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Celebrate Fall Color!

Photo and article courtesy of Plant NOVA Natives

As Northern Virginia continues to celebrate trees to mark the start of the five year regional native tree campaign, autumn colors move to center stage. We may not get New England’s sudden (and brief) burst of color from the dominance of sugar maples, but our region makes up for it with the more gradual unfolding of a warm and lingering fall.

Most deciduous trees are best planted in the autumn, which conveniently coincides with the best time to choose a tree for its fall foliage. Trees are like people: within one species, there is plenty of variability, so if fall color is a high priority for you, this is the time to go shopping.

If your attention is drawn to a particular tree on a forested slope in Virginia, chances are you have spotted a Black Gum tree, whose red leaves positively glow in the sun. Other native trees with markedly red foliage include the Red Maples and the Scarlet and Shumard oaks. All these trees are eminently suitable for planting in a yard. Hickory trees have bright yellow foliage and tend to have planted themselves, as they are harder to find in nurseries because their deep tap roots makes it hard to dig them up. The muted red leaves of the Flowering Dogwood, Virginia’s state tree, provide a background for scarlet berries that are an important food source for migrating birds. This brings up two related subjects. The first is that it is important to choose native trees, as it is only plants that evolved within our local ecosystem that support that ecosystem. The second is that fall color is not just about foliage. The berries of many native plants, especially shrubs, ripen in fall and make a bright display that attracts birds to your yard. Many of those shrubs, such as blueberries, chokeberries, sumacs and native viburnums, also have brilliant fall foliage in their own right. Fall is also the time for the many species of the aptly named goldenrod and for the purples, blues, pinks, whites and even yellows of asters. Goldenrods and asters are the host plants for more species of caterpillars than any other perennials. But it is trees that support the most wildlife of all. If you only have the time and energy to plant one plant, let it be a native tree.

One of the fun things about our drawn-out autumn is watching the colors evolve over time. Certain patterns emerge. Sycamores start to fade well before summer’s end, with Dogwoods starting to turn rust red soon afterwards and Sassafras either red or gold. The brighter reds and yellows of canopy trees follow, with oaks being late to turn. Once those are shed, what is left is the light brown leaves of oaks and beeches that hold onto their leaves well into winter. The trees do not march in lock step, though, and there is plenty of variation from year to year, tree to tree, and even from branch to branch on the same tree. The Plant NOVA Trees website includes photos as well as a practical guide to choosing and planting native trees.

You might be thinking that when choosing a native tree, it might as well be one with bright red foliage. But consider that it is not a sea of red that makes autumn so beautiful but the quilt of contrasting red, gold, green and brown provided by the diversity of our woodland species. There are over fifty native species of trees to choose between in Northern Virginia, each of which plays its own important role in the beauty and the ecosystem of our region. Not only would it look odd to see only red trees, planting too many of one species puts the community at risk if disease strikes. Biodiversity is the key to resilience in a changing world.

Fruit Talks and Field Walks: Persimmons with Eliza Greenman – November 11

Photo: Persimmon, Keith Bradley

Workshop:
Online
Thursday, November 11, 2021
7 – 8 PM

Field Trip:
Saturday, November 13, 2021
8 AM – Noon
Oak Spring Garden Foundation, Upperville, VA

Fees: Workshop only: $15; Workshop and field walk: $75

Register here.

Join Audubon Society of Northern Virginia for an exciting new series with Oak
Spring Garden Foundation that focuses on native and heritage trees. The first
workshop will be led by Eliza Greenman, a fruit explorer, horticultural historian,
designer, and implementer of agroforestry. Learn more about Eliza and her work here.

Eliza will lead participants in a one-hour online class, followed by a half-day field
trip to Oak Spring Garden Foundation. They will be outdoors and walking
in the field. Please wear comfortable clothing and appropriate shoes.

2021 Tree Steward Symposium, June 24-25

Virtual
Thursday, June 24 and Friday, June 25, 2021
9am – noon both days
Register here.

Don’t miss the chance to collaborate with other tree stewards, hear speakers on the latest tree topics and learn about some of the latest resources available to expand your involvement in community outreach.

See the agenda here.

Ask the Experts – Pruning Native Shrubs and Trees, May 5th

Wednesday, May 5, 2021
6:30 – 8 pm
Register here.
Expert: Maraea Harris

Pruning shrubs and small trees can be confounding for homeowners but it doesn’t have to be. Maraea will talk about identifying trees and shrubs in your landscape and how best to prune them for health and aesthetics. The techniques she discusses will be applicable throughout your landscape but will focus on native shrubs and trees that are commonly grown in our area. Maraea will give a short presentation then open it up to your questions for the bulk of the hour

Submit your questions on the registration page, and please send photos of the area in question to plantnovanatives@gmail.com.

This videoconference will be recorded and posted to YouTube.

Maraea Harris is the owner of Metro GardenWorks, whose services include gardening, pruning, tree assessment and identification, and invasive plant management.

The Secret Life and Folklore of Winter Trees, January 21st

Thursday, January 21, 2021
12-1pm
Please register for the free event here. It will be recorded.

Join Capital Nature and well-known local naturalist Alonso Abugattas, the Capital Naturalist, for a fascinating talk on trees during the winter months. Evergreens like American Hollies and the Eastern Cedar provide life-sustaining food and shelter for birds and other wildlife, and reward us with sightings of refreshing green and red in the winter environment. Deciduous trees reveal stunning winter forms while they gather strength for spring blooms.

With a keen eye you can recognize amazing oaks, beech trees, and sycamores by their distinctive bark, nuts, and fruits. Alonso will draw on his abundant knowledge of the natural world, and on the legends of indigenous peoples to reveal the amazing living world of trees in winter.

Find out more about Capital Naturalist at http://capitalnaturalist.blogspot.com

Spruce Up your Foundation Plantings

Photo and article by Plant NOVA Natives

When developers build a neighborhood, they almost always add some shrubs against the foundations of the houses to soften the lines of the buildings. Just as they paint all the interior walls white, they use just a few conventional plant species for a uniform look until all the houses are sold.  The new owners get used to the look and never bother to change it. But the foundation planting area offers a big opportunity to beautify the landscaping, eliminate the need for pruning and help support our local birds and butterflies at the same time.
 
Native shrubs constitute an essential middle layer of the ecosystem, providing food and shelter for songbirds. Providing this layer in our yards is even more important in areas where the deer have eradicated native shrubs in the woods. Unfortunately, at the time when most of our houses were built, the importance of using native plants was not known to the builders, and so most of the commonly used plants are species that were introduced from other continents. Not only do they not provide food for wildlife, many of them have escaped into nearby natural areas, where they proceed to destroy the ecosystem there. Examples of that include Nandina (also problematic because its red berries are poisonous to Cedar Waxwings), Japanese Barberry (also problematic because it harbors ticks), Privet, Burning Bush, Leatherleaf Mahonia, Double-file and Linden Viburnum, and several species of Bush Honeysuckle.
 
Luckily, there are many non-invasive alternatives. Best of all, many of these are native plants and therefore support the birds and butterflies with which they evolved. These plants have become increasingly available at our local garden centers. For the area under a window, it makes sense to choose one whose ultimate height when full grown will not block the view, thus making pruning unnecessary and allowing the plant to assume its own graceful shape. Many have beautiful spring flowers; others have striking red berries that provide interest well into winter.
 
Of course, most people don’t know the names of the shrubs in their yards. This can be figured out by using a plant ID app such as Seek or iNaturalist. Residents can also get a free visit from an Audubon-at-Home volunteer to help identify invasive plants and strategize about alternatives.
 
Shrubs are not the only plants that are suitable for foundations. Small trees where there is room, native ornamental grasses in the sun and native ferns in the shade are all natural choices. For those who like the conventional look that came with the house, there are plenty of native shrubs that can achieve the same aesthetic. Other people might want to add character to their yard by choosing something a little different.  And rather than planting annuals every spring, why not plant a few native perennials just once to get that pop of color year after year? For more details, see the shrubs page and the foundation planting page on the Plant NOVA Natives website.
 

VDOF Seeks Acorns/Nuts from Virginia Landowners, deadline October 16th

Photo by Dcrjsr – Own work, CC BY 3.0

The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) is again seeking 12 species of acorns and nuts that can be planted at its Augusta Forestry Center [Crimora, Virginia] to grow into tree seedlings that will become the forests of tomorrow.

Each year, VDOF asks the public from across the state to collect and donate nuts of select species to be planted at the state nursery. These seeds will produce next year’s hardwood seedling crop, which will be sold to Virginia’s forestland owners. Seedlings grown from Virginia-grown seed generally produces trees that will best thrive in our state’s climates.

In 2019, Virginians did a tremendous job collecting acorns for the nursery. “The public supplied us with tons of acorns and walnuts last year. I am always amazed at the output by Virginians every year,” says Assistant Forestry Center Manager Josh McLaughlin.

Certain nuts can be difficult to find regionally, and availability can change year to year. At times, one species of tree in a region may produce minimal acorns, while others are abundant with “acorns hanging like bunches of grapes,” says McLaughlin. This is why VDOF puts out a call-to-action for landowners across the state. The more trees that can be identified for collection, the more nuts can be potentially planted in the nursery.

Protocols and guidelines for acorn collection remain mostly the same as last year, with some minor adjustments to the collection deadline and species list. Virginia landowners interested in sharing their acorns or nuts are asked to follow these guidelines.

During September and early October, it is easy to pick up nuts in many yards and parking lots. Try to avoid trees in more heavily forested areas because there may be different species of trees nearby, making it difficult to sort the nuts by species for proper planting.

The species the tree nursery needs this year are: black oak, black walnut, Chinese chestnut, chestnut oak, live oak, northern red oak, pin oak, southern red oak, swamp chestnut oak, swamp white oak, white oak and willow oak.

Place the nuts in a breathable sack or bag (no plastic, please). Minimize debris in the bag (e.g. leaves, sticks, gravel). On the bag, please label the species and date of collection.

Once the nuts are collected, place in a cool area (like a fridge or basement) until you are ready to drop them off at a VDOF office. In Fairfax County, bring the acorns to the bins on the first floor of the parking garage behind the Virginia Department of Forestry office at 12055 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA. Nuts must be delivered by October 16, 2020.

Collectors can find more detailed information about collection procedures, nut identification and frequently asked questions on VDOF’s website: https://dof.virginia.gov/tree/acorn-collect.htm

If you have questions, or if there is a tree that needs to be identified before you collect the nuts, please call the Augusta Forestry Center: 540-363-7000.

Master naturalists receive service hour credit for collecting, packaging, and travel to deliver the acorns at code S035.

Fairfax County Calling for Friends of Trees Nominations

Individuals or organizations may be nominated for various tree related projects or programs. The individuals or organizations must have demonstrated outstanding conservation-based actions in preserving, protecting or planting trees. The following types of projects or programs may be nominated:

  • Preservation: projects or programs for land or easement donations, or appropriate tree care
  • Education: projects or programs that create publications, interpretive trail development, tree marking with identification tags, or presentations to the public about preservation, protection or tree planting
  • Planting: projects or programs that conduct seedling plantings, riparian restoration plantings or heritage species plantings
  • Maintenance: innovative tree care projects or programs without traditional funding sources

Click here to access a nomination form. Awards are presented in the fall. Nominations are due by July 31, 2020.

Trees for your loved ones?

Looking for the perfect gift for someone who does not want “things”? Try the gift of trees! With each gift you purchase through the Reforest Fairfax tree gifting program (www.reforestfairfax.com), five (5) native seedlings planted in Fairfax County will be dedicated in honor of your recipient. Your recipient will receive a certificate informing them of the gift, which comes with a unique certificate number that can be used to identify where the trees were planted using our online Tree Map. The trees are planted by Fairfax ReLeaf (www.fairfaxreleaf.org) and proceeds go directly to support education, outreach, and promotional efforts for native plant restoration through the Plant NOVA Natives campaign (www.plantnovanatives.org).

Virginia Trees for Clean Water – Grant Applications Open for 2020 Plantings, due Jan. 8th

Through funds from the USFS Chesapeake Watershed Forestry Program and Virginia Water Quality Improvement Funds, Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) has developed the Virginia Trees for Clean Water program. The program is designed to improve water quality across the Commonwealth through on-the-ground efforts to plant woody trees and shrubs where they are needed most.

Grants are awarded through this program to encourage local government and citizen involvement in creating and supporting long-term and sustained canopy cover.

Proposal Category examples (not limited to):
• Riparian tree planting
• Community tree planting
• Street Tree planting
• Neighborhood or NeighborWoods Tree plantings
• Turf to Trees projects
(see proposal document for more details)

Who is Eligible?
Grants may be awarded to local units of government, approved non-profit organizations, community civic organizations, educational institutions and private citizens.

When?
Application Package will be due on Wednesday, January 8th 2020 for applicants hoping to receive funding for spring and fall 2020 plantings. All applicants will be notified of grant status by February 1st 2020.

For more detailed information, download the here Virginia Trees for Clean Water – Request for Proposal document.

Also go to http://www.dof.virginia.gov/business/index.htm#VTCWGrant (scroll down to Request for Proposals – Trees for Clean Water)