Facebook Post.png

Photos by Kellen McCluskey.

Thursday, October 7

It's a beautiful time to visit! The meadows, gardens, and parking lot are alive with asters, goldenrods, and swaying bronzy grasses. Birds are migrating. Pollinators are busy! Trees are showing hints of fall color, and the landscape is mellowing as it begins its slow wind-down. October is Fairy Month, which means that magical, enchanting surprises are around every corner.

It's also a great time to add to the fall landscape. Trees, shrubs, and perennials planted now benefit from cooler temperatures and have a chance to become established before the heat and stress of summer. Beginning today, a nice selection of native plants is available to order for fall planting! Orders will be accepted online through October 18 and will be fulfilled during pickups scheduled for October 22, 23, 29, and 30.

       Click here to place a plant order       

As always, we greatly appreciate the support of our members, whose generosity has made possible free admission in 2021. If you're not a member, click here to join. An Arboretum membership also makes a wonderful gift. Click here for more information. 



with The Dirty Grass Players, Bull & Goat Brewery,

Ten Eyck Brewing Co., and food trucks!

Saturday, October 23, 2–4 p.m. Food trucks open at 1 p.m.

Tickets are going fast. Reserve yours now!


Upcoming Programs

Garden Ecology

Tuesday, October 12

Yarning at the Arboretum

Wednesday, October 13

Smoothie 'n Walk: Fall Color

Saturday, October 16

Forest Food Walk

Sunday, October 17

View full program calendar

Nature Notes

A few years ago, someone posted a photo on social media with the caption "Bigfoot sighting at Adkins Arboretum!" The dark, lumpy image did bear a passing resemblance to a bipedal primate, but on closer inspection proved to be black knot fungus.

This bizarre incident demonstrates the importance of including scale when taking wildlife photographs. It also suggests that there may be a grain of truth in even the most outlandish claims—though not Bigfoot, the image was likely taken at Adkins Arboretum, where black knot is prevalent.

Black knot, or Apiosporina morbosa, is a fungus and plant pathogen that infects members of the genus Prunus, including cherry, chokecherry, apricot, and plum trees. Endemic to North America and first observed in the mid-1800s, the fungus enters young saplings and wounded tree tissue through spores that are dispersed by wind and rain. In late spring, olive-green swellings of new growth or young galls may appear on twigs and branches. These turn black and harden by the end of summer, resembling "dried cat poop on a stick," as described by the website fungusfactfriday.com. On mature tree trunks, the fungus may form spherical, tumor-like growths and ooze a sticky liquid.

Just how do the somewhat grotesque black knots form? As Apiosporina morbosa grows, it releases chemicals that cause the tree to produce extra (and extra large) plant cells, resulting in swollen, woody galls that are actually a combination of plant and fungal tissue. Many trees can withstand a black knot infestation, but the fungus will sometimes cause leaves and shoots to wilt and die on branches. Older, larger knots may kill trees by facilitating invasions of insects and other decomposing fungi. 

To avoid black knot, gardeners should prune affected areas before spring to remove the source of spores. Planting genetically resistant species is also advised. This is especially important in the case of cherry and plum orchards, where the presence of black knot will reduce yields.

Black knot. Photo by Robert L. Anderson,

USDA Forest Service, bugwood.org.

If nothing else, black knot is a useful tool for identifying the black cherry

trees—Prunus serotina—that grow at the Arboretum. Black cherry is the most toxic species of Prunus—its leaves, bark, stems, and seeds all contain cyanide. Visitors should never feed black cherry leaves or black knot to our goats...and probably not to Bigfoot, either.

by Jenny Houghton

Assistant Director

A Fitting Tribute

Two Wave Hill chairs were recently placed at the Arboretum to honor Jack and Nancy Covert, both of whom passed away in 2020. Jack served two terms as president of the Arboretum Board of Trustees in the early 2000s, and Nancy, a former teacher, was active for many years in organizations in Centreville and Queen Anne's County.

Graham Donaldson, a former Trustee who donated funds for the tribute, described the Coverts as "local treasures" and noted that they were known for their tremendous volunteerism, community service, hospitality, and friendship.

If you spy the Coverts' tribute chairs on the grounds, feel free to relax and meditate on the region's natural

beauty that the couple so loved.

Nature Sketchers

As you walk the Arboretum grounds in October, you will find an abundance of flora and fauna that are inspiring subjects for sketching. This month of transition, from the greens of summer to the reds and golds of fall, is a joy to behold. Early autumn brings a last blast of flowering natives, while the trees and grasses are finishing their cycles by fruiting and then fading.

My focus this month is on the asters and swamp sunflowers now in glorious bloom, with pollinators and butterflies busily sipping their nectar and collecting their pollen.

In the Arboretum's entrance garden are stunning mounds of the blue-violet aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) 'October Skies.' Its starry one-inch-wide daisy-like blossoms with yellow centers are a favorite of pollinators, including pearl crescent (Phyciodes tharos), skipper (Hesperiidae family), and common buckeye (Junonia coenia Hübner) butterflies. Among the asters are spikes of the native grass broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus) accenting this garden in a lovely random pattern.

As you drive into the parking lot, you won't be able to miss the tall masses of swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius), which simply glow! Also known as narrow leaf sunflower, its vibrant chrome-yellow blossoms with deep brown centers are so bright, they seem to be illuminated from within. This member of the aster family is the host plant for the silvery checkerspot butterfly (Chlosyne nycteis) and blooms from late September until first frost. Each stem bears a multitude of flowers and narrow dark green leathery leaves. One plant can reach 6–8 feet tall and will spread 4–6 feet.

In the "Parking Lot Alive!" plantings are two other asters of note. The New York Aster (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii) is taller and a deeper purple than 'October Skies' and has a similarly sized flower with a yellow center. It is the host plant for some of the butterflies previously mentioned and for several moths. Heath asters (Symphyotrichum ericoides) intermingle with the goldenrod and other asters, both in the planted beds and along the meadow edges. Masses of dainty white rayed flowers with yellow centers cover the plant and are a delightful accent amid all the purples and yellows.

This just scratches the surface of what is visually exciting right now at the Arboretum. See if you can also find these plants to sketch. Behind the Visitor's Center, facing the South Meadow, peek around the side of the building to your left and enjoy the planting of the shrub Viburnum nudum 'Brandywine,' which displays clusters of pinkish berries now turning a dark blue among deep red leaves. Walk toward the woods along the South Meadow and look to your right at the American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) grove for ripening fruit on the female trees. At the edge of the grove and to the right of the entry to the woods, find devil's walking stick (Aralia spinosa). Its crowning white clusters of late-summer flowers have matured into small black berries on red stems. Beware the wickedly sharp spines that cover the woody parts and some undersides of leaves on this unusual deciduous shrub!

At the edge of the woods, past the native bee house and to the right, is a flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) tree, bearing burgundy leaves and bright red berries as well as buds for next year's blossoms. Along the trails, keep an eye out for mature false Solomon's seal (Smilacina racemosa) fruit. Look for a clump of brilliant red berries, no more than a foot off the ground, on the tip of an arching stem with alternate oval leaves. Now is also the time to see the amazing fruit of the strawberry bush (Euonymus americanus), a striking combination of fuchsia, purple, and bright orange.

As you continue your walk, keep looking and observing. What else can you find to sketch?

Words and sketch of swamp sunflower by Diane DuBois Mullaly

Fine artist/Maryland Master Naturalist


Adkins Sponsor Logos 9-2021.jpg