A fun day battling against English ivy

By Sue Dingwell

Who would have thought that on a freezing day in January on a bare-tree, brown slope of an urban park you would find an occasion for laughter, joy, and triumph? Not me.

I had dressed for the weather in my waterproof boots, and brought along my ivy-fighting tools to join the ARMN Master Naturalists in the mighty battle against English ivy at Barcroft Park on the MLK Day of Service.

On the Barcroft Park website, twenty-two lines are given to the description of amenities at the park, which include playing fields, picnic tables, and so on. What they don’t mention is that the park is also the site of several 200-year-old trees, more than 45 acres of native woodlands, and a magnificent magnolia bog with several species of endangered plants.

On this wintry morning, our little group was surprised to find an unexpected flood of participants pouring in to our meeting site. We were suddenly a crowd of unfamiliar faces, children, and older folks!  What had happened? It turned out that these new volunteers had found us by typing their zip codes into the search box on the MLK Day of Service website. Wow! The power of the mighty Internet! 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

ARMN celebrates successes in 2012

By John Bernard and Jim Hurley

The Arlington Regional Master Naturalists (ARMN) had our monthly Board meeting and end-of-year Chapter meeting on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at the Fairlington Community Center. The Chapter meeting also included an art show and party. Over 60 people attended, including at least 54 ARMN members.

ARMN members brought and displayed their artwork which included photograph porfolios and other creations. After the business meeting, there was time for socializing with lots of goodies

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Caroline Haynes, ARMN President, recognized numerous newly certified and recertified ARMN members for completing the minimum 40 hours of service and 8 hours of advanced training in 2012.

Erik Oberg, National Park Service (NPS) Ranger and Biologist, presented the George and Helen Hartzog Award plaque for Outstanding Volunteer Group to the ARMN Board. The Hartzog Award was awarded to ARMN on October 17, 2012 by the Eastern Capital Region of NPS.

The Hartzog Award recognizes volunteers for their hard work, skills, involvement, and contributions to innovative projects. ARMN members and other volunteers have given 2,600 hours of service to the George Washington Memorial Parkway since the partnership began in 2009. Opportunities to volunteer with the Park Service are described on its website. The NPS and ARMN relationship is a great example of the meaningful results that can be achieved by effective partnerships between government agencies and non-profit groups. 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.

Happenings in Tuckahoe Park

By Mary McLean

Thanks to four volunteers, we cleared invasive plants from the edge of the Sycamore and Lee Highway on Nov. 17. This project is part of Arlington County sponsored Habitat Restoration. Master Naturalist, Melanie La Force, is working on her own to remove porcelain berry and English Ivy on the Sycamore Road side of Tuckahoe. Say “hello” if you pass her some morning.

My current focus (besides trash) is the ground ivy that threatens to overwhelm the flowering native plants put in the park by Eagle Scout Jacob Heidig.

ARMN members can earn volunteers hours helping with Tuckahoe Park Habitat Restoration, sponsored by Arlington County, RIP- Remove Invasive Plants, and ARMN. Volunteers meet in front of Tuckahoe Elementary School at 10 am every 3rd Saturday of each month. All ages are welcome, but adult presence is required for volunteers under 16. To participate, contact: Sarah Archer sarcher@arlingtonva.us or Mary McLean marydmclean@verizon.net.

On Saturday, Dec. 15, I’m offering a discussion and demonstration on leading a hike in Tuckahoe Park. The theme is “Dangerous Plants, Discover the dangerous plants in Tuckahoe Park.” We will also discuss the protocols for priorities of invasive removal and observe the evidence of the successes of invasive removal and natural regeneration.

After the hike, we will put our knowledge and muscles to work removing Bush Honeysuckle using a weed wrench. Those not “wrenching” will use the Tree Steward’s guide to English Ivy removal on trees.

Saturday, Dec. 15 at Tuckahoe Park, Arlington (near East Falls Church Metro)

8:30-9:00 am – Discussion: “How to lead a hike”

9:00-9:45 am –  Hike & Discussion: “Dangerous Plants”

10 am – Habitat Restoration: weed wrenching and tree ivy removal


Autumn 2012 Invasive Work in Barcroft Park

By Jim Hurley

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Master Naturalists continued our work improving the quality of the natural areas in Barcroft Park, with three three-hour work sessions on great-weather Saturdays in September, October and November.  Our mission for all three sessions was cutting English Ivy from trees in heavily infested areas of the park.  As noted in previous posts, Arlington County has contracted with a professional company to remove invasives in the park, and the work left undone following the first big assault on dozens of exotic species in May-June included the treatment of Ivy, Vinca, and Wintercreeper in the late fall. 

In fiscal year 2013, Arlington County allocated $100,000 for invasive species contract work in the County’s high-value natural areas, and a portion of this is being spent to complete the treatment of Barcroft Park.  We volunteers are saving the County 3 – 4 contractor work days at $1,200/day by cutting the Ivy from Barcroft trees, thereby extending the County’s resources and enabling more parkland to be treated.

In September, a dozen volunteers, representing Master Naturalists, Virginia Native Plant Society, Tree Stewards, and Fairlington condominiums, worked on trees in the thick bed of Ivy on top of the ridge, where for decades the Ivy had spilled out of residents’ back yards 150 feet or more into the park.  Don Walsh, Tree Steward extraordinaire, completed a thorough job on a double-trunked Chestnut Oak.  Following the work, most of us stayed for a leisurely botanical stroll through the park, identifying the park’s four Hickory (Carya) species, and a number of fall wildflowers, including Bonesets (Eupatorium spp.) and woodland Goldenrods (Solidago spp.). Continue reading

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

Flowers Come to Tuckahoe Park

By Mary McLean

Thanks to Eagle Scout Jacob Heidig, Tuckahoe Park now has beautiful blue, red, and yellow flowers to admire. These plants (listed below) provide the best natural source of food and nectar for beautiful butterflies, goldfinch, and hummingbirds.

Blue lobelia planted at Tuckahoe Park by Jacob Heidig for his Eagle Scout Service Project.

In June, guided by a plan he developed, Jacob led a team of high school Boy Scouts, two younger brothers, and the Eagle Scout’s dad. After pulling out weeds, they planted the flowers in the “No Mow” zone of Tuckahoe Park. You can recognize the area by the logs surrounding it.

Kevin Stallica, the Parks Manager for Tuckahoe, approved the plan and chose just the right kinds of plants to provide beautification to the park. Arlington Parks donated over 60 plants. Earth Sangha grew these native plants that originated a similar spot in northern Virginia.

The Master Naturalist volunteer for Tuckahoe, Mary McLean, coordinates community volunteers who want to help these beautiful flowers. Volunteer neighbors worked this September 13 from 9:00-1:00 to remove weeds choking the flowers. Now the flowers are easier to see and enjoy. Continue reading

Barcroft Park Focus Project Update

By Jim Hurley

It is now early September, 2012, following the extreme extended heat wave in the Washington DC region, and a walk around Barcroft Park will reveal whole swaths of brown, dead plants at ground level, and many dead tree stems, still upright, listing, or lying on their sides, leaves crisping.  It wasn’t the heat that did this.

With the exception of a few big trees felled by the June 29 derecho, most of these browning plants in Barcroft met their demise at the hands of Invasive Plant Control (IPC) technicians, who completed five weeks of an intensive first treatment of 40 acres of the park, providentially, just a few hours before that derecho blew through.  The day before, the IPC crew leader walked me, Sarah Archer and Greg Zell through the park to observe the results, which were impressive.  Porcelainberry: dead or browning; Multiflora Rose: wilting thickets; Oriental Bittersweet, Japanese Honeysuckle: yellowing or dead; Mimosa, Norway Maple, Japanese Pagoda stems on the ground; 15′ Bush Honeysuckle: cut at the ground, bases painted blue, etc., etc., some 25 species of exotics targeted for destruction.

And what about Tree of Heaven, English Ivy, Periwinkle, and Wintercreeper?  Tree of Heaven, really Tree from Hell for the intensity of its infestation of natural areas, roadsides, and farmland in the East, dubbed the Stinkbaum by Germans, was protected by the heat wave.  Basal bark treatment, the only way to kill this insidious, suckering spreader, is only effective below 85 degrees, so IPC will be back in the fall to treat this Ailanthus altissima, and in the winter to treat the waxy-leaved evergreen vines, when there will be no collateral damage to the deciduous Virginia Creeper, Wild Yam, and native Grape vines intermixed with them.

Arlington County’s investment of some $75,000 in professional invasive plant control (including two days of treatment for Lesser Celandine in March) in Barcroft Park this Spring, and the County Board’s allocation of $100,000 for invasive plant contract work in FY 2013 (7/1/12 – 6/30/13), a chunk of which will go to follow-up treatments in Barcroft, has completely changed the game, at least for this park.  The scale of the infestation was too great for volunteer efforts.  We Master Naturalists conducted some 15 invasive pulls in the park in 2011 and 2012, and we had a big impact in several discrete areas, working with partners including the Tree Stewards, Virginia Native Plant Society, Americorps and other volunteers.  However, we only made a small dent in the overall problem.

We suspended work in the summer to see the results of the IPC contract work.  There will be remnant Porcelainberry, Japanese Honeysuckle, Chinese Yam, etc., still visible in September, but IPC will hit them again next Spring, and in the meantime, we can play a useful role doughnutting the English Ivy climbing trees, which will increase the efficiency of IPC’s Ivy work in the winter.  This is the work we performed during our last invasive removal day in Barcroft in May, and it is the work we will do beginning with our next Barcroft Focus Project day this coming Saturday.

So take a walk through Barcroft Park soon, and see the park on its way to natural health.  Or better yet, join us at 9:30 this coming Saturday, September 15 to help us complete the work.  Afterwards, we will walk the park and identify remnant invasives for IPC to remove.  A natural spaciousness is already opening up.  This time next year, it will look very different than just a few short months ago.

ARMN Invasive Plant Species Education Volunteer Opportunities Intersect at PORP

By John Bernard

Several endeavors by Arlington Regional Master Naturalist (ARMN) on education of invasive plant species and alternatives converge at Potomac Overlook Regional Park (PORP). One is the ARMN Audubon at Home (AAH) focus summer project which had its kick off meeting on June 24 at ARMN’s native plant garden after “Meet Me On A Sunday” at PORP. The program included AAH ambassadors and potential future ambassadors with a schedule of site visits to ARMN member yards.

ARMN members gathered to hear from Joanne Hutton (ARMN, MGNV),
Kathy Landis (ARMN, Landscape Designer), Alan Ford (President, Potomac
Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society, Terry Liercke (Audubon Society of
Northern Virginia), and Cliff Fairweather (Long Branch Nature Center) about
ways to create habitat-friendly yards using native plants.

Garden creators Joanne Hutton and Kathy Landis gave an overview of the AAH focus project and a tour of the shade garden to show ways to enhance habitat.

Good table top display and training references for the program.

Continue reading