Newsletter of the Foundation of the State Arboretum                 Winter 2015

Give the Gift of
FOSA Membership
A membership in the Foundation of the State Arboretum is a great gift idea and the perfect way to show your support for the Arboretum.

Individual FOSA membership starts at $35, or just $25 for seniors over age 65. A family membership is $50 ($40 senior) and your business can become a member for $50.

FOSA members enjoy 10 percent off in Our Shop, as well as discounts to FOSA programs and reciprocal benefits at other arboreta and public gardens.

Join online right now, or visit our membership page to learn more.

And Happy Holidays!
Linda Conrad Named FOSA
Top Volunteer
Congratulations to Linda Conrad, FOSA's Volunteer of the Year! 

Linda has been a volunteer since 2002. She has spent most of that time helping in Our Shop. Linda not only works every Friday in the Shop, but also reconciles the weekly sales, makes the bank deposits and maintains the Shop's inventory.

This year, in addition to her normal duties, Linda and another volunteer, were in charge of counting and reconciling the money brought in at ArborFest and she played a significant role in setting up the Shop and working it during the Middleburg Christmas Show. 

There are so many other things Linda does behind the scenes. We cannot imagine what we would do without her! She is so reliable and conscientious and FOSA is fortunate to have her!

Thank you Linda!

Seed Exchange
Set for Jan. 30
Gardeners will again gather in the library for our sixth annual seed exchange Saturday, Jan. 30, from 10 a.m. to 
2 p.m. This is a free event.

Participants are encouraged to bring seeds, plants, roots, or cuttings to exchange with other gardeners. Native plants are especially encouraged, but no plants or seeds on the Arboretum's list of invasive plants are allowed.

The event, which is sponsored by Our Shop and the Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardeners, will also feature a book and magazine swap. Author Forrest Pritchard will be on hand to sign copies of his latest book, Growing Tomorrow. Master gardeners will also help with gardening questions.

For more information call Elaine Specht at 540-459-9657.
Make Your Own
Blandy Calendar
Did you know you can create your own Blandy calendar on our website? 

You can choose a standard calendar that's complete with photos and ready to go, or you can upload your own photos, captions, and important dates to include on your own custom calendar.

Best of all, FOSA receives a portion of the proceeds of every sale, up to $10 per calendar. Get started now with this link.

Blandy Bird Count And Family Festival
Saturday, Dec. 19
1-3 p.m.

Come to Blandy for an afternoon of free, bird-centered activities and crafts. Learn to identify common birds, help with our count, make a bird feeder, and more.

Recommended age range is 5 to 14 years, but all are welcome. Part of the time will be spent outside, so dress for the weather, and bring binoculars if you have them. No dogs please. Reservations: 540-837-1758 Ext. 224 M-F 1-5 or register online anytime.
A Tree Grows in the
Community Forest
Virginia Master Naturalists Shayla Ortell and Tanya Godfrey stand beside a newly planted redbud in Blandy's Community Forest. The Shenandoah Chapter of VMN has adopted the tree planting near Blandy's front entrance as a chapter project, with additional planting scheduled for spring 2016.

Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward joins students learning about forest decomposition in the Native Plant Trail Nov. 18. At right, Ms. Ward visits with FOSA President Bob Lee.
State Natural Resources Leader Visits Blandy
We were honored to host Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward at Blandy on Nov. 18.  Ms. Ward was guided through the State Arboretum by Blandy Director David Carr, Public Programs Director Steve Carroll, and FOSA President Bob Lee.  Ms. Ward and Mr. Lee then walked with Blandy Director of  Education Candace Lutzow-Felling to the native woodland trail to observe a local third grade class engrossed in learning the importance of decomposition in the native woodland forest.  More than 6,000 Virginia students and 300 teachers participated in environmental education programs at the State Arboretum last fiscal year. Total visitors for all ages was 190,000.
Blandy Recognized for Environmental Ed
Award Highlights Commitment to Education
Clyde Cristman, DCR Director, presents Candace Lutzow-Felling, Blandy Education Director, with the Center for Environmental Education Excellence award. Photo by Bill Portlock, Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Blandy is a Virginia Center for Environmental Education Excellence, according to the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). 

The DCR Office of Environmental Education selected Blandy for the newly established award, which was presented during a ceremony at the annual Environmental Education Conference Oct. 8 at Natural Bridge.

DCR established the award in 2015 to recognize and honor venues which implement exemplary environmental education, using project-based work and incorporating Virginia Standards of Learning.

Candace Lutzow-Felling, Blandy's Director of Education, accepted the award from Clyde Cristman, DCR Director. "It is gratifying that Blandy's commitment and contributions to environmental education are acknowledged," noted Ms. Lutzow-Felling. "This award recognizes excellence not only in Blandy's education program and our Environmental Education staff, but also the dedication of our Arboretum gardens and grounds staff; our many, dedicated FOSA volunteers; and the research faculty.  All of us together make our education programs shine."
Nurture Your Budding Naturalist!
Young Naturalist Programs Begin Jan. 9
By Steve Carroll
Director of Public Programs
As days get shorter and temperatures drop, our thoughts turn to winter and our cold-weather To-Do list: get out the snow shovels, find our winter hats and gloves, and register for -- and help spread the word about -- the Young Naturalist program. The first program will be Saturday, Jan. 9, with subsequent programs on alternate Saturdays through March 5. Check out the brochure to learn more.
The series begins with "Virginia's Native Americans," first offered last year. This year we will delve more deeply into Native American history and culture, learn outdoor skills, and appreciate a way of life before the arrival of European settlers.
On Jan. 23 we try something new -- a late afternoon/evening session on "Creatures of the Night." The two age groups (Grades 1-3 and 4-6) will meet separately but at the same time (4-6:30 p.m.) for an exploration of winter after dark. We will investigate night-active creatures, explore the night sky in search of stars and constellations, and more.
In "Eco-Inventors," Feb. 6, we explore inventions inspired by nature, such as Velcro from plant burrs and adhesive from gecko toes. Participants will explore ways in which biology and engineering overlap -- while having fun, of course. Come discover your inner inventor!
On Feb. 20, participants will examine skulls, skin, tracks, and (mostly artificial) scat in order to identify native mammals and birds. We'll go out in search of scat and tracks, compare teeth of carnivores and herbivores, and lots more.
The Young Naturalist series ends March 5 with "Signs of Spring," when we will spend most of the session outside. We'll search for evidence that winter is loosening its grip and spring is approaching: animal tracks in the mud, calls from spring frogs, plants poking up through the soil or snow, and more.

All programs include time outside, observational and hands-on activities, crafts, games, and snacks. Except for "Creatures of the Night," kids in grades 1-3 attend from 9-11:30 a.m., and those in grades 4-6 from 12:30-3 p.m. 

The Young Naturalist programs are sponsored by The Adams Companies, and are led by Blandy staff with volunteer support from Master Naturalists. Pre-registration is required and can be completed online through our secure payment site, by phone (540-837-1758 Ext. 224, M-F 1-5 p.m.), or by printing and mailing the registration form on the back of the brochure. Cost is $25 per session ($17 for FOSA members); register for four or more spaces and the price drops to $20 per session ($15 for members). Not a FOSA member? Join before registering and begin saving immediately!
No, Really: It's Native to Virginia
In Appreciation of Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus
By T'ai Roulston
It is common for plant species to be viewed differently from different perspectives, but the eastern prickly pear, Opuntia humifusa, is somewhat extreme: an endangered species, a recalcitrant weed, a prized ornamental, a valuable food plant, a smart choice for urban green roofs, an ingredient in herbal soap, and a medical wonder.

The eastern prickly pear is the only cactus native to Virginia. It is easily recognized as a cactus with its flat spiny pads, large flowers (yellow-orange-red), and persistent red fruits, but it can be overlooked: It is low to the ground, usually sprawling over rocks and sandy ground. Most people who see it probably assume someone transplanted it from the desert, leaving it to suffer and die in our cold, wet winter. But it is native to eastern North America, from the prairie states to the east coast, Florida to Massachusetts. It reaches Canada, barely; there are two populations in southwestern Ontario and it is considered endangered in Canada, threatened by habitat degradation.
Like desert cacti, the eastern prickly pear thrives on well-drained soils, tolerating drought by storing water in its tissues. Slow growing, it does best where most plants do nothing --including dunes, shale barrens, and bare road cuts. It is uncommon in most parts of its range, but can dominate dry pastures and is considered a noxious weed by livestock producers in parts of the plant's native range (e.g., Florida). Out of its range, it can be invasive; it is one of the many naturalized cacti in southern Europe considered an ecological problem.
For most people and in most places, however, it is not a problem; it is an interesting component of the local flora, and a low maintenance horticultural plant of increasing interest. To Native Americans, it was a reliable food source; the pads, fruits and flowers are all edible, at least once the prickly parts are removed. In the local flora, its flowers support an abundance of bees (especially bumble bees, sweat bees, and honey bees) as well as beetles and even hummingbirds. Thus, the species appears on some regional lists of recommended plants for pollinator gardens and ecological plantings. Similarly, it is recommended as a component of green roofs in urban planting schemes, where both the ecological value of flowers and the low-maintenance aspect of a drought-tolerant plant are well appreciated. The fruits also play important ecological roles, supporting raccoons and small rodents.

Eastern prickly pear extracts contain many antioxidants and exhibit anti-fungal activity.
As much as North Americans who know the plant may appreciate these traits, the species seems most appreciated in Korea, where it is 
called Cheonnyuncho. It is not known precisely when the plant was
introduced to the Korean Peninsula, but it has become widely adopted as an ornamental and a focus of scientific study. In South Korea, eastern prickly pear extracts are touted as the best reason to buy a particular herbal soap. In food science studies, its fibers have been found to increase the springiness and cohesiveness of sponge cakes, and a South Korean study in the Journal of Cosmetology found that extracts of the plant improved mud packs (title: "Clinical efficacy of facial masks containing yoghurt and
Opuntia humifusa"). 

Most of the scientific research on the plant has focused on medical benefits, and most of this research has also been carried out in South Korea in the last decade. Eastern prickly pear extracts have been found to contain many antioxidants and exhibit anti-fungal activity. Early research on mice and rats has found that plant extracts show promise in protecting against skin cancer from UV-B radiation and liver injury due to poison. It also appears to be effective in reducing glucose levels in diabetics, preventing some forms of dermatitis, and reducing the incidence of osteoporosis. (Disclaimer: I provide this information only to make the point that this plant, barely known in its native range, is widely appreciated halfway around the world; don't run out and eat a raw cactus pad to save yourself from all life's ills. The medical research is only promising, while bleeding from putting a cactus pad in your mouth is definite.)
You don't need to study ecology, medicine, cosmetology, or food science to appreciate the eastern prickly pear. It is a very attractive ground cover that does well in nutrient-poor, well-drained, sunny conditions. Seeds are readily available from online sources, and once you have the plant, or befriend someone who has it, the plant is easily propagated from stem cuttings. Once established, it is quite hardy. It comes back from fire and can withstand severe mechanical cutting. I've followed a population in the median of U.S. Route 50 near the Arboretum for many years now, thinking that nothing desirable survives the Virginia Department of Transportation for long. But I was wrong; the patch is doing fine. Its enemies are shade, competition, and too much water. Plant it where little else will grow and appreciate a little view of desert life outside of the desert.
Arboretum Roots Begin in Charlottesville
Some Specimens Originated Close to Home
By Chris Schmidt
Arboretum Assistant
Dr. Orland E. White
In addition to obtaining seed and plant material from nurseries and arboreta, Dr. Orland White was able to secure propagating material from famous and historical places worldwide. One source that many readers might find interesting is the University of Virginia's main campus in Charlottesville.  Dr. White's home was located there and he returned every fall when the Blandy Fellows went back to their classes. He searched the university grounds, neighboring yards, farms, and estates for possible candidates for the Arboretum.  

There is a reference in the first accession book to seed collected in 1928 from a Kentucky coffee-tree on the grounds of St. Paul's Episcopal Church at UVa.  Three trees were raised and are still growing at Blandy. In the same book is an entry for golden rain tree seedlings obtained from UVa. Several of these are also still alive.  Probably the most famous Blandy tree specimens are the ginkgos in the Ginkgo Grove.  The seeds for many of these magnificent trees were gathered from a tree on the UVa grounds in 1928, 1932, 1934, and 1937.

A turkey oak still found in the picnic grove at Blandy was grown from acorns collected at UVa in 1937-1938.   Sadly, a weeping mulberry, raised from seed collected in 1930 from a tree at UVa, was removed in 1990 after it died.

Unfortunately, other plants Dr. White brought to the arboretum from Charlottesville survived.  There were jasmine seeds collected from a plant near the "Bio Bldg," forsythia cuttings, spirea divisions from "the old mansion," and many oak acorns which were lost after their arrival at Blandy.  A kerria division taken from the garden of UVa's president (hopefully with permission) also appears to have died.

Other plants at Blandy came from Dr. White's personal home or from other locations in Charlottesville.  Two red maple seedlings from Charlottesville still in the arboretum collection were brought here in 1934. Twenty-five silver-bell seedlings were brought back to Blandy from a farm in Charlottesville in 1936; one is still alive. A mimosa and a smoke tree on Pea Hill were propagated from plants in Dr. White's Charlottesville yard in 1930.  Interestingly, many times only some of the plant material was brought to Blandy.  Often Dr. White would divide the plant material between his home in Charlottesville (zone 7) and the Arboretum in Boyce (zone 6).  Dr. White, always the scientist, was developing an Arboretum and conducting plant hardiness trials at the same time!