“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.


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.

ARMN sponsors third annual seed-cleaning extravaganza

By Rodney Olsen

On Feb. 4, Feb. 11, and Feb. 25, from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm,

at Long Branch Nature Center,

ARMN will sponsor the equivalent of a quilting bee or a barn-raising.


ARMN-sponsored seed-cleaning event at Long Branch Nature Center. Photo by Rodney Olsen.

ARMN volunteers help with seed cleaning at Long Branch Nature Center.                      Photo by Rodney Olsen.

Please join the Monday gatherings of Master Naturalists for this vital service in support of our partner Earth Sangha.

  The experience will be educational and fun for all!

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.

Top 10 Tips for Holiday Waste Reduction

By Kent Taylor

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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.

ARMN volunteers enjoy helping Smithsonian eMammal camera trapping project

By Jeanette Murry and Alan Tidwell

We  graduated from the spring 2012 ARMN Basic Training Course. During the summer and fall, we volunteered on a camera trapping project called eMammal organized by the Smithsonian. We focused on Keyser Run Fire Trail in the Shenandoah National Park for our trapping.

When we saw the eMammal Project advertised through the ARMN listserv, it sounded interesting and challenging, so in August we went along to a half-day training at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute at Front Royal, VA.

Tavis Forrester, eMammal Project Coordinator and a wildlife biologist, describes the project: “eMammal is a large-scale NSF-funded citizen science project using volunteers and remote cameras. eMammal is a further development of SI Wild, an existing project that has pooled camera-trapping images from all over the world and will be expanded to allow volunteers to upload data, and then expanded again to allow visitors to analyze and visualize data.”

Our role, under the excellent guidance of Megan Baker from the Smithsonian, was to deploy 3 cameras – one on the trail at a specified location, the second and third cameras at 50 and 200 meters respectively away from the trail. After 3 weeks, we would collect the cameras, change batteries and SD cards, and then redeploy the cameras to the next locations. We did a total of 4 deployments, finishing on November 10. Continue reading

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