Return Dec. 7-8
Gather with friends this holiday season to create a festive holiday wreath made from freshly cut, natural materials gathered from the State Arboretum.
Holiday Workshops return to the Arboretum December 7 & 8, with two sessions each day. The morning sessions run from 9:30 to noon, and the afternoon sessions are from 1:30 to 4.
You can make a mixed evergreen wreath in either 12-inch or 20-inch size. The cost is $30 for the 12-inch size ($35 nonmembers) or $40 for a 20-inch wreath ($45 nonmembers).
Kick off your holiday season at the Arboretum's longest-running public program, but classes fill quickly so register early!
Holiday Workshops is sponsored by Virginia Boxwood Company.
You can register and pay online here, or call 540-837-1758 Ext. 224. Online payment and registration for Holiday Workshops begins Sept. 27.
New Faces Join Weekend Staff
Many of Blandy's visitors arrive on weekends when fewer staff are here. We've been fortunate recently to hire two new weekend staff to greet visitors, help them with directions and questions, point out interesting features of the property, and provide a level of security.
Look for Kathleen Hobbs when you are here on Sundays. Kathleen knows Blandy well--she has taught several years in our Summer Nature Camp, and she spends time here walking and jogging. Kathleen has twenty years of teaching experience, including 18 years at Powhatan School in Millwood, where she currently teaches 7th grade English and science.
Ann Hirschy is a Master Naturalist who has explored some of Blandy's far corners. Ann volunteers in the eMammal project at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and on Blandy's Bluebird Trail. She is an Information Technology Specialist with FEMA and has worked at area nurseries in the past.
Kathleen and Ann join Bill Spinrad to complete our weekend core. Please introduce yourself when you are next here on a weekend.
Is Your Child A
Participants in FOSA's 2013 Young Naturalist program prepare for a winter tracking activity (above). Plans have begun for this winter's programs, which will be offered on five alternate Saturdays beginning January 11, 2014. 1st-3rd graders attend from 9-11:30 a.m., and 4th-6th graders attend from 12:30-3 p.m. Watch for details-registration will begin soon.
Get a Better Look
At the Landscape
Arboretum visitors can get a better look at landscape features and wildlife with a pair of binoculars that are permanently mounted at the Hewlett Lewis Overlook Pavilion.
Purchase of the binoculars was made possible through a combination of FOSA Native Plant Trail operational, curatorial, and educational budgets.
The 10x binoculars are encased in a sturdy metal stand that is about five feet tall. They are similar to binoculars at scenic overlooks in national parks. The binoculars rotate up and down as well as left and right. A step placed in front of the binoculars assists younger or shorter visitors.
Manufactured by SeeCoast Manufacturing, the binoculars offer a 366-feet field of view at 1,000 yards and are auto-focus. Viewing distances from 50 feet to infinity are in focus.
The binoculars are mounted to the upper deck of the overlook pavilion, with views encompassing the wetland section of the Native Plant Trail and Rattlesnake Spring. They are non-coin operated so they are free to use.
Undergrad Program Attracts Best & Brightest
By Kyle Haynes
The summer of 2013 will be known for the wonderful students that conducted research at Blandy. The National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program provides financial support for undergraduates to live and study at Blandy for 11 weeks during the summer.
Only the best students are admitted into the program. Although more than 200 applications were received, Blandy has the resources to admit only 10 students each summer.
The undergraduates participating in the 2013 REU program were a tight-knit and hard-working bunch.
Each REU student carried out a unique research project, and the diversity of study topics was considerable. One core of students studied native bumblebees, which have been in decline in recent years.
For example, Amber Slatosky (Idaho State University) and Mattea Allert (University of Wisconsin Platteville), studied how critical bumblebee behaviors are affected by parasitic flies. A selection of other study topics included the role of non-native plants in determining the abundance of earthworms (studied by Roberto Carrera Martinez, University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez), and volatile plant chemicals that are attractive to pollinators (Rosabeth Link, Dickinson College).
The Tom Callahan Undergraduate Research Award, which goes to the REU student giving the best oral presentation on their research project, went to Carmen Kraus of the University of Georgia. Carmen studied factors controlling
the abundance of dogbane beetles, a species that feeds solely on dogbane, a plant that is too toxic for most herbivores to eat.
The award is given in memory of former FOSA Board member and National Science Foundation researcher Tom Callahan, who lost his battle with cancer in 1999.
The REU program is scheduled to continue at Blandy at least through the summer of 2016. Undergraduate students who might be interested in a career in or related to science, particularly ecology or environmental science, and would like to participate in the program in 2014, must complete an online application by March 1.
Howard University REU student Amber Emerson helps participants in Blandy's 2013 Summer Nature Camp identify aquatic insects.
Rep. Frank Wolf
U.S. House of Representatives member Frank R. Wolf (Va. 10th) visited Blandy Aug. 21 for a tour and a look at some of the facilities funded by the National Science Foundation. Click the image for additional photos.
Celebrate Autumn in the Arboretum
The Ginkgo Grove explodes into a golden hue each fall.
ArborFest is Set For
Oct. 12 & 13
Celebrate autumn at ArborFest, the State Arboretum of Virginia's annual fall festival and plant sale, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Oct. 12 & 13, 2013. ArborFest
features a select group of high-quality vendors offering small trees, fall perennials, and Virginia native plants, as well as a wide variety of other fall landscape plants and fine items for the home and garden.
FiddleFest will kick off ArborFest weekend with a concert from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11. Linda Lay and Springfield Exit will perform bluegrass music, and Mr. B's Bar-B-Q will provide dinner. Advance tickets are $20 for adults, and $5 for anyone under 12; after Oct. 4 the price rises to $25 for adults. FiddleFest is sponsored by Bank of Clarke County. New this year, Notaviva Vineyard will offer wine tasting during FiddleFest. You can register and pay online for FiddleFest here.
ArborFest visitors can enjoy an Arboretum tour on foot or on a hay ride, and kids can make their own scarecrow ($3 per child). Visitors can also check out live alpacas from Sunset Acres Alpaca Farm.
Shade Tree Farm will demonstrate their huge tree spade both Saturday and Sunday, relocating a large pine tree from a nursery area on the Arboretum grounds to a permanent spot along the property's perimeter. Visitors can follow the action on a special hay ride as workers from Shade Tree Farm relocate the tree.
The Arboretum will accept plastic pots for recycling or exchange throughout the weekend, and Arboretum staff and volunteers will be on hand to answer gardening questions from plant selection to fall pruning. Members of the Blandy Sketch Group will be sketching on the grounds during ArborFest, and the Foundation of the State Arboretum will offer fall bulbs for sale.
Most activities are FREE (although donations are appreciated). Admission to ArborFest is $10 per car, so bring the whole family and a friend or two and enjoy autumn at your State Arboretum of Virginia. Please leave your dog at home; dogs are discouraged at ArborFest.
For more information call 540-837-1758, or visit online at http://www.blandy.virginia.edu.
Slow Down and Visit the State Arboretum
Fall Programs Include Meditation, Wood Turtles
By Steve Carroll
Director of Public Programs
As we turn the corner from summer to fall, several public programs will feature "slow" subjects, such as meditation and turtles (no, not in the same program!).
Monticello vegetable gardener Pat Brodowski will present "Gardening with Thomas Jefferson" Oct. 17.
Two evening programs by Shell Fischer will address guided walking meditation (September 25) and mindfulness meditation
(October 2). We will end the season with one of our always popular full moon walks (November 18). In these, we try to walk slowly and quietly through the dusk and dark in hopes of seeing, hearing, and smelling as much as possible. The bats stole the show on our August full moon walk; in November, I'm hoping owls will make an appearance.
Each fall we co-host a public program with Shenandoah University's Department of Environmental Studies. This November we feature Thomas Akre from the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation
. The title of his talk is "Wood Turtles in Virginia: Conserving a Slow-Moving Species in a Rapidly Changing Landscape," another in our "slow" series.
Okay, so not all fall programs fit this mold. Marion Lobstein will offer a lively, two-part workshop on the Flora of Virginia
(September 27 and October 4), and we look forward to an informative, illustrated program on bats by bat rehabilitator Bonnie Miles (October 23).
We will feature the bounty of the season in a special presentation co-
hosted by the Winchester-Clarke Garden Club. Pat Brodowski, Monticello vegetable gardener, will give an illustrated program on vegetables grown by Thomas Jefferson, techniques used then and now at Monticello, and more; she will bring samples, tools, and plenty of gardening tips.
Registration for fall programs is open online here or by calling 540-837-1758 Ext. 224. Slow down this fall -- or not -- but be sure to join us for one or more of our public programs.
Are You a Cone Head?
Discover the Arboretum's Conifer Trail
By T'ai Roulston
Do you know the kind of tree that lives 1,000 years in the eastern U.S.? The tree whose oil embalmed the dead of ancient Egypt? The wood to use for violins? You can learn it all and more along the Conifer Trail at the State Arboretum of Virginia.
Cedar of Lebanon cones
(Cedrus libani) mature in the fall.
While you are invited to tour our 1,200 conifer trees, made up of 200 conifer species and varieties, you might not have quite enough time before sunset, even in summer. So we have trimmed the list to 23 trees that represent the diversity of conifers in our collection and have stories to tell regarding ecology and human culture.
The trail starts at a Japanese umbrella pine directly behind the Quarters, where you can pick up a trail brochure, and winds through the heart of the conifer collection. Each tree on the trail has an informative photo-metal sign showing its native habitat and cone structure as well as interesting facts about the tree. The brochure outlines the stops on the trail and provides additional information about the trees. Seven of the trees on the trail also have audio recordings that you can access with a cell phone (or on our website here) , and thus hear extended stories about the trees, such as the use of incense cedar wood for making pencils, and finding fossil tree leaves in Oregon from trees that today live only in western Asia. There is no hardscaped path to follow, so you'll need to use your eye to spot the next tree along the trail and use the map to go in the right direction.
Some of the trees you'll see include the bald cypress, native to swamps but increasingly prominent on city streets; Douglas fir, a runner-up to redwoods and sequoias in height; and the western redcedar, traditionally used for totem poles and canoes. You'll see elegant specimens of Himalayan pine, dawn redwood, Arizona cypress, blue Atlas cedar, Japanese cedar, China fir, and many more.
So what eastern tree can live 1,000 years? American arborvitae. What tree provided the oil to mummify the Egyptian dead? Cedar of Lebanon. And if you are looking to make a high-quality violin, you might want some red spruce for the top (and maple for the back and sides). So come out and explore the conifer trail; new discoveries await you along the way.
NSF Supports Blandy Researchers
Curiosity is the First Step Toward Discovery
By Dave Carr
Director, Blandy Experimental Farm
The National Science Foundation
's motto is "where discoveries begin," and with their generous support, another community of Blandy researchers spent the summer coming up with their own new discoveries. When do discoveries begin? Humans seem to be innately curious, marveling at their discoveries as soon as they are born. One might think that channeling that curiosity into the study of science would be a perfectly natural path for many young people, but unfortunately that does not seem to be the case. The number of college students majoring in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is declining, despite a projected increase in demand for these skills. Studies suggest that interest in and preparation for science is dropping in high school, with fewer than half of high school graduates ready for college math (45%) or college science (30%).
Improved and expanded teacher training may be one of the changes necessary to move more students into the STEM fields, and NSF's Research Experience for Teachers
(RET) may be an important tool for providing unique training opportunities for middle and high school teachers. Blandy faculty members Kyle Haynes and T'ai Roulston worked with Charlottesville High School special education teacher Lewis Bauer to develop a successful RET proposal that allowed Lewis to spend the summer at Blandy working on bumblebees. Lewis works with students who are struggling in school, and these students often have fewer opportunities to engage in inquiry-based learning. Lewis's goal was to translate his research experience at Blandy into a project-based course for these students.
Lewis isn't a newcomer to the Blandy summer research community. His wife, Rosemary Malfi, is working on her Ph.D. with T'ai Roulston and has spent the past four summers studying bumblebees
at Blandy. Her dissertation examines factors affecting colony success and population size in bumblebees and is motivated, in part, by widespread declines in many species of these native pollinators. Lewis has spent much of the past few summers at Blandy working as Rosemary's loving, supportive, but unpaid field and laboratory technician.
This summer Lewis and Clara Stuligross, an Earlham College undergraduate, tracked the comings and goings of over 250 bumblebees. Each bee was tagged with a tiny radio frequency identification (RFID) tag. The bees were briefly anesthetized with carbon dioxide and the RFID tag was super-glued to the thorax between the wings. Each RFID tag is encoded with unique identifying information that could be read and recorded by sensors placed at the entrance to the hive. This meant that every time a bee departed the hive and every time it returned, the event was recorded with a time stamp. This enabled Lewis and Clara to know exactly how many trips individual bees were taking and how long they were away from the hive.
Radio frequency ID tags attached to the backs of bumblebees are visible in this photo taken inside a hive.
Most of the tagged bees spent their time foraging for pollen and nectar. Both of these resources are essential for the survival of the hive and the eventual production of new queens at the end of the season. Time away from the hive can be dangerous, however. One of the significant natural enemies of bumblebees is the thick-headed fly (family Conopidae). Female flies actively hunt for foraging bumblebees, and when they find one, they attack and quickly insert an egg into the body cavity of the live bee. Over the next 10 days, the egg hatches and a larval fly grows inside the bee's abdomen, eating its host from the inside. Staige Davis, a Blandy Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU
) student in 2012, discovered that these parasitized bees dig their own graves toward the end of their lives, and the immature fly pupates inside the corpse underground. The fly emerges as an adult the next summer to start the life cycle all over again.
Lewis and Clara discovered from their RFID data that in mid June a bumblebee had a 50% chance of being parasitized by a fly after 30 hours of flight time. By early July, however, the risk increased substantially, with a 50% chance of being parasitized after only 17 hours. They calculated that an unparasitized bumblebee can collect enough pollen and nectar to produce about 10 new bees. Even under the best circumstances, a parasitized bee can gather enough resources for only about four larvae, and the earlier they are parasitized, the lower that number drops. The discovery suggested that the flies may play a large role in determining whether a hive can survive long enough and get large enough to produce queens at the end of the season.
Although most of our students have returned to their colleges and universities, Lewis's project is now being carried with him to Charlottesville High School. There, he is working with science and special education faculty in a portfolio-based ecology class for his students. The inquiry-based learning approach featured in this course will provide hands-on, authentic ways for his students to meet and exceed the Virginia Standards of Learning
. Over the course of the year, students will learn about data collection and analysis: They will observe a live bumblebee colony in the classroom and come up with their own conclusions about the colony growth cycle. Lewis is also bringing preserved bee specimens for the students to dissect and examine for the presence of fly larvae inside. In the spring, he will bring a group of students to Blandy for a field trip to observe bees in the field, and to meet our graduate students and faculty and learn from their ongoing projects.
Lewis's experience at Blandy this summer and the discoveries his students will make during the coming academic year may be just what they need to rekindle their curiosity. The REU students at Blandy have frequently told us what a life-changing experience their summer here has been. Lewis is hoping to bring the same type of excitement to his high school students.
Click the image for a slideshow of the cicada emerging from its pupal case.
Dog Days of Summer
Despite the headline-grabbing ability of the sudden and often overwhelming appearance of the periodical cicadas, nothing says "late summer" in Virginia like the song of the "dog day" cicada (Tibicen canicularis), which emerges every year in late July. Unlike their long-lived cousins, the dog day cicada completes its life cycle in two to five years. Our Environmental Educator Lillian Ledford found this dog day cicada nymph in her yard this week, and our Public Relations Coordinator Tim Farmer photographed the eclosion of the adult.
Early in the summer parts of Virginia were visited by Brood II of the 17-year periodical cicada (the genus Magicicada). These incredible insects are one of the great curiosities of the natural world. The offspring of Brood II will not emerge until the year 2030, but other periodical cicada Broods -- V (2016), IX (2020), and the biggest of them all, X (2021) -- will make their scheduled appearances in the Commonwealth before then.