Dear Friends of the Arboretum,
Good news for the Arboretum! The oak-hickory forest here was dedicated as a Community Forest with the Old Growth Forest Network at our recent Wine on the Tree Terrace event. Dr. Joan Maloof, founder and director of the non-profit, Old Growth Forest Network, presented the plaque soon to be on display at a trailhead. She was the guest speaker and informed the audience what her organization does and why protecting mature forests is so important in this time of rapid development in many locales across the nation. Simply one more protection is now in play for this beloved woodland sanctuary that makes up approximately 88 acres of the 125 total in the Arboretum.
Exciting news for the Arboretum! A generous gift was given by the Frank and Aimee Batten Foundation to the Arboretum to complete our Family Garden, At Home in the Woods. The first children’s feature, Soil Builders, has been open to the public since 2015. With this gift we are able to complete the garden adding three to four new features, and construct an accessible ramp from the original parking lot to the pond. We are grateful to the Batten’s and their joy in supporting public gardens and helping this arboretum grow. The design work begins on this garden this fall with all the details on paper to be completed by winter of 2020. We hope to construct and install the garden in late spring/summer/fall of 2020.
Thanks to a donation from Dr. Cindy Klevikis of wildlife cameras and with some help from Dr. Katrina Kobetz we were able to install one camera last spring across from an owl nesting box. I am happy to report that this screech owl box, erected last winter, was inhabited by a pair of screech owls and their brood this spring. Later in the season, during summer, gray squirrels used the box to find safe haven within for their babies. In addition, a host of songbirds and flying squirrels inspected the box daily, spring through summer. We plan to get additional cameras up and active this fall and winter to view the other wildlife nest boxes scattered around the forest here. We are pleased that the animals living here are finding and utilizing these additional options for optimum shelter.
Listening to the Forest
Contributing Writer | Kyle Kirby
"The forest is not only something to be understood, it is also something to be felt."
-Dr. Joan Maloof, Founder, Old Growth Forest Network
Mycorrhizal root systems. It may sound like something out of a sci-fi comic, but these systems actually form the basis of what many scientists are pointing to as evidence that trees live in conversational communities. Many kinds of forests have interconnected root systems, often linked by fungal filaments. The trees and fungi have a symbiotic relationship; in exchange for sugars provided by the trees’ photosynthesis, the fungi share mineral nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous with their aboveground counterparts. These root systems also conduct nutrients from strong, healthy trees to young or sickly trees. Referred to affectionately as “mother” trees,” these life-givers are typically the oldest trees in the forest community, thereby having the most root connections. Especially for saplings, who often have access to only 3% of the direct sunlight in a forest, mother trees provide essential support. Often when these mother trees have died the surrounding forest will continue to feed their stumps, thereby keeping the underground network of information alive.
Tree tissues have been shown to respond to damage and wounding much the same as humans do; once they’ve been harmed they can signal for cell growth of specific healing tissues. Additionally, many species of trees also release pheromones and other scent signals to communicate with one another, and even other species. For instance, elm and pine trees, when under attack from voracious caterpillars, will release a chemical scent that attracts parasitic wasps. The wasps lay their eggs inside the caterpillars who eventually perish; making the wasps unwitting exterminators for the trees. Some species release airborne pheromones when they’re being eaten, not to attract insect-exterminators, but to warn the trees nearby, who may prepare a variety of species-specific defenses. In anthropomorphic terms, this is the equivalent of the trees screaming in pain.
Of course, plenty of scientists argue that these are merely genetically programmed reactions. Trees do not have nervous systems or brains the way animalian species do. For traditional scientists to speak of forests in such humanistic terms is to degrade and distract from the science of it. However, science is proving that trees have considerably more intent and intelligence, and a higher level of community interactions than humans have previously credited them with.
Trees are often ecological guardians. They absorb much of the carbon in the atmosphere; feeding themselves and purifying the air. In a report from Virginia Tech in 2016, it was shown that, “The commonwealth’s 15.8 million acres of forests store approximately 1.2 billion metric tons of carbon, which is equivalent to 37 years of Virginia emissions.” Recent research is discovering that the oldest, mature trees grow the fastest and thereby provide the most ecological services. Such evidence is a reminder to humans that the old growth trees have every reason to be protected and preserved. Virginia has about 230,000 acres of old growth forests, which means they contain trees aged 150 years or older. Most of the commonwealth’s old growth forests are found in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, a majority of which are oak-hickory forests. Hickory trees can live up to 350 years, while oaks can live to be 600 years old.
The longevity of Virginia’s forests is far surpassed by others on the North American continent; the oldest known tree in the world resides in the White Mountains of California. It is a 5,062 year old Great Basin bristlecone pine. The long lives of trees serve yet another purpose to humans: recordkeeping. Tree trunks grow from the center-out in a ring pattern. Each ring contains multitudes of information; it can tell scientists how much rain fell that year, if there was a fire, drought, or disease. Through their rings, trees tell the stories of their lives. Since these gentle giants live far longer than we humans do, their lives can be an invaluable source of information on how the climate has changed in the past, and what that could mean for the future. Forests provide a living, breathing model of how humans can better interact with their environment. Humanity simply need look, and listen to the kindly, earth-bound titans who’ve always provided us with what we need to grow.
What are some of your responsibilities at the Arboretum?
As one of the master gardeners, I work alongside Gayle Harper to create flower arrangements for the Arboretum. I arrive at Arboretum early in the morning to venture throughout the grounds in search of various blooms that provide a beautiful assortment of colors. I also assist in providing educational tools for visitors at the Arboretum.
What is your experience with being a florist?
I have been arranging flowers for weddings approximately 15 years now. Being a passionate gardener, I used to grow a wide assortment of vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers in my garden before transitioning to a floral garden.
Being a florist, do you have a season that you love working in the most?
I really love spring. Seeing all of the flowers begin to bloom after a long winter is a wonderful sight.
What is your favorite part about volunteering at the Arboretum?
How could you not love working here?! Starting your early morning at the Arboretum is amazing. Also, the wildlife here completes the beauty of this sanctuary.
Where is your favorite spot in the Arboretum?
I would have to say the Butterfly Garden/Monarch Waystation, although I’ve grown fond of working in the Herb Garden.
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Fall Plant & Bulb Sale
Friday, Sept 27 - Wednesday, Oct 2 | 9 AM - 3 PM
**Excludes Sunday, Sept 29**
Join us on the Ernst Tree Terrace and in the Frances Plecker Education Center for our annual Fall Plant & Bulb Sale! Native plants, trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs, and a selection of houseplants will all be available for purchase.
Fall Tai Chi
Friday, Sept 27 | 4 PM - 5 PM | $15
Join instructor Grayson Pritchard of Blue Heron Healing Arts for an afternoon session of light exercise among the trees and stillness in the EJC Arboretum! This is an outdoor event and intended to be on the lawn or within the Arboretum. Meet outside the Frances Plecker Education Center.
Monarch Tagging Workshop
Saturday, Sept 28 | 11 AM - 12:30 PM | $12/Monarch
Join us with butterfly expert, Gail Napora on Saturday September 28 for our Monarch Tagging event. Gail will give a lecture about tagging migratory monarchs followed by a demonstration and release. The lecture is free and open to the public. $12 registration fee (per butterfly) for tagging and releasing your own monarch (butterflies provided) a small quantity will be available for day-of registration as well. Meet at the pavilion, release at 12:00 PM at the Monarch Waystation/Butterfly Garden.
Unwind: Evening Yoga Series
Wednesdays (10/9, 10/16, 10/23, 10/30) | 5:30 PM - 6:30 PM
As the season shifts, so must our practice. Shake off the humpday drudgery with a flowing Vinyasa class and sound healing meditation, surrounded by woods, birds and all that nature offers. The gong and singing bowls facilitate brainwave entrainment and take you deeper into your movement practice. Beginners welcome! Bring yoga mat, props/yoga blocks, water and a blanket or jacket for Savasana. Meet on the Ernst Tree Terrace.
Volunteer Meet & Greet
Tuesday, Oct 8 | 12 - 1:30 PM | Free Event
Have you thought about volunteering at the Arboretum and want to know more? Meet our team of dedicated volunteers over lunch and find out how you can join, learn about volunteer benefits and, enjoy a special tour of the Arboretum! Lunch provided. Meet at the Frances Plecker Education Center.
Registration Deadline: Friday, October 4th
JMU Family Weekend Bulb Sale
Friday, Oct 11 - Saturday, Oct 12 | 9 AM - 3 PM
We're joining in the JMU Family Weekend Festivities by extending the bulb portion of our Fall Plant & Bulb Sale! Visit us in the Frances Plecker Education Center to shop from a variety of purple & gold bulbs plus some other of our staff favorites, along with a limited selection of trees, shrubs, and perennials! While you're here, take a stroll through our forest or enjoy your lunch on a bench at the pond's edge. Go dukes!
Remarkable Trees Field Trip
Arlington National Cemetery
Saturday, Oct 19 | 8 AM - 6 PM | $20
Join Arboretum Director, Jan Sievers Mahon, for a day trip to Arlington National Cemetery for a walking tour of the Memorial Arboretum. Arlington National Cemetery is home to over 8,400 trees on their 624 acre property. Some of the oldest trees in the cemetery are nearly 250 years old. Visit 3 State Champion trees-yellowwood, paulownia and sawtooth oak, and 1 co-champion pin oak while on-site. Many magnificent old oak trees will be seen and can be visited along the walk.
We’ll stop for lunch along the way (not provided) and plan to be back in the Harrisonburg area by evening. Dress appropriately for the weather and please meet us in Lot R5; the large lot above the upper Arboretum parking lot.
Children's Harvest Festival
Saturday, Oct 20 | 11 AM - 2 PM | Free Event
Come enjoy a beautiful fall afternoon with your family at our 11th Annual Children's Harvest Festival! Live music from JMU a cappella group, Low Key and Lightning Lucas along with special guests, The Duke Dog, our favorite horses of Classic Carriage, students from JMU Dance and Theater, and many more!
Creative Flow Sound Bathing
Tuesday, Oct 29 | 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM | $40
Join multidimensional healer and artist Connie Magee and JMU poetry professor Greg Wrenn for an evening of creative expression and sound healing! Bring your journal, writing project, watercolors or sketchbook (nothing too messy). We will open with a guided meditation to unlock your creative flow, and Greg will lead us into creative expression with cues, prompts and concepts to consider as we engage with our art/writing. Enjoy silent co-creative space as Connie offers a gong bath with Tibetan & crystal singing bowls, for a totally immersive experience. Flow State is the goal. Close with a guided meditation and optional sharing/integration. No experience necessary. Meet outside the Frances Plecker Education Center.
Fall Tree & Acorn ID: Walk & Talk
A collaborative event with Sustainability Matters
Wednesday, Oct 30 | 3 PM - 5 PM | $15
Join Sustainability Matters and the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum for a guided walk and ID primer by Virginia Cooperative Extension's Forestry Specialist Adam Downing. There'll be time for Q&A and chat in the Frances Plecker Education Center afterward, followed by a closing art reception for the Sustainability Matters-curated exhibition, ''From Small Acorns...'' by Andrea Finch. Light fare and beverages will be provided. Please dress for the weather! Meet at the Frances Plecker Education Center.