It’s Time to Plant Natives!

Text and photos by Kasha Helget

With longer daylight hours, warming soils, and the return of birds and butterflies, we want to spend more time outdoors. It’s a perfect time to install beautiful native plants that also benefit the critters that depend on them. So, please consider a few—or several native plants to brighten your yard, patio or deck!

Why Choose Native Plants?

Because they’re “from here,” natives are adapted to our climate and soil conditions. They are often the only or most healthful source of nectar, pollen, seeds, and leaves for local butterflies, insects, birds, and other animals. Other benefits of native plants are that they:

  • do not require fertilizers and 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!
Photo of Black Eyed Susans

Black-eyed susans (Rudbeckia fulgida) and Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum, “Prairie Sky”)

How to Choose the Right Natives for Your Yard or Pots?

It’s important to install the right plants for your conditions (wet, dry, shade, sun, slope, bog, soil type, etc.). How do you know what’s right for you? One of the best sources is the Plant Nova Natives website:, with easy-to-follow tips, lots of photos, and additional links to learn what will work for your situation.

Photo of Christmas fern

Christmas fern (Polistichum acrostichoides)

Where Can You Buy Natives?

Most commercial nurseries do not carry a lot of native plants. If you have a favorite place that has a weak selection, tell them that you’d love if they could stock more. But no matter; this is also the best time of year to visit a growing number of native plant sales in the area (many of which provide food, entertainment, and fun for kids, too). Here is information on several in Northern Virginia and one in District of Columbia. Happy shopping and planting!

Photo of Blue false indigo

Blue false indigo (Baptisia australis)

Spring 2018 Native Plant Sales

Friends of Riverbend Park, Native Plant Sale
Pre-order through 03/16/2018. Order Online for pick up May 4
Sale 05/05/2018
8am to 11am
The Grange: 9818 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls, VA
Features plants native to the Potomac River Gorge.
Visit the Sale Site

 Friends of the National Arboretum, Lahr Symposium and Native Plant Sale
9am to 4pm
U.S. National Arboretum: 3501 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC Sale located in R Street parking lot at Arboretum.
Visit the Sale Site

Potowmack Chapter Weekly Plant Sale
From April 4th through October is a low-key WEEKLY plant sale on the first Wednesday of each month at the propagation beds behind the main building at Green Springs Garden.
10am to 12pm
4603 Green Spring Rd Alexandria, VA 22312 Park Website:
Visit the Sale Site

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Native Plant Sale
9am to 3pm
Morven Park: 17263 Southern Planter Ln, Leesburg, VA
Spring and fall sales.
Visit the Sale Site

NOVA Soil & Water Conservation District, Native Seedling Sale
Order online from till 04/11/18
Pick up plants on Friday, April 20, 9am-4pm, or Saturday, April 21, 9am-noon at Packard Center, 4022 Hummer Rd, Annandale, VA.
Visit the Sale Site

American Horticulture Society, Spring Garden Market
10am to 4pm
River Farm: 7931 E. Boulevard Dr., Alexandria, VA
2 day sale, first 2 hours for members only. Includes some native plant vendors.
Visit the Sale Site

Long Branch Nature Center
Pre-order through 04/24/2017.
Order Online for pick up May 4 or 5
Sale 05/05/2018
Long Branch Nature Center 625 S. Carlin Springs Road Arlington, VA 22204
Visit the Sale Site

Northern Alexandria Native Plant Sale
9am to 2pm
The Church of St. Clement: 1701 N. Quaker Ln, Alexandria, VA Spring and fall sales.
Visit the Sale Site

Rappahannock Plant Sale at Waterpenny Farm
9am to 3 pm
53 Waterpenny Lane Sperryville, VA 22740
Visit the Sale Site

Reston Association, Spring Festival
1pm to 5pm
Walker Nature Center: 11450 Glade Drive, Reston, VA
Includes a native plant sale.
Visit the Sale Site

Earth Sangha Plant Sale
10am to 2pm
6100 Cloud Drive, Springfield, VA
Visit the Sale Site

Prince William Wildflower Society
9am to 12pm
Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church picnic area: 8712 Plantation Lane, Manassas, VA VNPS Chapter native plant sale

Green Springs Garden Day Plant Sale, Potowmack Chapter Native Plants, and other native vendors
9am to 3pm
Green Spring Gardens: 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA
Multi-vendor sale; some selling natives including the VNPS Potowmack Chapter
Visit the Sale Site


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.

ARMN Winter Book Share: Good food for the body, mind, and spirit!

by Carol Mullen, with photos by Rodney Olsen

A few times a year, folks who enjoy nature literature meet at a local restaurant for a Book Share event. Participants enjoy good food as they provide a brief overview of a book or other material that they found inspiring and useful. The most recent get-together was at Café Sazon, a Latin bakery and café in South Arlington and an enthusiastic group contributed to the discussion of several reads.

The ARMN Winter Book Share and Dinner at Cafe Sazon on Feb. 6, 2018, was a fun and informative evening. Ten ARMN members shared their favorite recently read books, magazines, authors and websites, with the primary aim of enhancing our knowledge of Virginia’s natural resources. It was a delightful hour of “A01 Continuing Education” with lively discussions on a number of topics and an opportunity to learn from each other. Cafe Sazon was an enjoyable location on a cold February night, and both the food and staff were great.

Photo of 2018 ARMN Winter book share

Book Share group enjoying the camaraderie.

Here is a list of the literature recommended by the participants at the Winter Book Share evening:

The Wonder of Birds: What They Tell Us About Ourselves, the World, and a Better Future, by Jim Robbins, 2017

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl, by Timothy Egan, 2006

Scientific American: The Science Behind the Debates, Special Collector’s Edition, Volume 26, Issue 5s, Winter 2017-2018

The Living Forest, by Joan Maloof, 2017

Among the Ancients: Adventures in the Eastern Old-Growth Forests, by Joan Maloof, 2011

Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life, by George Monbiot, 2017

The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed, John Vaillant, 2006

The Control of Nature, John McPhee, 1990

The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors, by David George Haskell, 2017

The Forest Unseen, by David George Haskell, 2013

1491, by Charles Mann, 2006

Teaching the Trees: Lessons from the Forest, by Joan Maloof, 2007

The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World – and Us, by Richard O. Prum, 2017

The Evolution Underground: Burrows, Bunkers, and the Marvelous Subterranean World Beneath our Feet, by Anthony J. Martin, 2017

The Modern Scholar: The Biology of Birds, by Professor John Kricher, 2012

The Tarantula in My Purse: and 172 Other Wild Pets, by Jean Craighead George, 1997

A Beginner’s Guide to Recognizing Trees of the Northeast, by Mark Mikolas, 2017

American Forest Magazine

The “Plant One Million Trees” Project,

Photo of 2018 ARMN Winter book share

Participants engaged in good discussions of the materials presented.

Does a book share event sound good to you? Then look for future gatherings that will be highlighted on the homepage under “Upcoming Events.” Anyone with an interest in nature may attend and you do not need a book to share—or even be an ARMN member—if you just want to hear more about the current reads. If you do have literature to share, reviews and summaries are fitting, but consider sharing a fact, insight, or observation from the material that is applicable to ARMN’s span of work. 

Here are a few other considerations:

  • This is not a book discussion group where we all read and discuss the same material.
  • Magazines or journals (or specific articles) are fine too, as are apps, websites, or any resource that enhances your knowledge of Virginia’s natural resources.
  • This is not a book swap. Feel free to bring books or magazines to give away or share if you wish, but that is optional.
  • Please consider what you can share about the book in less than 5 minutes. If there is adequate time, you can expound beyond that.
  • The book sharing portion counts as CE for ARMN members.
  • No sign-up required this time.

We hope to see you at a future Book Share event!

Flying Squirrels: Adorable Little Gliders in our Trees

by Kasha Helget

On a recent evening, adults and families gathered for a flying squirrel program at Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington. Naturalist Rachael Tolman shared some interesting facts about these little charmers and then led us outside to witness them in action.

There was a palpable sense of excitement when a group of children and “big kids” arrived at Long Branch on a recent Saturday evening for the local southern flying squirrels program. Naturalist Rachel Tolman stirred even more interest when she said that this was her favorite program, and it quickly became apparent why: they’re adorable! She began by sharing some interesting facts:

  • There are two types of flying squirrels in this country—our local southern flying squirrels (Glaucomys volans), which are 8-10 inches long (including their tales) and weigh on average a couple of ounces, and their sister northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus), which live further . . . north, are a total of 10-12 inches and weigh an average of 3 ½ ounces. All flying squirrels are nocturnal which is why we rarely see them. However, Rachael stated that they are as common as our larger diurnal (daytime) gray squirrels!
  • Flying squirrels do not actually “fly” but rather glide using skin flaps that connect their arms and bodies, called a patagium. They can glide 100 yards, although they usually only “fly” from tree to tree. As gliders, they always glide downward, and generally, for every two feet high they are, they can get about one foot of gliding distance. Once they land on a tree, they usually rapidly scurry to the opposite side to avoid becoming lunch for a pursuing predator, such as an owl.
  • A way to determine if flying squirrels are in the area is if nut shells left behind have a single circular cut to remove the nutmeats. However, their diet is varied—insects in the warmer months, and other small animals, eggs, fruits, seeds, and nuts at other times of the year. They are readily attracted to bird feeders and other feeding stations during winter.
  • Flying squirrels prefer tree cavities for nesting, and are more solitary in the summer. But in the winter, they often nest together for warmth.

After showing us flying squirrel puppets, Rachael brought out the real thing: a live southern flying squirrel that was too cute for words. It has very large eyes to better see in the dark, and was surprisingly docile.

We all got to pet it as it sat patiently on Rachael’s hand.

Photo of Naturalist Rachel Tolman presenting the southern flying squirrels program at Long Branch

Rachael Tolman holding southern flying squirrel. (Photo courtesy of Meg Jonas)


Photo of Naturalist Rachel Tolman presenting the southern flying squirrels program at Long Branch

Petting the very patient flying squirrel (Photo courtesy of Meg Jonas)

At that point, Rachael took us outside to visit the center’s own flying squirrel feeding station and winter nest box in front of the nature center. She recommends that, if people feed flying squirrels (which can be very comfortable with people close by), they should set out food about a 1/2 hour after dusk on a spot at least 10 feet above the ground. The early nighttime is when they become most active. If they’re fed regularly, they will be steady visitors. Rachael then slathered some peanut butter right on the bark of an oak tree, and placed some nuts on the roof of a nest box nearby. It took about 30 seconds for the first flying squirrels to pop onto the tree and begin licking the peanut butter and working on the nuts. Others followed shortly thereafter. It wasn’t long before we saw one in full flight between trees, which was really magical! They also scurried in and out of a hole in the nest box, likely to eat in private.

There is a high mortality rate among young squirrels, which are born in late winter and then again in the summer. Some of it is because of predators (owls, snakes, foxes, raccoons, and outdoor cats), but flying squirrels may also eat another’s young. Young squirrels also need to get the hang of gliding and can often crash in the learning phase. Those that make it to adulthood can live 3-6 years in the wild, or over double that time in captivity.

Rachael provided a handout on to build a flying squirrel nest box, and there are many online sites with instructions, too. She recommends a circular opening between 1 ¼ and 1 ½ inches in diameter and surrounded by metal to keep gray squirrels from chewing the hole larger. In addition, she suggested adding a second (escape) hole in case a snake or other predator gets into the box.

A highly recommended blog is Alonso Abugattas’s Capital Naturalist. His piece about southern flying squirrels is a delightful and informative read.

Kids and adults are welcome to sign up for flying squirrel programs, which are repeated a few times each winter. There is one more at Long Branch on Feb. 18. More information is in The Snag, the Guide to Arlington County’s Nature and History Programs.

Finally, I was SO captivated by Rachael’s presentation and Long Branch’s feeding station and nest box, that I wanted one of my own. My handy husband, Michael, put one together in a couple of days with a rooftop feeding station, a pair of entrance/exit holes, and an easy open side door for cleanups after the winter roosting is completed. We just set it up and are waiting for our first furry visitors.

Photo of southern flying squirrel nest box in ARMN Member Kasha Helget's yard

Nest box in our backyard (Photo by Kasha Helget)


Salt Management Strategy (SaMS) to Address Impacts of Road Salt in Our Region

by Kasha Helget

Many people have noticed the increased use of road salt and deicing materials in our area in recent years. These products don’t just land on roadways, parking lots, and sidewalks; they also affect the landscape, and seep into the soil, groundwater, storm drains, and surface waters with adverse impacts to aquatic life, vegetation, and wildlife as well as human health from the increased levels of salt on surfaces and in drinking water.

Salt on Lester Ct. in Fairfax County.JPG

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has tracked these changes and impacts and is working on plans to do something about it. On January 17, 2018, the DEQ and its contractors, the Interstate Commission for the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB) hosted a public meeting on the development of a Salt Management Strategy (SaMS) for the Northern Virginia region. The region includes: Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties, and the cities of Alexandria, Manassas, Manassas Park, Falls Church, and Fairfax.

Representatives of DEQ and ICPRB described some of the impacts and challenges of snow and ice management, answered questions from the audience, and provided information on how people can get involved in the process of developing a SaMS for the region.

Origin of the SaMS Strategy

The SaMS was initiated as a result of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study that DEQ completed for the Accotink Creek watershed in July 2017. The study identified chloride (salt) from snow and deicing activities that contributed to water quality impairment in the creek. The TMDL was developed with a focus on implementing best management practices such as training and certification programs and improved salt application equipment and practices. Given that existing snow and ice management practices are not limited to the Accotink Creek watershed, the SaMS is being developed with the entire Northern Virginia region in mind.

Goals and Desired Outcomes of SaMS

The two broad goals of SaMS are to: (1) provide a strategy to achieve the target chloride loads identified in the Accotink Creek TMDL and the broader surrounding region, and (2) foster collaboration among all stakeholder groups involved in winter deicing/anti-icing activities to improve practices that protect public safety and lessen the effects on the environment, infrastructure, and public health.

Procedures Going Forward

Following the January 17 public meeting to introduce SaMS, there is a comment period on the proposals till February 16, and there will be working group and stakeholder advisory committee meetings throughout the development process. There will also be another public meeting and comment period at the end of the process. The SaMS process should be completed by December, 2019.

How to Provide Public Comment by February 16

Anyone who is concerned about salt’s impacts on vegetation, wildlife, aquatic life, as well as human health and infrastructure effects may provide comments by February 16 on plans for development of the SaMS, and the Report on the Impacts of Salts on the Environment, Infrastructure; and may volunteer to participate on the Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC), which will address the SaMS issues. To comment or volunteer for the SAC, click: HERE,


See Salt Management Strategy Summary for a brief report of the project. Complete information on SaMS is located on DEQ’s website at: Salt Management Strategy Development.

For additional information on impacts of and strategies to address road salts and deicing methods, see:

New Hampshire’s Environmental, Health and Economic Impacts of Road Salt;’s Future of Conservation: The Hidden Dangers of Road Salt;
Virginia Tech’s Study finds road salt contamination in groundwater; and
Greater Greater Washington’s, Salt with care to protect your drinking water.

What’s Out There in My Yard? How to Use Camera “Trapping” for Citizen Science

Have you ever wished you could photograph animals in your yard during the day when you’re not there? Have you wondered which types of animals might be visiting your yard at night? Learn how you can capture images of elusive creatures when you’re not around.

Text and images by Louis Harrell

If you’ve ever scratched you head about which creatures dug holes, made noises, or left strange tracks, a camera trap, also known as a trail or game camera, is useful in capturing photos of wildlife when you are not present. The camera which has a motion or infrared sensor or light beam can collect information remotely with no adverse impact to the animals in the images. Besides providing an interesting record of your nocturnal guests, your photos may also be useful for scientists studying biodiversity.

Camera trap photo from ARMN Member Louis Harrell

Common grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) in flight

There are a number of considerations before you venture into this type of photography, but here are a few key factors:

What type of camera should you buy?

Before you purchase a camera trap, you need to establish a budget, decide whether you prefer an incandescent flash or infrared flash for night time photos, and find a camera with good technical performance.

Cameras can be found at a wide range of prices. Deciding how much you want to spend on a camera is essential in narrowing the scope of products you can consider. While an incandescent flash will allow you to get night time color photos, it will likely startle animals. So, a no-glow infrared flash may be preferable for capturing nocturnal images of wildlife. You should also look for the camera with the fastest trigger speed and recovery time. The camera should be able to rapidly take a photo and reset quickly for the next opportunity.

I considered cameras made by Browning and Reconyx and opted for a 2017 Browning “Spec Ops” Extreme Full HD Video model for cost reasons. When I purchased the camera, lithium batteries were supplied by the vendor. I found that they did not last long before needing replacement. Standard AA batteries have been completely satisfactory instead. Your experience may vary from mine! The Browning camera can also record video, which can be interesting but rapidly fills the SD memory card. If you want to use video, be prepared to check the camera frequently. It’s possible that you might end up with a lot of videos showing plants moving in the breeze. I have also used the time-lapse photo feature to capture series of photos showing animals approaching the pond and birds landing and flying away.

Once you find a camera with the best features for the price, you’ll need to consider where to set it up.

Camera trap photo from ARMN Member Louis Harrell

Raccoon (Procyon lotor)

What do you want to see?  

To capture the best variety of critters, locate your camera near a source of water or food. If you have a pond in your yard, creatures will appear at all hours. During the day, primarily birds and squirrels will stop by for a drink. At night, larger animals appear. Some infrared photos from my backyard are shared below. All of these images were taken with the Browning camera that I set up on my patio approximately four feet from the pond. Notice that the camera automatically captures the barometric pressure, temperature, moon phase, date, and time, which can be useful for study.

How can your photos be useful for Citizen Science?

Photos can be uploaded to iNaturalist, a crowd-sourced data collection and identification site that is used by professional and amateur naturalists around the world.


Nighttime photos with infrared flash.

Photo 2

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

Photo 3

Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana)

Camera trap photo from ARMN Member Louis Harrell

Red fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Daytime color photos.

Camera trap photo from ARMN Member Louis Harrell

Blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

Camera trap photo from ARMN Member Louis Harrell

House sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Camera trap photo from ARMN Member Louis Harrell

Eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)

2018 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service Opportunities

Martin Luther King image

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 on the weekend that includes the holiday. 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
Saturday Jan 13 Jones Point Park Potomac River Cleanup, Alexandria (Sponsored by the Potomac Conservancy) 10am-1pm Please click here to sign up.
Saturday Jan 13 Salona Meadows, Buchanan St. and Gilliams Road, McLean (Sponsored by VA Native Plant Society—Potowmack Chapter) 11am-2pm Alan Ford (for more information or to sign up).
Monday Jan 15 Culpepper Gardens, Arlington

Between the morning and afternoon sessions will be a light lunch in the auditorium and a talk about Arlington’s African American community. There will be indoor activities in case of inclement weather.  (Sponsored by Culpepper Gardens)

10am–noon, and 1:30-3:30pm (weather permitting) Linda Y. Kelleher RSVP/confirm


Monday Jan 15 Barcroft Park, Arlington (Sponsored by Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment) 10:00am–noon Please click here to sign up.
Monday Jan 15 Theodore Roosevelt Island (Sponsored by the National Park Service) 10am–2pm Trudy Roth, 202-438-6627
Monday Jan 15 Long Branch Park, Arlington (Sponsored by Arlington Regional Master Naturalists) 2–4pm Steve Young

Thank you for your service!


Active Shooter Awareness Training for Master Naturalists and Master Gardeners

Arlington County police officers recently provided active shooter training for ARMN and Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia to help volunteers plan and react to an emergency.

by Bill Browning and Kasha Helget

It is an unfortunate sign of the times that we have to be alert to possible active shooters and other threatening situations in our world. With this sobering reality, ARMN recently hosted active shooter awareness training for its Master Naturalists and the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia to help volunteers plan and react to an emergency. Four Arlington County police officers—Captain David Giroux, Sargent Chris Feltman, Corporal Beth Lennon, and Officer Mike Keen—presented information as part of their outreach to various businesses and organizations throughout Arlington County.

They emphasized the “RUN–HIDE-FIGHT” response method developed by the Department of Homeland Security, and the importance of planning ahead of time what to do if faced with an active shooter situation.

This method includes being prepared to: (1) run if you can and have an escape route in mind wherever you go—at work, schools, public venues, and even when volunteering at schools or in woods; (2) hide as a second alternative outside of the shooter’s view, block entry to your hiding space if possible, and stay quiet; and (3) fight as a last resort, but with everything you can muster.

The officers answered numerous questions about what to do if a shooter appears in your midst, ready to do serious harm. As group leaders, people in the group would look to us for what to do. So, it’s important to think about escape routes (or paths) ahead of time and act definitively.

For more information about active shooter awareness and to arrange training for your own organization, see:, but note that the contact, Lt. Robert (Bob) Medairos, has retired and is replaced by Sargent Chris Feltman.

ARMN Board Members Join Other Master Naturalist Boards for Leadership Day

by Kasha Helget

ARMN Board Members enjoy a day of leadership training hosted by the State’s Master Naturalist Program staff.

Members of the Arlington Regional Master Naturalists board attended an annual Leadership Day training in Gainesville on November 3rd. The event, which was hosted by the State’s Master Naturalist program staff, included representatives from the northern chapters of Banshee Reeks (Loudoun County), Central Rappahannock (Fredericksburg and Stafford, King George, and Spotsylvania counties), Fairfax (Fairfax County), Merrimac Farm (Prince William County), and Old Rag (Greene, Madison, Rappahannock, Culpeper, Orange, and Fauquier counties), and took place at the office of Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc.

Photo of ARMN Leadership at

Presentations and discussions at Leadership Day meeting. (Photo courtesy of Kirsten Conrad.)

Among the topics addressed during the day-long event were best practices for approving and organizing projects, strategies for retaining volunteers, working effectively as a board, and the review of new and updated administrative procedures for Virginia master naturalist organizations. Board members also got to confer with individuals in similar roles in other chapters to share experiences, advice, and effective strategies.

Participants also enjoyed spending time at and exploring the WSSI office. Its building is Virginia’s first gold LEED facility and incorporates a number of innovative design and sustainability features within the building and on the grounds. These including a walkable green roof and open concept work areas. Employees’ dogs are also allowed in the workspace. (Participants were warned to hide their snacks!)


It was a wonderfully collaborative and productive day, and the ARMN board members brought home lots of ideas and recommendations to improve oversight of the ARMN program and improve volunteer service to the community.

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

by Lisa Stern

(Photos by Kasha Helget unless otherwise noted.)

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

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

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

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

Newly planted meadow area. Photo courtesy of Glenn Tobin.

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

Photo of existing meadow.

Volunteers planted Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca),

Photo of milkweed planted at C.F. Smith park

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).

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

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

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

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

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

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium).

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

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