Newsletter of the Foundation of the State Arboretum Spring 2017
Watch for Your
FOSA members will receive an invitation by email to join us for Preview Night Friday, May 12, from 5-7:30 p.m.
Members enjoy first pick of Garden Fair plants at Preview Night, as well as music, refreshments, and free admission to Garden Fair all weekend long.
Preview Night admission is $28 per person in advance, or $38 after May 11 or at the door.
Reserve and pay online now
or call 540-837-1758 Ext. 224 from 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Teach Your Pet
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 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. Also, pet waste stations are located near the main parking lot, and at some loop drive stops. Please pick up and dispose of pet waste properly.
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
Honoring a Father's Legacy
Thom Flory Establishes $2 Million Endowment
By Martha Bjelland
FOSA Life Member and supporter Thom Flory has created the "Thomas R. Flory in Honor of Walter S. Flory Jr. Endowment for Blandy" to honor his father and further research science at Blandy. This $2 million blended gift and bequest is the largest gift to University of Virginia's Blandy Experimental Farm since its genesis through Graham Blandy's visionary bequest in 1926. This gift creates unprecedented future opportunities for scientific research at Blandy.
Thom's father, Walter S. Flory Jr., (1907-1998), was a botanist, geneticist, and educator who had a long history with Blandy Experimental Farm. A Blandy Fellow, Walter received his Ph.D. in Botany from UVA in 1931. He came back to Blandy in 1947 and spent the next 16 years as Professor of Experimental Horticulture and Vice Director and Manager of Blandy Experimental Farm (1947-63) and Curator of the Orland E. White Arboretum (1955-63).
Thom has fond childhood memories of life at Blandy. He spent most of his youth scampering around grounds, and Thom adds "bugging the graduate students that were like big brothers and sisters, although they couldn't hit you as much." Thom stays abreast of news of his old stomping grounds and is a FOSA
and supporter of FOSA. Thom is also a frequent contributor to the Foundation's newsletter
When fully funded, the endowment's income will be used to support the scholarly pursuits of the individual appointed to serve as Curator of the State Arboretum of Virginia, and will be known as the Walter S. Flory Jr. Professor of Environmental Sciences.
Please contact FOSA Director Martha Bjelland
for opportunities to make an impact through annual giving, major gifts, and planned giving.
Garden Fair Is May 13 & 14
Sale is Highlight of Mother's Day Weekend
Virginia's best garden party returns for its 28th season as Garden Fair marks Mother's Day Weekend, May 13 & 14, from 9 to 4:30 both days.
Garden Fair is the Foundation of the State Arboretum's largest and most important annual fundraiser. Nearly 100 vendors will offer native plants, small trees, herbs, annuals, perennials, berry bushes, boxwood, and much more. Fine items for home and garden and several food booths will also be among the vendor lineup.
FOSA members will receive an email invitation to Preview Night, Friday, May 12, from 5-7:30 p.m. Members enjoy first pick of plants as well as music, refreshments, and free admission to Garden Fair.
No Garden Pot Recycling
Note that we will no longer accept garden pots for recycling; check with your local government or homeowners' association for more information.
Garden Fair proceeds support programs and events all year long. It's a great way to support your Arboretum and find some new additions for your garden and landscape.
Garden Fair is underwritten by BB&T. For more information call 540-837-1758 Ext. 224 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or email email@example.com.
Spring Gardening Season Begins March 28
Join Us in the Gardens 9 a.m.-Noon
The 2017 gardening season gets under way at the Arboretum beginning March 28. Shake off the winter blues by joining us in the gardens!
Here's the schedule:
Herb Garden, Tuesdays starting March 28
Native Plant Trail, Wednesdays starting March 29
Perennial Garden, Thursdays starting March 30
No experience is necessary, and we'll provide tools. Come meet new friends, learn new skills, and put your expertise to work. You'll see why we say "We grow more than just plants!"
For more information and to register, contact Koy Mislowsky,
Volunteer Coordinator, at 540-837-1758 ext. 246 or
Can We Save The Rusty Patched Bumble Bee?
Endangered Bee is a Challenge for Endangered Species Management
By T'ai Roulston
On Jan. 11, 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed the rusty patched bumble bee on the endangered species list, making it the first bee species in the continental United States to be listed. It is a worthy candidate, plummeting from one of the most common bumble bee species in the eastern United States to one of the rarest in about 30 years.
With a former range from the
to the eastern seaboard, as far south as Georgia, as far north as Maine and parts of Canada, it can now be found with any regularity only in the upper
In collaboration with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and a regional consortium of landowners and land managers (Virginia Working Landscapes), I have been involved in regional bumble bee surveys in the northern part of Virginia since 2011. During that time, we've captured and identified several thousand bumble bees, but we collected only a single rusty patched bumble bee worker. That is the only record from Virginia since the 1990s. Last collection in Maryland? 2002. The most recent record anywhere near Virginia? 2006, just outside Philadelphia by my former graduate student Rosemary Malfi, when she was an undergraduate at Bryn Mawr. That is how rare the bee is now.
As a once common bee that contributed to the pollination of natural ecosystems and agricultural plants, the species performed an important ecological role that it no longer performs in our region. Does that leave a gap? Is there a trail of unpollinated plants to mark its loss, or do other species simply step up to eat the food that it ate, pollinate the plants that it pollinated? These are questions easier to pose than to answer. All bumble bee species are generalists that share host plants with other species of generalists, including other bumble bees, other bees, other insects, even birds. No one took the data to see what changed when one species went away to see if other species became more common where the rusty patch became less common, to see if their preferred host plants performed better or worse. But even if we knew there was no effect, we should remain ill-at-ease. We need to ask how we
lose such a common, beneficial species so quickly. What will keep it from happening again and again, until the species pool is too drained to cover the gaps?
The exact cause for the loss of the rusty patch is unclear, but it is almost certainly related to disease. While it is well known that many factors stress insect populations, including loss of habitat, exposure to agricultural chemicals, loss of preferred plants, agricultural intensity, and climate-related factors, especially on the edge of a species range, there is no evidence that the rusty patch is more sensitive to these factors than other species of bumble bee. Such factors may enhance the negative effect of something else, but there is no evidence that they are the difference between one of our regional species dropping out and another species hanging in. Disease, however, is likely to be the cruel arbiter dealing species their misfortunes. The rusty patch is one of five North American bumble bee species known to have suffered recent sharp declines. In the four species that have been examined so far, including the rusty patch, all have been shown to carry unusually frequent and intense infections of a fungal parasite,
is a gut parasite of bumble bees that can shorten the lives of workers and disrupt mating success and survival of queens and males. No one knows how
infections became so prevalent in the declining species, but circumstantial evidence suggests that the buildup of
disease in commercial bumble bee colonies used for tomato pollination in the 1990s, combined with extensive contact between managed and wild populations, either released a more virulent strain of disease or simply increased the pool of disease that reached wild populations.
Photographer Deana B. Marion will display high-resolution macro images of bees in an exhibit planned for August and September at Blandy. Watch our
While the listing of the rusty patched bumble bee as an endangered species grants protection, it is unclear what form that protection will take. For species whose habitats remained while they declined from hunting, like the gray wolf, the action to take was relatively straight forward (but not necessarily easy to implement): stop hunting them. For species like the bald eagle, which suffered from environmental hazards, the process was also clear, but not easy: mitigate the environmental hazards and reintroduce eagles to safe sites. If a species was down to a few critical populations, then protect those critical populations. But what about a wild insect suffering from disease? Other than protect the only known populations from destruction, what do we do? We don't know how to vaccinate them. Rear them in the lab, breed disease resistance into them, and release them? Maybe, if it is still possible to get them into the lab. It isn't impossible, but the prospects aren't great. Nature is already running that experiment, and as the populations dwindle and disappear we have to hope that somewhere, whether it's some lonesome valley meadow or a ravine behind the mall where bees forage at the local garden center, that a population arises with disease resistance. Then maybe, as long as there are good habitats remaining, the species can come back. So where does that leave us? It leaves us responsible for creating good habitats for declining species to come back to. And it leaves us hoping that they will come back. It isn't a strong position to be in, but it is all we have.
So, let's hope that endangered species status will protect the last populations of the rusty patched bumble bee in the Midwest and that hardier bees will come forth and flourish. And if that doesn't happen, let's hope it happens for the other declining species. And let's hope we learn to stop creating opportunities for disease to spread from commercial operations to wild habitats. But that is a topic for another article.
From the Top of the Blue Ridge to the Bottom of Vernal Pools
By Steve Carroll
Director of Public Programs
Spring and summer public programs offered by the Foundation of the State Arboretum will offer a mix of returning favorites and the new and different.
April offers a two-session wildflower identification workshop, an always-popular full moon walk, guided walking meditation, and our annual field trip to see Thompson Wildlife Management Area's spectacular spring wildflower display in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
New programs include an illustrated talk by author Thomas Rainer on his acclaimed book,
Planting in a Post-Wild World; a program by University of Mary Washington faculty member, Doug Sanford, on slave housing at Blandy and the Tuleyries; and a family-friendly program on do's and don'ts of wildlife rescue by veterinarian and wildlife rehabilitator, Dr. Belinda Burwell. Staff from the Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM) will also offer a half-day workshop on managing invasive plant species.
Whether you lean toward family entertainment (Family Firefly Festival, Family "Mothing" Party), self-enrichment (Writing in Nature, Macro Photography) or history (Growing Up at Blandy Farm), there is a program for you at Blandy. Check out upcoming programs
FOSA Members Enjoy Reciprocal Benefits
Special Discounts Apply at American Horticultural Society Gardens
By Robin Arnold
One benefit of Membership in the Foundation of the State Arboretum (FOSA) is that your membership card entitles you to special admission privileges and discounts at 300 gardens across North America through the Reciprocal Admissions Program (RAP) of the American Horticultural Society. This can be a very nice savings and a treat as you travel.
The participating gardens and arboretums are listed in a guide and on the AHS website, and you've probably noticed we list the website on your FOSA membership card and in several publications. Recently, the AHS changed their website address and we wanted to be sure you knew where to find the latest in RAP listings.
The new website is:
Can't find your Membership Card or have a question about your current or new Membership? Please email Robin at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 540-837-1758 Ext. 224 Monday-Friday, 1-5 p.m. If prompted, please leave a message.
Blandy Summer Nature Camps Just Around the Corner
You'll Wish You Were a Kid Again!
By Steve Carroll
Director of Public Programs
Blandy will offer a mix of full-day and half-day camps beginning in June, with three amazing weeks of science activities, nature exploration, games, crafts, and an opportunity to learn from camp leaders, undergraduate researchers, and university scientists.
Our first two camps, for rising 2nd-4th graders, cater to younger scientists. Our third camp, for rising 5th-8th graders, is more investigative.
Life Down Under, June 26-28, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Rising 2nd-4th grade
In this three-day camp we spend six hours per day investigating life "down under"-- under the leaf litter, underwater, even under the tree canopy. We'll observe creatures that live in these habitats, seeing how they behave, what they eat, and more. Who knows what we will discover?
Solid, Liquid, STEAM July 10-14, 9 a.m.-Noon
Rising 2nd-4th grade
Five days and five ways to explore nature! We will use investigative skills to explore nature's mysteries using the elements of STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. Join us for a wide-ranging exploration of Blandy's animals, plants, habitats, weather, and more.
EcoExplorers, July 17-21, 9 a.m.-Noon
Rising 5th-8th grade
Did you know Blandy is an Ecological Field Research Station? This means we have scientists in residence conducting field-based research. Join us this week to carry out your very own research project! Student scientists work in pairs under the guidance of our staff to identify a question, design a field experiment, and collect and analyze data. On Friday, our young scientists present their results to campers, Blandy staff, and family members.
Blandy's Summer Nature Camps offer a unique opportunity for kids to have fun while working with teachers, university students, and scientists in a remarkable and beautiful setting.
See us on Facebook (Blandy Summer and Winter Nature Camp) for photos, descriptions, and updates. Visit the
Public Programs web page
for details and a link to the registration page. Space is limited, so register early. For camp details and information on scholarships call 540-837-1758 Ext. 287.
Transforming Fear to Fascination
Countering Nature Deficit Disorder at Blandy
By the Blandy Education Team
The Blandy Education Team is always excited to see the arrival of students throughout the year. One of the many things we take into consideration is the mindset of each of the students when they arrive. How much experience do they have being outdoors and how prepared are they to learn outdoors? Will they be excited, frightened, ready to learn, or all three? How will these students react to weather changes and being in and around lush vegetation? What will they do if they see a squirrel, a spider, or a centipede?
The amount of unstructured time that children spend outdoors has sharply declined over the past couple of decades. For some students, especially those from urban and suburban areas, their visit to Blandy is the first time they've explored and investigated a natural setting. Comments we hear often are:
"Is that plant poisonous?"
"Won't the snake chase me?"
"Soil is dirty; germs live in it."
"Spider! I need to kill it."
When student minds are occupied with strangeness and danger, their capacity for learning is significantly diminished. This raises a real educational dilemma: How do we teach students when they are in a state of anxiety or fear?
The Education Program's mission is to "stimulate scientific exploration and discovery, and stewardship of our natural world by fostering a learning community among preK-12 students and teachers, and scientists." Students cannot engage in scientific exploration and discovery, nor can they be interested in caring for our natural resources, when they are afraid. Therefore, an important outdoor teaching objective is for us to replace negative perceptions with curiosity and excitement about the natural world. To do this, we use incremental steps that guide students to examine organisms in their habitats and give time for fascination to replace fear.
A powerful example of this process is embedded in our Incredible Insects program. Insects cause trepidation in many children (and adults). During this program we examine mounted insect specimens using microscopes. As students use this exciting technology to observe the myriad of adaptations present in these "safely dead" organisms, they begin to wonder and think about form and function of the various insect parts.
This magnified glimpse into a radically different world displaces the initial fears and curiosity builds. Once we are outdoors, students observe insects in their natural habitats and are asked to think about the creatures' lives and their habitat roles. Students use nets to collect insects and place them in specimen jars for examination. Though the insects are still alive, the jars offer a sense of security. Students can observe closely without fear. This leads to fascination and more questions. Exclamations such as: "Why is the beetle shiny?" or "I didn't know there were SO many kinds of bees!" and "Whoa, look at what this bug is doing to this other bug!" begin to occur and conversations about habitat roles take place among students. A parallel experience often happens with accompanying adults. As the students become more and more engaged in insect investigation, they seek to share their experiences with peers, parents, and teachers. Occasionally a chaperone will end up just as enthused as the students.
Every one of our students arrives with a different encyclopedia of prior knowledge and an individual lifetime of experiences. Some already are comfortable with outdoor learning, others face a significant personal hurdle just getting off the bus onto the mowed grassy parking lot. Our goal is to shift every student a little closer to comfort outdoors; to instill a deeper desire to explore and understand natural phenomenon; and to encourage more concern for the natural world than when they arrived at Blandy. Ultimately, we hope they can look at the natural world with curiosity and wonder, seeing not threats but interconnected diversity worthy of study and conservation.
Roosting Vultures Find a Home at Blandy
These Essential Creatures Won't Win Any Beauty Contests
By Dave Carr
Director, Blandy Experimental Farm
If you've visited Blandy this winter (or maybe even the past two or three), you've probably noticed our guests. They
can be seen sunning themselves in the early morning before they go to work, and in the late afternoon they return in huge numbers, fighting with one another for the prime sleeping locations. They are Black and Turkey Vultures, and a stand of Norway Spruce just to the west of the Quarters has become their winter roost.
Vultures are semi-migratory birds, with populations at the northern extent of their range migrating in the fall into the southern states or, for western populations, to places as far away as Central and South America. Vultures in the southern United States tend to stay put. Virginia has likely always been near the edge of the migratory transition, but migratory behavior in vultures seems to be changing. I grew up at about the same latitude as Blandy, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati where reporting a Turkey Vulture on a Christmas Bird Count would result in an interrogation from very doubtful count organizers. Now winter Turkey Vultures are commonplace. Black Vultures were unheard of in that area in the 1970s, but now they are found year-round.
For the most part, Black and Turkey Vultures seem to have benefited from human activity in the United States. They are expanding their numbers and their range. The mixed forest and field landscape that we've created seems ideal for them, and apparently we are able to supply vultures with an endless supply of carrion, whether in the form of road kill or garbage dumps. Their success has created some conflicts with humans, especially when they roost in places that aren't as accepting of them as we are here at Blandy. There are many reports of vultures developing a mysterious but hearty appetite for windshield wiper blades and weather stripping.
The success of Black and Turkey Vultures was not mirrored by the third species of vulture in the U.S. - the California Condor. The range of the California Condor contracted into the southwest and coastal U.S. after the last ice age, but its numbers declined sharply in the 19th and 20th century due to habitat loss, shooting, and poisoning. By 1987 only 22 California Condors remained, and the last few survivors were collected from the wild. A captive breeding program was started, and by 1991 US Fish and Wildlife began to reintroduce California Condors into parts of their historic range. Today these birds can be seen soaring in places like Big Sur, Pinnacles National Park, and the Grand Canyon. Although the USFW Service is cautiously optimistic about the condor's future, major threats to survival
, especially poisoning from lead bullets in carcasses.
The vultures of North America are not closely related to the vultures of Europe, Asia, and Africa, but they share many lifestyle characteristics with their Old World counterparts. Vultures are the ultimate hang-gliders, able to cover vast distances with minimal energy expenditure. Unlike most birds, many species, including our Turkey Vulture, have a keen sense of smell, the better to find the dearly departed. All vultures have bare heads, an apparent adaptation for feeding on messy carcasses. Vultures are also able to cope with bacteria and natural toxins that would kill most animals, including other scavengers. Turkey Vulture stomachs are actually filled with
Clostridium, the bacteria that produce the deadly botulism toxin. These unique abilities place vultures in an essential role in ecosystems all over the world, recycling the dead and decaying.
Sunday, March 19, was "Buzzard Day" in Hinckley, Ohio, where they have been celebrating the annual spring return of the Turkey Vultures since 1957. The festival, which now attracts 9000 visitors to this small town, is even older than "Swallows Day" in Capistrano. There is now an
International Vulture Awareness Day
on the first Saturday in September each year to highlight the ecological importance of vultures and the
that they are facing worldwide. We haven't developed a Blandy vulture festival yet, but I hope that when people encounter our macabre guests, they have an appreciation for these amazing animals.
Arboretum Collection Includes Rare and Unusual Plants
Search the Online Plant Database to Find These Unique Gems
By Chris Schmidt
Many visitors may not be aware that Blandy is home to some very unique and rare plants. Most guests appreciate the ginkgos when their leaves are turning golden yellow in the fall or Dogwood Lane when it is in full bloom. Yet, scattered throughout the Arboretum are some specimens which, for diverse reasons, have become very rare or extinct in their native habitat. I admit it has taken me some time to discover these uncommon individuals, but they are truly worth a visit and a hike to search them out.
Native solely to Virginia, the small, round leaf birch,
, was found in Smyth County in 1918. The tree was believed to have become extinct until it was rediscovered in 1975 in the same county. It is currently on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service list of threatened species. It had previously been on the endangered species list but some areas have been repopulated with nursery grown stock. Reproduction of the tree in the wild has not been recorded. Here at Blandy we have one specimen located on the east side of Lake Georgette.
is able to cross pollinate with other birch species,
, collected seed does not produce true
seedlings. It also does not self-pollinate. Our hope is to purchase several more trees so that viable seed can be collected for propagation.
Did You Know?
You can locate and map any tree in the Arboretum database with a simple online search.
Another striking Virginia native tree which draws a lot of attention here at Blandy is the longleaf pine,
. With needles capable of growing over 17 inches long, it is certainly easy to identify. For the first five to 10 years of its life the longleaf pine endures an awkward adolescence as it remains in what is called the grass stage and may not even reach a foot high. This pine can take up to 150 years to reach full size. During colonial times longleaf pines were plentiful and the wood was valuable for naval stores (tar, turpentine, and pitch) and for railroad construction material. American colonists extensively harvested them and replanted faster growing pines such as loblolly and slash pines. Longleaf pines were also cut to clear land for farming. Most original longleaf pine stands had disappeared by the 1920s. Currently, there are several public and private programs working on restoring and protecting longleaf pines in their native U.S. range. Several gorgeous trees are growing in the Blandy Event Field and further out along the Loop Drive.
Another eye-catching tree here at Blandy is the very primitive bigleaf magnolia,
Magnolia macrophylla. It was discovered in 1795 in North Carolina. The leaves can grow up to 30 inches long (the largest simple leaf of a North American tree) and the huge white fragrant flowers can reach 10 inches across. The tree is found from Virginia south to Florida and Ohio south to Arkansas but is very scarce in its native range. It does not produce viable seed until it is 10 to 12 years old, and when it does, it produces them in very small quantities. The rare plants are collected from the wild illegally so the species is now considered endangered in Arkansas and Ohio, and threatened in North Carolina. The bigleaf magnolia specimens are on the south side of the Loop Drive.
What a wonderful opportunity Blandy visitors have to be able to see some very uncommon native plants!