Posts

Be Nice to Your Trees

Article and photo by Plant NOVA Trees
On a recent day, driving out of the sun into a wooded community resulted in a temperature drop from 91 to 86 degrees. We all try to stay in the shade in hot weather, competing for the parking spaces under trees. What we may not realize is that tree-lined neighborhoods are cooler not just because of the shade but because the trees themselves act as air conditioners. The basic concept is that it takes energy to turn a liquid into a gas – we see that when boiling water. When a tree sucks up water through its roots and releases it as a gas through its leaves, a process known as transpiration, the energy that causes the water to evaporate is absorbed from the surroundings in the form of heat, and the result is a lower air temperature. This principle of physics also explains why sweating cools our bodies.
Newly planted trees are particularly vulnerable to high heat, so the most basic care needed from us is to provide enough water until they are well established. Seedlings establish quickly, but a landscaper-sized tree needs several years for its root to grow out of the planting hole into the surrounding soil. Our torrential summer storms can fool us into thinking we are getting enough rain, but many of them are brief and don’t even budge the rain gauge. A young tree with brown leaves is a very sad sight. At the same time, overwatering any plant can be worse than underwatering, by depriving the roots of oxygen, so we need to be careful to follow instructions in that regard and allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
Once a native tree gets established, though, little if any care may be required for the next twenty years or so. Our oaks and other native trees evolved here and are accustomed to the local soils and our variable temperatures and rainfall, although those 91 degree days are adding to the stress of living in an urban or suburban environment. Because older trees may start to develop issues, it is wise to have those that are near houses inspected every two years by an independent consulting arborist, meaning one who has no financial incentive to sell tree care services. They can recommend procedures that may prevent a tree from becoming hazardous. Even better, they may be able to provide reassurance, for instance, that a tree that is leaning a little may be quite stable, despite the dire warnings of a marketing rep from a tree company that is eager to keep its crew busy. Always use the services of arborists certified by the ISA (International Society of Arboriculture.)
When future residents are facing temperatures even higher than today’s, a five degree lower temperature may make a life or death difference. Consider what hundred degree weather does to the human body when a prolonged blackout shuts down everyone’s air conditioning. It pays to take good care of our trees. Find out how on the Plant NOVA Trees website.

Free Trees for Communities

Article and photo by Plant NOVA Natives

As community associations around Northern Virginia ramp up their native tree planting efforts, they are looking around to find ways to make it affordable. Burke Centre resident Craig Willett has solved that problem for his neighbors: all they have to do is fill out a simple form to get a free tree. A member of Burke Centre Conservancy’s volunteer Open Space Committee, Craig has organized a system both for private property and for common land. On private land, residents pick up seedlings from Craig’s house and plant them themselves. On common land, the Trustees of the various clusters put in a request, and Craig and his colleagues will install trees or shrubs either to replace ones that have died or to reforest open areas. You can see him pictured here with fellow volunteer Mike Hathaway, in red.

Trees grow slowly, and they also die slowly. Many neighborhoods around Northern Virginia have been losing their canopy coverage, bit by bit, so that once pleasantly shaded yards and streets where neighbors and children could gather are gradually becoming intolerable as our summer temperatures rise. Communities that wish to reverse this trend are most likely to succeed if they build a long-term routine for tree care and tree replacement into their master plans. Where there is no community association, residents will need to step forward to help each other make a plan.

Burke Centre Conservancy obtains its tree seedlings from Fairfax ReLeaf, a non-profit organization of volunteers who plant and preserve native trees on public and common lands in Northern Virginia. Individual landowners may also request seedlings from Fairfax ReLeaf.

Any community in Fairfax County that owns open space may also apply for free trees from the Fairfax Tree Preservation and Planting Fund. It is not necessary to be a 501(c)3 organization to apply as long as the open space is commonly owned. This is a solid funding source for organizations that want to plant either seedlings or larger trees. The application process looks a little intimidating at first glance because of the long list of requirements, but in fact the required steps are all ones that any organization would take anyway when planting trees.

Programs for obtaining free native trees are also available to communities in Arlington and Falls Church. And although not free, there are numerous ways to obtain native trees for a very low price. For example, the Virginia Department of Forestry sells tree and shrub seedlings for $2.00 apiece for orders of ten or more. Our local native plant garden centers all sell medium-sized trees in containers at reasonable prices. Those trees may look a little small when first planted, but they will rapidly catch up to trees that were planted when larger, since older trees suffer more transplant shock. Two wholesalers of larger trees offer their trees at wholesale cost to people who are organizing community plantings. Links to all these programs can be found on the Plant NOVA Trees website.

Since 2018, Burke Centre Conservancy has planted over 600 bare root seedlings, which is in keeping with the nature-centered philosophy of this community with its extensive network of trails through the woods. More details about their process can be found on this web page.

Millions of Trees at Risk in Northern Virginia? Introducing Tree Rescuers!

Photo courtesy of Plant NOVA Natives

Northern Virginia’s oldest and best-loved trees are in danger, and the threat is in plain sight – and yet there are few who can see it.

But help is on the way! Tree Rescuers – a new community education and outreach program – is shining a light on non-native invasive vines, which pose a mortal threat to millions of mature trees in Northern Virginia.

More than 130 people from neighborhoods across Northern Virginia have already volunteered with Tree Rescuers, a new campaign sponsored by Plant NOVA Trees and aimed at preserving our area’s mature trees.

“We were amazed at how many people were ready to do something like this for the trees but didn’t know how to get started,” said Margaret Fisher, one of the coordinators of Plant NOVA Trees. “This is a great time to start, since the leaves are down and the vines can be seen more easily.”

As many as three million trees in Northern Virginia may be at risk, said Fisher.

Many people are unaware that invasive vines like English Ivy can eventually make a tree hazardous (and expensive to remove). Tree Rescuers volunteers learn how to identify problematic vines, then walk their neighborhoods spotting trees that need help.

The Tree Rescuers don’t remove any vines themselves, but they warn landowners by dropping off a brochure explaining the problem and ways to fix it.

Data gathered by Tree Rescuers will also help improve knowledge of the actual number of trees at risk, since the collected data is being aggregated and mapped. A map of neighborhoods surveyed can be viewed here.

Tree Rescuers is part of Plant NOVA Trees, a five-year campaign by local governments and nonprofit organizations to increase tree cover in Northern Virginia. Native trees are a key part of the solution to many community problems, from extreme weather and air and water quality to the health of birds, wildlife, and the Chesapeake Bay.

For more details about Tree Rescuers, or to volunteer, click here.

FMN Quarterly Chapter Meeting, Plant NOVA Trees, March 21st

Photo: J. Quinn

Monday, March 21, 2022
7 pm
Online
Email vmnfairfax@gmail.com for the link

Fairfax Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists will hold their Quarterly Chapter Meeting online on Monday, March 21st at 7 pm. There will be a short business meeting and Margaret Fisher will present on Plant NOVA Trees and the Role of Master Naturalists. Of course you do not have to be a master naturalist to appreciate this insightful presentation and ways you can help.

FMN is a founding partner of Plant NOVA Natives and continues to provide critical support. Learn about the regional native tree campaign and the many ways that each of us can contribute. As a preview, here is an example of the work of Plant NOVA Trees.

Margaret Fisher is a Fairfax Master Naturalist and one of the coordinators of Plant NOVA Natives/Plant NOVA Trees. She is also an Audubon-at-Home Ambassador, Fairfax Invasives Management volunteer site leader, and volunteer stream monitor.

Easy Plant Combinations for Your Yard

Photo courtesy of Plant NOVA Trees

Are you ready to brighten up your yard but not to spend hours researching plant choices? You may be a candidate for a native plant “package” that includes plants that thrive in similar landscape conditions. Grouping them together will quickly beautify your property while benefitting the local ecosystem.

Trees, shrubs and groundcovers are the backbone of any landscape and are in fact all that most people want to bother with. You can find combinations for nine common situations on the Plant NOVA Trees website. If, for example, the ground in your yard gets soggy at times, you might choose a Wet Areas package and include a Sweetgum tree for shade, American Hornbeam in the understory, and a couple Smooth Hydrangea shrubs. If you underplant them with Golden Ragwort, you will have an evergreen groundcover that has the added bonus of bright yellow flowers for two months in the spring. If you don’t have room for a canopy tree, choose the Small Space Combo instead and pair the Common Witch Hazel shrub with its November blooms with the shorter spring-flowering Virginia Sweetspire.

When practical, there is a great deal to be said for planting each member of a grouping at more or less the same time, minimizing root disturbance by installing the specimens when small. Whether planting all at once or in stages, though, the healthiest landscape is one that is densely planted with native species, healing the soil and providing food and shelter from the ground to the canopy for our local birds, fireflies, butterflies and other residents. Professional gardeners of course need to be adept at exactly matching plants to the microclimates within a landscape, but the rest of us can do quite well just using the obvious sun, soil and water conditions as our guide.

Those with a flower garden in their yard can speed up its evolution into a native paradise by choosing combinations that will result in blooms over the course of the season. In a sunny areas, if you are guided by the spring, summer and fall packages on the Plant NOVA Natives website, the result will be a stunning combination of well-behaved plants that will attract butterflies throughout the growing season. Suggestions for shady or wet areas are included, as are ornamental grasses. You can also find locations of garden centers that stock native plants.

Fairfax Master Naturalists’ Donation Making a Difference!

Article by FMN Steve Wright

Plant NOVA Trees is a new, five-year drive by the Plant NOVA Natives campaign to increase the native tree canopy in Northern Virginia by promoting planting and preservation of native trees. The drive kicked off with a bang on 1 September 2021 with over 50 local organizations executing more than 100 events throughout the fall to celebrate trees. Events included tree plantings; tree rescues; conferences; webinars; tree walks; library displays; story time and art classes with youth; and many others.

Fairfax Master Naturalists was approached to support the new campaign and made a generous donation of $2,500, one of the largest donations received. Plant NOVA Trees is using the contribution to create Plant NOVA Trees promotional materials including brochures, stickers and native tree hang tags that have been used during the kick-off events and distributed to organizations, businesses and nurseries across the region.

Following a presentation about Plant NOVA Trees, the members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors agreed in October to have their Office of Public Affairs help support the Plant NOVA Trees campaign outreach efforts. The office will develop a communications strategy to include social media, sharing Plant NOVA Trees information and content, and encouraging all residents to consider participating by planting native trees.

As all Master Naturalists know, native trees are an essential part of our local ecosystem, supporting our butterflies, songbirds, and all other wildlife. The social, economic, community and environmental benefits of trees are massive, and thanks to our chapter’s “seed money,” the Plant NOVA Trees campaign is off to a rousing start.

You can find Celebration of Trees events and information about the campaign and how to protect and plant native trees on the Plant NOVA Trees website. There are many ways to help, including joining the Tree Rescuers program to survey your community for trees at risk from invasive vines, participating in the speakers’ bureau, organizing community tree plantings, and planting trees yourselves. Volunteers are also needed to approach corporations to ask them to participate in the campaign.

Arlington National Cemetery Treasures its Trees

U.S. Army photo by Rachel Larue/released

Article by Plant NOVA Trees

Arlington National Cemetery is a place to honor, remember, and explore. The beauty of the grounds and the comfort of its visitors is enhanced by close to 10,000 trees, some dating back to before the Civil War. The diverse collection of this Certified Level III Arboretum include many species native to Northern Virginia including the state co-champion Pin Oak, near the Memorial Amphitheater. (A champion tree is the largest representative of its particular species within a geographic area.)

Arlington National Cemetery is dotted with native trees such as Redbuds with their lavender flowers in spring, Black Gum with its bright red fall foliage, and American Hollies that shelter the birds. Oaks are the most common species, which reflects their predominance in the Eastern forest.

Forester Greg Huse gives tours of the arboretum to visitors four times a year and points out the ecosystem services provided by mature trees. That Pin Oak, for example, not only supports the caterpillars that are the food for baby songbirds – a feature intrinsic to native plants but nearly absent in non-native ones – but also absorbs 1,400 pounds of atmospheric carbon and intercepts 23,000 gallons of storm water every year.

After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, a landscape architect firm designed the Kennedy memorial site, home of the Eternal Flame. The designers worked around a 200 year-old Post Oak, 60 inches in diameter, which later became known as the Arlington Oak. In 2012, this massive tree was blown down by Hurricane Irene and could not be rescued. By good fortune, though, its acorns had been collected by American Forests as part of their historically significant trees project. Three of those saplings were donated back to Arlington Cemetery and planted in the same plaza, where they are now ten to twelve feet tall and thriving.

Trees are not the only native plants at the cemetery. Horticulturalist Kelly Wilson has been steadily adding a diversity of herbaceous and woody plants throughout the last decade, especially in the newer bio-retention areas (rain gardens). In these public areas, she designs with a small number of species to keep a neat-and-clean look, while in a staff parking area, she allows for more exuberance. Favorite natives utilized are the purple-flowering Ironweed which attracts many pollinators. Monarch caterpillars have taken advantage of the Butterflyweed. River Birch with its beautiful peeling bark does very well in rain gardens.

The 639 acres of Arlington National Cemetery, which is the resting place for 400,000 American servicemembers and family, are cared for by five permanent staff members who supervise the work of 90-100 contractors. The trees that grace this National Treasure are an essential feature, just as they are in any neighborhood where residents value the beauty and services they provide.

To learn what you can do to plant and protect trees on your own property, visit www.plantnovatrees.org. Many of the trees will still have their fall colors in November when Arlington National Cemetery hosts the Centennial Commemoration of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. On November 9-10, a flower ceremony takes place where the American public will be able to place a flower at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. On November 11, an Armed Forces full honors procession takes place as it did a hundred years ago on November 11, 1921. Find out more about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration at www.arlingtoncemetery.mil.

Tree Ceremony Adds Native Seedlings in Lorton

Photos by Susan Laume

Article by FMN Susan Laume, published in The Connection newspapers, reprinted with permission

The Laurel Hill Park Volunteer Team planted southern red oak seedlings (Quercus falcate) on Oct. 30 as part of the Celebration of Trees campaign organized by Plant NoVA Natives. The event, one of many planned across the area this Fall, is part of a five-year campaign to preserve native trees and see more planted in Northern Virginia.

The planting at the historic Barrett House replaced three mature oaks lost last year after a period of several year’s decline. The seedlings will grow to medium sized trees, providing shade, with a large root system for watershed protection, and with a beautiful red leaf color in late summer and the Fall, from which the trees get their name. All oak species provide high food value and shelter for wildlife, including insects, mammals, rodents, birds and deer. This particular oak is the larva host for the Banded hairstreak and White hairstreak butterflies.

Fairfax Releaf’s Taylor Beach demonstrates correct tree planting for best success

In coordination with Fairfax County’s Natural Resources Branch of the Park Authority, additional seedlings were planted in the park’s reforestation area. The reforestation project, under the management of ecologist Darko Veljkovic, will include the planting of hundreds of native trees of various species this December, to reclaim forest habitat from invasive shrubs and vines. The Laurel Hill Park Volunteer Team’s planting of six southern red oak seedlings was the symbolic start of that reforestation effort.

Fairfax Releaf, an independent non-profit organization promoting the planting and preservation of native trees, provided the seedlings for the Laurel Hill planting. The organization makes trees available to Virginia residents and businesses to “lessen the impact of development on the environment” in our fast growing county. (fairfaxreleaf.com) A variety of tree species are available, most of which are grown at the Virginia Dept. of Forestry nursery in Augusta County. The state’s nursery grows hardwood and pine trees from donated acorns and seeds gathered by volunteers around the state. The Laurel Hill volunteer team effort brought the process full circle, from acorn donation to tree planting.

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.

Plant NOVA Trees Event Volunteers Needed

Plant NOVA Natives was launched in 2014 to promote and increase the use of locally native plants in Northern Virginia. One of nine campaigns within the state-wide Plant Virginia Natives marketing partnership, it is a grand coalition of governmental, nonprofit and for-profit organizations that have pooled their resources to work toward this common goal. The campaign’s success rests on the action of the millions of individuals who make up our Northern Virginia community.

Plant NOVA Trees is a new and focused drive by the Plant NOVA Natives campaign to significantly increase and preserve the native tree canopy in Northern Virginia. The drive will launch in September 2021 and continue through the fall of 2026.

They are looking for people who can organize some kind of tree-related public event sometime this fall. To launch the native tree campaign, they will be sponsoring a region-wide Celebration of Trees, September through November. They are hoping that numerous people in every county will help them create buzz.

Some ideas for events include:

Tree walks (For the general public, you would want to make it short, snappy and fun.)
Tree plantings (be sure to report them on My Tree Counts)
Removing invasives that threaten trees
Webinars
Labelling trees with their names or placing signs in front of trees describing their particular benefits to wildlife and humans
Creating a GPS map of your community’s trees
Collecting seeds from your trees to be sent to the state nursery that grows seedlings
Forest bathing, scavenger hunts
Tie yellow ribbons around old oak trees (and red ones around red maples, etc)
Geocaching
Fairy houses in the woods
Photo contests
Anything creative you can come up with!

They have a sign to mail to organizers as well as brochures, and where selling their Native Plants for Northern Virginia guides is an option, they can provide those. If you do put on an event, they would love to add it to their Celebration of Trees event calendar, so please let Margaret Fisher know at plantnovanatives@gmail.com.

The Fairfax Chapter recognizes the valuable work to be done by Plant NOVA Trees and recently donated $2,500 to the campaign. Funds will be used for promoting awareness of the program and for community tree identification projects. You may make your own donation here.