Newsletter of the Foundation of the State Arboretum                     Fall 2014
Pay in Advance And Save $3

FOSA is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and to honor this milestone we are offering 30% off admission to ArborFest. 

Just go to FOSA's online payment page and use the secure website to pay in advance, and bring your receipt to show as you enter. You'll save $3 off the normal $10 per car admission to ArborFest.

But act fast! This option is only available until Oct. 3.

Hear the Latest

Buzz on Bees


University of Virginia and Blandy Experimental Farm researcher T'ai Roulston will speak on the great diversity of bees in our area, their natural history, their importance to gardeners, agriculture and ecosystems, and the threats they face. The talk, co-sponsored by FOSA and Shenandoah University, will take place in Stimpson Auditorium, Halpin-Harrison Hall, Shenandoah University 7:00 - 8:30 p.m., October 30.


While people tend to think of honey bees when they think of bees at all, bees are very diverse in what they look like, where they nest, and how they make their living. With over 900 species in the eastern United States and 20,000 species in the world, bees come in diverse colors (including red, green and blue) and range in size from 2-40 millimeters (well over an inch). Some live in colonies with tens of thousands of individuals, but most live alone, excavating tunnels in the ground, the soft pith of plant stems or the hard wood of dead trees and porch railings. What most have in common is their use of pollen and nectar as food, which brings them to our flowers and pollinates our plants.


For the past several years, there has been a lot of publicity regarding bee declines and threats to agricultural productivity. While much of the focus has been on honey bees, the most important agricultural pollinator worldwide, other species are also declining. This talk will discuss what is currently known about the status of different pollinator species, including bumble bees, current research on the causes of population declines, and the ways to make the local landscape (from the scale of urban yards up to larger agricultural properties) into more pollinator-friendly habitats. 
Plant Donations Needed for Pollination Garden

The Arboretum is in the midst of a complete renovation of the Pollination Garden. We are turning it into a major educational garden to teach about the diversity and importance of pollinators and what you can do for pollinators in your home garden.

Plants are needed to complete the renovations of the
Butterfly, Moth, Hummingbird and Mixed Pollinator
beds in the Pollination Garden.

If you have any of the plants we still need to acquire and would like to donate them to our garden, we would love to have them. For details, please see our list of needed plants here.
ArborFest shoppers
Celebrate Fall at ArborFest Oct. 11 & 12
Kick Off the Weekend with FiddleFest Oct. 10

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. 11 & 12. 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. 10. Linda Lay and Springfield Exit will perform bluegrass music, a selection of craft beers will be available for tasting, and Mr. B's Bar-B-Q will provide dinner. 


Those attending FiddleFest receive free admission to ArborFest. Advance tickets are $25 for adults, and $5 for anyone under 12. FiddleFest is sponsored by Bank of Clarke County. You can register and pay online for FiddleFest at Registration is required by Oct. 3; in case of rain the concert will move inside, and the first 50 people registered enjoy guaranteed indoor seating.


ArborFest visitors can enjoy an Arboretum tour on foot or on a hay ride, and kids can make their own scarecrow from 10 to 4 Saturday and 11 to 4 Sunday ($3 per child). Other children's activities will run from 12 to 2 p.m. both days. 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's gift shop will offer fall bulbs for sale.


ArborFest is hosted by the Foundation of the State Arboretum, with support from event sponsors Valley Health, Shade Tree Farm, radio station Q102, Nibblins, and Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches.

Most activities are FREE (although donations are appreciated).


Admission to ArborFest is $10 per car, but visitors can save $3 by paying online before Oct. 3. Plan to bring the whole family and a friend or two and enjoy autumn at your State Arboretum, but please leave your dog at home; due to safety concerns, dogs are discouraged at ArborFest.


For more information call 540-837-1758, or visit online at

Fall Programs
Returning Favorites
And New Offerings

By Steve Carroll
Director of Public Programs
 The fall lineup of  public programs includes returning favorites and new offerings. Our full moon walks are always popular; we'll offer our 16th walk, and the last of the year, on October 9. These fill fast, and pre-registration is required.


We are excited to offer a nature photography workshop October 15. This limited-space workshop will be co-presented by professional photographer Doug Graham and Blandy PR Coordinator Tim Farmer. The workshop will begin with a slide show and a brief equipment overview before we venture out on the grounds in search of flowers, birds, insects, and more.


The Blandy Book Club had its inaugural meeting in May, and it is going strong. The Club holds its sixth meeting on October 23, when we will discuss Timothy Egan's National Book Award-winning The Worst Hard Time, an account of the Dust Bowl years. There is no charge for participation.


Each fall we team up with Shenandoah University's Environmental Studies department to offer a fall lecture on the SU campus. This year's program on October 30 will feature our own T'ai Roulston. His talk, titled "Bees: How They Live, Current Threats, and Why We Should Care," is sure to be well attended.


Another program guaranteed to fill fast is a limited-space November 8 workshop on conifer identification. This hands-on workshop will be presented by FOSA Board Member and Green Spring Gardens Director Mary Olien.


A rather different camera-focused program will end our fall series. Tavis Forrester, from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, will share his work with the citizen science program, eMammal. Volunteers in this program set up and monitor trip cameras, and Tavis will share results and observations summarized from thousands of wildlife images.


See something here that looks interesting? To avoid disappointment, register now at or by calling 540-837-1758 Ext. 224.

Got Frogs?
A Blandy Summer Nature Camp participant searches Lake Georgette for green frogs - that's their color and their common name  - while gathering information for her research project.
Blandy Plays Critical Role in Student Development
Field Stations Foster Growth of New Scientists

By Dave Carr

Director, Blandy Experimental Farm


I read several articles over the past couple of weeks, each cautioning against a worrisome trend in biology. The generation of biologists hired by colleges and universities in the 1960s and early 1970s is beginning to retire, and disappearing with them is a vast resource of natural history knowledge that is woefully lacking in the cohort of young biologists who are being hired to replace them. The authors view the loss as a major obstacle to developing the integrative thinking about the natural world necessary to successfully address the complicated environmental challenges that we now face.


Undergraduate researcher Sarah McIntosh inspects a bumble bee.

Natural history, broadly defined, is the study of life on earth, and includes the study of biodiversity, the life cycles of species, and the ways in which species interact with each other and their environment to produce a functional biosphere. Students at colleges and universities learned natural history in the many "ology" courses that once filled the biology catalog - mycology, entomology, ichthyology, herpetology, ornithology, mammalogy, etc. These types of courses are falling out of fashion, unfortunately. In her Scientific American article, Jennifer Frazer points out that in the 1950s, two to three courses of this kind were required by most programs to earn a bachelors degree in biology. Now most programs do not require any of these courses as emphasis in biology shifts to the amazing technologies that are helping to reveal how organisms work at the molecular, cellular, and genetic levels. An understanding of and appreciation for the organisms themselves appear to be unintended collateral damage.

In pointing to ways to reverse this trend, all of these articles discuss themes that are at the core of Blandy's mission. All of the authors stress the importance of connecting everyone to the natural world starting at the earliest age possible. Much has been written about the implications of a life apart from nature for the development of children, and a connection with nature is essential to inspire the next generation of scientists as well as to create a citizenry that will support efforts to solve environmental problems. People will not value things with which they have no relationship. The efforts of Blandy's school programs and public outreach directly target this type of engagement with the natural world.

Another topic discussed by all of the articles is the value of biological collections. Colleges and universities were once the stewards of some of the greatest collections in the world, but these are now disappearing due to tightening budgets, retirement of curators, the need for space, and certainly a lack of appreciation. As home to the State Arboretum of Virginia, Blandy curates one of the premier plant collections in the Commonwealth, and our focus on native plants is a conscious effort to help our visitors connect with the rich natural heritage of the area.

In their Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment article on "ecoliteracy," George Middendorf and Bob Pohland talk about the essential role that field stations like Blandy play in student training in natural history. Field stations are unlike any other part of the university or college in their ability to connect the ecological concepts that students learn about in the classroom with the rich diversity of plants, animals, and other organisms of the real world. The transformational value of this experience is evident at Blandy with every new crop of students.

While the message in each of these articles was alarming, I finished each with a reaffirming sense that what we are doing at Blandy is essential to the vitality of my profession and in some way helping to foster the long-term health of many of the things I value most. As a member of the Foundation of the State Arboretum, I hope that this helps put your support into a larger perspective and makes you too feel part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

Students and faculty celebrate the completion of the summer research program.

Summer's End Brings Celebration and Goodbyes

Forum Presentations Cap Summer of Research

By Kyle Haynes

Associate Director, Blandy Experimental Farm


With the summer of 2014 coming to a close, the Quarters and Field Lab at Blandy got a little quieter when the undergraduate students participating in the Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) Program returned to their home institutions. 


The REU program, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, allows top students from around the country to spend 11 weeks of the summer at Blandy carrying out innovative environmental research with university scientists. Many students get their first taste of spearheading a rigorous research project through this program.


Emma Hauser and
Alex Majane

If you missed the annual Research Forum in early August, it was truly a wonderful event. In the formal portion of the Forum, all of the REU students and several M.S. and Ph.D. students gave presentations of their research objectives and findings. 


After the presentations, attendees celebrated the students' achievements over dinner and cake. As the meal ended, Blandy Director David Carr presented two Tom Callahan Awards. The first, for Best Oral Presentation, went to Emma Hauser of Earlham College, who presented her fascinating work on the use of satellite and ground-based spectral imaging to detect vegetation experiencing shortages of soil moisture and nitrogen. The second award, for Most Creative Project, was awarded to Alex Majane of St. Mary's College in Maryland. Alex carried out difficult nighttime experiments to explore whether the flash signals that fireflies make when caught in orb-weaving spider webs serve as warnings that repel other fireflies, or whether they draw more fireflies to their deaths. 


It is worth mentioning that the award judges had a very difficult time picking the award winners - all of the presentations were excellent.


The annual Research Forum, for all its celebration, which included a concert put on by four REU students, is always bittersweet. The students leave Blandy shortly after the Forum, so the event brings the realization of saying many goodbyes. The Blandy community can take heart, however, because the REU program will begin anew next summer!

From the Archives

Accession Books Reveal Rich Arboretum History

By Chris Schmidt

Arboretum Assistant


Dr. Orland E. White

Orland E. White brought his enthusiasm for plant breeding and plant diversity to Blandy Experimental Farm in 1927 as the first director of the new research facility. It is difficult for us today to realize how large and unexplored much of the Earth was at that time, and discovering new plant material to introduce to the nursery trade was becoming a huge business. Plant explorers funded by universities and private nurseries were scouring the world for unknown specimens. Arboreta such as Blandy were the testing grounds for these new botanical discoveries. (Plant hardiness zones were just being developed.)

From the first accession volumes, we can see that Dr. White wasted little time acquiring plant material for the fledgling arboretum. He had many botanical connections from earlier studies and employment. Plant specimens began arriving from Arnold Arboretum (Harvard University), Boyce Thomspon Institute (now part of Cornell University), and Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Material was sent to Blandy from Kew Gardens (England), Copenhagen Botanical Gardens 
(Denmark), Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Gardens (Germany), Geneva Botanical Gardens (Switzerland), and dozens of other institutions around the world.  These gardens are some of the oldest botanical gardens in the world and are all still operating. At the same time, Dr. White was not opposed to growing seeds obtained from Park Seed Company (founded in the 1860s), purchasing tulip bulbs from Woolworth's, or transplanting specimens from his own personal gardens in Charlottesville.

From the early accession books, it appears that Dr. White's goal was to make collections of as many species of various genera as possible. In the first accession book, there are seven and a half pages of entries of trees from the genus Prunus and six pages of Rose entries. Some specimens were the same species but were obtained from different geographical areas of the world. This was most likely done to compare their growth habits and hardiness. Following one of the accepted evolutionary theories of the time, and grouped by taxonomic families, the specimens were planted on the arboretum grounds in a counter-clockwise arrangement, from the more primitive cone-bearing plants to the more highly evolved flowering plants. Some of these earliest trees (in particular, a few of the maples, pines, and beeches) can still be found on the grounds. Depending on their size when they arrived, some plants were placed in nurseries around the property until they were considered large enough and strong enough to survive out on the arboretum grounds. Evidence of some of these nurseries is still apparent.

Quantities of plants sent to the Arboretum varied widely. Entries note hundreds and even thousands of boxwoods being delivered in 1932, but only one weeping birch in 1935. Regardless of the value or number of the specimens, Dr. White always recorded the date, source, and quantity of each. He would also often remark on size, hardiness, and possible identification discrepancies.

These accession books are a wonderful testimony to a man who had a passionate vision for his new responsibility. We will be exploring more of what we found in these volumes in the next issue.