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: . 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

Century Farms. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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

P. Polypodioides. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Phyllosphere. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Plant Signaling. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Q. Alba. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Virginia Cooperative Extension (n.d.). Virginia Big Tree Program. Retrieved from

Shortleaf pine Crop Tree Release, June 29th



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:

Sign up at:

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.

Join Plant NOVA Natives for its Grand Partnership meeting, February 26

Plant NOVA Natives’ third annual “Grand Partnership” meeting will take place on Tuesday, February 26, 9:30 am to 1 pm, at 3040 Williams Drive, Suite 200, Fairfax. All are welcome!

Does your organization (public, private, or non-profit; large or small) have a concern for the local environment? Please send a representative(s) as we collaborate on plans for our collective action movement in 2019. 

The agenda will be finalized later, but we plan to discuss outreach to homeowner’s associations, landscapers, and government land managers. We will leave plenty of time at the end for networking.

RSVP to Margaret Fisher

We also welcome all to our Steering Committee meetings. The next one is scheduled for Tuesday, January 22, 10 am to noon (same location).

A Preview of Upcoming Virginia Tree Events

SAVE THE DATES – February to April, 2019

Tree Farm Dinner

February 21 – King & Queen County, VA

“One-stop shop” for woodland owners wanting to better manage their land and citizen scientists desiring to expand their applied knowledge base! 

Details and registration  

Landowner’s Woods & Wildlife Conference(s)

February 23 – Culpeper, VA (15th annual)

February 23 – Roanoke, VA (new)

This popular event is different every year with diverse topics and speakers throughout the day for you to choose from.  Geared toward woodland owners, and great for citizen scientists desiring to expand their applied knowledge base! 

Details and registration

On-line Woodland Options for Landowners

March 4 – May 24 – from anywhere you can “connect”

Self-paced, with “coach/mentor” interactions.

More information and registration

Free Seminar:  A Primer on Pruning

March 27 – Fredericksburg, VA

Hosted by the Master Gardener Association of the Central Rappahannock Area

Central Rappahannock Regional Library, Main Branch (1201 Caroline Street,  Fredericksburg, 22401). Free and open to public. 

More information:

Virginia Forestry Summit

April 30 – May 3  – Norfolk, VA

For Forestry professionals and Forest landowners organized by VFASAF (Virginia Division) and ACF(Virginia Division)

Details and registration forthcoming  

VNPS Annual Winter Solstice Field Trip, 23 December

Chapman State Park, MD (driving directions and more information here)

Sunday, 23 December 2018

10 am – 4 pm

Please join the Virginia Native Plant Society for this annual winter tradition to celebrate the beginning of the winter season at Chapman Forest (Chapman State Park, MD) with its spectacular scenery and remarkable diversity of native plants, wildlife, and natural communities! Leaders will be Rod Simmons, Bonnie Bick, Mary Farrah, and Robin Firth.

This year they will visit the old-age forest section from the low river terrace and extensive Water-willow Shrublands along the Potomac River to the marl cliffs and ravines near Glymont. This section of the park is a fascinating and regionally unique meeting ground for plants with a primary range in the inner Piedmont and mountains and those of the Coastal Plain. Before participating, be sure to read Rod’s description of the old-age forest at Chapman.

The Winter Solstice Field Trip is free and open to non-members. Registration is not required.  For additional information, contact Anne DeNovo at

Native plants for beginners symposium, Feb. 8

Photo by Barbara J. Saffir (c)

  • Create a beautiful yard
  • Save time so you can enjoy other activities
  • Create habitat for birds & pollinators
  • Save money on fertilizer
  • Improve water quality
  • Reduce erosion
  • Stop mowing, Start growing!

Learn more at the Prince William Native Plant Symposium on Saturday, February 8, 2020 at the Northern Virginia Community College-Workforce Center

2675 College Drive, Woodbridge, VA 22191

9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  

The $20 fee covers coffee and donuts, lunch, and materials.  

Let us help you to stop mowing and get going on your dream landscape!  

Call 703-792-7070 for more details and register here.

Fall service opportunities at Riverbend Park 

For questions or to volunteer, contact Valeria Espinoza at or 703-759-9018.

Record your hours as S109: FCPA Habitat and Parkland Management.

Thursday, Nov. 8, 1pm-TBD  Grass Seed Collection Training

Learn how to collect native grass seeds.  Once trained, you can do this at your convenience.  Other training dates/times available. 

Saturday, Nov. 10, 9-11am   Trail Work Day

Join master naturalist Scott Schroth on a hands-on trail restoration and erosion control project.  

Saturday, Nov. 17, 9-11am   Fall Tree Planting and Restoration

Assist in planting over 400 trees and shrubs, building cages, and removing invasives to help restore sections of the forest.