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.

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!

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)

Show Some Pollinator Love with a “Protect Pollinators” License Plate

ARMN member Samantha Gallagher combined a talent for graphic art—and advocacy—to make a Protect Pollinators license plate a reality in Virginia. Read on….

The efforts of ARMN’s own Samantha Gallagher just keep generating wonderful benefits for pollinators. Samantha has always loved bees and other pollinators, advocating for them from a young age. When she moved to Virginia a few years ago, she learned that the state had a specialty license plate for wildflowers, but not for pollinators. So she decided to do something about it. Using her skills as a graphic artist, Samantha designed a custom plate that features Virginia native pollinators, and in 2010, began the long process to gain approval for a Protect Pollinators license plate.

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Samantha Gallagher holds a sample Protect Pollinators license plate. Photo courtesy of Claire Harper and The Zebra.

Once she submitted the proposal to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, the hardest part of the process began: getting 450 people to commit to purchasing the license plate and pay the specialty-plate fee in advance. The effort took four long years, with Samantha attending Earth Day activities, nature festivals, and any event even vaguely connected with pollinators. During that time she also kept in touch with those who pledged to buy the plate with her upbeat reassurances that it would become a reality.

After Samantha gathered the required applications, she still needed a state legislator to sponsor a bill to approve the pollinator plate. She found a perfect ally in someone who had already introduced pro-pollinator legislation: Virginia Senator Creigh Deeds. In January 2014, Deeds introduced the bill “to authorize the issuance of special license plates for supporters of pollinator conservation bearing the legend: PROTECT POLLINATORS.” On April 6, 2014, the bill became law.

While this was a wonderful accomplishment, it isn’t the end of the story.

In the summer of 2014, Nicole Hamilton of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy had a brilliant idea. She had watched with despair as medians filled with milkweed and other wildflowers were mowed time and time again. She wondered: Can we simply change the mowing schedule to allow this valuable resource to continue growing for migrating Monarchs? And, ideally, use medians along Virginia’s highways to plant more milkweed and other native flowering pollinator plants as well? She contacted the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) regarding changes to the mowing schedule for existing patches of milkweed and scheduled a meeting with VDOT’s vegetation management. She invited Samantha to attend the initial meeting as well; while Nicole could speak about the Monarchs, Samantha could speak about our native bees.

VDOT was excited about the opportunity, but there was an issue of funding for digging up existing fescue in medians and creating new plantings. The pollinator license plates were discussed as a potential fundraiser for what would eventually become VDOT’s Pollinator Habitat Program. This program provides for naturalized areas planted with native  pollinator species along state-maintained roadways and also creates meadows and gardens with informative signage at park-and-rides and rest areas. [http://www.virginiadot.org/programs/pollinator_habitat_program.asp]

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Pollinator meadow at Dale City rest stop. Photo courtesy of Samantha Gallagher.

To make changes to the existing legislation, Samantha contacted local Senator George Barker, who agreed to sponsor an amendment to ensure that the revenue from the pollinator plate would be used strictly for the Pollinator Habitat Program. In July 2016, with more than 5,000 plates now on the road, the pollinator plates officially began generating revenue for the new program.

To learn how to get your own Protect Pollinators license plate and find out more about why this effort is so important, visit Samantha’s pollinator plate website at: http://www.pollinatorplates.com/. To read the full story of Samantha’s efforts to make the pollinator plate a reality, see Tom Sherman’s article, “The Bees, Creigh Deeds, and the DMV,” in The Zebra: http://thezebra.org/the-bees-creigh-deeds-and-the-dmv/.

 

Bird Mobs at Long Branch Nature Center

by Steve Young

ARMN member and Long Branch environmental steward Steve Young shares a mindful encounter with nature.

During a warm July morning, I found myself walking along the Long Branch Nature Center access road. Just east of Willow Pond, I began to hear a commotion among small birds. First to get my attention were the scolding alarm calls of Wood Thrushes—”Whip! Whip!” Then I began to notice other birds calling and in some cases flying around near the stream: Eastern Towhees, Common Grackles, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Wrens, Blue Jays, and undoubtedly some others I either missed or have forgotten.

To me the uproar was almost a sure sign of the presence of some predator. Birds alert each other to a predator and often “mob” it. Interestingly, even though there are crows around and they tend to be very aggressive mobbers, I heard or saw none.

I slowly walked closer to the stream, toward the epicenter of the activity, expecting to see perhaps a ground-based predator like a domestic cat or a fox, maybe with a victim in its grasp, since that would amplify the upset of the birds. But I saw nothing. Barred Owl? I looked up in the trees, but saw no owl. Finally, about 15 feet above the stream, I spotted a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk perched motionless in a tree. This was the cause of the racket. As I got close, it flew to a new perch about 3 feet away from its previous one. As soon as it moved, two grackles dived at its head. There was no more direct mobbing, but the sonic uproar continued. I took several pictures and walked on.

Red-shouldered Hawk at Long Branch (upper right in tree)

Red-shouldered Hawk at Long Branch (upper right in tree)

Had I not focused on the message from the birds and realized they could tell me something, I would never have known the silent, motionless hawk was there. The more attention we pay to nature with our various senses, the more stories nature shares.

Spring Wonders in Potomac Overlook Regional Park

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

by Joanne Hutton

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

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

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

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

Sweet Wake Robin (Trillium erectum var. vaseyi)

Sweet Wake Robin (Trillium erectum var. vaseyi)

(Trillium erectum)

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

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

Green and Gold (Chrysogonum  virginianum)

Green and Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum)

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

Photo 4 Cinnamon fern fertile spikes (Joanne Hutton)

Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) spikes

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

American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus)

American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus)

Photo 6 Baby box turtle (Elizabeth Gearin)

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

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

Remembering Jerry Shrepple

 

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

[Tributes compiled by Kasha Helget, ARMN communications chair]

Courtesy Rodney Olsen (3)

Photo courtesy of Rodney Olsen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Call to Action Against Virginia Invasives

Article and photos by Susan Austin Roth

ARMN members Susan Austin Roth and Jim Hurley are actively involved with the Blue Ridge PRISM as area stewards and as members of the Education and Outreach Working Group.

Whenever you hike in a local park or state wildlife preserve or drive along Virginia’s scenic byways, are you appalled by the obvious destruction done by invasive plants? Everywhere one goes these days, it seems the landscape is overrun with invasive vines shrouding and strangling trees and invasive shrubs and grasses obliterating the native plants we should be seeing. Unfortunately, the horror scene you observe goes unnoticed by most of the public, who think green is good and the unnatural is the way it should be and always has been.  

Birds eat the showy fruit of Oriental bittersweet and people cut stems for decoration, helping to spread the invasive plant

The tangled vines of oriental bittersweet can strange forest trees and topple them with their weight.

If you are a keen devotee of Virginia’s forests, fields, and working farms, perhaps you already volunteer in the effort to combat nonnative invasive plants by leading hand-to-hand combat efforts in a local park. But here’s another way you can help the effort on a much larger scale. A new organization dedicated to fighting nonnative invasive plants, the Blue Ridge PRISM (Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management) needs volunteer help from Master Naturalists with knowledge about invasive plants and an interest in outreach to consult with landowners. If you volunteer, you would identify invasive plants on the landowners’ properties, distribute literature, discuss effective control measures, and assist landowners in applying for PRISM grants for invasives control. The Blue Ride PRISM is also looking for volunteers to join a task force in scouting for wavyleaf grass in areas near known infestations. Training will be provided. If you do not reside in an area served by the Blue Ridge PRISM, you might consider organizing interested people to establish a similar organization in another region of the commonwealth.

The Blue Ridge PRISM is a young—but fast-maturing—nonprofit organization dedicated to raising community awareness and leading control efforts to combat invasive plants in 10 counties located on both sides of the Shenandoah National Park. It is the first CWMA (Cooperative Weed Management Area) headquartered in Virginia. Nationally, there are more than 100 such organizations, most of them in the West. The ten counties included in the Blue Ridge PRISM’s geographical range are: Albemarle, Augusta, Clarke, Greene, Madison, Nelson, Page, Rappahannock, Rockingham and Warren.

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