Earth Sangha spring open house & native plant sale

When: Sunday May 5, 9:45 am – 2 pm

What: Earth Sangha is hosting their Spring Open House & Native Plant Sale on Sunday, May 5th from 10AM to 2 PM. They need student volunteers to help customers carry plants and move wheelbarrows, and experienced adult volunteers to tally orders and direct customers. Please email Katherine at if you’re interested in volunteering.

Where: The Nursery is in Springfield, Virginia, in Franconia Park, which lies just south of the Beltway, and just east of the Beltway’s intersection with Routes 95 and 395.  Access is from Franconia Road (644). From Franconia, turn north on Thomas Drive, less than half a mile east of the 395/95 intersection. There is a traffic light at Thomas. From Thomas, turn right onto Meriwether Lane. Turn left onto Cloud Drive. Please park in the parking lot at the bottom of the entrance road, then walk down the dirt road along the community gardens. Our nursery lies beyond the community gardens. View the nursery’s location on Google Maps. (The Google pointer is set to Cloud Drive, not directly on our nursery, which has no street address. From Cloud Drive, follow the directions above.)

Contact: Katherine Isaacson (

Earth Day: Marie Butler Leven Preserve Workday

When: Saturday, April 20, 10 am-1 pm

What: Join Earth Sangha for an Earth Day planting at the Marie Butler Leven Preserve! We’ll be planting almost 1,000 native grasses and wildflowers in the front meadow. We’ll meet at the parking lot and walk into the park from there.  For MBLP events, sturdy shoes and long pants are recommended. We will provide gloves and all necessary tools. Please bring your own water. If you arrive late, call or text Matt on his cell at 703 859 2951.

Where: View the Preserve’s location on Google Maps. The Marie Butler Leven Preserve is in McLean, Virginia. The street address is 1501 Kirby Road. If you’re coming from the Beltway, exit on Route 66 East; from 66, take the first exit, to Leesburg Pike (Route 7); turn left on Leesburg Pike, then almost immediately after the underpass, turn right onto Idylwood Road. Just stay on Idylwood, which becomes Kirby Road after the intersection with Great Falls Street. Stay on Kirby; once you have passed the stop sign at Chesterbrook Road, the Preserve is about half a mile up on the right.

Contact: Matt Bright ( or 703-859-2951)

Attend Spotted Lanternfly First Detector Training

Fairfax County Government Center
12055 Government Center Parkway
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
6:30 PM to 8:00 PM

The spotted lanternfly, a pest that poses significant risk to many agricultural crops and some trees, was found in Frederick County, Virginia in January 2018.  It is commonly associated with the invasive tree-of-heaven.  This pest has not yet been found in Fairfax County, but you can help find it!

Fairfax County is seeking volunteers to help find and identify areas of the county with established tree of heaven.

Join us to learn more about spotted lanternfly and how you can help control it before it infests Fairfax County. The training is a joint effort with Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia Department of Forestry.

Please register


Feather drawing class, April 11th

Hidden Oaks Nature Center
7701 Royce St., Annandale, VA
Thursday, 11 April 2019
7-9 pm

Join naturalist and artist Avery Gunther to learn how to draw feathers with colored pencil on toned paper.  Learn about types of feathers and feather identification.  Watch a demonstration about how to draw feathers, then draw your own feathers in this interactive class.  Drawing is a great way to sharpen your observation skills.  Paper is provided for a small fee.  A suggested list of supplies will be provided when you sign up.  Register on ParkTakes,

Picking up paw paws and putting them in…delicious desserts

Bill Hafker

They’ve been called the American Custard Apple and the West Virginia banana, but Paw Paws  (Asimina trilob) are native to much of the eastern United States, typically growing in groups along streams and rivers. They have a large simple leaf and produce the largest fruit indigenous to the U.S. They also feature an unusual deep purple flower that gives off a fetid odor to attract beetles and carrion flies for pollination (the trees predate bees and butterflies as pollinators).

Paw paw trees. Photo: Bill Hafker

Fortunately, the fruit itself is very tasty to humans, too, and is the star ingredient in a dessert bread and pudding. Its flavor is often described as a cross between a banana and a mango. What follows is some useful lore for collecting paw paws and preparing these local treats.

When, where, and how to collect paw paws

In northern Virginia, paw paws ripen during late August and September. Because they spoil as quickly as they ripen, you will want to investigate their ripeness at the site from which you intend to collect them. Be sure that you have permission to collect them on the sites where you find them. Rules vary in the national, state, and county parks.

Collecting paw paws. Photo: Bill Hafker

Ripe paw paws will typically fall from the tree, and are best collected from the ground. Gently shaking a tree will also cause ripe fruit to fall to the ground. If you opt for fallen produce, check to make sure it is neither rotten nor full of scavenging ants. 

You can also buy them online at Integration Acres or Earthy Delights, and in some stores or farmers markets.

Cleaning paw paws and preparing the pulp 

Many recipes call for paw paw pulp in 1-cup units, so it is convenient to freeze it in one cup quantities that you can thaw and use as you wish. One cup of paw paw pulp equals approximately 3 medium mashed overripe bananas. 

To get started, remove the skin in any way that you find convenient (e.g., peel them with a knife or vegetable peeler, cut them open with a knife and scoop them with a spoon). Pulp adheres to the seeds, which are large enough to suck on, though you’ll want to avoid swallowing them. 

Using a spinner to process pulp off the seeds. Photo: Bill Hafker

It is time-consuming to prepare the pulp in bulk by trying to clean one paw paw at a time. I’ve found that the best way to process the pulp is to peel several fruits at one time and place them in the internal spinning part of a salad spinner that has been taken out of the rest of the spinner. Aggressively rubbing the fruit against the ribs of the spinner presses the pulp through the openings and into a bowl. You’ll want to make sure that you press the seeds firmly against the ribs to scrape off all of the pulp. When only relatively clean seeds remain, discard them and repeat the process with pulp-laden ones. 

Ready to bake?

Paw Paw Bread

You can replace bananas with paw paw pulp in your favorite banana bread recipe. Our family recipe calls for 1 cup of mashed paw paws, 1 cup of sugar, 1 egg, 1 ½ cups flour, ¼ cup melted butter, 1 tsp baking soda, and 1 tsp salt. You’ll want to mix all the ingredients until the batter is smooth, without over stirring. Pour the batter into a Teflon or buttered loaf pan. Bake 1 hour in a preheated oven at 325 degrees.

Paw Paw Pudding

This recipe from the New York Times is in the style of a bread pudding or English pudding (not Jello pudding).


Use our Member Directory to keep in touch

Marilyn Schroeder

Want to contact an FMN colleague (if you are a member)? Get the FMN Member Newsletter at your new email address? Find out if you’re certified now or re-certified for 2020?

The Member Directory is the place to go! 

  • For contact information, click on the Member Directory on FMN Members page of the members-0nly SharePoint. You’ll see a list of active members.  To look by Training Class, click on Members by Training class.
  • Notify FMN of changes to your email, address, or phone number by editing your entry. Click on your last name.  Choose Edit item.  Make the changes and click Save.
  • Your certification information is also included in your entry. Click on your last name. 

The Membership Committee meets periodically to review hours and update certification information. If you have questions about the data, contact Membership Chair Shawn Dilles,

Your Camera as Eco-Warrior

Photo (c) Barbara J. Saffir

Margaret Fisher

We are surrounded by the ecosystem, even in our urban/suburban areas, but most of us never notice it. If we do see a plant, an insect or a bird, we lack the background to recognize it. Our experience of life is becoming more and more virtual as we live in a world of technology. Paradoxically, that very technology is now making it easy to find and identify the small residents of our yards. Getting to know our fellow beings makes us more likely to value and protect them.

The tool you need for this experience is a camera, even a basic cell phone camera. If you take a photo of an insect and enlarge it on your screen, you will be in for some big surprises. What you took to be a drab brown bug may turn out to be a wildly colorful and patterned creature, living its life and paying attention to your doings, even while you were unaware of it. The same discoveries are there to be made about birds, frogs, and all our other neighbors.

Better yet, if you upload photos of wild plants and animals to the free iNaturalist website or app, the artificial intelligence will suggest possible identifications, and then two actual human beings will review them to make the final determination. All this data is automatically entered into a worldwide global biodiversity database that is populated by contributions from citizen scientists such as yourself. All your observations will be saved and labelled in one place for your amusement. You can even create a project that collates all the observations from one location, such as your homeowners association, park, school, or faith community. Once you get hooked, you may find yourself trying to document all the life in your neighborhood. Here is an example from Huntley Meadows Park.

From April 26-29, iNaturalist invites everyone to join City Nature Challenge 2019, in which metropolitan areas participate in a friendly competition to see who can make the most observations. Events will be held all around the region, but you can also just take your camera outside and start documenting on your own. All observations made during that four day period will count.

What will become clear to you as you do this is that the more native plants you have, the more butterflies, bees, birds, and other wildlife you will find. You will see how preserving natural resources even in our built-up areas is critical to the survival of wildlife, and how the landscaping in your own yard can contribute to or degrade biodiversity, depending on your landscaping choices.

Watch Plant NOVA Native’s lovely one-minute video about iNaturalist and City Nature Challenge.

Events, trainings, ID parties, and videos for City Nature Challenge

Helpful video from Plant NOVA Natives:

Have you ever noticed that we are not alone in this world?

A calendar and map of local events courtesy of Capital Nature: Explore nature on your own and share what you find using iNaturalist  … or join others at an event.  All observations made from April 26 through April 29 will count!

Cheerily, cheer up: Colt Gregory on birding by ear

It’s impossible to miss the robins outside the window right now, but even if you missed Colt Gregory’s “Introduction to Birding by Ear,” at the March 18 FMN chapter meeting, it’s not too late to start understanding birdsong.

An Arlington Regional Master Naturalist and lifelong birder, Mr. Gregory entertained the crowd with reasons to learn the songs of local birds: they hide, for one thing, and it’s easier to hear them than to see them. Listening and parsing their music requires focus, which is good discipline for our fragmented attention. And, well, it’s fun to impress people. There’s more to it, of course, and he’s graciously shared his slides as a resource.

You’ll find a sound suggestion for what not to do: don’t play recorded calls outside because it confuses the birds and annoys other birders. But you’ll mostly find excellent resources for developing your skills. Mr. Gregory particularly recommends the CD Birding By Ear: A Guide to Eastern Bird-Song Identification, narration by Richard K. Walton and Robert W. Lawson: “This is an excellent way to learn songs and calls. Using an interesting approach, the CD places birds in general groups like whistlers, sing-songers, mimics, name-sayers, and high-pitchers.”

Birding by Ear, by Colt Gregory, ARMN, March 18, 2019

Thank you to Kit Sheffield for arranging the presentation. If you are interested in sharing your skills with our members or community, please contact Mr. Sheffield at

George Mason University hosts free lecture on climate change, Apr. 24th

An Evening with Dr. Ed Maibach: What Do Americans Think About Climate Change, and What—If Anything—Do They Want to Do About It?

Old Town Hall, City of Fairfax
3999 University Drive, Fairfax VA
Wednesday, 24 April 2019
7 pm

Dr. Edward Maibach will present an overview of the findings from public opinion polls regarding climate change conducted over the past decade. Recently there has been a sharp increase in the public’s understanding of and concern about climate change. He will discuss Mason’s efforts to increase public understanding of climate change. There will be an opportunity for questions following the presentation.

Dr. Maibach serves on the advisory council of George Mason University’s newly launched Institute for a Sustainable Earth (ISE), which will address Earth’s future, including the problem of global climate change. He is also a Mason distinguished University Professor and a communication scientist who is expert in the uses of strategic communication and social marketing to address climate change and related public health challenges. His research – funded by NSF, NASA and private foundations – focuses on public understanding of climate change and clean energy; the psychology underlying public engagement; and cultivating TV weathercasters, health professionals, and climate scientists as effective climate educators. From 2011 to 2014, Ed co-chaired the Engagement & Communication Working Group for the 3rd National Climate Assessment, and he currently advises myriad government agencies, museums, science societies and civic organizations on their climate change public engagement initiatives. He earned his PhD in communication science at Stanford University, his Masters in Public Health at San Diego State University, and his BA in psychology at University of California, San Diego.