ARMN: Getting To Know You

From time-to-time, ARMN’s Membership Committee posts profiles of our members including how they came to be master naturalists, which parts of nature they most enjoy, and how they work to impact the environment around them. Here is the latest biography of ARMN volunteer Honora Dent who graduated in the Spring 2014 ARMN training class. ARMN would also like to highlight her involvement with the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service’s 4-H Youth Development Program and the upcoming 4-H Outdoor Explorer volunteer training on February 15th.

Tell us about the ARMN projects on which you spend the most time.

For the past two years I have been an active member of the Arlington County stream monitoring team. I enjoy monitoring the health of county streams by counting and identifying the various macroinvertebrates present in the water. I would have never predicted at this stage of my life I would be wading in streams, scrubbing rocks, and collecting samples of aquatic organisms, or be able to distinguish between a Damsel fly and a Mayfly larva, but I really enjoy it, and appreciate that the County uses the information to monitor long-term trends of our streams.

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Releasing macroinvertebrates into nets, Arlington Outdoor Lab, Broad Run, VA.

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Collecting stream samples, Arlington Outdoor Lab, Broad Run, VA.

Volunteering at Earth Sangha has become an important part of my week. I especially enjoy working at the native plant nursery doing whatever task is assigned, such as planting, weeding, and filling pots. I also enjoy going out in the field to collect native plant seeds and later “cleaning” the seeds for future planting. These tasks offer me a reflective, meditative environment as well as an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation with other volunteers.

I enjoy the physical activity involved with invasive plant removal. This past year I joined the National Park Service Weed Warrior program to remove invasives along the George Washington Parkway and on Theodore Roosevelt Island. My most memorable experience was working with 30 students from the International Academy at Alexandria’s T.C. Williams High School. Verbal communication within the group was difficult due to language differences, but the smiles on the students’ faces as they enthusiastically removed English ivy and honeysuckle vine from the trees indicated the pleasure and fulfillment they felt working together to make these areas better places.

My most recent ARMN adventure is participating in 4-H Outdoor Explorers at Randolph Elementary School in Arlington. This after school program takes place at a few elementary schools in Arlington and offers students an opportunity to learn more about the environment with a focus on fun and exploration. Partnering with Arlington County’s Extended Day Program, 4-H Outdoor Explorers volunteers promote youth environmental literacy, encourage outdoor play, and serve as positive adult role models. I have had very little experience working with youth, and while working with the students has been challenging, it is also very rewarding.

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Photo courtesy of National 4-H Council.

How did you learn about ARMN?

I first heard about ARMN from friend and fellow ARMN member, Pat Findikoglu. We were at the Columbia Pike Farmers Market catching up on our lives and she mentioned ARMN. The more Pat talked about the ARMN training course and the variety of volunteer and educational opportunities, the more I knew that I wanted to sign up. I had always enjoyed spending time in nature but had little formal training and ARMN seemed like a good fit. I submitted my application, graduated from the Spring 2014 class, and have no regrets. Without a doubt joining ARMN was one of the best investments I have made in my life.

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Honora at an Earth Sangha plant sale (Photo courtesy of Toni Genberg.)

What do you like most about ARMN?

Without a doubt the best thing about ARMN is its volunteers. I have never met a more welcoming, knowledgeable, and fun-loving group. ARMN offers me a vast variety of ways to occupy my time with meaningful work, a community of likeminded people to learn from and share experiences, and educational classes to enhance my knowledge of the natural world. Thanks to ARMN I have learned so much and have become a better steward of the environment.

Tell us something about your childhood/adulthood experiences that shaped your perspective on nature?

Spending time outside enjoying and observing nature has been part of my entire life. I had the good fortune to grow up within walking distance of the Severn River in Maryland and spent much of my free time exploring the river and nearby woods. I learned about birds, crabs, fish, turtles, snakes, and many other creatures from an elderly neighbor who had lived on the river her whole life. I also learned about local plants and critters from a science teacher who lived across the street. One of my earliest memories is watching a turtle laying her eggs in our sandbox.

My family spent every summer at Higgins Lake in Northern Michigan. Time at Higgins Lake was especially exciting as we had no electricity or indoor plumbing. The family cabin sat along a large freshwater inland lake surrounded by an oak and white birch forest. We spent our days fishing, boating, swimming, and walking in the woods. My favorite after dinner activity was riding my bike along the dirt “2-track” roads looking for deer and other wildlife.

What is your background?

Before retiring I worked for 46 years at a local hospital as a Registered Nurse and IT Analyst. During my nursing career I participated in direct patient care, nursing management, and administration. My information technology positions focused on building and managing the clinical documentation database as well as training clinical staff and physicians.

What would other ARMN members find interesting about the non-ARMN parts of your life?

I am a very competitive person who loves to participate in of all types of sports including tennis, cycling, softball, and basketball. Since retiring I have learned to play pickleball, which I play 2–3 times per week with other Arlington seniors at the Walter Reed Senior Center.

New Life for Nauck Woods

by Sue Dingwell and Lori Bowes

A treasured historic woodland area in South Arlington has been restored to its native glory with the help of some dedicated volunteers. Here is the story of the Nauck Woods and the folks who helped revive it.

(Photos by Sue Dingwell unless otherwise noted.)

Nothing can stop an ARMN invasives crew! Despite cool temps and a sketchy forecast, dedicated ARMN members showed up on Saturday, January 13 to help with invasive plant and trash removal at the intriguing little corner in Arlington known as Nauck Woods. This little parcel, now totally clear of ivy on the tree trunks, is full of native plants, both apparent and also about-to-be apparent as they are carefully released from the choking bondage of invasives.

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ARMN President Marion Jordan (left) and Continuing Education Chair Lori Bowes (right) demonstrate deft invasive removal skills.

 

A little background: Nauck Woods is the largest naturalized parcel in the Nauck community, the oldest African American neighborhood in Arlington. The community was settled in 1844 as former residents of Freedman’s Village began moving into the area after the Civil War. In 2013, Nauck Woods was considered as a site for the new headquarters of Phoenix Bikes, a youth bicycle repair and entrepreneurial development nonprofit. After neighborhood opposition, that plan was scrapped and ARMN and TreeStewards began to support efforts to preserve the trees and nature in Nauck Woods.

On Martin Luther King Day (January 16, 2017), a second wave of ARMN volunteers joined the effort and collected more trash and started to remove ivy from trees along Four Mile Run. Together we can! Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt came and worked the entire two hours. Thank you, John!

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Tired but happy invasives crew and some fruits of their labors. (Photo courtesy of Caroline Haynes.)

Even in winter, the site was full of both beauty and promise. Deep green leaves of mature American holly trees (Ilex americana) were resplendent with silver droplets; a few as-yet uneaten berries decorated greenbrier vines (Smilax rotundifolia); a little stream coursed through the Woods, greatly enhancing wildlife value; and bird song gave evidence that this little haven is already providing refuge.

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American holly (left) and greenbrier berries (right) provide color, food, and shelter for wildlife.

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Freshwater stream through Nauck Woods.

 

ARMN Master Naturalists are now planning spring activities that encompass work in the Arlington native plant nursery, planting in parks and gardens, citizen science projects, and more. Stay tuned! We are making an extra effort this year to engage help from the public.

For details about the intriguing greenbrier plant, see Sue Dingwell’s post about it on the Virginia Native Plant Society blog.

ARMN: Getting To Know You

by Toni Genberg as interviewed by Christine Campe-Price

From time-to-time, ARMN will post profiles of its members including how they came to be master naturalists, which parts of nature they most enjoy, and how they work to impact the environment around them. Here is the latest interview with ARMN volunteer, Toni Genberg, who graduated in the Spring 2014 ARMN training class.

Tell us about the naturalist projects on which you spend the most time.

An enjoyable short-term project I volunteered for was the Smithsonian’s eMammal survey. I would deploy a wildlife “trap” camera for a month at a time at three pre-assigned parks and in three backyards of my choosing. I would then retrieve the camera, download the data, and count and log the critters that were photographed. There were lots of deer, of course! But once I also “captured” a coyote in Holmes Run Stream Valley Park, which was exciting.

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An eMammal photo with deer and fox in Marie Butler Leven Preserve in McLean, November 2014.

An on-going project I’ve been a part of since before I became an ARMN member is outreach at the Falls Church Farmers’ Market. The “Enviro-Booth,” as it’s nicknamed, is set up on Saturdays from October through April as long as the weather is amenable. ARMN member Kent Taylor, the booth’s founder and I, along with other master naturalists, a master gardener, and a tree steward set up a display board, put out lots of informative handouts, and interact with many inquisitive market goers. We’ve had some good conversations with the public about ARMN’s English ivy “Choking Hazard” promotion, Audubon at Home’s Backyard Habitat program, and the Plant NoVA Natives Campaign, among other environmental topics such as tree care, solar power, storm water management, composting, and more recently, the problems associated with rodenticides.

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ARMN member, Kent Taylor, mans the Enviro-Booth with Halloween-themed display. October 29, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Toni Genberg)

The organization I share most of my time with and thoroughly enjoy volunteering for is Earth Sangha. At first it was because I was interested in native plants and the fact that much of life depends on them (I think all of it?) but now I’m fully vested in this non-profit because of the blood, sweat, and tears that founder, Lisa Bright, and the rest of the Earth Sangha family sheds in their mission to restore our natural areas. I’m one of currently four Nursery Volunteer Supervisors. This means I help wrangle volunteers of all ages at Earth Sangha’s Wild Plant Nursery but mostly I do what all the other invaluable volunteers do: weed, water, repot, collect and clean seed, remove invasive plants, and plant wild areas with Earth Sangha’s lovingly raised native species.

 What brought you to ARMN?

A long-time proponent of critters, I wanted to do the right thing on my own property when it came to gardening. So when a master gardener neighbor invited me to a lecture by entomologist Dr. Doug Tallamy, I naturally went. There were not only master gardeners in attendance but also people with the intriguing title of Virginia Master Naturalist. Master Naturalist? What’s that? It certainly sounded like something I wanted to be a part of. I chatted that evening with some very like-minded people who were earthy and kind and my mind was made up. I knew I wanted to pursue my master naturalist certification. I later met an ARMN member who confidently stated that Arlington was the best chapter to enroll in. Earth Sangha’s close relationship with ARMN sealed my fate. I graduated with the fabulous Class of Spring 2014. Oh, about the Doug Tallamy talk: his argument for native plants was undeniably life-changing.

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Toni’s Audubon at Home certified wildlife garden. (Photo courtesy of Toni Genberg)

What do you like most about ARMN?

No doubt ARMN is an amazing organization because of the people. There are all these members with the common goal of helping Mother Earth by generously donating their free time—what better group of people to associate with? The naturalists I’ve met also have an incredible amount of knowledge and enthusiastically want to share it all. When I think about ARMN and the friendships I’ve made, it’s clear that I’ve found my environmental family.

What would others find interesting about the non-ARMN parts of your life?

For about four years I was one of the video editors of the environmental news magazine, “Earth Focus.” It was my first headlong plunge into the issues facing the planet. Some of the topics covered were fracking, nuclear power, neonicotinoids, the changing climate, everyday chemicals, trash, wolves, elephants . . . you name it; if it was hurting people or the environment, we had a story for it. Although most of what we covered was quite depressing, it ultimately opened my eyes and helped shape me into a better steward of the earth.

Tell us something about your childhood/adulthood experiences that shaped your perspective on nature.

I was born and raised in Hawaii where the balmy outdoors was always beckoning. And like most of the other local country kids, I spent a good portion of my free time outside—playing in the ocean, investigating tide pools, climbing trees, riding my bike, or exploring some wild area. Hawaii has an inordinate number of crawly things so these creatures were also a part of my everyday life. I liked to play with spiders and salamanders and was always eager to find a rock to overturn. With no regrets I regularly chased my dismayed sister with large garden spiders—always returning the arachnids unharmed, of course. My mother has always cared deeply for all animals and I definitely inherited that love from her.

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Toni as a young child with dove in Hawaii.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Leaving as small a footprint as possible is a way of life for my husband, Marc, and me. Granted, we’re far from perfect but we’re always looking to do more for the health of the environment. Refusing plastic, for instance, instead of taking it and thinking it’ll be recycled, because odds are it won’t, is a perfect example. It’s easy enough to carry reusable items like a water bottle, utensils, bags, and the like. I also believe in making sound purchases while striving to be even less of a consumer. Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson is a wonderful book with many green philosophies. Not wasting tangible things is the main focus but it’s also about saving time and living simply. Are Marc and I ready to live in a thatched lean-to with zero electricity? That would be a “heck no.” But we definitely can strive for a less impactful lifestyle.

2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service Opportunities

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The Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is a nationally recognized day of service. ARMN welcomes members of the public to join master naturalists for various earth-friendly projects in the area to honor the spirit of Dr. King. Here is a list of habitat restoration and invasive removal activities both for the weekend prior to MLK Day as well as the official holiday, Monday January 16, 2017. We hope to see you at one or more of these events that will make a significant difference to the health of our local environment.

If there is any question about the weather, where to meet, what to bring, or any other concerns, please contact the leader ahead of time.

Day

Date Location Time Contact
Friday Jan 13 Marie Butler Leven Preserve, Fairfax County

 

1–3pm Matt Bright

RSVP/confirm

Saturday Jan 14 Nauck Woods, Arlington 10am–Noon Nora Palmatier RSVP/confirm
Saturday Jan 14 Fraser Preserve, Fairfax County Noon–3pm Margaret Chatham

RSVP/confirm

Saturday Jan 14 Madison Manor Park, Arlington 1–4pm Jo Allen
Saturday Jan 14 Gulf Branch Park, Arlington 2–4:30pm Jennifer Soles
Sunday Jan 15 Long Branch Park, Arlington 2–4pm Steve Young
Monday Jan 16 Culpepper Gardens, Arlington 10am–3pm Linda Y. Kelleher RSVP/confirm

 

Monday Jan 16 Nauck Woods, Arlington 10am–Noon Nora Palmatier RSVP/confirm

 

Monday Jan 16 Dora Kelley Nature Park, Alexandria (N. Morgan St. entrance near N. Beauregard St.) 10:15am–12:15pm And/OR

1–3pm

Mary Farrah

RSVP/confirm

Thank you!

When Absence of Evidence is Evidence of Presence

by Steve Young (text and photos)

ARMN member Steve Young shares a winter bird-watching tip.

There are many times that birds will help us find predators, especially birds of prey like hawks and owls. Smaller birds will start making a fuss with vocalizations and sometimes will mob the predator and surround it, and even dive at it or chase it when it flies. Many of us have experienced this phenomenon in our yards or on nature walks, and may or may not have been aware of what was going on.

But there are other times when the very absence of activity is a sign that a predator may be nearby. Songbirds have reason to fear the bird-eating accipiters that we usually call hawks. One of the most common accipiters we see in our area is the Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii). While this bird is a year-around resident of our area, at this time of year we get an influx of Cooper’s Hawks that migrate from further north for the winter. They are easier to spot when the trees are leafless. They also seem to specialize in staking out bird feeders where they can try to pick off some fast food on the wing.

If you know a spot where there are usually a lot of birds, whether your back yard or a favorite place further out in nature, be alert for times when the birds seem to have disappeared and it’s unusually quiet. Perhaps you will hear an occasional high-pitched, momentary alarm call. This may be a sign that a Cooper’s Hawk is in the area and its potential prey birds are hiding. This hawk likes to perch and wait for an opportunity, and you may have to look carefully for them because they can be hard to spot.

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Forest view . . . can you see the hawk?

 

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The same photo with a zoom lens.

 

Several days ago in mid-December I noticed the almost complete lack of any bird movement around my house. The day before, the birds had been very busy, active to both my eyes and ears. But on this day, for hours I had seen and heard nothing. I assumed there was an accipiter in the area, most likely a Cooper’s Hawk. I stepped out on my front porch and heard the mewing sound of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius). I looked and looked, but could not find it. But then, about 100 feet away, I finally saw it—a Cooper’s Hawk perched in the neighbor’s maple tree, blending in, like a ghost. The bird stayed there for many minutes, motionless except for the movement of its head scanning for prey, and an occasional bit of preening. I cautiously came closer to it and was able to get several photos.

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Close-up of Cooper’s Hawk.

 

After watching the hawk for about 15 minutes, I had to turn my attention elsewhere, and it eventually left. I don’t know whether it caught the Sapsucker or something else. However, I did notice that the other birds returned to my back yard.

This is a great time of the year to watch birds on the bare trees and listen for calls, especially anything unusual. It may be a warning of a Cooper’s Hawk really close by.

Powhatan Springs Skatepark: An ARMN Community Work-in-Progress

by Bill Browning

Bill Browning, an ARMN Board member and dedicated volunteer, recounts how he and fellow ARMN member, Matt Parker, spearheaded an effort to revive the neglected wooded area of Powhatan Springs Skatepark with the help of the community.

Following our graduation from the Fall 2013 ARMN Basic Training course, Matt Parker and I were looking for a volunteer project that we could make our own. Jim Hurley, ARMN’s then Vice President and Service Committee Chair, was only too happy to give us some ideas. In December 2013, Jim took us on a tour of a three+ acre site that was in need of some TLC behind Powhatan Springs Skatepark on Wilson Boulevard. The park was a good candidate because it was small enough for us to make a significant contribution even if we were the only two people working on it. Further, the park had a number of stately trees covered in ivy and we were sure we could remove it without a lot of supervision.

Known as Reeves Run, the park was once part of the historic Reevesland farm, which was the last operating dairy farm in Arlington. When the farm ceased operation in 1955 and was mostly subdivided and sold, Reeves Run began a long period of neglect. Indeed, the day Jim, Matt, and I walked through it, we could barely bushwhack our way through the site because of dense coverage of Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora) and a depressing accumulation of trash.

Jim saw the potential value of the site as a natural habitat. He noted that an Arlington County botany study listed almost 90 species in that area including a couple important large trees. This is impressive for such a tiny plot. Plus, Jim noted that the park contained the County champion Red Mulberry (Morus rubra). We also discovered that someone, many years ago, installed a wire fence around the Red Mulberry and the tree grew into the fence, becoming deeply embedded into it.

Jim was sure that we could make a significant positive impact, even if we just cut the invasive English Ivy (Hedera helix) and Creeping Euonymous (Euonymus fortunei) that was strangling many of the large trees.

Early in 2014, Matt and I made several forays into the park. We would pick a small section each time and focus on the trees covered with invasive vines. That said, it was hard to ignore the nasty exotics on the ground. Several times I had to cut myself out of a Multiflora Rose thicket and Matt cursed the Bush Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) every time he passed it. But we focused primarily on the trees, section by section.

We soon determined that we could do more for the park with additional volunteers. So, on Earth Day 2014, we held our first community event in the park. Josh Handler of the Boulevard Manor Civic Association marshaled neighborhood resources, and Matt, Jim, and l reached out to the community at nearby Ashlawn Elementary School, as well as skatepark users and ARMN members. That first group of volunteers filled almost a dozen large trash bags with plant debris and trash. Josh also used his civic association’s website to implore neighbors to cease dumping trash and yard waste in the park.

Earth Day 2014 volunteer and their loot.

Earth Day 2014 volunteer and their loot.

We have held four other community-wide efforts since then and always have had a core group of naturalists and neighbors to target vines and other invasives. Once a volunteer attacked the Multiflora Rose exclusively; given the scratches I have experienced from their thorns, she became my hero. During another session the entire group tried to focus on Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolate). Finding and pulling the Garlic Mustard during its second year of growth was easy, but when we turned to the first year leaflets we became overwhelmed and gave up. I’ve since learned from Sarah Archer, a Natural Resources Specialist in Arlington County, that ignoring the first year leaflets of Garlic Mustard might be a good strategy because only half of them make it to the second year when they are much easier to remove. In October 2015, we began adding native plants donated by Earth Sangha. Mary Frase, a Fairfax Master Naturalist and Master Gardener, led our effort to plant seedlings of Eastern Black Walnut (Juglans nigra), Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea), Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris), Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera), Grape Vine (Vitis sp.), Boxelder (Acer negundo), Sumac (Rhus sp.), and American Bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia). Unfortunately, it appears they did not survive.

As a result of the efforts of ARMN and the Boulevard Manor Civic Association, Arlington County began to supply some professional resources to beef up the impact. This began and continues with consultations from Sarah Archer, as well as her support in body or spirit. Then the County sent Invasive Plant Control, Inc. (IPC), a contractor it uses to treat invasive plants when such remedies are more efficient than hand-pulling. For five days in June 2015, IPC treated nearly 30 invasive plant species, ranging from Norway maple (Acer platanoides) to Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) to Jet Bead (Rhodotypos scandens). And in June 2016, Lyndell Core, a County park manager, met with us to explore how to address piles of bricks, cement, wood, and fencing that may be covering an old well.

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Jet Bead. Photo courtesy of IPC, Inc.

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Multiflora Rose. Photo courtesy of IPC, Inc.

During our latest walk-through of the site, Sarah Archer said she’s exploring ways the County may help in the near future. Possibilities include spot chemical treatment of Japanese Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) by County staff, and if there’s money, IPC’s treatment of English Ivy and euonymous on the forest floor.

At this point, I can proudly report that the park is coming back to life! In April 2016, we found Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) and this October, we discovered a literal sea of American Pokeweed (Phytolacca Americana).

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Skunk cabbage. Photo courtesy of Bill Browning.

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American Pokeweed. Photo courtesy of Bill Browning.

But there’s still a ton of work to do. Under the Pokeweed are likely masses of Garlic Mustard waiting to emerge next spring. There is also concern about deer from nearby Upton Hill that graze the property.

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Garlic mustard. Photo courtesy of Bill Browning.

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Evidence of deer rubbing. Photo courtesy of Bill Browning.

All in all, we are very proud of the glory to which Powhatan Skatepark is returning. On a recent walk along Wilson Boulevard, Josh Handler commented that he was struck by “how much better the ‘skyline’ of the park looks from a few years ago—devoid of the overgrown invasives on the trees.” We hope you can check it out this view yourself—or even better—pitch in on a future restoration event there.

For anyone interested in pursuing restoration of a park or other public area, please let ARMN know! Members of the community cannot remove plants (even invasive ones) from public land without permission. ARMN can assist in contacting the right offices and with assembling volunteers to do the work. Send your requests for assistance to “Contact Us” in the navigation bar above.

Teaching the Next Generation About the Environment

by Lisa Stern

ARMN member Lisa Stern describes the dedicated work of another ARMN volunteer, Jennifer Frum, to engage Gunston Middle School sixth graders by providing hands-on experience in pulling invasive plants.

(Photos by Lisa Stern, unless otherwise indicated)

The best lessons in life are the ones in which we have the opportunity to participate. And, if we are lucky, these experiences are guided by teachers and mentors who want to encourage the learning process by letting us get our hands into the project.

Several times a year for the past six years, Gunston Middle School sixth-grade science teacher Luz Chamorro has been heading a special project with lead ARMN volunteer and mentor, Jennifer Frum. The project started as trash cleanup around the school. However, as the cleanup progressed, Chamorro noticed invasive plants taking over spaces around the school. What started as trash cleanup became a lesson in helping the environment by pulling invasive plants.

Gunston sixth-grade science teacher Liz Chamorro

Gunston sixth-grade science teacher Luz Chamorro

Jennifer Frum wrestles with English Ivy.

ARMN volunteer Jennifer Frum wrestles with English Ivy.

 

Over the years, the project has been supported by a number of other ARMN volunteers— including Mary Van Dyke, Judy Hadley, and Bill Browning—and Arlington County. Six Americorps volunteers also assisted one year. But steadfastly, Jennifer Frum has been the lead ARMN volunteer for the project, organizing the effort year after year and ensuring that Chamorro and the classes had extra help and guidance on identifying and pulling the invasive plants. Imagine six classes of 25 excited sixth graders out in the field!

Gunston sixth graders tackle invasives.

Gunston sixth graders tackle invasives. (Photo courtesy of Luz Chamorro)

On a recent Thursday in October, Frum explained to one of the classes that in order to restore habitat for wildlife, invasive plants needed to be pulled so that native plants could survive. Standing in front of the classroom with strands of English Ivy as an example of an invasive, she explained that nonnative invasive plants don’t supply good nutrition to birds, bees, and other wildlife and that native animals need native plants for proper nutrition to survive. “If you ate ice cream every day for a week and it was your only source of food, it wouldn’t be good for you, would it?” Jennifer noted—and the class agreed. After a quick in-class lesson, the eager students headed out the door. Throughout the remainder of the day, six different classes (along with Chamorro, Frum, and parent volunteers) took turns pulling invasive plants and competing to make the largest pile.

Which class made the biggest pile of invasives?

Which class made the biggest pile of invasives?

Frum and Chamorro plan to repeat the project several times this year. The students are always excited to work outside and get a sense of helping the environment. They loved their experience so much that Jennifer Frum was touched to receive a heartfelt, handmade thank you note signed by Luz Chamorro’s students!

Thanks, Ms. Frum!

Thanks, Ms. Frum! (Photo courtesy of Luz Chamorro)

ARMN Discovers a Librarian’s Hidden Gem in the Weeds

by Noreen Hannigan

ARMN volunteer Noreen Hannigan describes efforts to restore Arlington Central Library’s native-plant gardens, a legacy of the late Lynn Kristianson.

Visitors to Arlington’s Central Library may have noticed a work in progress taking place around the rear and side entrances—restoring native-plant pollinator gardens created by a kindred spirit who sadly passed away.

A few years ago, library employee Lynn Kristianson created and maintained native-plant beds for pollinators along the rear and sides of the building. Lynn had a Masters degree in microbiology and was a native-plant enthusiast. With the library’s permission, she bought plants with her own money and tended the gardens on her own time. Lynn planted an impressive variety of flowers, including sundrops, liatris, hyssop, mountain mint, columbine, buttonbush, New York ironweed, spiderwort, and many others. Lynn even placed signs around the gardens with the names of each native plant.

Lynn and her husband were also recreational bicyclists. In February 2014, Lynn was cycling on a country road and was struck by a hit-and-run driver. She was seriously injured and struggled to recover, but unfortunately died in June 2015.

After Lynn’s accident, the library staff did its best to keep the weeds back but were unable to work in the garden on a regular schedule. The invasive plants had their way in the end and the signage became weathered and faded.

Invasive plants take over Central Library's gardens

Invasive plants took over Central Library’s gardens. (Photo courtesy of Yu-Hsin Hsu)

ARMN member Yu-Hsin Hsu was leaving the library one day and saw a library employee frantically pulling weeds. Yu-Hsin talked to her and learned that the library was trying to clean up the garden in time to hold a dedication ceremony in Lynn’s memory. Although not an experienced gardener, Yu-Hsin jumped in and started helping. She returned every week, rain or shine, to work on the weeds. A few weeks later, I joined in on the effort.

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Central Library’s gardens begin to recover. (Photo by Noreen Hannigan)

The library held its memorial ceremony in June 2016, placing a plaque to Lynn’s memory. ARMN has now adopted “Lynn’s Garden” as a service project with the hope of keeping Lynn’s good work going.

Lynn’s husband Gordon, a retired construction manager, later designed and installed a lovely pergola in the sunny part of the garden. We envision it covered in coral honeysuckle next summer.

In addition to the groundcover weeds, one plant in particular, a kind of aster called Boltonia asteroides, had seeded itself aggressively and was growing in thick clumps throughout the garden. Although a native itself, it overtook many of the other native plants. So, the decision was made to remove the Boltonia. In its place were vestiges of Lynn’s natives that, happily, came back as spring and summer wore on.

Boltonia asteroides at Arlington Central Library

Boltonia asteroides at Arlington Central Library (Photo by Noreen Hannigan)

Another challenge was remedying the conditions around the line of four river birch trees planted in the library’s berm garden. The trees are mature and beautiful, but they are surrounded by pavement on all sides and the soil is very hard, dry, and rocky. They experienced some significant leaf drop during the hot spells, but the library has allowed us to use the outdoor faucets for watering. Now we are looking for ways to spruce up the berm garden without impacting the birch trees.

There is much work yet to be done.  We will have periodic volunteer work parties to bring Lynn’s Garden back to the way it was when she was alive. Check the Volunteer tab on the homepage of this website for updates. If you have a few hours here and there, we’d love to see you there.

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Dedication plaque (Photo by Noreen Hannigan)

 

 

ARMN Volunteers in the Making

Article and photos by Suzanne Dingwell 

ARMN member Suzanne Dingwell provides a firsthand account of the launch of the latest Master Naturalist training class.

Expectations and energy levels were running on high settings on the night of Tuesday, September 6, when the newest class of ARMN trainees came together for the first time. The new group is full of motivated people who are primed to “Go!” They come from many walks of life, but all have the same desire to learn more about the natural world unique to Virginia. And, importantly, they want to make meaningful contributions to our local community by educating others and improving environmental conditions. During the ice-breaker activity, the folks quickly shared with each other their backgrounds and their hopes for using their newly acquired skills at training’s end.

 

Behind the scenes, the ARMN Training Committee had been hard at work, scheduling talks and field trips, getting materials, putting notebooks together, and assembling the bag of resources each new trainee received the first night. Trainees were eager to delve into the carefully chosen collection of books related to our local natural world.

Past-president Caroline Haynes was on hand to remind the class of the mission statement of Virginia Master Naturalists and the commitment to volunteer. Certified Master Naturalist volunteers give 40 hours of their time each year (and many give far more! ) to help provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities.

Basic information about the course and the Master Naturalist organization was shared and —as a taste of things to come—the class put their detective skills to work on some mysterious tree branches. Using a simple dichotomous key in one of their new books, Common Trees of Virginia, they deduced that the tree was a mulberry. A lively discussion ensued over the question of white mulberry versus red!

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Matt Bright (right) and Kyle Chapman confer over tree identification.

It was such a pleasure to be on hand for this new beginning; I was inspired and impressed by the knowledge, passion, and commitment demonstrated by this latest group of ARMN trainees. Welcome! I can’t wait to be out there volunteering at your side.

Barcroft Magnolia Bog Restoration Project Receives 2016 Achievement Award

The Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) recently recognized Arlington County’s Department of Parks and Recreation’s (DPR) Barcroft Magnolia Bog Restoration Project with a 2016 Achievement Award. VACo described this innovative program “as a model for natural resource management in urban areas by highlighting opportunities to incorporate community groups in environmental stewardship activities.” http://www.vaco.org/pressreleases/16releases/16programdescription.pdf.

The Barcroft magnolia bog occurs as a collection or mosaic of 18 separate springs that create wooded wetlands within a 25-acre undeveloped portion of Barcroft Park in South Arlington. The bog ranks as one of only two dozen such bogs known in the world and gets its name from the Sweetbay Magnolias (Magnolia virginiana) that grow naturally there.

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Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), the signature plant of magnolia bogs. (Photo courtesy of Greg Zell)

The bog area lies just steps away from baseball fields, picnic areas, and tennis courts in Bancroft Park. Nearby development, changes in the water table, invasive plants, and other environmental stressors have all taken a toll on this globally rare ecosystem.

The bogs were identified by botanist Rod Simmons in 2004 and brought to the attention of Greg Zell, then chief naturalist at the Long Branch Nature Center. Zell and Simmons immediately began a series of field studies to document the presence of both state and globally rare wetlands. Several dozen locally rare wetland plants were found that grow nowhere else in Arlington. As a result, a plan to protect and restore this natural treasure was drafted. The draft became the basis for DPR’s five-year-long Barcroft Magnolia Bog Restoration Project. The goals of the plan were to:

  • Preserve high-value natural lands through removal of nonnative plant species and targeted reforestation of extant species.
  • Restore degraded wetlands through re-introduction of historically appropriate native plant species and wildlife.
  • Stabilize the hydrologic regime to former conditions where possible to favor long-term stability of wetland plant communities.
  • Develop a holistic plan that favors an ecosystem approach to ecological management of the site.

To implement the plan, Arlington County staff partnered with AmeriCorps and volunteers from ARMN, the Windgate townhome community, Earth Sangha, the Virginia Native Plant Society, and the Remove Invasive Plants (RIP) group to inventory the bog’s plants, remove invasive plants, build a vernal pool, and install locally sourced native plants. The work extended to areas around the bog to stabilize and protect it.

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Greg Zell supervises the removal of invasive plants from the floodplain adjacent to the bog area. (Photo courtesy of Christ Bright)

In 2011, DPR also received a grant to restore an additional 13 acres of the Barcroft magnolia bog area and to provide for outreach to Arlington residents about invasive plants and the restoration work. In 2012, AmeriCorps helped the County expand existing wetlands near the bogs, release Wood Frog eggs in the new vernal pools, conduct further inventories at the site, and help to lead additional volunteer events. In 2013, County staff and ARMN members re-introduced local ecotype native species to the bog area.

Today, the bog and its surrounding buffer are nearly 90-percent free of invasive plants.  Long-lost animals and plants are returning. New colonies of Spring Peepers, Wood Frogs, Gray Fox, Yellow-crowned Night Herons, and Little Wood Satyr butterflies, as well as uncommon plants such as Dwarf Ginseng, Bloodroot, and Wood Anemone, are expanding their range inside of Barcroft Park. Long-term success will be measured through periodic plant and animal surveys.

Swamp Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) (Photo courtesy of Sarah Archer)

Swamp Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)
(Photo courtesy of Sarah Archer)

“This is a real success story for our County,” said Jane Rudolph, director of Parks and Recreation. “The bog is home to wetlands, natural forest, and more locally rare plants than any other site in the County. We want it to be here for generations of Arlingtonians to enjoy.”

Royal Fern: Osmunda regalis

Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis) (Photo courtesy of Vincent Verweij)