Saturday, April 5: Habitat Restoration in Four Mile Run Valley

by Jim Hurley

On the northeast corner of S. Walter Reed and S. Four Mile Run Drives is the only remaining patch of woodland on the north side of the Four Mile Run stream valley in the Shirlington area. This woodland remnant has some of the same steep topography, underlying geology and hydrology (perched seeps), and plants as Barcroft Park, which is located on the opposite side of the valley.

Restoration site along S. Four Mile Run Drive at S. Walter Reed Drive. Photo from Google Map.

Restoration site along S. Four Mile Run Drive at S. Walter Reed Drive. Photo from Google Map.

Recently, Arlington County proposed to develop its part of the woodland. This proposal was opposed by a number of individuals, groups, and organizations that value the woods, so little of which is left. Nora Palmatier of the Tree Stewards made a commitment to initiate a cleanup of these woods––invaded by all the usual suspects (English Ivy, Japanese Honeysuckle, Bush Honeysuckle, Porcelainberry, etc.)––if the site were left undeveloped. (Thank you, Nora!) The County pulled back from its proposal just last week.

This Saturday, April 5, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., Arlington/Alexandria Tree Stewards, Master Naturalists, and residents of neighboring condominium associations will begin the promised restoration work. Arlington County Parks will provide trash bags for the debris.

The public is welcome to join in this effort. We recommend that volunteers wear long sleeves, long pants, and gloves, and bring hand clippers and/or pruning saws to cut ivy and other invasive vines from the trees. See you there!

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Habitat Restoration Along the W&OD Trail in Falls Church: Sunday, March 30, 10:00 am–12:00 pm

by Jim Hurley

Join our friends from the City of Falls Church on Sunday, March 30, 10 am-12 noon, as they begin work to restore the natural area along the W&OD Trail between Grove Ave. and N. Oak St., only a block from where the trail crosses the bridge over Broad St. There are large thickets of Porcelainberry and other invasive vines along the bike path, which in its current state serves as an effective migration route for these plants up and down the trail, and into many of our parks arrayed along Four Mile Run.

Porcelainberry
Ampelopsis brevipedunculata
Origin: China, Korea, Japan and Russia
Photos by Jil Swearingen, NPS

In a trailblazing cooperative effort among the City of Falls Church Environmental Council Habitat Restoration Team, the Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority, Dominion Power, volunteers, and naturalists, the invasive plants will be removed and the area landscaped with native plants and butterfly gardens. Similar work is already underway along the W&OD in Arlington at Bluemont Park with some 200 yards of invasives cleared last fall, preparing the way for a native meadow. Eventually, we’ll connect these two dots, and the three miles in between!

Organizers will provide tools and snacks. Please bring your own gloves.

Seeds of Hope: American Chestnut Replanting

by Catherine Howell

As the late afternoon light began to fade and frigid air penetrated gloved hands, the last of the Arlington replanted American Chestnut trees (Castanea dentata) was patted into place on a slope in Glencarlyn Park on a gray day in mid-December, 2013. There, with some serious luck, it could grow into a sturdy tree with viable fruit and possibly help reverse the bad fortune of the iconic American Chestnut––once one of the most common tree species in the northeastern United States, but now largely decimated due to a virulent fungus.

Vincent and Jerry backfill the last hole of the day on a slope in Glencarlyn Park while County Natural Resources Manager Alonso Abugattas tamps down the soil.

Arlington County Forester Vincent Verweij and ARMN volunteer Jerry Cowden backfill the last hole of the day on a slope in Glencarlyn Park, while County Natural Resources Manager Alonso Abugattas tamps down the soil.

Chestnut Blight Fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica) was introduced into North America through Japanese or Chinese Chestnuts; those species co-evolved with the fungus and are not affected by it. American Chestnuts, however, soon succumbed to the novel pathogen. More than three billion native chestnuts perished, removing a species that was a valuable source of timber and a prolific native producer of fall mast for wildlife.

American Chestnuts survive locally in a very limited fashion. Most grow as shoots from stumps of decimated trees and rarely reach 20 feet in height. December’s replanting project involved the distribution of a hundred saplings grown at the Earth Sangha nursery from viable seeds collected mainly in the northern Blue Ridge. Unlike the hybrid trees that are bred from American and Chinese Chestnuts (with an effort to back breed the American species’ characteristics while maintaining blight resistance), these saplings represent true American Chestnuts. Continue reading

Tuckahoe Park Habitat on the Mend…

by Mary McLean

July 2013:  Dangerous Plants on the Run!

You may have seen the warning signs “Don’t walk off the trail.” Plant specialist placed them to protect pets and people. Arlington County hired Invasive Plant Control (IPC) to help improve Tuckahoe’s habitat. IPC employees are specially licensed and trained. Only the most environmentally suitable chemical, a glyphosate-based herbicide, was used on non-native plant species. A sturdy crew of four bush-wacked throughout Tuckahoe Park, giving no ground to the plants harming Tuckahoe’s habitat. The dead, brown-leaved plants indicate plants killed by the treatment.

Plants Removed or Treated:
Norway maple, Asian bittersweet, Winter creeper, English ivy, Japanese holly, Prunus avium, Prunus subhirtella, Golden Rain tree, Malus spp., California privet, Chinese barberry, Callery pear (Bradford pear), White mulberry, Amur bush honeysuckle, and Multiflora rose.

Questions?
Please contact Sarah Archer, Arlington County Invasive Removal Coordinator.

August 2013:  Natives are back!

Grow Zone sign

The “Grow Zone,” replanted with natives by Eagle Scout, Jacob Heidig, has flowers in bloom. Rare native Smartweed, Great Blue Lobelia, Cardinal Flower, orchid Joe-Pye, fucia Bergamot, Ox Eye Sunflower, and purple New England Aster.

New England Aster Sympyotrichum novae-angliae

New England Aster Sympyotrichum novae-angliae

Great Blue Lobelia, Lobelia Siphilitica

Great Blue Lobelia, Lobelia Siphilitica

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September Barcroft Park Habitat Restoration Work Party

by Marion Jordan

NOTE THE NEW TIME – THIS IS AN AFTERNOON EVENT

Join us on September 21 from 1 – 3 pm for the next Barcroft Park Habitat Restoration Work Party. We will join with Arlington for a Clean Environment (ACE) to help lead volunteers in cleaning up trash in the park. There are over 55 volunteers already signed up with ACE so leaders are really needed to help direct the volunteers.  The ACE team will focus on the stream and we will lead teams on the trails and other areas in the park.

We will meet at the picnic pavilion in Barcroft Park at 1 pm.  If you park in the Barcroft recreational area parking lot, walk past the soccer fields, bear right and then cross the stream on the wood and steel bridge. Wear long pants and long sleeves. Bring gloves if you have them. We will also supply gloves and garbage bags for trash pick-up. In order to help ACE plan for supplies and snacks, please register at the ACE site (https://www.eventbrite.com/event/7582711093) as an ARMN volunteer.

This is a wonderful opportunity to see the results of the work done so far in Barcroft Park, and observe a park on its way to natural health. If you have worked with us in the past, come see the results of your hard work and the significant investment by Arlington County. If you are new to Barcroft, join us to see the park that has been designated as a top priority for Arlington due to its unique habitat. After the work party, we will provide a short update on the results of Arlington County’s continuing work to treat invasives and improve habitat as well as describe longer term plans for meadow habitat.

This project needs you! Every pair of hands makes a difference for this valuable ecological site. Your work will help improve the habitat for birds and other wildlife in Barcroft.

If you have questions, please contact Marion Jordan at mcjordn@verizon.net.

ARMN Members Help Rebuild Grass Enclosure in Belmont Bay

By Kasha Helget

In response to a request from the staff of Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), ARMN members Melissa Perez and Kasha Helget got their feet (legs, and knees) wet on Friday, May 10th to assist in the reconstruction of a celery grass enclosure on the Potomac River’s Belmont Bay at Mason Neck Park in Lorton.

Perez is a grass grower and Helget is a regional coordinator in CBF’s “Grasses for the Masses” program. In this program, Virginia residents grow underwater celery grass (Vallisneria americana) in their homes or schools during winter, and then plant the grasses during spring in Belmont Bay at Mason Neck Park or in James River. The aquatic grasses filter nutrients and provide important habitat for fish and other aquatic creatures, and help restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

The grass plantings take place on several days between mid-May and early June; however, CBF staff was notified that the enclosure at Belmont Bay was destroyed by some errant driftwood and needed to be rebuilt before the grass installations could be done there.

Bare enclosure for celery grass prior to installation of new screening to protect the new plantings.  (No, the driftwood in the foreground is not a shark. :-)

Bare enclosure for celery grass prior to installation of new screening to protect the new plantings. (No, the driftwood in the foreground is not a shark.) 🙂

So, a group of seven CBF staffers and volunteers jumped (waded) in to replace screening around the enclosure and anchor it to the sand for better support, and to prevent turtles and other large interlopers from entering the enclosure and destroying the grasses.

Master Naturalist Melissa Perez holds up a support post while awaiting additional cable ties for the screen.

Master Naturalist Melissa Perez holds up a support post while awaiting additional cable ties for the screen.

 

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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.

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English Ivy Removal at Tuckahoe Park in March 2013

By Mary McLean

On March 16 a sturdy group of volunteers participated in the March Habitat Restoration of Tuckahoe Park.The volunteers warmed up in the cold, damp morning by pulling up English Ivy. Along with ARMN members, volunteers include young women from Arlington’s Career Center’s ROTC unit, Yorktown’s NHS, and Marymount University. Volunteers rescued 25 mature White Oak, Red Oak, and a young Beech tree from being strangled by English Ivy.

tuckahoe park english ivy

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“Grasses for the Masses” workshops

By Kasha Helget

ARMN volunteers conducted two “Grasses for the Masses” workshops at the Fairlington Community Center in February, 2013 in a program sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for Virginia residents all over the state. During the workshops, a total of 35 individuals, families, and teachers received simple kits and instructions to grow underwater celery grass (Vallisneria americana) in their homes or schools for 10-12 weeks during the winter/early spring months. At the end of the grow period (late April to early May), the growers will gather to plant their grasses in the Potomac River at Mason Neck Park. These aquatic grasses filter nutrients and provide important habitat for fish and other aquatic creatures, and help restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

For more information on the program, see: http://www.cbf.org/grasses

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All photos courtesy of Master Naturalist Leigh Pickering.

Seed Cleaning Begins

By Rodney Olsen

On Monday, Feb. 4, master naturalists and sundry others gathered at Long Branch Nature Center for the first Earth Sangha seed cleaning of the winter season. Fourteen people in all enjoyed conversing while preparing Common milkweed, Deertongue grass, and Virginia wild rye seeds for spring planting.

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For those of you who wish to become intimate with seeds, the next seed cleaning at Long Branch will be Feb. 11, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Eight large bags of mixed Goldenrod seeds, Solidago juncea, Solidago graminifolica, Solidago rugosa, and Solidago nemoralis, will be awaiting you.

Cleaning Virginia wild rye.

Cleaning Virginia wild rye.

Photos by Rodney Olsen.