Invasive Management Workdays at Lake Accotink

Lake Accotink Park
7500 Accotink Park Rd., Springfield VA
Saturdays, 15, 22 and 29 February 2020
9 – 11 am

Invasive plants prevent us from enjoying our forests. They degrade our natural ecosystems. Ever get stopped in the woods by climbing vines or shrubs with thorns? They may have been invasive species. Some of them, like multiflora rose, can completely swarm over a section of woods and block out everything else. However, invasive can be thwarted.

Join Fairfax Master Naturalists Elaine and Beverly as they combat invasives at Lake Accotink. No experience is necessary, this is a great opportunity to learn and everyone is welcome.

They have work gloves and equipment but please bring your own drinking water as the park’s drinking fountains have been winterized – the restrooms are still open.

If you can join them – even for an hour or so it would be greatly appreciated.

Lastly, the weather at this time of year is so unpredictable, please call or text Beverly at (571) 314-2107 if you are not sure.

Directions: There are several entrances to Lake Accotink Park, but it is easiest to take the Accotink Park Road entrance that comes off Highland Street in Springfield. Once you enter the park, follow the road all the way to the end and you will see the marina, mini golf course and a children’s carousel. There is ample parking. They are working in the area directly behind the children’s carousel but please call or text Beverly if you can’t find them.

Some natural observations and a shout-out to the work of master naturalists

Article by Lisa Bright, Co-founder and Executive Director of Earth Sangha

In my line of work, I engage in extensive, if casual, surveying of native flora in the wild areas of Northern Virginia. For nearly twenty years, I’ve made it my job checking on the general conditions of our region’s wild areas, or rather the remnants of once wild areas, in every season. Mind you, my kind of survey is a non-scientific activity. Just a visual survey with the understanding of a hobby-naturalist.

Yet, you get to learn a lot from this repeated observations over the same areas. I take the trouble visiting all the nooks and crannies of our public and non-public lands where native plants are growing. And repeatedly over the years. I’ve noticed how the topography change over time and how plants interact with both natural and artificial physical changes. The overall picture I’ve gotten from my observations is not that pretty. Here is one fact that I cannot ignore: In our increasingly urbanized and suburbanized region, driven largely by human convenience and immediate economic returns, the native plants are the ones who are losing ground. Literally, that is.

I am sad to note that once common native plant species such as White Wood Aster (Eurybia divaricata) and Blue-stemmed Goldenrod (Solidago caesia) and Cornel-leaf Whitetop Aster (Doellingeria infirma), to just name a few, have become harder and harder to find in our woodlands. They are still there but not in any sizable quantities. They barely hang on. I name these species because of the simple fact that they are the foundation species in healthy woodlands and that they were once widely represented. Even ten short years ago, they were commonly found in any woodlands nearby. They are now in serious decline. Their habitats are degraded, and in many instances they lost outright the entire habitats by development. I’m not going to name other native plants who were once abundant but are now in decline.

This comes at a time when our wild areas and native flora are finally getting the recognition they deserve from the general public. There are growing number of people and organizations who band together to protect the wild habitats for native flora and fauna. I believe that if we work together, harder and smarter, we can reverse the trend. It’s not too late.

The habitats once lost are gone forever. You can’t recreate natural areas. If anyone claims that it can be done is either ignorant or plain kidding himself. Our hope then lies in rehabilitating the habitats in decline.

Then it is all the more useful to see how the natural habitats are being destroyed and what we could do about it. I’m no expert on this, but I think there are several immediate and specific issues that can be addressed:


1. An issue of poor management. The land owners, public or private, rely too much on the judgment or discretion of hired contractors who understand next to nothing about wild habitats or plants in general. They were told to go kill trees that might interfere with the power lines, and they damn kill everything in sight. Who could blame their diligence? I’ve witnessed countless times how these contractors steadily shrink the forest edges by chopping off indiscriminately any living woody plants. In their wake, a long line of dead Mountain Laurels (Kalmia latifolia) along the forest edges. These contractors desperately need the qualified and quantified instructions and tighter supervision by the land owners.

Take look at the two photos above. The plot is about 4 acres of narrow but long neighborhood woodlands (presumably belonged to a nearby HOA community) in Centerville. A contractor hired by either the VDOT or a power company chopped off trees on the edges of Rt. 29, and just dumped all the tree trunks and branches unceremoniously into the woodlands just across the trail and left. The contractors did this every time, and nobody raised an issue. It’s a forgotten place. The forest floor once featured one of the better habitats for White Wood Aster and Blue-stemmed Goldenrod in this acidic Oak-Hickory forest remnant. Now I cannot find a single Aster or Goldenrod. Those numerous Pinxter Bloom Azaleas along the edge were also long gone. In their place invasive Alianthus altissima (Tree of Heaven) and Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) have appeared. This is just one example which repeats itself everywhere. The feature photo heading this article shows what our woodland floor would look like when left alone. It’s taken from a nearby park.

2. An issue of excessive mowing and untimely mowing. When it comes to open meadow areas, mowing is a necessary tool for managing the habitat. The problem is that the heavy tractor mowers with low deck not just cut the plants but they cut into the ground, thereby making it easy for weedy invasive plants entering. I’ve noticed that the Manassas Battlefield National Park contractors do a far better job at just cutting the plants without necessarily disturbing the ground, compared to power line easement meadows. One reason is that at Manassas Battlefield the contractors are harvesting hays, and the best way to continue harvesting good-quality hays is not to disturb the ground. On the other hand, the main reason for mowing in the power line meadow is to destroy plants. That is one reason why the quality of flora is widely different from one power line easement to the next. And from one year to the next.
Still, the best native herbaceous vegetation in our region can be found under these power lines because we’ve essentially lost our edge-of-wood meadows to various human activities and development.

One of my pet peeves is mowing unnecessarily and at wrong time. It would be better if we let the plants complete its life cycle. If seeds are allowed to form and be dropped and eaten by animals, mowing can be a useful management tool.

3. Let’s limit the recreational use of wild habitats.It is hard to believe that at this critical juncture where the environmental degradation threatens the very systems on which our life is dependent, we regard public parks only as recreational resources. There are some parks that I no longer visit because there is nothing left to discover. These parks are known for deluxe parking lots and luxurious trails, after killing off a group of healthy and mature canopy trees. These parks have become a sad place botanically. Some smaller neighborly parks often suffer from excessive accommodation of exercise equipments. At one of our neighborly parks, a series of them are installed at every 50-feet intervals by well-intentioned but ill-informed Scouts or other volunteer groups. A whole lot of native shrubs and herbaceous plants had to be killed to give the rooms for these exercise equipments. Many Viburnum dentatum (Arrowwood Viburnum) and Deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum) were sacrificed for these installations. They are left unused anyway. If the mountain biker groups ask for building bike trails, we don’t have to give away the pristine section of forests where the Blueberry (Vaccinium pallidum) and Black Huckleberry (Gaylucassia bachata) have formed colonies over several centuries. I don’t think the bikers were asking for a pristine site!

It is high time we view our natural habitats as what they are. It’s a living organism who plays a critical role in the natural ecosystems. To simply put, we are facing an ecological crisis where a lack of healthy native plant communities creates all kinds of problems. Just look at all the damages from stormwater runoff. Only healthy forests could absorb, hold, filter, and regulate the rainfall and rain flow. We’ve effectively destroyed that natural system.
There aren’t enough forests in our region to handle all the water and air pollutions. Also our forests, our parklands, are not in the best form. They need a lot of attention, but our park systems don’t receive enough funding.

4. Controlling invasive plants and early detection of such invasion. Eradicating invasive plants may be impractical given the pervasiveness of the problem. But we can manage to control them by focusing on protecting the best areas first and increase the presence of native plants in targeted spots and then to expand their holdings. I’ve seen many successfully managed habitats where conscientious park managers diligently work and where Master Naturalists adopt certain sites and have kept on working on these sites.

In large public parks, we need some sharp-eyed and knowledgeable naturalist-volunteers to detect a new appearance of invasive plants early on to immediately eradicate them. A season or two later, they take hold and become expensive to control. We need more trained Master Naturalists to help our over-strained park managers. If you are retired or retiring and looking for doing something worthwhile, please be a Master Naturalist!

5. Our parks are seriously underfunded and under-staffed. A lot of people are wondering why park systems and park managers seem to ignore the problems of invasive plants in their neighborhood parks. The park managers are not ignoring them. The Natural Resource Protection teams have been doing extensive work to develop natural resource management plans, but they don’t have the necessary funding to implement these plans. The sad truth is that they are borrowing money to do even the basic maintenance work. In the case of Fairfax County, the Park Authority is the poorest agency whose chronic under-funding is glaringly obvious. If you want the Natural Resource Protection department have more funding so that they can implement their visions, please call your District Supervisors. They are elected officials and have the power to influence the distribution of the County’s general fund.

6. Raising concerns and communicate. Let us become the voice of natural habitats and plant communities. They struggle and quietly suffer. The nature-loving people tend to be solitary types and they don’t always raise their concerns out loud. I think, however, it is changing. We witness now more concerted efforts to protect the wild habitats among different citizen groups. We see more lively debates on best methods, more activism in general. There are also more scientific datas available, and people are busy sharing the information and pressuring the elected officials. This is hugely encouraging. I’d like to think it is not too late to reverse the trend. We can save our forests and improve their qualities.

Cutting edge: Water Chestnut Program (WCP) Meeting, Nov. 15th

Twin Lakes Golf Course, Club House, Ball Room
6209 Union Mill Rd., Clifton VA 20125
Friday, 15 November 2019
10 am – 2 pm

The Fairfax Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists is facilitating an informational meeting about the invasive water chestnut (Trapa bispinosa).

The water chestnut program (WCP) would be an early detection and rapid response project for naturalists who would like to identify, verify, map and remove this novel species of water chestnut before it becomes established. The focus area is within the Potomac River watershed in Virginia.

This type of water chestnut, discovered by Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries (VGIF) in the tidal Potomac River at Pohick Bay in 2014, is not known to be established elsewhere in the USA. Scientists at the US Geological Survey (USGS) have found that it is spreading, but it is not yet considered widespread, or outside the Potomac Watershed. This is an opportune time to take measures to remove it before it becomes a huge menace in the Potomac River and watershed. Species of water chestnut (Genus, Trapa) are known to spread extensively and be invasive in Virginia and other regions of similar climate. Trapa can quickly grow over the surface of shallow water, completely shade out native submerged aquatic plants, impede water flow, clog irrigation pipes, alter biodiversity, and obstruct recreational boating and swimming.

Come to learn about this water chestnut species and explore options for eradicating it.  Virginia Master Naturalists, natural resource managers, pond owners, gardeners, naturalists, invasive species managers, pond management companies, and other interested parties are welcome to attend.

Program is free and open to the public. Please see the agenda and register here.  Questions? Email

Fairfax Master Naturalists:  This program qualifies for Continuing Education credit.

Come to orientation for new volunteers at Riverbend and Scott’s Run, Nov 2

Photo: Ana Ka’Ahanui

Saturday, November 2
9:30 AM -12.30 PM
8814 Jeffery Road, Great Falls, VA 22066

Want to become a volunteer at Riverbend Park or Scott’s Run? Attend the Fall Volunteer Orientation to learn about  opportunities, projects, and events. Positions for Animal Care Volunteers and Program Volunteers are currently open! If you want to get involved in park restoration/other projects, you are more than welcome to join us!

This session will run in two parts:

  1. Orientation for ALL new volunteers (9:30-10:30 AM)
  2. Orientation for specialties such as Animal Care, School Program Leads, and other projects.


Animal Care

Volunteer Claire Phan feeding a box turtle a fresh earth worm!

If you love animals this is the opportunity for you! Learn about local wildlife & become a caretaker to our rescued reptiles & amphibians.

Apply by 10/31 to 

Click here to register for Animal Care orientation and training.



School Program Leads

Volunteer Tom Blackburn showing students a soil sample

Love nature, science, and history? Become a program leader at Riverbend and help educate elementary students about Native American history, soils, wildlife, watershed science, biology & more!

Apply by 10/31 to 

Click here to register for becoming a School Program Lead Volunteer.




Resource Naturalists: Fall Planting Projects (14+ or w/ adult)

Chris Lansing educating volunteers on Mile a Minute clean up

Want to get involved in resource management, restoration, and conservation? Become a Resource Naturalist! We have a few planting projects to complete before winter.

Click here to register.

Email with questions and to RSVP fo orientation on Nov 2



Scott’s Run Cleanup Group! (14+ or w/ adult)


Join the SRNP Cleanup Group! Open for students, families, and anyone interested in keeping the park and Potomac river free from litter.

Click here to sign up for fall cleanup days

Want to schedule your own group cleanup? Email Valeria Espinosa!



Scout Programs Assistant Volunteer! (18+)

Interested in supporting our girl scout and boy scout programs? Join our interpretive team and learn about outdoor/nature education! 

Click here to sign up



Final Birding Walks!

Friday 10/4 and 10/18 from 8-10 AM @Nature Center

Don’t miss the final birding walks with Kris Lansing and Robin Duska. To sign up email Valeria Espinosa or call 703-759-9018


Join Nature’s Notebook Pest Patrol citizen science work


Nature’s Notebook is seeking observers to report their sightings of insect pest species that cause harm to forest and agricultural trees. Your observations as part of this campaign will help validate and improve the USA-NPN’s Pheno Forecasts, which help managers know when these species are active and susceptible to treatment.


You can contribute by reporting observations of key pest species over the course of the year. The campaign focuses on 13 species that are considered to be insect pests.

Learn more about these species on the species profile pages and Pheno Forecast pages linked below. You’ll find a phenophase photo guide linked at the bottom of each species profile page to help you with identification of key life cycle events, such as active caterpillars and active adults. Each Pheno Forecast page shows maps of which locations have reached key life cycle event stages this year, and gives information on why managers care about that species.

Species Profile (overview of protocol) Phenophase Photo Guide (ID tips and photos of life cycle stages) Pheno Forecast (and why you should observe this species)
Leaf-feeding insects
Bagworm Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis Photo Guide  Forecast
Eastern tent caterpillar Malacosoma americanum Photo Guide  Forecast
Gypsy moth Lymantria dispar Photo Guide  Forecast
Winter moth Operophtera brumata Photo Guide  Forecast
Sap-feeding insects
Hemlock woolly adelgid Adelges tsugae Photo Guide Forecast
Magnolia scale Neolecanium cornuparvum Photo Guide Forecast
Pine needle scale Chionaspis pinifoliae Photo Guide Forecast
Spotted lanternfly* Lycorma delicatula Photo Guide There is currently no forecast available for this species, but your observations can help researchers to develop one!
Wood-feeding insects
Asian longhorned beetle* Anoplophora glabripennis Photo Guide  Forecast
Bronze birch borer Agrilus anxius Photo Guide  Forecast
Emerald ash borer Agrilus planipennis Photo Guide  Forecast
Lilac (aka ash) borer Podosesia syringae Photo Guide  Forecast
Fruit-feeding insects
Apple maggot Rhagoletis pomonella Photo Guide  Forecast

*If you see these species, please report them immediately to USDA APHIS via the reporting forms for Asian longhorned beetle and Spotted lanternfly


1. Select one (or more) species to track from the list of species. To see which species are available in your state, go to The Plants and Animals page, and filter for your state and Pest Patrol Campaign (under the Animal Types dropdown in the Advanced section).

2. Join Nature’s Notebook. If you haven’t already, create a Nature’s Notebook account. See our specifics of observing if you need more details on getting started.

3. Sign up to receive Pest Patrol messaging (in the right sidebar of this page – you may need to scroll back up to see it). You will receive information about how to identify species and phenophases, as well as results of your efforts. You will also receive notifications when your area is approaching the time to look for the activity of pest life cycle stages of interest.

4. Take observations. We invite you to look for pests approximately two to three times a week once you receive the message that your area is approaching the activity period. We encourage you to continue to observe your pest species until it is no longer active.

5. Report your observations. As you collect data during the season, log in to your Nature’s Notebook account and enter the observation data you recorded. You can also use our smartphone apps to submit your observations!

Spotted lanternfly ID training, Today, June 26th

Green  Spring Gardens
4603 Green Spring Rd, Alexandria VA
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
6:30 – 8 pm

Calling all Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, Tree Commissioners, Tree Lovers, Landscapers, Arborists and  Nature Lovers:

Join Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension service in learning to identify the invasive spotted lanternfly and its main host Tree of Heaven.


A regional request for volunteer help with a study on the Bradford pear 

Question 1: What is the most recent invasive tree added to Director of Conservation & Recreation’s invasive plant list?
Answer: Callery Pear, aka, Bradford Pear: Pyrus calleryana Decne

Question 2: What can we do about it?
Answer: Support a regional research project by collecting leaf samples.

Callery pear is one of the most rapidly-spreading invasive plants in the eastern U.S. This plant stems from cultivars of ornamental pears, most commonly the Bradford pear. Callery pear can have long thorns and grows singly or in thick patches in old fields, roadsides, or forested areas.

The Callery pear population genetics study, under the direction of Dr. David Coyle (Clemson) and D. Hadziabdich-Guerry (University of Tennessee), is determined to better understand the genetics of this cultivar to inform future management tactics. To this end, foliar samples are needed from Virginia. The protocol is simple and the only cost is time.

Detailed information and how to send the samples is in the attached pdf, which can also be found on the study’s website.

Summary of the basics

  • Find one or more patches of “wild” callery pears of at least 10 individuals (different sample/patches locations should be at least 15 miles apart).
  • From each individual tree (10 trees total/site), collect 10 leaves. (Ten trees in a patch are required.)
  • Put all 10 leaves from each tree into its own envelope with the GPS location noted and if the tree is thorny or not.
  • Put newspaper in between the leaves – this helps them dry out and ensures they don’t mold on the way to UT.
  • Therefore, each sampling site would have 10 envelopes (1 per tree) to send in together.
  • Envelopes can be FedEx’ed to UT (for free!) Details given in information sheet attached.

Questions?  Contact Dr. David Coyle:

Help stop the spread of a new species of Water Chestnut

Localities, pond management personnel and the general public are asked to look for a new species of Water Chestnut (genus Trapa) recently found in the Potomac Watershed. It has been spreading since 1995 so you may have already encountered this floating aquatic vegetation growing over the surface of a pond, lake or other fresh waterbody. This species is identified by the seed cases having two spines instead of four found in the Eurasian Water Chestnut. Reports of this or other invasive aquatic species can be made via a free phone app. Water Chestnut (an annual) will sprout in May 2019, spread over the water surface and then flower and fruit by July, it drops seeds all season until it senesces after a hard frost. To stop the spread, management, by harvesting the plants by mid –July, is very successful in eradicating the plants but it may take several years of effort, if some seeds lay dormant.

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


Send us your success stories

Have you been working on a service project that has a goal?

Have you accomplished the goal or made progress toward achieving it?

Have you been working in concert with others?

Can you recount the accomplishments of your team?

Can you include measures?

Nope, you don’t need to have solved world hunger or addressed climate change all by yourself. Some successes are simply incremental steps toward outcomes that benefit the environment in Fairfax County and northern Virginia.

Every year, FMN reports stories of success to Virginia Master Naturalists. We’d like to share yours.

Whenever you are ready, please compose up to 500 words that relay (in whichever order best suits your story):

  • The name of your project and the service code
  • Its purpose, goals, and current objectives
  • Who’s working on the project–they don’t all have to be FMNers
  • What have you accomplished to date?
  • How do you measure those accomplishments beyond hours spent (e.g., if you planted a pollinator garden, what did it attract over what period of time that’s different from what used to visit that area? In addition to creatures that fly or crawl, did you attract human visitors? helpers? funding to continue? How many? How much?)
  • How much help do you need from chapter members?
  • What might we learn?
  • Why is this activity worth the investment of time?
  • How does it bring you pleasure? Would we have fun, too?

Please send the story and 2-3 photos with captions to A member of the FMN Communications team will be in touch within a few days, and your story will be posted to this site.

Yes, the time you spend on the story counts toward your service hours.

Questions? Again,