Sam Droege: Bee Mythbuster

by Catherine Howell

ARMN members, Master Gardeners, and others who had the good judgment to attend an information session at Fairlington Community Center on October 10 were rewarded with two hours of advanced training––and a lot of bee-themed standup, courtesy of Sam Droege.

Photo courtesy of Caroline Hayes

Photo courtesy of Caroline Haynes

Droege, a wildlife management expert with the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab, shared his vast wisdom about North American bees, their habits, and their undisputed value as pollinators, while busting some of the myths surrounding the often-misunderstood insects.

Based at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Droege has designed and carried out surveys and inventories of birds and amphibians, but bees are his current passion. His survey efforts involve photographing hundreds of the 4,000 North American bee species at close range and high definition and making them available to researchers and the public to view and use. These stunning photos can be seen at Continue reading


Potomac Overlook Park Native Shade Garden’s Second Spring

By Sue Dingwell

The Potomac Overlook Park Native Shade Garden is growing up! ARMN members have been carefully tending this little niche, encouraging the natives, discouraging the weeds, and doing battle royale with the deer. This is the garden’s second spring. Volunteers were greeted on Tuesday, April 23 with colorful blooms and  vigorous green shoots as preparations continue for the Open House at PORP on May 11.

It has been fun to watch the progress and evolution of this space, which was created to  provide education for homeowners by showcasing native plants that thrive in the shade. Joanne Hutton, who is one of the the garden’s moms, says that the Packera aurea, commonly known as Golden ragwort, has done a marvelous job of filling in, making a dense patch that keeps out weeds. In fact, ARMN volunteers had to remove some of it from the pathways and surrounds of other desirable groundcovers!

If you visit the site this week, you will be welcomed into the garden with sunny ragwort blossoms gracing the entrance.

Golden ragwort & tools.

Golden ragwort & tools.

Ragwort buds

Ragwort buds

Ragwort rhizome

Ragwort rhizome

Continue reading

Homeowners save wildlife by creating a green network across Northern Virginia

By Leigh Pickering

In the past month, seven local properties have joined the ranks of homeowners creating a green network for wildlife in Arlington and Alexandria. This critical work is intended to blunt the impact of habitat loss in our area by providing small sanctuaries desperately needed for the survival of wildlife in our increasingly urban environment. The properties range in size and style from a narrow lot in Old Town Alexandria to a wooded ravine and intermittent stream just above Chain Bridge.

The Audubon at Home program seeks to make every home a wildlife sanctuary by certifying that each property works to achieve the goals stated in the Healthy Yard Pledge. The Healthy Yard Pledge is an amalgamation of many of the topics covered in our Master Naturalist Training. The five points of the pledge include:

1. Remove invasive exotic plants.
2. Reduce or eliminate pesticide and fertilizer use.
3. Conserve and protect water, waterways and water quality.
4. Install native plants to support the local food chain.
5. Support wildlife with water, cover and food to the extent possible.

Moss Phlox (Phlox subulata) is a great evergreengroundcover for a hot sunny area. Here, on a south- facing slate patio. groundcover for a hot sunny area. Here, on a south- facing slate patio.

Moss Phlox (Phlox subulata) is a great evergreen groundcover for a hot sunny area, shown here on a south- facing slate patio.

Continue reading

Woodfrogs at Potomac Overlook Regional Park

By Joanne Hutton

If you had been out volunteering with Meet Me on a Sunday on this glorious afternoon, you too might have enjoyed the chorus of woodfrogs spawning at the pond and in vernal pools.


Thanks to Sherry McDonald for the great shot and for throwing herself into the Master Naturalist enterprise with whole heart!

Meet Me on a Sunday (MMOAS): Instituted summer of 2012, volunteers help set up and staff information or interest-area tables in Potomac Overlook Regional Park on Sunday afternoons for two hours, from 1:30 – 3:30, just outside the Nature Center. Volunteers work alongside Nature Center staff, and you are welcomed to set up your own display on a topic of your interest, or to use a range of interpretive materials already there. Most park visitors are families with young children. The Native Plant Garden is a new addition to the park, and ARMN has created a box of information and display materials on invasive and native plants to help with that.

Willing to talk with the public about most any subject of interest to you?
Want to help develop children’s activities to supplement our box?
Want to lead short nature hikes for mixed audiences – e.g. to see wood frogs in action?

If so, this activity could be for you!

Turtle Talks

By Esther Massey

… and frogs and toads and snakes. O, my! Showing the Gulf Branch reptiles to the birthday party attendees has been an absolute blast for me. As a former teacher, I really appreciate being able to enjoy the instructional part without the daily toil. Each party is different, as are the parents and the children. The children vary in ages from 3-6 and sometimes their older siblings come along as well.

Before the children and parents arrive, I decorate the room with posters and pictures availablable at the center and put up the “Private—Birthday Party” sign. I gather the materials that I intend to use for the talks on a table in the front of the room and place a cloth over them to keep the children from playing with them. The center provides puppets, skeletons, models, and other audiovisual aids to help the kids learn about the life cycle of the different reptiles and amphibians. The one they seem to like the most is the frog croak identifier. Pushing a button elicits the different calls of the specific frog. I let the kids take turns pushing the buttons. Continue reading

Join ARMN for MLK National Day of Service events

Throughout the year, ARMN volunteers contribute to a myriad of service activities that benefit our neighborhoods and communities. For Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, ARMN inivites you to join our dedicated volunteers to honor Dr. King’s legacy by participating in two of our focus service projects to restore habitat in Barcroft Park and in Tuckahoe Park.

Barcroft Park
January 19th at 9:30 am

Farrah and Brooke Alexander can barely be seen waving at the base of this "broccoli tree" that probably only had a few more years left before final choking.

Farrah and Brooke Alexander can barely be seen waving at the base of this “broccoli tree” that probably only had a few more years left before final choking. Autumn 2012, Barcroft Park.

Our main focus will be to clear ivy off the trees so that IPC (Invasive Plant Control), Arlington County’s contractor, will be able to efficiently treat the ivy remaining on the ground. After the clearing, Jim Hurley, ARMN Vice President and Chair of the Service Committee, will lead a walk to view the new plantings done in December and results of work done over the past year.

We will meet at the picnic pavilion in Barcroft Park at 9:30 am. If you park in the Barcroft recreational area  parking lot, walk past the soccer field, bear right and then cross the stream on the wood and steel bridge. Wear long pants and long sleeves. Bring gloves as well as handsaws and pruners if you have them. We will also supply gloves and tools, and garbage bags for trash pickup. If you are a little late and do not see us at the picnic pavilion, look for us near the bike path towards George Mason Drive past the power line. Continue reading

Rod Simmons on ecological restoration

By Monique Wong

How useful is the idea of planting on public lands as a part of ecological restoration? How do we create a solid conservation agenda for a natural area that is degraded in various ways? How do we know that we are getting it right? What are the pitfalls of using cultivars? What are the problems of planting to anticipate climate change, such as planting species from farther south?

These are some of the questions Rod Simmons addresses in a recent interview with Chris Bright, co-founder and President of Earth Sangha.

Rod Simmons explains the hierachy of priority in ecological restoration: preservation, stewardship, and full-bore restoration. He tells us that it is important to know the site and understand the reasons and disturbances we are dealing with. A failure to match the species to the site in a scientifically appropriate way can cause more harm. He gives multiple examples to illustrate that well-intended actions are sometimes misguided and can result in irreplacable changes.

Rod Simmons’ interview is featured in the November 2012 The Acorn, the newsletter of the Earth Sangha. A .pdf of the interview is also available here.

Rod Simmons is the Plant Ecologist for the City of Alexandria, a member of the Virginia Botanical Associates (a nonprofit scientific organization dedicated to the study of Virginia’s flora), a board member of the Virginia Native Plant Society, and Botany Chair of the Maryland Native Plant Society. A life-long resident of northern Virginia, Rod has an encyclopedic command of the local flora.

Earth Sangha, a partner of ARMN, is a nonprofit charity based in the Washington, DC area devoted to ecological restoration. Many members of ARMN volunteer regularly at the Earth Sangha Wild Plant Nursery and help with Earth Sangha sponsored events such as plant sales, seed gathering, seed cleaning, and other ecological restoration events.

Top 10 Tips for Holiday Waste Reduction

By Kent Taylor

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

1.       Reuse foam peanuts. Most packaging materials for shipping can be used more than once.

2.       Compost your leftover food. It’s easy and makes for a great fertilizer!

3.       Wrap creatively. Use comics, old maps, sheet music, fabric/wallpaper scraps. And use fun tins and food boxes you crush and recycle for gift containers.

4.       Make festive recycling bins. They’re a great addition for your holiday party and a great activity for kids.

5.       Give the gift of time or talent. Take someone to a play, concert or movie. Make your own gift certificates. Offer your talents like photography or financial planning.

6.       Help your friends go green. Give planet-conscious gifts like compost bins, can crushers, water timers, programmable thermostats, rain barrels, bird feeders, light timers or bat house.

7.       Buy outdoor light strands that are wired in parallel. If one bulb goes bad, the others still work, so you won’t be throwing away entire “bad” strands.

8.       Keep it simple. One thoughtful gift is better than six wrapped packages of unwanted gifts.

9.       Don’t wrap oversized gifts. Hide them and give clues. Make gift-giving into a treasure hunt.

10.   Plan previously-loved or homemade gift exchanges. Books, a restored piece of furniture or a rebuilt bike can be cherished for many years and by many people.

Arlington is the “South” for Many Migratory Birds

By Monique Wong

Did you know that Arlington is the “south” for many migratory birds? Welcoming Winter Birds in the Winter-2013 Snag E-newsletter tells us which species share their winter with us.

If you are new to birding, Aududon Society of Northern Virginia offers these start to bird tips for beginners. Learn all about birds from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and sign up to receive a free bird-watching calendar.

For service opportunity, join Aubudon Society of Northern Virginia in their 113th annual Christmas Bird Count in the Manassas Battle Field area, Bull Run, and Manassas City areas as well as around Centerville, south of Dulles Airport, and Chantilly on Sunday, December 16th.

Power of Passion and Persistence

By Sue Dingwell

The power of passion and persistence brought to life a new wetland last Saturday at Campbell Elementary School, a Title One, alternative school bordering Long Branch Park in Arlington. Two and a half years in the planning and fund-raising stage, the garden was installed by an all-volunteer crew at an event they called “The Big Plant.” The sun seemed to shine with a special brilliance as proud students threw their energy into the myriad tasks needed to get plants correctly placed and tucked safely into the spots marked for them.

That little girl dug tenaciously for a long time to get hole big enough for long-sleeved oak tree.

One of this fall’s Master Naturalist training class members, Pat Findiklogu, a teacher at Campbell for many years, formed a small committee three years ago to set the project in motion. She was on hand Saturday to help with the work despite the fact that she had retired from teaching last spring. The story of the permitting and permissions process  was an epic indeed. There were many times when regulatory hurdles almost brought the project to a halt. I heard from a committee member, though, that every time they thought they were at a dead end, Pat would rally the troops: “They’re not going to stop us now!!” Continue reading