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Virginia Association of Forest Health Professionals, Jan 27-28

Each year VAFHP holds a conference for professionals and others interested in learning more about forest health and ecology of the Mid-Atlantic. The 2020 Conference will be held in Glen Allen, VA, just west of Richmond, on January 27-28, 2020.

Attendees include local, state and federal officials, independent contractors, consultants, horticulture and forest industry representatives and students. We encourage anyone interested in the ecology of the Mid-Atlantic to participate. VAFHP is committed to developing and providing education and training for natural resource professionals.

The Virginia Association of Forest Health Professionals (VAFHP) invites you to apply for their 2020 Conference Scholarship.

This scholarship provides you with a front row seat to pertinent Virginia forest health topics and a chance to network with professionals in forestry related fields.  You will also learn about conference logistics and provide support to the VAFHP Steering Committee throughout the conference.

This opportunity is available for first-time conference attendees and will fully cover registration costs (hotel accommodations and travel costs must be covered by scholarship recipients). Two scholarships will be available; one for recent college graduates and one for professionals or citizen scientists without dedicated travel funds. The deadline to apply is December 6, 2019, recipients will be notified by December 16, 2019.

Please visit https://www.vafhp.org/conference for conference details and registration.

Botany and Bloom Workshop Series, Nov 23

November 23, 2019

10:00 am – 02:00 pm

Location: Sky Meadows State Park, Edmonds Lane 11012, Delaplane, Virginia

Explore the rich natural diversity of Sky Meadows State Park with this three-part series. Each workshop includes a lecture in the Carriage Barn, followed by a 3-mile field hike for hands-on application. Receive a colored print-out of the lecture. Each workshop is $15/adult, $5/child (12 and under), payable the day of the workshop. Workshop fee includes parking. Bring water and lunch to eat along the trail, dress in layers, and wear sturdy shoes.

Spring Ephemerals – Saturday, April 27, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Summer Blooms – Saturday, July 27, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Winter Tree Identification – Saturday, November 23, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For complete workshop descriptions, and to sign up for the series, go to: www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/sky-meadows

A Simple Tree

Photo (c) by Barbara J. Saffir

Essay by Barbara J. Saffir

My life is about to change soon.  Not in a big way.  No cancer, divorce, or job loss.  (I count my blessings!) But it will still change in a meaningful way.  My apartment manager is going to cut down the cherry tree in front of my home.  No big deal?  That’s bad news for the cheery, cherry-red cardinals who perch there when they feed their fluffy-feathered babies.  It’s a big loss for the happy hummingbirds who hunker down there in a storm.  It’s where our Olympic gymnasts of birds — white-breasted nuthatches — perform head-first acrobatics racing down the tree trunk.  That’s where red-bellied, hairy, and downy woodpeckers hold their “coffee klatches.”  Where teensy, tufted titmouses with fawn-like eyes seemingly pose by the tree’s sweet-smelling white flowers each spring.  Where eastern gray squirrels stretch out in the 90-degree days of July and huddle together during February’s frigid days.  And each fall, its sunshine yellow leaves linger briefly, reminding me that all good (and bad) things eventually end.

If this were only one lone tree, then it would mainly affect me. It’s part of my daily life. I delight in watching and photographing the critters’ antics in the tree from the picture window in my home office.  But at least 50 species of birds and other cute creatures’ lives partially depend on it.

It’s not the only tree to bite the dust recently.  Miles upon miles of trees are now being annihilated for the I-66 toll-lane widening.  “In the last two decades, over thirty-five percent of Northern Virginia’s urban forest has been bulldozed and chainsawed,” says the nonprofit Fairfax ReLeaf.

Why do we even need trees?  “Without them, life on earth would be very different,” says the Virginia Department of Forestry. Most importantly we need their oxygen. Trees clean the air.  They provide temperature-lowering shade. They provide privacy. We thrive on the beauty of the wildly diverse types and sizes and shapes and colors of trees in all four seasons.  They increase the value of human houses and they provide safe homes to cute creatures like northern flickers with crayon-yellow feathers, rusty-colored screech owls, and pint-sized flying squirrels, who nest and rest in their trunks and on their branches.  Their flowers help provide pollen to Virginia’s and Maryland’s 400 species of native bees.  Trees help cut flooding and clean our drinking water.

But trees are not a focus of my large apartment complex. As a long-term renter, I twice appealed to the corporate office and even offered to donate native plants to replace the mid-sized tree with no luck. I’ll admit that the tree needs replacement but the questionable pruning methods over the years probably hastened its unhealthy state. If it were on my own property, I might cut it down halfway to leave it for woodpeckers and nuthatches to live in and snack on the ants and other life-sustaining bugs that dwell in its innards. But alas, life is very short and one has to pick one’s battles.

I will miss “my” cherry tree.  But I won’t hold a funeral.  I’ll try not to grieve too long. But it would sure make me and the critters feel better if someone would replace it with a new native tree!
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Readers, are you also grieving for a favorite dead tree or plants at your apartment, in your neighborhood, or at a public park? Please feel free to share this little story to help educate your friends and neighbors about the crucial need for trees. Please also share your frustrations and successes in the comments section below along with your ideas for how to keep this from happening elsewhere.

Mindful Naturalists: Trees Are Our Teachers

The Clifton Institute, 6712 Blantyre Road
Warrenton, VA, 20187
Saturday, Nov 16, 2019
3:00pm – 4:30pm

Mindful Naturalists is a free program series created to inspire mindful observation and nature appreciation. Each month we will explore a different topic and experiment with different practices for mindfully experiencing the natural world while enjoying a peaceful afternoon at our beautiful field station.

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth.” –Herman Hesse

In November we will let trees be our teachers. How often do we allow ourselves to get to know an individual tree? What might we learn from trees if we explored them in a more mindful way? This month we will experiment with knowing trees in ways that connect us to individuals, ecosystems, and all of nature. We will begin with a short meditation, explore the forests around the farmhouse, spend some solitary time with a tree, and finally reflect on what we learn as a group.

Please dress for the weather. All materials provided. No mindfulness experience required. All are welcome!

Free, but please register

 

Help repopulate white oak forests

From Laura DeWald, Forest Genetics Specialist:

I am at the University of Kentucky (Dept. Forestry and Natural Resources), where I am developing a genetics improvement program for white oak (Quercus alba) to address sustainability of the white oak resource into the future. The eventual goal of the project is to have a sustainable supply of good white oak to support healthy forests and restore the white oak resource. 

The first obvious step in a genetics program is to get germplasm – in this case acorns. Collecting will begin this fall and will occur for at least two more seasons, with the future collections focused on filling in collection gaps in the geographic range. Acorns collected will be grown in the Kentucky Division of Forestry’s state nursery and then outplanted into genetic tests as 1-0 seedlings. 

I need help getting acorns from throughout Virginia. Each individual person only needs to collect from 1-2 trees.

Important First Steps

1. Scout for one or two healthy white oaks now and look for the baby acorns to make sure that tree will produce this fall. That said, you can also watch for mature acorns on the tree–it’s important that they aren’t old ones from years past. Mature acorns will start dropping late September to October, so you will need to act soon.

 2. Contact Laura DeWald (Laura.DeWald@uky.edu | 859-562-2282) for the collection kit and the important instructions you will need to follow before you gather the acorns. Laura will start sending out kits now to those who contact her. Each tree will get its own kit. (You don’t want to mix up the acorns from different trees because they want to sample the parent’s genetics.) Laura.DeWald@uky.edu   859-562-2282

Casey Trees needs volunteers, Sep. 21st and beyond

Casey Trees Farm
2498 Briggs Rd., Berryville, VA 22611
Saturday, 21 September 2019
9am – 2pm

Casey Trees Farm is a non-profit organization dedicated to research, collaboration and environmental stewardship.  They are in the process of being certified organic and are opening up their fifth field this summer. The field is almost ready for production and they want to bring in volunteers for the final step towards production, planting over 2000 trees into their grow bags! This will be a tiring day of service, but will be followed by a picnic lunch. (Hotdogs, baked beans, and chips).

Visit this link to learn more about the event: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/volunteer-september-casey-tree-farm-event-registration-69181661211 . The password VA is needed to access tickets.

In addition, Casey Trees is looking to start a corps of volunteers that are able to aid them in maintaining their tree farm in Berryville, VA year round with events and open volunteer hours, so if you are unable to join them for this event but are interested in learning more about the farm and helping out at a later date. let Chelsea MacCormack know and she will add you to the farm events newsletter.

 Learn how to plant a riparian forest

September 11, 9:00-2:00pm

Virginia Department of Forestry Training Room                                                                           

900 Natural Resources Drive Suite 800

Charlottesville, VA 22903                                                                                                           

.                                                                      

This training is being offered to 

Master Naturalists and Tree Stewards.

There is no cost to you and lunch is included.

Learn from professionals with years of experience 

  • Techniques used to plant forest buffers that can be applied to the Virginia Total Maxiumum Daily Load commitment to the Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts.
  • Why planting in riparian areas takes a unique skill set than other tree plantings.
  • How to select a site and species that will result in a successful riparian planting.
  • How the professionals handle seedlings, draw up plans for planting sites
  • Little tips that save dollars but don’t compromise results
  • Learn outreach words and techniques that speak to landowners’ needs, concerns, and stewardship ethics.

The desired outcomes of the training are: 

There will be Master Naturalists and Tree Stewards willing to select planting sites, recruit groups of citizens to help with plantings, and shepherd planting projects from start to finish.  You will have the assistance and support of those who have the experience to produce sustainable tree planting projects in riparian areas.  All trees, and needed supplies will be supplied and available for plantings. 

**Continuing education credits will be made available

Nature’s fine methods

Jerry Nissley

I recently attended a family reunion at my cousin’s restored farm house in Southampton County, Virginia. Standing sentinel to the house is a massive eastern white oak (Quercus alba) dramatically adorned with resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides). I was taken with this newly discovered (if only to me) fern and later sat down to research and write an article about the fern. 

Figure 1 House and oak tree

As I fondly rehashed conversations with the four generations at the reunion about how the land was recently recovered and the house rebuilt, and then discovered facts about the resurrection fern, what was originally an article revealed itself as a story. A story not only about a fern but more so of, well, resurrection—land into a distinguished Virginia farm, a house rebuilt into a home, and the recognition of a great white oak that has witnessed 350 years of history unfold. The symbolism of resurrection was inescapable.

The story parts blend so homogeneously with the first credo FMN students are introduced to: Awareness leads to knowledge which leads to appreciation which leads to conservation.

This story is an allegory of that credo. It tells of an initial awareness of the importance of the land and ensuing knowledge of its man-made and natural elements. It represents the appreciation of the forefather’s vision in developing the homestead and the innate desire of the current caretakers to preserve structures and conserve the beauty and integrity of the land’s natural treasures. One could loosely associate Jared Diamond’s warning about landscape amnesia—where people lose knowledge of how the natural world once was, with each succeeding generation accepting a degraded environment as the status quo (Diamond, 2005). That would not be the case with these people, with this environment.

As FMNers, we all love field trips right? So please, I invite you on a short, figurative field trip. One in which we will briefly discover some Virginia history, celebrate a sentinel oak, and then explore specific details about the resurrection fern.

The House 

We begin our field trip at the house in Southampton County, Virginia. The property has been in the Hart family for over 150 years and is now a registered Virginia Century Farm. Originally the farmers raised livestock on open land; rotated peanuts, corn, cotton, and soybeans to maintain soil quality; and designated large portions for timber.

Even though the property has been continually farmed by the family, as generations passed, the main house and farm buildings were at times rented out to achieve the greatest economic potential. The main house was adequately maintained, but the auxiliary buildings not so much. A few were lost to time and lack of maintenance, but the barn and blacksmith shed faired better.

My cousins, Patricia and Paul Milteer, were able to make the property their permanent home and tirelessly restored the farm house, barn, and blacksmith’s shed. They later applied to the Virginia Century Farm Program, and the farm is now officially registered by the state as The Hart Farm.

As stated on the program’s web-site, the Virginia Century Farm Program recognizes and honors those farms that have been in operation for at least 100 consecutive years and the Virginia farm families whose diligent and dedicated efforts have maintained these farms, provided nourishment to their fellow citizens and contributed so greatly to the economy of the Commonwealth. 

Figure 2 The Milteers’ Oak: Points: 366; Trunk circumference: 19’6”; Height: 100’; Average spread: 120’; Estimated age: 350 years

The family owners of farms designated as Virginia Century Farms receive a certificate signed by the Governor and the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, along with a sign for outdoor display (Century Farms, n.d.). 

The Tree 

Our field trip continues just out the front door. We can sit on the porch and consider the tree. Once the house and auxiliary buildings were restored functionally and aesthetically, the Milteers were able to focus on the massive eastern white oak standing as gatekeeper to their home. The oak provides home and food to a variety of animals. A barn owl (Tyto alba) nests in the branches and bats take sanctuary in the folds of the bark. 

The acorns take only one growing season to develop unlike those of the red oak group, which require at least 18 months for maturation. They are much less bitter than acorns of red oaks so they are preferred by a wider variety of wildlife. They are small relative to most oaks, but are a valuable annual food notably for turkeys, wood ducks, pheasants, grackles, jays, nuthatches, thrushes, woodpeckers, rabbits, and deer. The white oak is the only known food plant for the Bucculatrix luteella and Bucculatrix ochrisuffusa caterpillars. (Q. Alba, n.d.)

Recognizing the tree’s impressive size, the Milteers reached out to The Virginia Big Tree Program, an educational program within the Virginia Cooperative Extension that started out as a 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) project in 1970. Today the program is coordinated by the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation at Virginia Tech. Their mission is to increase the care and appreciation for all trees—big and small—and educate the Commonwealth about the value of trees and forests. The Virginia Big Tree Program maintains a register of the five largest specimens of more than 300 native, non-native, and naturalized tree species. The register includes information about each tree’s size, location, and unique characteristics. (Virginia Cooperative Extension, n.d.)

Trees are ranked on a point system measuring height, crown spread, and trunk circumference. The 500-year-old national record holder for Q. alba grows in Brunswick, Virginia and scored 451 points in 2012. The next highest scoringVirginia Q. alba scored 398 (Southampton), 397 (Lee), and 396 (Albemarle) respectively. (Big trees, n.d.)

Byron Carmean and Gary Williamson, volunteers for Virginia Big Tree Program, scored the Milteer’s tree at 366, so it probably will not make the top five (maybe the top ten).

The Fern

Let’s move our field trip just off the porch to contemplate the fern. Field trips don’t get easier than this, folks! 

Pleopeltis polypodioides (Andrews & Windham), also known as the resurrection fern, is a species of creeping, coarse-textured fern native to the Americas and Africa. The leathery, yellow-green pinnae (leaflets) are deeply pinnatifid and oblong. It attaches to its host with a branching, creeping, slender rhizome, which grows to 2 mm in diameter (P. Polypodioides, n.d.). The fern is facultative to North American Atlantic and Gulf Coast Plain physiographical areas.

Figure 3: Resurrection fern

This fern is not parasitic. It is an epiphyte or air plant. It attaches itself to a host and collects nourishment from air and water and nutrients that collect on the outer surface of the host. The resurrection fern lives commensalistically on the branches of large trees such as cypresses and may often be seen carpeting the shady areas on limbs of large oak trees as pictured on the Milteer’s tree. It also grows on rock surfaces and dead logs. In the southeastern United States, it is often found in the company of other epiphytic plants such as Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) and is always found with some type of moss (phylum Bryophyta). The fern has spores (sori) on the bottom of the fronds and sporulates in summer and early fall (Oak and Fern, n.d.). Interestingly, rhizome sections are also viable offspring and can root themselves in new medium.

 The resurrection fern gets its name because it can survive long periods of drought by curling up its fronds and appearing desiccated, grey-brown and dead. However, when just a little water is presented, the fern will uncurl and reopen, appearing to “resurrect” and restores itself to a vivid green color in as little as three hours. Studies suggest these ferns could last 100 years without water and still revive after a single exposure. 

When the fronds “dry” as shown in Figure 4 (2 weeks after the reunion), they curl with their bottom sides upwards. In this way, they rehydrate more quickly when rain comes, as most of the water is absorbed on the underside of the pinnae. Experiments have shown they are able to lose almost all their free water (up to 97%) and remain viable, though more typically they lose around 76% in dry spells. For comparison, most other plants may die after losing only 8-12%. When drying, the fern synthesizes the protein dehydrin, which allows cell walls to fold in a way that can be easily reversed later (Plant Signaling, n.d.).

Figure 4 Dry fronds

Even more life, in forms that aren’t visible to the naked eye, may call the fern a community home. Stems, leaves, and flowers host microorganisms, creating a habitat called a phyllosphere, a term used in microbiology to refer to all above-ground portions of plants as habitat for microorganisms. The phyllosphere is subdivided into the caulosphere (stems), phylloplane (leaves), anthosphere (flowers), and carposphere (fruits). The below-ground microbial habitats (i.e., the thin-volume of soil surrounding root or subterranean stem surfaces) are referred to as the rhizosphere and laimosphere, respectively. Most plants host diverse communities of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, archaea, and protists. Some are beneficial to the plant; others function as plant pathogens and may damage the host plant or even kill it. However, the majority of microbial colonists on any given plant have no detectable effect on plant growth or function. Plant phyllospheres in general are considered a hostile environment for microorganisms to live due to the variation in ultra-violet radiation, temperature, water, and nutrient contents. The phyllosphere of P. polypodioides is considered even more extreme due to the mercurial environmental conditions this epiphyte is typically found in and the dry/wet states it cycles through (Phyllosphere, n.d.).

Microorganisms do indeed survive in the phyllosphere of P. polypodioides though, even during its dry periods. In “Changes in the phyllosphere community of the resurrection fern, Polypodium polypodioides associated with rainfall and wetting”, Jackson (2006) found the micro-organism community changes as the resurrection fern moves from a dry state to wet state. Additionally, the researchers found that certain populations of microorganisms increase their enzyme activity after the fern revives. The researchers concluded that these microorganisms are responding to the secretion of sugary organics released through the plant’s surface once the fern is back to its robust, green state. Changes in phyllosphere extracellular enzyme activity are seen first as an initial burst of activity following rainfall and a subsequent burst approximately 48 hours later as additional nutrient sources emerge.

Figure 5 Revived fern

Cultural studies have shown that Native peoples historically recognized the significance of the resurrection fern. It has been used as a diuretic, a remedy for heart problems, and as a treatment for infections. Benefits of the resurrection fern are not lost on the modern pharmaceutical industry. Recent medical research confirming these cultural reports have shown that extracts from the fern have anti-arrhythmic cardiac properties—truly a potential for resurrection of the heart.

Figure 6 Resurrection Fern up close

Thanks in part to the training provided by dedicated FMN program instructors, in this case our resident dendrologist Jim McGlone, I am aware of trees like never before. I see trees, I see what lives in trees, I see ferns, and I see the need for conservation. What I need to see more clearly and we all need to experience is the indelible, spiritual, personal relationship people need to have with nature. People are the caretakers of the gifts we have been given on earth, and people need to be the stimulus for conservation. As John Muir (1911) elegantly journaled, “How fine Nature’s methods! How deeply with beauty is beauty overlaid!” It is inspiring to me that something as small as a fern encouraged awareness, understanding, appreciation and, yes, resurrection of “nature’s fine methods”.

 

Works Cited

Big trees. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.americanforests.org: www.americanforests.org/get-involved/americas-biggest-trees/bigtrees-search/bigtrees-advanced-search/

Century Farms. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.vdacs.virginia.gov: www.vdacs.virginia.gov/conservation-and-environmental-virginia-century-farms.shtml

Diamond, J. M. (2005). Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed. New York: Viking.

Jackson, E. F. (2006). Changes in the phyllosphere community of the resurrection fern, Polypodium polypodioides, associated with rainfall and wetting. FEMS microbiology ecology 58.2, 236-246.

Muir, J. (1911). My First Summer in the Sierra. Boston: Houghton Miffin.

Oak and Fern. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.sciphotos.com: www.sciphotos.com/2016/01/oak-tree-resurrection-fern.html

P. Polypodioides. (n.d.). Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleopeltis_polypodioides

Phyllosphere. (n.d.). Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phyllosphere

Plant Signaling. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3256378

Q. Alba. (n.d.). Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quercus_alba

Virginia Cooperative Extension (n.d.). Virginia Big Tree Program. Retrieved from ext.vt.edu: http://ext.vt.edu/natural-resources/big-tree.html

Shortleaf pine Crop Tree Release, June 29th

EVENT POSTPONED DUE TO LOW PARTICIPANT RESPONSE

 

Conway Robinson State Forest, Gainesville, VA
Meet at the parking area on N side of US-29 at the intersection of University Blvd and US-29
Saturday, 29 June 2019
7:30-11 am

The planted shortleaf pines at Conway Robinson State Forest, though a native to the area, is facing strong competition from the faster growing loblolly pine. Come out and help Department of Forestry release the shortleaf with hand tools. What is a Crop Tree Release (CTR), why would we do it, and how would we go about it? CTR is a pre-commercial (doesn’t make money) practice that targets a certain species or category of trees that are desirable, but are facing competition from their neighbors. The idea is to remove the competition in favor of the desired or target trees and allow said trees to grow freely. This removal is best done mechanically by cutting down or girdling the competing trees adjacent to the target tree. Contact: HeritageHabitat@yahoo.com.

Sign up at:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScDdjx3_D0IXaoNR1O33plY-RxhcYl24sj7Av3wvoHU-YT3HQ/viewform

Gardening and landscaping made easy

Everyone enjoys a beautiful yard. Not everyone enjoys working in it. For those who would like to attract birds and butterflies with as little effort as possible, there are some simple solutions.

It is a lot less work to plant a few larger plants than a whole lot of small ones. Adding a few native shrubs or trees to your landscaping is easily accomplished, and weeding will be a straightforward affair. Make sure that your plant choices are native, because plants that evolved here are adapted for survival and require no fertilizers, pesticides, or additional watering once established. (They are also the plants that most benefit the ecosystem.) Avoid the need for pruning by choosing shrubs that naturally grow to the right size. Leave fallen leaves in place to create a natural mulch.

Flower gardens will typically require more weeding, but there are ways to minimize work there as well. Almost all of our native garden plants are perennial, meaning you only need to plant them once to achieve years of seasonal blooms. It is much easier to decide what is a weed and what is not if you plant just a few species in well-defined blocks, using plants that have strong and distinctive architecture. Find details and more tips on the Plant NOVA Natives website.

Of course, the ultimate way to save yourself work is to get someone else to do it for you! A landscape design company with expertise in native plants can accomplish in a day what might take you years to get around to on your own. In addition, many landscape designers have been through the Chesapeake Bay Professional Landscaping training program and can help you with erosion and stormwater control. Now is a good time to get on their schedule for a spring planting. You can find a list here.