As the Earth Sangha’s resident optimist, it can sometimes be difficult to keep my usual cheery disposition. A new study came out in France (Wintermantel et al. 2019) showing that even after an EU-wide moratorium in 2013 and an outright ban in 2018, agricultural fields still have levels of neonicotinoids that can be fatal to bees. Research continues to pile up showing declines in birds and insects in North America and beyond. UN reports on climate change sound more dire. Amidst all this depressing news, I was contacted by the Piedmont Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society and they asked me if I could give a talk, but that they wanted it to be optimistic – to focus on what is possible rather than what is broken.
In my line of work, I engage in extensive, if casual, surveying of native flora in the wild areas of Northern Virginia. For nearly twenty years, I've made it my job checking on the general conditions of our region's wild areas, or rather the remnants of once wild areas, in every season. Mind you, my kind of survey is a non-scientific activity. Just a visual survey with the understanding of a hobby-naturalist.
Yet, you get to learn a lot from this repeated observations over the same areas. I take the trouble visiting all the nooks and crannies of our public and non-public lands where native plants are growing. And repeatedly over the years. I've noticed how the topography change over time and how plants interact with both natural and artificial physical chang...
This particular standing of Maple-Leaf Viburnum is now decimated by Bradford Pears.
Some years ago, we worked with NPS in DC to create edge-of-the woodland meadows.
Exotic Olive trees. Sadly, this is a common feature of our forest edges.
There is little doubt that our local wild areas have been in decline. This, in spite of increased awareness and efforts of many conscientious and hard-working individuals, organizations, and local park systems to turn around this negative trend. Forest communities, like our region's temperate deciduous forests, are living organisms and always changing. The forest ecology is neither random nor simple. Every part of a community, whether organic or non-organic, is influencing one another. Together, they've built a system of ecolo...
Photo: Carex jamesii on the floodplain slope. See the Common Hackberry trunk?
This has been an exceptionally brilliant spring. With cool temperature and frequent rains, our native early Carex species and ephemerals bloomed profusely. One of my favorite sites of spring is this floodplain forest near Manassas. The forest is known for calcareous and mafic rocks, and the slopes on the above photo host many attractive native plants.
On top, Witch Hazel and Maple-Leaf viburnum dominate the forest. Closer to the ground, Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium pallidum). What really interests me is the kind of vegetation on the slope. The slope is sparsely vegetated, almost always moist with thin moss visible throughout the year. The ground covers are mostly Dwarf Cinquefoil (P...