Entries tagged with “trees”.

While different states celebrate Arbor Day on different dates based on tree-planting weather, here in Virginia, it falls on the last friday in April (today!)

The Arbor Day Foundation has some great information on the history of Arbor Day – including an interactive history book – as well as educational materials that can be used with kids to teach them about trees.

They have a tree identification booklet, an Arbor Day video, online games and activities, and more.

Arbor Day is a great day to pause and appreciate trees. As is custom with Arbor Day – you can also plant one (or more!) that you can then watch grow and mature as you do the same. I love that.


Cathy Mayes, Virginia Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation, provided us with a great talk on the American Chestnut Tree last night. I posted a few photos to our Facebook album.

Did you know that up until the 1930s, the American Chestnut was the dominant tree in our forests? and because of it’s towering height, it was considered to be the Redwood of the east coast? It was! 

It’s fruit, the chestnuts themselves, were a key staple of people who lived throughout Appalachian and it was integral to the economy.

In 1904, a fungus came into the US from China and while our trees are related to the Chinese Chestnut, our trees did not have the resistance needed to flight the blight.

As they died out, mammal populations crashed and have never recovered and people who depended on the chestnut for food and for timber suffered greatly (it was a double whammy for many people as the great depression hit during the same time).

There are still a few American Chestnut trees alive  – many along the Rte 29 corridor, and some in Loudoun.

Cathy and the foundation she works with are leading the charge to try to bring back the American chestnut. They are taking a blight resistant chinese chestnut and pairing that with our Ameican chestnut. Then, pairing that with further American chestnuts in order to get to a 94% American chestnut that has blight resistance. Because of the growing preiods needed though, it will take a lifetime to get to the potential point of restoring the American Chestnut.

More information can be found at The American Chestnut Foundation. This is fascinating and great work being done!

Mighty Giants: An American Chestnut Anthology is the title of the book we gave away as a door prize last night.  It’s an excellent book that tells the story of this tree that was once such a prominent aspect of our forest fabric.  Let’s hope it is again one day.


Join us for a program this coming Tuesday to not only learn about what happened to our American Chestnut Tree but also their potential comeback!

Program details are below and on our programs calendar or, you can download our flier:

The American Chestnut Tree ― Tuesday, February 15, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.  Once common in the east, the American Chestnut was all but eliminated by blight.  Join Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy at this free program by Cathy Mayes, Virginia Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation, who will present the history, current status, and biology of the chestnut, as well as efforts to develop blight-resistant trees.  Questions: contact Laura McGranaghan at lmcgranaghan@loudounwildlife.org.

As a bit of a teaser, check out this great article that appeared in the Washington Post last October on the American Chestnut Tree.


Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) was one of the first native shrubs that I learned when I moved to Loudoun.  We have it in various places just growing wild through our back yard area and I was curious about their bright red berries.

It turns out, Spicebush is a wetland plant that often grows alongside Sassafras in moist soils, stream banks, floodplains and swamp forests (which we love for all their amphibian habitats!). When I read about this the first time, it helped me put together clues about the habitat that ran through our back yard.

The flowers come out very early in spring, even before the leaves. As the flowers are pollinated, green berries start to take shape and can be seen on the plant through the summer.  Then, just before the leave drop off, the berries take on their bright red color – a sure sign to the birds that food is here.

Spicebush is a really important wildlife plant. First, for the Spicebush and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies, it provides food for the caterpillars.  Spicebush is the host plant for this butterfly meaning that the caterpillar will eat this plant as it grows and transforms from caterpillar to chrysalis to beautiful butterfly. Learning this, I then understood why we had so many of this butterfly flying through our garden and forest area.

For mammals and birds, Spicebush provides cover and nesting sites. And then there are those beautiful red berries. They ripen in September and provide great nourishment to migrating and local birds.

Another interesting thing about this plant are that it is a member of the Laurel family and as such, it is remotely related to avocados, bay leafs, and cinnamon.


Spring really will be here soon and as an indication of that – the Loudoun Soil and Water Conservation District is accepting orders for their annual tree seedling sale! They will also have rain barrels for sale (see below). You can find out more information about this and other initatives they have for spring on the Loudoun Soil and Water website but here’s the information on this particular sale in their own words:

The young, bare-rooted seedlings are well suited to Virginia soils and climate.  Tree species available this year include White Pine, Norway Spruce, White Dogwood, Redbud, River Birch, Sycamore, Shumard Oak, and Paw Paw. The shrub species this year are Indigobush and Silky Dogwood. The White Pine are $25 for a bundle of 50 seedlings and the Norway Spruce are $35 for a bundle of 50 seedlings.  The hardwood species, as well as the shrubs, are offered at $6 for 5 seedlings. Sales tax of 5.0% must be included.

Click on the link 2010-seedling-sale to download an order form  You can also call or stop by the office for an order form.   Pre-paid orders will be filled on a first come-first serve basis.  The deadline for pre-paid orders will be Friday, March 12th.   The pick-up date for the seedlings will be Friday, March 26, 2010 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the LSWCD office on Catoctin Circle in Leesburg (the Wachovia Bank building).  We recommend that you plant the seedlings as soon as possible to minimize transplant stress. 

The District will also have pre-assembled rain barrels available for purchase on pick-up day at $65 each.  If you have any questions, please call the LSWCD office at 703/771-8395 (8:00 am – 5:00 pm).


No, I’m not talking about the pulls you get in sweaters or problems that crop up in your plans….no no, this is a snag of a different type…… A good kind of snag is a dead tree that’s been left standing.  I’m not sure where that term came from, but I first learned about snags when I took the National Wildlife Federation’s Habitat Steward class and picked up a flyer that simply said “There’s Life in Dead Trees.”

So what’s so great about a dead tree? Well nearly every aspect of that tree, as it goes through the different stages of decay, is used by someone for something. They’re a critical part of a healthy ecosystem. Here are just a few ways that wildlife use dead trees: 

Hollow cavities serve as homes for flying squirrels, raccoons, wood ducks and even grey tree frogs. And let’s not forget about Chimney Swifts – before we started “cleaning up” our neighborhoods and habitat, Chimney Swifts used huge old hollowed out trees for their roosts.  They only shifted to Chimneys when their natural tree homes ran out.

Woodpeckers are another big user of dead trees. They make holes more easily in them and create nesting sites that, after they’re done with them, are used by secondary cavity nesters like Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, Chickadees, Nuthatches and Tufted Titmice and Screech Owls.

Insects working to decompose the wood provide food for woodpeckers, brown creepers and other birds that forage for insects in bark.

Bats, like the Silver-haired bat, roost under loose bark to rest through the night.

Dead trees that have fallen to the ground are called “nurse logs” which help young seedling trees and other plants take hold as they start to grow.

According to a paper written by the National Wildlife Federation, “the removal of dead material from forests can mean a loss of habitat for up to one-fifth of the animals in the ecosystem.” So, we should let our dead trees stand.

I love the dead trees in our yard – they are an absolute magnet for wildlife, great and small. And it’s so much fun to keep an eye on what happens with them through the years. We have an old Sassafras tree in our backyard that died a few years ago. First, I saw tunneling around part of the base. Now I’m seeing all sorts of woodpecker holes. As cavities are made, I look forward to seeing more and more animals use them for nesting and refuge.


This just in from the Virginia Native Plant Society’s Piedmont Chapter:

Join the Piedmont Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society on Sunday, February 28 at 2 p.m. at the State Arboretum, with a focus on evergreens. Please meet at the Kiosk in the parking lot. Carrie Blair will lead the walk. After a 1 ½ hour walk we will serve hot cocoa in the library. To RSVP and for more details, please contact Robin Williams at 540-547-9752 or robinspony@verizon.net within a few days of the event if you plan to come. This event is FREE.


Yup, there’s a new identification book out by David Sibley but it’s not a bird book…this time it’s on Trees! As far as I know, this is the first non-bird book that David has written and indeed, I think it will be really useful. Sure, there are pros and cons to the guide, as there with every one out there, but overall I like it.

He starts the book with general terminology for tree identification, has drawings of the different types of leaves, flowers and bark we will encounter, and then gets right into the families and species of trees themselves.

Each section starts with an overview of the family and then the pages that follow go into the details of each species, including range maps, drawings of the leaves (in different seasons), flowers and fruit. He also includes drawings of the bark and trunks and shapes of the trees and includes general characteristics on the species that aid with identification.

I also really like that for each species he indicates if it’s native to the US and if not, where it came from. In many cases,  he shares interesting information such as survival tactics used by specific trees or information on how people have used the tree in years gone by.

One thing that would have been nice with this book is an identification key - the way David intended this book was for you to flip through it looking at the drawings to narrow down the identification. This is ok if you already know the family but trickier if it’s a completely unknown tree.

Definitely a neat tree book to have on-hand though as we try to identify them through the seasons! Oh, and in good naturalist form, he includes a full checklist of the different species at the back of the book so we can check off our sightings :)

Amazon has a short video clip with David talking about this book and how it can best be used in the field. Click on the link here to see it: The Sibley Guide to Trees.


It’s cold, quiet, a few birds are singing but the woods and fields are pretty silent. Colors of spring and summer have gone dormant and the earth seems to be at rest. Winter, the time of rejuvenation, the growing of roots rather than leaves.

Stan Shetler wrote a great article on Plant Life in the Cold for us a few years ago and it’s really worth another read through.  As he writes, “Winter strips the forest of its summer pretenses and, like an x-ray, lays it bare to the skeleton. Now everything is unmasked….”

After reading, have some fun with our Plant Life in Cold wordsearch puzzle.

More puzzles on Loudoun nature and wildlife can be found on our Educational Resources page.


On August 8th, four of us worked on the shrubs and trees that were planted along the tributary that flows into the Catoctin on the western edge of the Phillips Farm.  We were pleased to find the trees and shrubs that were planted on April 22 thriving. 

To keep them healthy we first hand weeded around the plants and then put mesh guards around them to keep the deer, rabbits, and rodents from gnawing on the stems and eating the leaves.  We managed to complete about half the trees and shrubs there but need to go back and finish the reminder there as well as work on the trees and shrubs that are near the village. That’s where we could use your help!

On Wednesday, August 19th, from 9:00 to noon we will complete this project if enough volunteers can come on out and lend a hand. 

We’ll meet at the mill and put mesh guards around the plants which are experiencing some deer, rodent, and rabbit damage and remove some of the aggressive invasive alien plants in the planting area.  We also plan to so some hand weeding around the trees and shrubs so if you have some favorite weeding tools please bring them and work gloves along.  A mallet to hammer the mesh strakes in would also be useful.  One group will finish the work along the tributary while the others will work on the trees and shrubs closer to the village.

We’ll also water the new plants with our new pump if it doesn’t rain between now and then.

Please come out and help if you can and leave when you need to. If you are planning to come, please let Joe Coleman know: 540-554-2542 or jcoleman@loudounwildlife.org

Thanks for your help in making this restoration a success!