ARMN: Getting to Know Susan Berry

By Alison Sheahan and Susan Berry. Photos courtesy of Pablo Nuesch

ARMN’s Membership Committee posts occasional profiles of our members, including how they came to be master naturalists, which parts of nature they most enjoy, and how they affect their environment. This latest biography features ARMN Member Susan Berry, who graduated from our training class in Spring 2012. She is active in outreach and recently helped out as a mentor for the Fall 2017 class. If you know someone in ARMN with an interesting story and think others might be interested as well, please contact Alison Sheahan (

Tell us about the ARMN projects you spend time on.

My favorite projects involve interacting with the public. I love to talk with people and so I take my very limited knowledge of the natural world (almost exclusively learned from ARMN activities) and use it to participate in education and outreach at the Arlington County Fair, library events, native plant sales, community center presentations, MOM’s Organic Market store displays, and wherever else ARMN might have a table set up.

I also adore the annual Firefly Festival at Fort C.F. Smith Park. Mostly, that is a night when I talk with people about how to glue wings on their firefly necklaces and such, but it still involves interacting with people and occasionally discussing actual fireflies.

What brought you to ARMN?  How did you learn about ARMN?

A few years before I heard about ARMN, my husband and I bought some land in south Albemarle County. For those old enough to remember The Waltons TV show, our property is at “Walton’s Mountain” (actually Schuyler, Virginia).

Photo of ARMN Member Susan Berry's cabin

Susan’s cabin in Schuyler, VA.

After we bought the land, we started going to land-owner workshops sponsored by Virginia Tech. At one of them, the organizer asked that everyone who was a Master Naturalist raise their hands. All these hands went up. That was the first time I heard about the program. Then, we had a forester come out and walk our land with us, and I was overwhelmed by his knowledge and I really wanted to know more about the trees and other plants on our land. Later on, when I was looking for a volunteer activity to replace the pet therapy work I had been doing, I ran across a posting for the next ARMN class and I thought, maybe I could do that.

What has surprised you about ARMN?

I never thought that it would lead to my holding a snake at the County Fair while children petted it.

What do you like most about ARMN?

There are so many things I could choose, but one thing I love is the wonderful emails that show up in my box every day. I will never forget getting that first email asking for people to show up for Salamander Patrol. I thought, “Where else can you find a group of people who send emails like this?”  They know so much and are engaged in so many activities. Even though I cannot volunteer a lot of hours due to my work and other obligations, I feel connected with ARMN every day.

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

I grew up in Williamsburg, Virginia. My mother was a guide for Colonial Williamsburg, and I worked there in the summers and on school holidays. My mother loved gardens and was trained to give special garden tours in Williamsburg. When I was in elementary school, I had to do a report for science class, and my mother suggested that it be on the various hollies found in Virginia. We drove all over and collected specimens together, and later I proudly presented my report, which included a detailed description of Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon holly). I know very few plants by their botanical names, but I’ll never forget that one.

What is your background?

I studied theatre as an undergrad at the University of Virginia and later got an M.A. in theatre from the University of South Carolina. I worked at various small professional theatres and community theatres and eventually figured out that I needed another line of work if I wanted to eat and pay the rent. After deciding that law was the closest thing I could get to theatre, I went to law school and have now been working in immigration law for about 20 years.  I met my husband in law school. He is the one who took most of the pictures that were featured in a backyard habitat display that we used for many years at different ARMN events.

Photo of an ARMN backyard habitat display

Susan’s backyard habitat display.

What would people find interesting about the non-ARMN part of your life.

I have been figuring out how to take what ARMN has taught me into other parts of my life. I am a ruling elder at Fairlington Presbyterian Church and have been helping the church make decisions about its property. That is particularly important now because we just sold a portion of our parking lot for an affordable housing project and there will be new landscaping going on throughout our property as we shift things around, so I would like to promote the use of native plants, wherever possible. I am also in the process of helping the church become an official Earth Care Congregation within the Presbytery. I have learned that one of the things most young people care about when they are looking for a church home is how the church acts in relationship with the earth.   So, I am working to focus some of the energy of our small congregation toward being more sustainable.

Tell us something unusual about yourself.

I don’t use a cell phone.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

It was because of all I have learned with ARMN that I was motivated to convert the front slope of the home my husband and I bought in Alexandria four years ago from a bank of English Ivy to a mostly native plant garden. I got my husband on board and we both hacked away at the ivy while simultaneously collecting plants from native plant sales to install. I also got a lot of golden ragwort from a weeding party at ARMN’s demonstration garden at Potomac Overlook Regional Park. Shortly after we finished the “conversion,” we got a letter from the City of Alexandria saying we were going to be given a beautification award. We thought it was a scam until we found out that there really is an Alexandria Beautification Commission and they really do drive around the city and select properties for awards. So, we ended up receiving our award from the mayor in a very nice ceremony in the fall of 2016. If it were not for ARMN, we certainly would not have been able to achieve this.

Photo of ARMN Member Susan Berry's front yard with native plants

Susan’s yard after removal of ivy and installation of mostly native plants.

Photo of ARMN Member Susan Berry with her Alexandria Beautification award.

Susan with her Alexandria Beautification award.


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.


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!


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.


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


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.

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.


Jet Bead. Photo courtesy of IPC, Inc.


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).


Skunk cabbage. Photo courtesy of Bill Browning.


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.


Garlic mustard. Photo courtesy of Bill Browning.


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.

ARMN Member Mary McLean Wins Bill Thomas Award


Mary McLean in Tuckahoe Park

The Arlington Regional Master Naturalists proudly announce that on April 21, 2015, ARMN member Mary McLean was named a recipient of the Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Volunteer Award for her work in 2014.

McLean is a steward at Tuckahoe Park in Arlington and her specialty is invasive plants. Since the early 2000s, she has enlisted the help of neighbors, volunteer and school groups, and many others to transform the park and educate them on how to spot a non-native plant species. As a result, Tuckahoe has benefitted from a significant decline in non-native, invasive species, restored health of the native trees, and the return of native shrubs and ground cover.

In addition, McLean has also conducted focused tours and presentations on Tuckahoe Park’s underground stream and other ecological wonders to help educate and motivate others to join in the beautification effort. She also has volunteered at and served professionally as the Outdoor Learning Coordinator at Tuckahoe Elementary School. In those roles, she has worked with teachers, volunteers, and students in Tuckahoe Park on restoring habitat, planting natives, controlling erosion, and learning the natural history of the park.

Continue reading

Earth Month 2015: Ways to Show You Care

April is Earth Month, and events to commemorate Earth Day’s 45th anniversary are right around the corner! Here are a number of opportunities––open to all––to participate in cleanups, view gardens with native plants that beautify and support local wildlife, learn how to take care for the environment, and celebrate our home on Earth.

Spring Garden Tour in Arlington Forest, Sunday April 19, 12 – 4 pm

233 N. Galveston St., Arlington VA, and 210 N. Evergreen St., Arlington, VA. Visit two properties in the same neighborhood with different approaches to native-plant gardening. This event is sponsored by the Potowmack Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society and is free and open to the public. No reservations are necessary.

Alexandria Earth Day Celebration!, Saturday, April 25, 10 am – 2 pm

Ben Brenman Park, 4800 Brenman Park Drive [].This free event will include children’s activities, exhibits by community groups, food sales, tree sales, recycling, an Arbor Day tree planting, and a musical performance.

You can also show your concern for Mother Earth by participating in these volunteer opportunities::

Saturday, April 18, 2 – 4 pm, Madison Manor Park,

6225 12th Rd. N., Arlington, VA. Contact: Jo Allen, 703-474-2671,

Saturday, April 18, 10 am – 12 pm, Tuckahoe Park,

2400 N. Sycamore St., Arlington, VA. Contact: Mary McLean, 703-966-2047,

Sunday, April 19, 2 – 5 pm, Long Branch Park,

625 S. Carlin Springs Rd., Arlington, VA. Contact: Steve Young, 571-388-8508,

Saturday, April 25, 10 am – 3 (Lunch included!), Arlington Mill/ Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing site along Four Mile Run, 909 S. Dinwiddie St. (on Columbia Pike), Arlington, VA. Contact: Patricia Findikoglu, 703-975-8292,

Saturday, April 25, 10 am – 12 pm, Benjamin Banneker Park,

6620 N. 18th St., Arlington, VA. Contact: Eric Sword, 571-338-8508,

Sunday, April 26, 10 am – 12 pm, Ft. Bennett Park,

2220 N. Scott St., Arlington, VA. Contact: Mary McCutcheon, 703-217-8850,







Got CabIn Fever? Try the Invasives-Pull Cure!

Barcroft workgroup posed with ARMN banner

Photo by Jim Hurley

Does this grinding winter weather have you feeling cooped up and claustrophobic? Get out and get moving at one of March’s scheduled invasive pulls. Take out your frustrations on plants that don’t belong in our area’s lovely parks. Dress for the weather, wear rugged shoes or boots, and bring your own gloves and drinking water.

The public is welcome to join the efforts of ARMN members and others at any of these events. Those with a * occur regularly. If the weather is iffy, contact the listed organizer for event status.

*First Saturday HOG (Haley Park, Oakridge, Gunston) Pull, March 7

2400 S. Meade St., Arlington, 9 to 11 am                                                                             Contact Marti Klein:

Monticello Park Invasives Pull, March 7 & 8

320 Beverly Drive, Alexandria, 1 to 3 pm Saturday & 2 to 4 pm Sunday                             Contact Phil Klingelhofer:

*Second Sunday Gulf Branch Park Invasives Pull, March 8

3608 Military Rd., Arlington, 2 to 4:30 pm                                                                             Contact Jen Soles:

*Third Saturday Tuckahoe Invasives Pull, March 21

6550 26th St. N., Arlington, 10 am to 12 pm                                                                       Meet at school parking lot.                                                                                                   Contact Mary McLean:

*Third Saturday Madison Manor Park Invasives Pull, March 21

6625 12th Rd. N., Arlington, 2 to 4 pm                                                                                 Contact  Jo Allen:

*Third Sunday Long Branch Park Invasives Pull, March 15

625 S. Carlin Springs Rd., Arlington, 2 to 5 pm                                                                     Contact Steve Young:

*Fourth Sunday Fort Bennett Park Invasives Pull, March 22

2200 N. Scott St., Arlington, 10 am to 12 pm                                                                       Contact Mary McCutcheon:

*Fourth Saturday Benjamin Banneker Park Invasives Pull, March 28

6620 18th St. N., Arlington, 10 am to 12 pm                                                                       Contact Eric Sword:

Powhatan Springs Park Invasives Pull, March 28

6020 Wilson Boulevard, 10 am to 12 pm                                                                          Contact Bill Browning:

MLK Day Service Opportunities

The Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is now nationally recognized as a day of service. On January 19, join ARMN volunteers and other like-minded community members at these earth-friendly projects at the times and locations listed. You can also take advantage of upcoming weekend service opportunities listed here in the spirit of Dr. King. We hope to see you at one or more of these events, which are open to the public.

  • ARMN and APAH Join to Save Trees from English Ivy

ARMN will partner with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing to train and lead volunteers in saving trees from the choking hazard of English Ivy at the APAH Columbia Grove property and nearby Bailey’s Branch Park.

Time: Volunteers are needed for both morning and afternoon shifts

Location: Columbia Grove is at 1010 S. Frederick St., Arlington

Contact: Please register with Emily Button ( if you plan to come.

  • Invasive Plant Removal at Gulf Branch Nature Center

Gulf Branch naturalist Jen Soles will lead an invasive plant pull at the park.

Time: 1 – 4 pm

Location: Gulf Branch Nature Center, 3608 Military Rd., Arlington

Contact: Jen Soles (

  • Fraser Preserve Japanese Barberry Removal

ARMN volunteer Margaret Chatham will lead removal of Japanese Barberry from Fraser Preserve, a Nature Conservancy property in Great Falls.

Time: 12 – 4 pm

Location: Meet at corner of Springvale Rd. and Allenwood Lane, Great Falls (street parking)

What to wear/bring: Wear layers, sturdy, waterproof boots, and heavy leather gloves. Bring own water (There are no “facilities,” though.); garden forks and strong hand clippers are optional.

Contact: E-mail Margaret Chatham ( if you plan to come. Call 703.785.8175 after 11 am on MLK Day to check on conditions or if you arrive after the group has gone into the woods. (This number not answered at other times.)

Note: Workday cancelled for frozen ground or heavy precipitation.

Can’t volunteer on MLK Day itself? Consider these two service opportunities on the holiday weekend:

  • Winter Tree ID and RiP Invasive Plant Pull at Tuckahoe Park, January 17

ARMN member Mary McLean will conduct a winter tree identification and follow it with removal of invasive plants at Tuckahoe Park.

Time: 9 – 9:45 am (tree ID); 10 am – 12 pm (invasives pull)

Location: Tuckahoe Park, 2400 North Sycamore St., Arlington

Contact: Mary McLean (

  • Third-Sunday RiP Invasive Pull at Long Branch Park, January 18

ARMN volunteer Steve Young will lead the monthly invasive plant pull at Long Branch Park.

Time: 2 – 4 pm

Location: Long Branch Nature Center Park, 625 S. Carlin Springs Rd., Arlington (Meet in parking lot)

Contact: Steve Young (

Alexandria Neighborhood Presentation on Choking Hazard Campaign

By Christine Matthews

My neighborhood in Alexandria (Beverley Hills), which borders Monticello Park, is known for its beautiful mature trees. Unfortunately, storms, age, and construction have claimed many of them and English ivy threatens to overtake many that remain. So, I was happy to be able to put my training from the Choking Hazard campaign to good use at the April meeting of our citizens’ association ( Using the Powerpoint template on the website as a guide, I created a presentation incorporating photos and details from our neighborhood. Given the casual nature of the meeting and the evening’s prior presentations, I opted not to set up my computer and projector and just talked about the Choking Hazard campaign using the handout as a guide.

The 30 or so people in the room were highly receptive and most were aware of the damage ivy can do to trees. Continue reading

Choking Hazard – English Ivy Threatens Virginia’s Trees

By Caroline Haynes

ARMN volunteer removes English ivy off a suffocating tree. Photo by R. Olsen.

To the passing eye, English ivy seems like a lovely little green plant. But, it is actually a serious threat to the beautiful trees that give yards and neighborhoods shade and character.

Ivy strangles trees. It can accelerate tree rot by holding moisture close to the tree bark, while also stealing the trees’ nutrients and water. This aggressive little green plant can actually cause mature trees to fall down during storms by adding massive weight to overburdened branches.

“Our trees add financial value to our properties and quality to our lives. Continue reading