Newsletter of the Foundation of the State Arboretum                 Summer 2015
Nature Camp Registration is
Under Way
Do You Know a
Budding Scientist?

Summer Nature Camp at Blandy is nearly here! Don't miss this chance for your kids to spend time outside in a safe, stimulating environment and to enjoy and learn about our amazing natural world.

We offer three day camps in July, and each meets Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to noon.

In "Weird & Wacky Nature" (July 6-10), campers will explore some of nature's amazing mysteries, from insects that glow in the dark to mammals that use sonar to fly through the night sky. "International Nature Camp" (July 13-17) will use our international collection of trees as a jumping off point to learn about plants, animals, cultures, and habitats from Asia, Africa, Europe, and other far-flung parts of the world.

These two camps, for rising 2nd-4th graders, include crafts, games, snacks, field investigations, and presentations by Blandy scientists.

"EcoExplorers," offered July 20-24, is for rising 5th-8th graders. Campers ask questions about the natural world and work with adult leaders to answer these questions through observation and experimentation. Participants collect and analyze data, then present their results to parents, staff, and other campers on the final day.

For more information about summer nature camp, check out the online brochure. Ready to sign up? Register online now. Partial scholarships are available; call 540-837-1758 Ext 287 to inquire.
REU 2015
Students Arrive for a Summer of Research

By Kyle Haynes

Associate Director

A wide variety of ecological and environmental research projects are being launched at Blandy this summer, with many projects being carried out by students enrolled as undergraduates in various colleges around the country. 

Two of these students, one from University of Hawaii at Mānoa and the other from Bard College, are studying how human modifications of landscapes are impacting the abundance and diversity of butterflies in Northern Virginia. Through centuries of agriculture and urbanization, humans have converted large areas of deciduous forest into crops, pastures, lawns, and other heavily modified habitats. 

While we have all seen butterflies visiting human-dominated spaces, the abundance and diversity of butterflies may depend strongly on how we manage the land. One major reason is that the caterpillars of each species need to feed on certain plant species (called 'host plants') and adult butterflies need an abundance of flowers from which to collect nectar. 

One striking example of the effects of land management on butterflies is the decline of Monarch butterflies. Recent research suggests Monarchs are declining in abundance because their host plants, milkweeds, are now easily excluded from crop fields using widely available herbicides.


NSF Logo
The REU program is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Click the logo to learn more about the NSF.

A total of 10 undergraduate students are conducting research at Blandy this summer. These students are participating in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, and is intended to provide opportunities for college students to cut their teeth on scientific research in hopes that many will pursue careers in science. 

In addition to the two students mentioned above, the REU students studying at Blandy this summer hail from Howard University, Monmouth University, The Ohio State University, Scripps College, Mount Holyoke College, Allegheny College, and the University of Virginia.


Outside of conducting their own research, REU students at Blandy participate in a variety of activities intended to enrich their experiences. One example is the Summer Research Seminar Series, in which ecological and environmental scientists from the Mid-Atlantic region present highlights from their research.


These seminars are not just for students! Members of the public are welcome to attend the presentations and the associated potluck dinners. The schedule of speakers and additional details can be found at

Calling All Members and Chestnut Tree Lovers
Chestnut Walk, FOSA Annual Meeting June 27

Blandy Director of Education Candace Lutzow-Felling will lead a walk to the chestnut tree research plot Saturday, June 27, beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Following the walk, everyone is invited back to the Quarters at 10 a.m. for the Foundation of the State Arboretum's Annual Meeting, where FOSA members will elect new directors for the coming year.

Not a member? No problem! Join or renew on June 27 before the meeting and save 20 percent!

Wear comfortable clothes and join us for this easy 15-minute moderate walk from the Quarters to the chestnut plot. There's no charge but we do need you to RSVP.

Please click here to let us know whether you can join us.

We hope to see you there!

Awarding Efforts to Improve Diversity
Ecological Society Salutes McKenna for Breaking Down Barriers

Dr. Mary McKenna, a professor at Howard University, will receive the "Commitment to Human Diversity in Ecology Award" at this summer's annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America. This distinction goes to an ecologist in recognition of their long-standing contributions to increasing the diversity of future ecologists. Dr. McKenna is the fourth recipient of the award. She is also helping improve the diversity of Blandy's summer research program.


Photo: James E.K. Hildreth
   Dr. McKenna with students Chandler Purrity, Nia
   Johnson, and DeAna Smalls. Nia and Chandler were in    Blandy's 2012 summer research program.

For all of its focus on biological diversity, the field of ecology has lagged in improving its own ethnic and racial diversity. This robs the field of valuable talent, perspective, and community support. Dr. McKenna has worked tirelessly throughout her career to bring the excitement of discovery in ecology to under-represented groups. We at Blandy are proud and grateful that she has spent the past 11 summers at Blandy Experimental Farm as a co-coordinator of Blandy's Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. During that time, she has mentored 13 Blandy REU students, often bringing two students from her Undergraduate Mentoring in Environmental Biology (UMEB) or Environmental Biology Scholars (EBS) programs at Howard.


In addition to being a great mentor to our students and a great colleague to our faculty, Dr. McKenna figures prominently in the overall success of the Blandy REU program. Many students she trained in the UMEB and EBS programs at Howard were selected into Blandy's REU program, providing a source of exceptional undergraduate talent. We have seen a number of these REU alumni enter some of the best graduate programs in the country and enter leadership roles within the Ecological Society of America.


Mary will be at Blandy throughout this summer. If you see her, please pass along your congratulations on this national recognition and thank her for being a part of our Blandy community.


Third Graders Plant Trees at Clarke County High School
Blandy Ed Team Develops Activities, Provides Materials
By Lillian Ledford
Environmental Educator
Third graders from D.G. Cooley Elementary School helped plant trees at the high school.
This past school year, Blandy's environmental education team has partnered with Clarke County Public Schools' third grade teachers to provide a series of lessons focused on trees. Students investigated tree characteristics and properties; learned how to use a field guide to identify trees; and discovered the importance of trees as habitat for other organisms. On May 19, as a capstone to the 2014-2015 Tree Research and Education Endowment Fund project (TREE Fund), Clarke County's third grade students planted 32 young native trees on the grounds of the new Clarke County High School. These hackberry, honey locust, yellowwood, and oaks will greet the students in six years when they return as freshmen, and stand in celebration of the students' graduation in 2024.

This partnership was funded through a grant received by FOSA from the TREE Fund with additional funds from the H.O. Peet Foundation given in support of Blandy's education programs. The one-day tree planting festival was made possible with support from many members of our community. An anonymous donor provided all 32 trees that the students planted. Alison Teetor, Natural Resource Planner for Clarke County, worked with the tree donor to select and prepare planting locations, supply mulch and water, and coordinate ongoing care for the young grove of trees. Debbie Biggs, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) coordinator for Clarke County Public Schools, secured support from school administration for the project. Volunteers from the Shenandoah chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists and the Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardeners provided essential guidance during student planting, while an off-duty Shenandoah National Park Ranger coordinated Clarke County High School agriculture and horticulture students as they helped the third grade students.

Blandy education team delivering grant-funded resources to Clarke County third grade teachers.   

Though this event culminates the 2014-2015 partnership between Blandy and Clarke County's third grade, Blandy 's Director of Education Candace Lutzow-Felling and STEM coordinator Debbie Biggs have obtained funds from the Clarke County Education Foundation to continue this partnership for the 2015-2016 school year. 

This new grant, the packet of integrated lessons developed by Blandy's education team for this year's project, and a plethora of investigation materials and tree-focused books purchased for the third grade teachers through the TREE Fund grant, will ensure that this partnership creates a lasting legacy.

Summer Public Programs
From Global Issues to Blandy's Back Yard
By Steve Carroll
Director of Public Programs
FOSA's summer public programs are well under way as Arbor Vitae goes to press, but much lies ahead. Scheduled programs include guided walks in the morning (August 4th) and under the full moon (July 31st and August 30th).

Spending time outdoors sometimes means picking up hitchhikers such as ticks. On August 21st, Dr. Laura Stone will present a program on ticks and Lyme disease, addressing treatment, complications, and prevention.

As global citizens, it's important to periodically broaden our thinking. Along these lines, we will offer programs on global ocean challenges ranging from overfishing to acidification to loss of ice cover (July 2nd); and on climate change and its effects on our forests (July 14th).

The Blandy Book Club held its first meeting in May 2014. As we pass our first-year anniversary, we continue reading varied and fascinating books on environmental topics. Meetings are the fourth Thursday of the month (except November and December), and selections are listed on our web site under "Programs & Events." If interested, contact me at 540-837-1758 Ext. 287.

And for something different, come to a program August 14th on aeroponic gardening. On June 1st we set up a demonstration aeroponic tower garden outside the library, so there should be much to learn, see, and harvest.

Joins us for a program at one of the most beautiful settings in the area. Who knows what you might discover?

The Summer Programs brochure has full details and registration information.

Grants Will Expand, Improve Arboretum Collection
Community Forest, Ginkgo Grove to Benefit from Extra Care

Steve Carroll and T'ai Roulston have received two grants that will expand and improve the Arboretum's collection. Work has already begun and will extend into the fall. One effort will focus on our much-loved ginkgo grove while the other will add trees to our growing Community Forest at the front entrance.

Arborist Scott Johnston prunes trees in the ginkgo grove.
The State Arboretum of Virginia is one of 17 reference gardens recognized by the Southeast Chapter of the American Conifer Society. In 2011, the Chapter provided funding for the revitalization of our Conifer Trail. 

This February the Chapter provided $1,000 for improvement of our ginkgo grove. Work includes pruning of damaged, crossed, and diseased branches; planting new saplings to fill gaps; purchasing cages to protect saplings; and an audio recording interpreting the ginkgo. This is the 10th recording in a series highlighting conifers in our Dial-a-Tree program. The recordings are designed to be played while one is standing in front of the trees, but they are also available on our website here.

Our grant was the only one funded by the Southeast Chapter this year. The ginkgo grove is one of our best known and oft-visited collections, especially in the fall, and we are grateful for the opportunity to improve its quality and spread the word about this prized collection.

A second grant comes from the Virginia Department of Forestry through the Virginia Trees for Clean Water program. VDOF will provide $2,144 to purchase trees and cages for fall plantings in our expanding Community Forest at Blandy's front entrance. This grant requires an equivalent match, which will come in the form of staff and volunteer time for the planting of approximately 100 native trees, plus protective cages, and initial and continuing care. Volunteers will include members of our resident Master Naturalist chapter, which has adopted this planting as an official chapter project.

Several winter and spring storms have damaged or knocked down trees across the property. These and other projects help maintain and expand the Arboretum's collection, ensuring that our trees can be used for research, education, and outreach and that they will be appreciated for their beauty and ecological services for years to come.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy Members to Visit Blandy

Conference Coming to Shenandoah University in July


This summer (July 17-24) the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) will host a week-long conference at Shenandoah University featuring hundreds of lectures, workshops, exhibits, hikes, and excursions to local natural areas. Programs will focus on local and natural history, photography, children and nature, outdoor safety, and lots more. Blandy Experimental Farm is excited to partner with ATC by offering at least five field trips and talks.


Blandy's birds will be the focus of two walks, one led by Blandy Director Dave Carr and one by local birder and frequent program presenter, Wil Hershberger. Sally Anderson will show off our Native Plant Trail, and Steve Carroll will offer a general Arboretum tour that will end with a picnic lunch. Steve will also give a Sunday morning talk on ways in which plants are used in solving crimes, including details from historic and modern cases.


The ATC works hard to get people outside in order to better understand and appreciate the natural world. Care to join them on one of the many hikes and field trips offered during the week? For more information and to register, visit


2015 Garden Fair: Virginia's Best Garden Party
Carrie Whitacre, Assistant Curator for Herbaceous Gardens, talks with FOSA member Liz Valiulis in the FOSA plant sale booth at Garden Fair Preview Night May 8. 
Record Crowds Come Out For
Annual Arboretum Plant Sale

Garden Fair 2015 lived up to its reputation as one of the best plant sales in Virginia, with thousands of visitors coming to the Arboretum for Mother's Day weekend. Attendance was estimated at 8,000 to 10,000 people.

The event area was filled to capacity with vendors offering native plants, perennials, annuals, herbs, vegetables, and unique items for home and garden. Vendors reported brisk sales for Friday's members-only Preview Night, as well as both Saturday and Sunday. The Arboretum's own plant sale booth saw overwhelming success, and guided tours were tremendously popular.

The weekend weather was spectacular; earlier in the week, intense thunderstorms with high winds destroyed one tent set up early for the Arboretum's gift shop, but skies were clear in time for the weekend. Garden Fair is the Foundation of the State Arboretum's largest and most important annual fund-raising event. State funds account for only about 20 percent of the Arboretum's and Blandy's annual operating budget, so events such as Garden Fair are crucial to helping make up the difference and keeping the grounds open to the public free of charge.

Blandy Fellows Go On to Distinguished Careers
Dr. White's Students Held Prominent International Positions 
By Chris Schmidt
Arboretum Assistant
In the spring of 1928, Orland E. White arrived at Blandy Experimental Farm accompanied by the first group of graduate students officially known as Blandy Fellows. For the next 27 years, Dr. White would mentor many students, and 29 would earn their PhD degrees under his guidance. A large number of these graduates would go on to distinguished professional careers that reflected the training they received at Blandy.

Blandy Fellows spent their spring and summer months at Blandy researching and conducting experiments, and their fall and winter months in Charlottesville attending classes. Dr. White spent a large amount of time with his students developing very close, some lifelong, relationships with them. 

He had a habit of lecturing them well into the evenings and, on many Sundays, when he was in Charlottesville, he welcomed them into his home for a meal and an afternoon of games with his family. In return, he expected his students to contribute their free time to "work detail" during their tenure at Blandy. Schedules were organized for cooking, cleaning, and gardening. The Blandy budget was so small that the library was stocked through donations but there was no budget at all for the Arboretum. Consequently, Dr. White expected the students to contribute at least one day a week to planting, transplanting, and performing various other duties pertaining to the Arboretum. 

Blandy Fellows received very adequate financial support but Dr. White expected his students, in return, to give seminars, present papers, compete for awards, and, probably closest to Dr. White's heart, participate in plant hunting expeditions to collect specimens for the Arboretum. Dr. White always included in the accession books the names of those who accompanied him on these trips. (The students drove so Dr. White could scan the countryside for specimens!) All of this training, discipline, and responsibility would later contribute to the success of many of Dr. White's students.

A few of Dr. White's students included:

W.S. Flory (PhD -1931) was a research fellow at Arnold Arboretum and then went on to hold positions at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station and Virginia Experimental Station. He returned to Blandy to succeed Dr. White as manager and curator. He was a professor of Botany at Wake Forest University and was, for several years, the American delegate to the International Botanical Congress. He was a Fellow of the Virginia Academy of Science and was also a co-founder of the American Boxwood Society.

J.T. Baldwin (PhD-1937) held positions at Cornell University and University of Michigan before embarking on a two-year solo plant exploration trip to South America sponsored by the USDA. He later became a professor of Biology at William and Mary from 1946 - 1974, during which time he also held the department chair position. The Baldwin Memorial Collection, the huge plant collection on the college campus, is named in his honor.

Wray Bowden (PhD - 1941) became a researcher at the Botany and Plant Pathology Division for the Canadian Department of Agriculture and was responsible for the introduction of a number of herbaceous perennial cultivars.

J.H. Taylor (PhD -1944) entered the U.S. Army in 1943 and was stationed in the South Pacific. During this period he frequently sent plant specimens back to Dr. White at Blandy. He went on to hold positions at Columbia University and became director of the Institute of Molecular Biophysics at Florida State University, where he was honored by the University with the highest award given to faculty. He was a pioneer in the study of molecular genetics, was one of the founders of The American Society of Cell Biology, and was elected to the National Academy of Science in 1977.

There were many others who became professors, geneticists, biologists, and plant breeders. What they all had in common was a major professor who saw their potential and encouraged them to strive. The accomplishments of Dr. White's students are a tribute to his dream for Blandy Experimental Farm and the State Arboretum of Virginia.