Green Flag
Newsletter of the Foundation of the State Arboretum                                                Spring 2013

Save the Date!


Join us for the 4th annual FOSA Spring Cocktail Party on April 6 in Winchester at the home of Richard and Pam DeBergh to raise money for the Foundation.


Flower exhibits will be available for purchase.  Several special dinners and exciting getaways will be auctioned that night. 


Go to our website after March 15th to view auction item details and take advantage of the "Buy it Now" option.


Please mark your calendar and join us on April 6, at 6:30.


Garden Fair shoppers

Click the image to watch

the Garden Fair video!


Treat Mom for Mother's Day

at Garden Fair

The Arboretum's largest and most important annual fundraiser is coming up May 11 & 12 -- Mother's Day Weekend.


Garden Fair is a FOSA tradition, and is considered one of the best plant sales in Virginia. With dozens of vendors from several states offering a huge assortment of plants and home and garden items, Garden Fair offers variety and quality in one-stop shopping.


Garden Fair runs from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with Preview Night kicking off the weekend for FOSA members on Friday, May 10. In addition to the fantastic selection of plants and merchandise, Garden Fair includes guided tours, a tree moving demonstration, and free family activities from Noon to 2 p.m. both days. 


Check out the 2013 Garden Fair video  here.


The cost is $10 per car. For information call 837-1758 Ext. 0. We hope to see you there. 


Tip Toe Through the Tulips with FOSA

FOSA is planning a trip to the Biltmore Estate & Gardens in April of 2014 during the Festival of Flowers.  The gardens, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, should be in full bloom with over 100,000 tulips and acres of azaleas. We will tour America's largest private home, formerly owned by the Vanderbilts, visit the winery and tour the grounds. In addition, we hope to visit the North Carolina Arboretum before returning home.


At least 20 travelers are needed so please tell your friends. Everyone is welcome. Please call Koy Mislowsky for more information at 837-1758 Ext. 246.


FOSA Benefits

From Panera Bread's


2012 marked the second year that FOSA has been the recipient of Panera's Operation Dough-Nation program.  


Under the program,

Panera selects a nonprofit organization to feature on the collection boxes on the counters in their cafés. During the past year, Panera customers in Winchester and Warrenton generously dropped their extra change in the Dough-Nation boxes.  


Last month Allie Munsey, Marketing Coordinator and Michael Boswell, Senior Sales Manager, presented FOSA with a check for $2,000!  Panera continues to be one of FOSA's strongest community partners and FOSA truly appreciates their support and our ongoing relationship.  In addition to the Dough-Nation boxes, Panera provides lunch for FOSA volunteers at Garden Fair and has done so for the past four years. 


Please visit Panera and when you do, don't forget to leave your change.


Photo Club, Sketch Group Hold Show

The Blandy Photo Club and the Blandy Sketch Group will hold a spring photo and art show at the Barns of Rose Hill in Berryville. 


The show will open with a reception Sunday, May 5, from 3-5 p.m. and will then be on display Tuesdays through Saturdays 10-4 until the end of June. 


For more information call the Barns at 955-2824 or visit 





Blandy wishes to thank our many visitors who come here on a regular basis to enjoy our grounds with their canine companions.  


Blandy is one of the very few public places in our area with a policy that permits dogs to be off leash on parts of the property.  


We recognize how much dog owners value this rare privilege, and we are grateful that they are working with us in observing the leash restrictions (anywhere within 200 yards of our buildings) that make our overall policy possible.  


Our goal is to ensure a safe, enjoyable, and educational experience for all of our visitors, including those with four legs.  


See our website for a full description of Blandy's pet policy. 


Come Grow 
With Us 

The Arboretum depends on the help of volunteers to maintain the beautiful garden beds. 


Volunteer days begin in April, with volunteers meeting weekly in the Herb Garden, Native Plant Trail, and Perennial Gardens.


No experience is necessary,  Come as your schedule allows. Training, tools and fun provided.  Please bring a hat, gloves, water and sunscreen.


Herb Garden - Every Tuesday starting April 2

Native Plant Trail - Every Wednesday starting April 3

Perennial Gardens - Every Thursday starting April 4

Work is from 9 a.m.  to noon every week through late October.


Questions? Call 837-1758 Ext. 0.  

Part of Something Big 
National Ecological Observatory Network
Will Collect Data on Air Pollution, Climate
When complete, instruments on this 26-foot tower will monitor carbon dioxide, air pollutants, and a variety of meteorological variables, streaming the data to the web.

By Dave Carr


Blandy Experimental Farm

An ambitious scientific platform designed to address ecological questions on a continental scale is beginning to take shape at Blandy Experimental Farm.


 The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is made possible by a new initiative at the National Science Foundation. When it is fully implemented, it will comprise 20 observatories (or "domains") distributed across the United States from New England forests to the volcanic slopes of Hawaii and from Puerto Rico to the Alaskan tundra. Each domain will include a "core" site and several "relocatable" sites where data will be collected. Some domains will include additional stream and lake sites as well. The domains were established to sample as much of North America's complex climate and geological variation as possible. Domain 2 will cover the mid-Atlantic region. Its core site will be located at the Smithsonian Conservation Biological Institute in Front Royal, and one of its relocatable sites will be at Blandy.


This winter NEON began construction of a 26-foot tower in a fallow field in Blandy's southwest corner. The tower will be outfitted

with automated instruments that will monitor carbon dioxide, air pollutants, and a variety of meteorological variables (temperature, humidity, rainfall, etc.). 
A 300-meter boardwalk will extend from the tower site. This boardwalk will provide researchers access into the field, and instruments along the boardwalk will collect data on soil moisture, temperature, and chemistry - essential information in assessing the productivity of the soil.


The soil and atmosphere are critical components of terrestrial ecosystems, but ecosystems cannot be understood without investigating their living components. This is where boots on the ground will replace automated instruments. NEON researchers will visit Blandy periodically to sample or census microorganisms, mosquitoes, beetles, mice, birds, and plants.  NEON will track animal and plant population dynamics, infectious diseases, and plant phenologies (e.g., when plants leaf out or begin to flower).


NEON is gathering all of this data to enable scientists to address some big questions. The NEON sites have been chosen strategically to include not only pristine, natural ecosystems from around the continent, but highly managed landscapes, agricultural sites, and urban sites as well. This design will allow researchers to better understand how land use changes affect ecosystem function, how invasions of exotic species alter biodiversity, how emerging wildlife diseases spread through the continent, and how all of these things are affected by a changing continental climate. The data collected by NEON instruments and researchers will immediately enter the public domain so that the project can tap into the skills, imaginations, and creativity of scientists from all over the world.


As a relocatable site, NEON's presence at Blandy is temporary. The University of Virginia and NEON have signed a five-year agreement.  After that time, the tower, boardwalk, and the entire NEON footprint here will disappear. During those five years, Blandy's participation in the network should enhance its visibility in the scientific community and advance its mission to increase understanding of the natural world.


Arboretum Seeds Bound for Space Station
Artist's rendering of Antares rocket
An artist's rendering shows Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket.

Seeds from the State Arboretum of Virginia will blast into space in May en route to the International Space Station.


Dulles-based Orbital Sciences Corporation is one of only two companies with NASA contracts to deliver supplies to the Space Station. The upcoming mission will demonstrate the company's ability to re-supply  the space station using Orbital's Antares medium-class rocket.


A representative from Orbital contacted Arboretum Assistant Curator Kim Strader about obtaining seeds from Virginia's state tree (and state flower), the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), to send along to commemorate Orbital's Virginia roots. The company's headquarters is just off Route 28 near Dulles Airport.


Companies often send odd things into space that are then given as gifts to supporters or as charity auction items, according to an Orbital spokesperson. In addition to the Dogwood seeds, copies of the Star-Spangled Banner and Virginia Commonwealth stock certificates will hitch a ride on the upcoming mission.

Strader and Arborist Bob Arnold packaged seeds into 10 envelopes designed especially for the space mission, and one pack of seeds will be returned to the Arboretum. Arboretum Curator T'ai Roulston said it's not yet been determined what will be done with the space seeds upon their return.


One of the world's most experienced space technology companies, Orbital has conducted 63 space launch missions since 1990, and has sent more than 123 satellites into orbit.


Orbital tested the first stage of the Antares rocket Feb. 22 at Wallops Island. The liquid-oxygen fueled rocket engine fired for 29 seconds, proving it could successfully carry the loaded rocket into space.


Spring Public Programs: 

Tours, Trilliums, and Tomatoes

By Steve Carroll

Director of Public Programs

As we turn the corner toward spring, have a look at our upcoming programs and add us to your calendar. Several programs will take us out 

onto the property to appreciate Blandy's collections and landscape.


First up is a St. Patrick's Day tour to show that the real green is here at the Arboretum. By March 17 we can expect a variety of wildflowers and flowering trees and shrubs announcing the arrival of spring.


Gardeners are an optimistic bunch, especially when it comes to favorites like tomatoes. On March 26, we'll explore the world of tomatoes, from history and lore, to weird and wonderful ways to grow, to favorite varieties and tricks of the trade. Come share your secrets!


As the season warms, we'll head out on foot: through a sea of trilliums at the Thompson Wildlife Management Area; to our Herb Garden and beyond with Doug Bartley in a program on medicinal and spiritual uses of herbs; and in guided walks that emphasize silent walking and personal reflection, plus the first of the year's popular full moon walks.


In a more intensive study of plants, Marion Lobstein will teach a four-part class on plant identification based on the newly published Flora of Virginia. This 14-hour class is already full as we go to press.


And something new: On April 20, we'll offer two Arboretum tours, an English-language tour in the morning and a Spanish-language tour in the afternoon. Blandy volunteer and docent, Bob Vazques, will lead the afternoon tour.


For more information or to register for any of these programs, please call 540-837-1758 Ext. 224.


Spring will be busy at Blandy. In addition to a full schedule of public programs, school programs, and visits from garden clubs and others, we are also hosting classes for Master Naturalists, Master Gardeners, and Beekeepers, and our Community Garden participants will soon arrive armed with tillers, garden tools, and seeds.


See you on the grounds!

Renovations in the Herb Garden
New stonework and new gravel walkways are among the renovations made to the Herb Garden. Come and check it out!

Red Maple buds are breaking dormancy.

Red Maple
The King and Queen 
of Gender Confusion

By T'ai Roulston


The red maple is the most prominent and often first of our native trees to bloom in spring. When it is still cold generally but warm for a day, still bare, brown and threatening snow next week, you see it: a red tree on the roadside ready to bloom. It seems crazy, like a teenager taking a dare, but there it is, every year, unchastened by its last reproof. Unless you look closely, you won't know when it is actually flowering. Its red buds are followed by red flowers followed by red fruits so it looks the same from a passing car window for a month or two. But if you stop and look closely, you might see the flowers. And if you look closely at the flowers, many flowers, on different plants, you likely would be confused, botanically speaking.


In general, plants have flowers that are either pollinated by wind or animals. In general, flowers are either male, female, or both, depending on the species. The red maple, which flowers at a time when the weather may be glorious or miserable, when insects are flying hungry or hunkered down in a crevice or yet to emerge for the year, doesn't like to commit to anything when it comes to sex. First, it looks like it is pollinated by wind. Its flowers are reduced with exposed anthers putting pollen on a passing breeze, like most wind pollinated trees. It will set fruit in the absence of pollinators, so it seems just another wind-pollinated tree. And yet, on a warm day, a tree can be abuzz with bees, both honey bees replenishing their stores and solitary bees provisioning their first nests. It is the kind of insect clamor usually reserved for  plants that depend on insects for pollination. The red maple, in fact, not only produces pollen but also floral nectar, an unnecessary metabolic expense for plants that rely only on wind for reproduction. So it seems the red maple walks the line between the worlds of wind and bees, counting on neither, benefiting from both.


That is interesting enough, but the gender of red maple is the most curious thing. It can be just about every possibility one can imagine. It can have separate male and female flowers on the same plant, bisexual flowers on the same plant, male and bisexual flowers on the same plant, only male flowers (= male plants) or only female flowers (= female plants). 


Where studied over time (by Richard Primack, in Massachusetts), most male and female plants stay male and female across years, but some shift and start producing flowers of the other sex. So, in sum, it can be partially or totally either sex or both in various configurations and change over time. Or not. Selection, it seems, has not been very clear in the message it has given the red maple. Go forth. Multiply. Do whatever you want. It all works fine, apparently. 


The jack-in-the-pulpit can also change sex across years, but it at least does it in relation to the resources it has stored, which appears not to be the case in red maple. As yet, all this variation is unexplained. So as you see the roadsides and woodlands turn red this year, be cheered both that spring is coming and that even the most prominent things you see can harbor plenty of mysteries. 

Watch Out For That Yellow Snow
Young Naturalist Intern Brenna Rivett demonstrates how to make "yellow snow" as part of a tracking activity in which the kids made scent trails to mark territories. No surprise, the kids loved this activity.