Enrollment for 2024 Fairfax Tree Steward (FTS)Training Class Open!

Photo: Courtesy of the Fairfax Tree Stewards (FTS)

From Brenda Frank, President

Join the 2024 Fairfax Tree Steward (FTS) training class. Apply here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1i0hMqcdoOQFlyZkmc-c5lVyL_xsl3lgHLVGk3ajMvIk/edit   See information about the training here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1214hruEY5X-9-O7tNzKkkCbd9yqWS5ok3AtarNe5ZfU/edit Current FTS Tree Stewards may audit the classes at no cost for continuing education. The program will accept 20 applicants in order of submission. Enrollment closes on February 26, 2024.

The training program will begin on February 27, 2024. Trainees will be required to attend all 10 sessions and field work of approximately 1½ hours each. Make-ups will be accepted for two sessions. All of program instructors are experienced certified arborists. A detailed syllabus will be available soon.

The first and last sessions will be “live,” at a location central to all trainees. The other sessions will be on Zoom and recorded to enable makeup and review. Field sessions on pruning, tree ID, tree selection, and tree diagnostics will be on weekends interspersed among the class sessions.

Become a Fairfax Tree Steward. Sign up today!  

Fairfax Master Naturalists Donate to Mason Neck State Park

Article and photo by Sarah Mayhew

As part of FMN Chapter Project at Mason Neck State Park, FMN budgeted funds in 2023 to assist the Park maintain its pollinator gardens.  The Park requested that we use the funds to purchase equipment that will assist with that mission.  We delivered a gorilla garden cart, a Stihl battery-operated weed whacker and a battery-operated hedge clipper to the Park on January 7, 2024.  Shown with the equipment are Chief Ranger, Visitor Services Jaime Leeuwrik (also our Chapter’s Co-Advisor) with Ranger Alex Dullea accepting our donation.

Our Chapter Project has been dormant but will soon resume activity.  If you are interested in designing informational signs, please join us.  Contact Sarah Mayhew for details ([email protected] with MNSP in the subject line).

We will soon begin garden workdays.  Since we are joined by volunteers from the Friends of Mason Neck State Park, our sign up for these workdays will be via a Sign Up Genius link.  It will be posted to the Google Group with workdays expected to begin in early March.  For more information, contact Sarah as above.

Native Plants of Freshwater Tidal Communities, March 3

Photo of Wild Rice by Mr. Nelson DeBarros

Sunday, March 3, 2023
3:00 PM

No registration is required.
This is an in-person program (no remote option).

Join this presentation on the native plants of Northern Virginia’s freshwater tidal marshes by Nelson DeBarros, a vegetation ecologist with the Fairfax County Park Authority.  The talk will cover several area marshes and their plants, like wild rice, spatterdock and cattails.

The meeting is in person at the Huntley Meadows Visitor Center, 3701 Lockheed Boulevard, Alexandria (Fairfax County) (https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/huntley-meadows).

The cosponsors of the program are Plant NOVA Natives, Northern Virginia Trout Unlimited, Virginia Native Plant Society, Potowmack Chapter, Friends of Little Hunting Creek, Friends of Accotink Creek and the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park.

Know Your Natives: Deer Tolerance, webinar February 21st

Photo: PennState Extension

Thursday, February 21, 2024
7 – 8 pm
Registration required.

The Penn State Master Gardeners of Westmoreland County presents an informational session on deer-tolerant native plants in the Know Your Natives series. Deer can be both majestic and challenging visitors to our gardens. In this webinar, we’ll explore native plants that have evolved strategies to withstand deer browsing, providing you with valuable insights into creating a garden that thrives even in the company of these troublesome herbivores.

Attend this hour-long webinar to explore gardening methods for coexisting with local deer, understanding plant factors that deter them, and identifying deer-tolerant species for a diverse, beautiful garden.

FCPS Science Fair Judges Needed, Various Dates

Image courtesy of FCPS.

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is looking for science experts to judge their Fairfax County Science Fairs across the county.

Local FCPS Science Fair Judges

— Local high schools are looking for judges for their individual fairs.
— Judges do not need any prior experience judging but should have a background in science.

Regional Science Fair Category Judges

— Saturday, March 16, 2024 at Robinson Secondary School, 5035 Sideburn Road, Fairfax, VA
— Judges need to have an education and expertise in one of the many categories at Regional Fair.
— All interested parties are encouraged to apply but should preferably hold an advanced degree or possess extensive academic and/or professional experience in a science or engineering category.
— Chairpersons are needed to oversee the judging for each category.
— Parents, teachers, and family friends are not allowed to judge in categories in which their child, student, or family friend’s child is competing.

Please fill out this Google Form to indicate how you’re interested in supporting FCPS Science Fairs.

The Petroglyphs of Great Falls, Virginia

Feature photo:  The author at the Great Falls petroglyph site sitting on a chair-like rock.

Article and photos by FMN Stephen Tzikas

Early in my career I had numerous business trips to the southwest border of the country, and on my personal time, I visited the national or state parks in the area that had petroglyphs.  I found these fascinating, because they are the communication record of the indigenous people of the area. I think most people associate petroglyphs with the southwest of the country, but one can find them on the East coast too, including Fairfax County.

The Safe Harbor Big and Little Indian Rock petroglyphs are an archaeological site located at Conestoga Township in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It consists of two rock islands located in the Susquehanna River. Big Indian Rock is 60 feet by 40 feet, and has carvings on all sides. These Safe Harbor petroglyphs are the largest concentration of ancient Native American rock art sites in the eastern United States.  In June 2000, I had the pleasure to venture out about a half mile by small canoe to the petroglyphs with the expert archaeologist on these rock symbols.  He was interested in my astronomical, folklore, and Jungian psychology interpretations as they related to the archaeological record. The petroglyphs of this location easily rival those in the southwest.

The wider area of the Great Falls petroglyphs.

The Fairfax County petroglyphs are located in Great Falls, along Difficult Run, walking from Georgetown Pike.  They show a series of a man with a spear being thrown with an atlatl. The atlatl existed prior to the bow and arrow, so the petroglyphs are likely 500+ years old to about 5,000 years old. They are very weathered so in my opinion they are in the older range of estimates. Petroglyphs are powerful

One of the Great Falls petroglyphs.

anthropological archetypes that are central to the culture that lived in the Great Falls area at the time. Think about how you as a person are defined by all the cultural symbols around you, and then you can better appreciate

Great Falls petroglyph close-up.

how the rock art and surrounding natural environs played a role in the mental identification of these original communities.

Invasive Removal and Habitat Restoration, Various Dates

Photo: FMN Margaret Fisher, Trees being engulfed by invasive plants

Various dates and times

Various locations

Join these efforts to remove invasive species, repair trails, and otherwise beautify natural spaces! Visit the links below to learn more.

Winter Symposium & CVNLA Short Course: Gardening for the Future, February 14th & February 15th

Photo: FMN Jennifer Pradas, Pollinator garden

Wednesday, February 14 & Thursday, February 15, 2024
9:00 am – 3:50 pm

In-Person OR Virtually, via Zoom

In-Person Tickets: $100/day or $180 for a 2-day ticket (includes light breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack and all-day hot beverage service)
Virtual Tickets: $55/day or $100 for a 2-day ticket (includes access to recorded presentations for a limited time)

Click here for additional information and registration details.

Gardening for the Future

Solving the complex challenges of designing a future that supports the health of our ecosystems and the thriving of all living things on Earth will require collaboration and thoughtful solutions from all corners of the green industry (and beyond!). This year’s symposium explores some of these innovative approaches that are being researched and implemented across the green industry with the goal of moving together toward a resilient future. 

Join this year’s symposium on Wednesday, February 14 and Thursday, February 15 to hear a variety of exciting speakers including Chris Ludwig (Flora of Virginia co-author), Ekene Tharpe (Babylon Micro-Farms), Andrew Freiden (NBC12), Jazmin Albarran (Seed Your Future), Josh Cerra (Cornell University), Richard Olsen (U.S. National Arboretum) and many more.  

The Sounds of Nature: How Natural Sounds are Made and Why They Sound Like They Do *Virtual*, February 22nd

Image: Courtesy of the Clifton Institute

February 22, 2024
7:00 pm – 8:00 pm

**This is a virtual program**


Registration is REQUIRED.

As mostly visual creatures, we often take sound for granted, but there is a whole incredible world of vibrations going on around us. In this Zoom program, Co-Director Eleanor Harris, Ph.D., will explain how natural sounds are made and how both human and non-human animals hear them. From why birds sing in the morning to how insects hear with their legs, thinking about sounds in nature might change the way you see and hear the world around you. A Zoom link will be emailed to participants shortly before the program.

Cancellation policy: If you register and can no longer attend this event, please let us know as soon as possible so that we can open your spot to someone else.

By registering for this event, you are affirming that you have read and agree to the Clifton Institute liability release policy.

Spotted Salamander Walk, February 13th

Image: Courtesy of The Clifton Institute

February 13, 2024
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

The Clifton Institute
6712 Blantyre Rd
Warrenton, VA 20187


Registration is REQUIRED.

Once a year, salamanders leave their homes in the woods and head toward vernal pools, temporary ponds created by spring rains and melting winter snow. The conditions must be just right, a warm night with rainy conditions. The males arrive first and lay sperm sacks around the pond. The females come later and absorb these sacks, which causes them to lay their eggs, about 50-100 per female. Join this walk to the vernal pools to witness this spectacle of nature.

It will be necessary to watch the weather closely to adjust the time and date that looks most promising for the group to see this wonderful migration. For now, this date is a best-guess placeholder for the walk. You will receive an email closer to the date with information about when to meet.

Please bring a flashlight. As you will likely go out in the rain, the recommendation is to wear a raincoat and waterproof shoes.

Age:  Adults and children ages 12 and up, accompanied by an adult.

COVID-19 Information: This program will be entirely outdoors (an outside porta potty will be available). It is required that everyone have a mask with them in case the class needs to go inside during inclement weather, to administer first aid, or for other reasons. Please do not attend if you are experiencing or have experienced in the last two weeks any symptoms associated with COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath, etc.).

Cancellation policy: If you register and can no longer attend this event, please let the Clifton Institute know as soon as possible so that they can open your spot to someone else.

Before attending this event, please read the information included on the Clifton Institute liability release form (click here).