and why they should want to be.


Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) emerges along a stream.

Running through the preserve is a central ridge climbing to 160 feet and flanked by steep ravines falling to water’s edge, making for dramatic topography. We wandered up, down, and through, enjoying the emerging canopy with delicate greens backed by a brilliant blue sky. We listened to warblers––and spotted a few as well. Many of Virginia’s spring ephemeral plants were in abundance and the two chapters’ members engaged in serious cross-pollination of ID skills.


Bluets (Houstonia caerulea) along a trail

The afternoon was capped off with a joint luncheon, perfect for a relaxed exchange of ideas and experiences. (One of the Rappahannock members opened her house and lawn to us and that group surprised us with lunch!) All in all, it was a most satisfactory day. The trails at Crow’s Nest will be ready for public use in September, so add it to the list of places you want to see.

Many Ways and Many Days to Celebrate Earth Day 2016

The 46th annual commemoration of Earth Day is Friday, April 22. Here are a number of activities, events, and volunteer opportunities on and near Earth Day to honor Mother Earth for all she does for us every day.

Pick one or more ways to join the celebration!


Arlington provides opportunities to “Be Earth-Friendly Every Day” with a month-long calendar of fun and beneficial environmental activities and suggestions for sustainable projects and programs, educational and volunteer opportunities, places to enjoy nature, and a bluebell walk on the 22nd. See: and for details.

The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia highlights several bird-related events around the holiday. There is the First Annual ASNV Earth Day Big Sit, April 22–23, with the goal of identifying as many bird species as possible within a set area. The event will take place at Whitehall Farms in Clifton as part of its Spring Festival. ASNV is also seeking adult and teen volunteers each day. Volunteers get free admission to the festival. To sign up, click:

A second ASNV event is Birdathon 2016 from April 22–May 15. Birdathon is an annual spring-migration birding competition in which teams secure donations and then pick a 24-hour period between April 22 and May 15 to identify as many bird species as possible. There are prizes for most money raised and most species identified. Click: for more information.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension 4-H Urban Bird Celebration is Saturday, April 23. All ages, youth, and families are invited to Lubber Run Park in Arlington to learn more about birds. There will be hands-on activities, light refreshments, and more! For details, see:

The 2016 Eagle Festival will be April 23 at Mason Neck State Park. The event will feature live wildlife shows, guided hikes, food and drinks available from the Lions Club, live music, pony rides, and other activities. See: for more information.

This year’s Alexandria Earth Day celebration will be Saturday, April 30, with the theme, “Choose to Reuse—Your Choices Matter.” There will be educational exhibits, demonstrations, and hands-on activities for all ages. It will also feature the “Upcycling Showcase,” in which students will demonstrate their creative interpretation of Earth Day through literature, fashion, visual arts, and performing arts. For more information, see:

Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment are sponsoringGo Gaga for Green 2016” on April 30.
This family-friendly, community-wide event benefits environmental programs run by George Mason University (Arlington campus) and Arlington and showcases Operation Rain Barrel and the Arlington Green Patriot Awards, recognizing community leaders in sustainability. See: for additional details.

Fairfax County’s official Earth Day and Arbor Day event is April 30 at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton. Among the activities are family-friendly events, educational workshops, vendors, and kids’ activities, including a film festival on restoration projects. There will also be food trucks and a plant sale. More information is at:


City of Alexandria Spring 2016 Native Tree and Shrub Sale—accepting orders online through May 7 at:, or in person at the Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center, 5750 Sanger Ave, Alexandria. All plants are $20. They may be picked up the Ford Nature Center Saturday, May 21 from 10 am to 2 pm. For more information, see RPCA Spring 2016 Native Tree Shrub Sale Flyer or contact Majd Jarrar at: 703-746-5525 or

Falls Church City Native Plant Sale run by Girl Scout Troop 1251. Plant list and form available April 18, and plants are available May 1. E-mail for the form and more information.

Saturday, April 23, 9 am–3 pm, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Morven Park, 17195 Southern Planter Lane, Leesburg,

Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District’s Native Tree and Shrub Seedling Sale—accepting online orders now. The seedlings will be available for pick up on Friday, April 29, 9 am–4 pm, or Saturday, April 30, 9 am–12 pm at the Fred M. Packard Center, 4022 Hummer Road, Annandale. For more information, call 703-324-1460; TTY 711. To view and learn more about the seedlings and place an order, visit the NVSWCD website at:

Saturday, April 30, 2016, 9 am–2 pm, Northern Alexandria Native Plant Sale, Church of St. Clement parking lot, 1701 N. Quaker Lane, Alexandria, VA,

Saturday, April 30, 1–4 pm (rain date: May 1, 1–4 pm), Long Branch Native Plant Sale, Long Branch Nature Center, 625 S. Carlin Springs Road, Arlington. Pre-order information and other details are at:

Saturday, April 30, 8–11 am, Friends of Riverbend Park annual Spring Native Plant Sale, at the Great Falls Grange Pavilion, 9818 Georgetown Pike in Great Falls. See: for details.

Sunday, May 1, 2016, 10 am–2 pm, Earth Sangha Wild Plant Nursery Plant Sale and Open House, Franconia Park, Cloud Drive, Springfield. See for plants and directions.


Arlington: Invasive Plant Removal Events

Saturday, April 16:

10 am–12 pm, Tuckahoe Park, Contact: Mary McLean, 703-966-2047,;

2–4 pm, Madison Manor Park, Contact: Jo Allen, 703-474-2671,

Sunday, April 17:

2–5 pm, Long Branch Nature Center, Contact: Steve Young, 703-966-2966,

Saturday, April 23: 

10 am–12 pm, Benjamin Banneker Park, Contact: Eric Sword, 571-338-8508,

Saturday, April 23:

10 am–12 pm, Dora Kelley Park (meet at Buddie Ford Nature Center), Contact: Lauren Harper,

Sunday, April 24: 

10 am–12 pm, Ft. Bennett Park, Contact: Mary McCutcheon, 703-217-8850,

Alexandria: Park Trash Clean-up Event

Saturday, April 16 (rain date: April 17):

9 am–12 pm, Dora Kelley Park (park entrances by tennis courts on Chambliss St, Morgan St, or Holmes Run Pkwy), Contact: Dave Dexter, Wear weather/work-appropriate clothing and shoes; gloves, trash pickers, and trash bags provided.

Remembering Jerry Shrepple


ARMN lost one of its long-term and dedicated members, Jerry Schrepple, on March 15, 2016.  Jerry had been an active volunteer since graduating with the Spring 2009 ARMN Basic Training class. Jerry contributed to so many habitat restoration projects, including invasive removal and plantings in local parks, seed collection, cleaning, and nursery work with Earth Sangha, and stream-water monitoring. He was known for his expertise in building bird houses and he happily shared that knowledge through hands-on workshops. Jerry championed the restoration of the site next to the bike path by Bon Air Park in Arlington. This “Take Back the Trail” project resulted in the transformation of a previously neglected site covered with invasives into a meadow that now features native plants which are visible to all who use that section of the bike path.  ~Marion Jordan, ARMN president, on behalf of ARMN

[Tributes compiled by Kasha Helget, ARMN communications chair]

Courtesy Rodney Olsen (3)

Photo courtesy of Rodney Olsen

ARMN members are grateful to have known Jerry, and we will miss him very much. We will not forget his many contributions to our natural environment or his warm smile and gentle presence among us. I am very saddened and sorry to send this…. The Earth lost a true friend and supporter with his passing. You would be very hard pressed to find a more hard-working and dedicated person in his support for the environment. I would always joke around with him on the numerous projects he helped the County with. I am sorry to hear about his passing. Jerry will be missed…. ~Alonso Abugattas

I am so saddened as well. Jerry and I planted Yoshino Cherry trees near the chapel at Arlington Cemetery. We worked together in a bird box class. Jerry was a sweet friend, champion of birds, expert bird-box maker; genteel and upbeat in many ways. He was brave and courageous in every way. ~ Melanie LaForce

Jerry [was a] most generous and supportive person. He joined my son’s CSA and was an enthusiastic and loyal member!  ~ Brooke Alexander

I so appreciated Jerry’s pleasant personality. I enjoyed putting together the birdhouse kits too, and look forward to seeing his native meadow project efforts blooming! ~ Yolanda Villacampa

I will always remember Jerry for his constant smile. ~ Rebecca Bragg

I am grateful to have known Jerry and to have worked with him on many invasive removals, plantings or other habitat restoration projects. Jerry was always willing to tackle the tough jobs and would come prepared with his own pickaxe. One of my favorite memories is the project at Barcroft where we engaged Wakefield High School students to help clearing and planting for a meadow under a power line. He soon had the group eagerly clearing heavy brush, digging holes for planting in the impossibly compacted soil, and otherwise helping to transform the site. Amid all this activity, he brought his usual calm and smiling presence. I will miss him very much. ~ Marion Jordan

[Jerry] never took the [TreeStewards] class, but his constant showing up at work events that TreeStewards organized to remove invasive plants made him a revered “friend of TreeStewards” or, more importantly, someone who crossed all boundaries whether organizational or jurisdictional to save trees and native habitats from destruction. ~ Nora Palmatier 

Jerry’s [2009 training] class presentation on bird behavior was educational, highly entertaining, and memorable. Jerry became the birds he was talking about, completely embodying the attitude, movements, and dispositions of the birds he was describing. 

I will miss working shoulder-to-shoulder with Jerry on invasive pulls and restoration plantings. His indefatigable spirit, energy, and enthusiasm were infectious, and it was hard not to have fun when working with Jerry. He was a kind soul and his passion was inspirational. ~ Caroline Haynes

Lesson learned from Jerry: Walk softly and carry a big root cutter! ~ Stephanie Martin

I am so grateful that I got to experience Jerry’s kind words, gentle smile, and his appreciation for our natural world. He was an incredibly hard-working and dedicated volunteer for ARMN. He will be missed by our organization in so many ways. ~ Christine Campe-Price

… I was very saddened to learn of [Jerry’s death]. I hope we can continue his work along the W&OD at the meadow.  

Jerry’s last email to me in January demonstrated what I loved about him. I had invited ARMN to work with me at Fraser Preserve in January at a program entitled “Barberry, Birds, and Beer.” Jerry responded, “Two things I love, and one I hate. Count me in.” 

He was devoted, charming, even-keeled, intelligent, and someone who could always be counted on. I’m surprised at how much I miss him. ~ Lori Bowes

In assembling the tributes to Jerry, it became clear that he touched so very many lives. Undoubtedly, he will live on in our memories, and in the legacy he has left to the Earth. I think it is the greatest aim that any of us can have.

And no, Lori, I am not surprised at how much you miss him. We all do. ~ Kasha Helget

It’s Spring! What a Great Time to Plant Natives!

Spring is such a wonderful time of year! With longer periods of daylight, warmer temperatures, and the return of birds and butterflies, we’re naturally drawn to the outdoors. If you’re also drawn to gardening––either in your yard or in pots on the deck or patio––consider installing native plants when you get ready to plant.


Asclepias tuberosa ~ Butterflyweed

Why natives?

Native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions where they naturally occur. They also are critical sources of nectar, pollen, and seeds that provide food for native butterflies, insects, birds, and other animals. In addition, native plants are advantageous, because they:

  • do not require fertilizers and need few if any pesticides,
  • need less water than lawns and help prevent erosion,
  • help reduce air pollution,
  • provide shelter and food for wildlife,
  • promote biodiversity and stewardship of our natural heritage, and
  • are beautiful and increase scenic values!

Which native plants are right for your yard or pots?

As with any plant, it’s important to install the right one for your conditions (wet, dry, shade, sun, slope, soil type, etc.). There are great sources of information to learn the right plant for your situation. One of the best is the Plant Nova Natives website:, which provides picture-filled, easy-to-follow information that will help you choose the perfect species for your situation. The website includes a colorful guide to local native species, information on where visit native gardens, and links to organizations that sell native plants and will come to your property and offer customized landscaping recommendations.

Pysostegia virginiana ~ Obedient Plant

Pysostegia virginiana ~ Obedient Plant

Where can you buy native plants?

Now that you know you want to natives, you may find that most regular nurseries do not carry them. No matter! The best selection and prices are often at spring native plant sales all around the area. Here are several in the upcoming weeks and months, so go forth and plant!

City of Alexandria Spring 2016 Native Tree and Shrub Sale—accepting orders online through May 7 at:, or in person at the Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center, 5750 Sanger Ave, Alexandria, VA. All plants are $20. They may be picked up the Ford Nature Center Saturday, May 21 from 10 am – 2 pm. For more information, see RPCA Spring 2016 Native Tree Shrub Sale Flyer  or contact Majd Jarrar at: 703-746-5525 or

Saturday, April 2, 9:30 am – 2 pm, Friends of the National Arboretum Native Plant Sale, US National Arboretum, 3501 New York Ave., NE, Washington, DC (open to Lahr Symposium registrants at 8:30 am),

Wednesday, April 6, 10 am – 1 pm (and first Wednesday of each month through October), VNPS First-Wednesday Plant Sales, at VNPS-Potowmack propagation beds behind the Horticulture Center at Green Spring Gardens are open for sales. 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA 22312,

Falls Church City Native Plant Sale run by Girl Scout Troop 1251. Plant listings and form available April 18. Plants are available May 1. E-mail for the form or more information.

Saturday, April 23, 9 am – 3 pm, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Morven Park, 17195 Southern Planter Lane, Leesburg, VA 20176,

Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District’s Native Tree and Shrub Seedling Sale—accepting online orders now. The seedlings will be available for pick up on Friday, April 29, 9 am – 4 pm, or Saturday, April 30, 9 am – 12 pm at the Fred M. Packard Center, 4022 Hummer Road, Annandale, VA. For more information, call 703-324-1460; TTY 711. To view images of the seedlings, learn about these plants, and to place an order, visit the NVSWCD Web site at

Saturday, April 30, 2016, 9 am – 2 pm, Northern Alexandria Native Plant Sale, Church of St. Clement Parking Lot, 1701 N. Quaker Lane, Alexandria, VA,

Saturday, April 30, 1 – 4 pm (rain date: May 1, 1 – 4 pm), Long Branch Native Plant Sale, Long Branch Nature Center, 625 S. Carlin Springs Road, Arlington, VA 22204. Pre-order information and other details are at:

Saturday, April 30, 8 – 11 am, Friends of Riverbend Park annual spring native plant sale, at the Great Falls Grange Pavilion, 9818 Georgetown Pike in Great Falls, Va. See: for details.

Sunday, May 1, 2016, 10 am – 2 pm, Earth Sangha Wild Plant Nursery Plant Sale and Open House, Franconia Park, Cloud Drive, Springfield, VA. See for plants and directions.

Saturday, May 7, 9 am – 12 pm, Prince William Wildflower Society Native Plant Sale, Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church, 8712 Plantation Lane, Manassas, VA 20110 (Contact:

Saturday, May 14, 9 am – 3 pm, Green Spring Garden Day. Sale includes native plant sales from VNPS-Potowmack propagation beds behind the Horticulture Center. There are both native and nonnative plant vendors on the lawn, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA 22312,

How to Control Mosquitoes Without Killing Pollinators and Other Important Wildlife

by Susan Gitlin, ARMN member

Aedes aegypti from Wikipedia

Warm weather and mosquitoes will be here before you know it, leading many of us to look for ways to enjoy the outdoors without being pestered by those annoying little—and sometimes disease-bearing—biters.

There is a lot of information being disseminated by health organizations about health risks to humans from mosquito bites (see CDC links, below). But besides protecting ourselves from being targets, we need to work at eliminating mosquito habitat and controlling their numbers. There are a number of ways we can do this safely and effectively.

Because mosquitoes have no trouble flying from yard to yard, the best way to combat them is to work with our neighbors to collectively identify and implement opportunities to reduce mosquito populations. Below is a set of approaches that are suggested by entomologists, public health organizations, and agricultural extension programs.

1. Eliminate potential mosquito-breeding grounds. Mosquitoes can breed in any water that stagnates for just 2 or 3 days. Actions to remove potential mosquito habitat include:  

  • Unclogging gutters
  • Covering, turning over, or moving indoors any equipment, containers, or toys that might collect water
  • Straightening sagging tarps or other covers
  • Filling in areas under outdoor faucets or air conditioning drains
  • Repairing damaged screens on rain barrels
  • Removing English Ivy (The dense nature of ivy allows it to hold in pooled water where mosquitoes can breed, provides a humid area that mosquitoes like, and protects mosquitoes from pesticide sprays.)

2. For areas of uncovered water, like ponds or bird baths, consider these approaches: 

  • Changing the water regularly
  • Using Mosquito Dunks ® (deadly to mosquito, blackfly, and fungus gnat larvae, but harmless to other living things), or
  • Keeping the water moving (e.g., with a fountain)

3. Treat mosquitoes like foes, but treat bees and other beneficial insects like the friends they are! The pesticides used to kill mosquitoes also kill other invertebrates, including pollinators and other insects—insects on which birds feed and insects that eat mosquitoes. Mosquito-spraying companies typically use pesticides of a group of chemicals called pyrethroids, many of which are highly toxic to honeybees, fish, and small aquatic organisms.

4. If you spray pesticides or hire a company that provides such services, please consider taking the following precautions and/or asking the pesticide spraying company to do the same:  

  • Spray only in the early morning or early evening. Most pollinators are not out and about during these time periods.
  • Do not spray flowering plants. (One company that provides pesticide spraying services says that before spraying flowers they “shoo” away bees with bursts of air. It is doubtful that this truly protects bees, as the majority of native bees are less than ¼” long and therefore difficult to spot. Moreover, bees will return immediately to those flowers, either into the path of the spray or to the flowers, where there may be pesticide residue.)
  • Make sure that no spray enters your neighbors’ yards, and notify your neighbors before you spray so that they can take any desired or necessary precautions to protect any bees or other insects that they have in their yards.
  • Consider using nontoxic repellants in lieu of the toxic pesticides. Some mosquito-spraying companies offer such alternatives.

5. If you use sprays, do so only when needed, and not on a preemptive basis. (Spraying on a predetermined schedule can waste pesticide product, and therefore money, and may also contribute to the development of pesticide-resistant mosquitoes.)

By taking these steps, we can work together as a community to fight this annoying pest while protecting our other precious environmental resources.

Some useful websites:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: and

Environmental Protection Agency—Mosquito Control:

Virginia Cooperative Extension Service:

Maryland Department of Agriculture:

Backyard Mosquito Management—Beyond Pesticides:

Honeybee Love: Keeping Honeybees Safe While Using Pesticides:

Mosquito Dunks ® Fact Sheet: