Thank you Nichole Barrows!
We are truly grateful for all of the hard work, enthusiasm, and passion Nichole has brought to the Education Coordinator position! She has developed the program here in such a way that the stage has been set for yet better things to grow from this solid base of youth programming in the Arboretum. Nichole will now have the opportunity to focus her time at Project Grows, a non-profit based outside of Staunton, VA working towards inspiring sustainability in the younger generation through garden-based education and hands-on experiences. And to enjoy some well deserved work-life balance.
We wish her all the best and know we'll continue to see her in our outdoor education community! Many thanks, Nichole!
Welcome Kristin Grimshaw!
Kristen is a JMU Biology/Environmental Science graduate who brings experience working with middle and high school age youth, and an understanding and training in the sciences, the natural world and local habitats. She is passionate about learning, problem-solving, and sustainability. She's articulate, has an entrepreneurial spirit, and loves mountain biking and rock climbing.
Flowering and Feeding in the Forest
Many plant enthusiasts understand that the succession of flowering plants happens with particular timing that changes annually due to environmental conditions from the previous year and current weather that is impacting a woodland. As the sun moves higher in the sky flowers complete their life cycle, before the trees and shrubs leaf out, when the light hitting the forest floor is at its maximum early in the growing season. But what about flowering hardwood trees; when do they flower and what do those flowers look like? And what are all those butterfly and moth caterpillars that emerge in mid and late spring feeding on before they transform into pollinating kings and queens?
Most of the forest trees that flower early in the season rely on wind for pollination. The mighty oaks, hickories, maples, birch, hazel, and pine trees, all require wind to move their pollen from tree to tree. They flower before leaves emerge or in early leaf when the canopy is small and dainty. And this type of flower and pollination mechanism makes sense since most of these trees flower when there are not very many pollinating insects flying around. The large and showy, later-flowering tree species such as basswood, black locusts, catalpa, horse-chestnut, and tulip tree bloom later in the season when there is an abundance of insects flying to do the work of pollination.
You’ll notice that birches, hazelnuts, alders, hornbeams, oaks and willows all have catkins that hang long and swing in the breeze from branch tips. These harbingers of spring indicate that winter is coming to an end and the new cycle of life has begun. We may not notice the pollen in the air from these flowers unless we look closely, but humans have notable allergic responses to oak pollen. Oak pollen can travel for miles by wind and many feel it when they begin flowering. On of the earliest trees to bloom, the maples, have very small, burgundy flowers that stand straight upward from the buds, that most of us don’t even notice as they flower early in Feb. and March, and the reproductive parts are very susceptible to the wind currents.
One of the very crucial services that all of these early blooming trees provide is to act as a host plant, a feeding ground, for the hundreds of thousands of caterpillars that emerge in spring. These hungry hatchlings have been invisibly and silently dormant all winter in the pupal stage in the leaves, or as eggs laid in tree bark. Emerging caterpillars are destined to become food for birds and mammals, and their young, or to become pollinators for the later blooming plants, once they survive into their adulthood stage of butterfly or moth. And though we most often can’t see or hear them, unless they're feeding on understory trees or on our ornamentals in the landscape, they are present by the thousands every spring as we move into warmer weather. The songbirds and some mammals, such as bears and fox rely on the availability and abundance of caterpillars; a soft protein package that is needed to grow their young. Many birds, for example, will feed one clutch of baby birds over 5,000 caterpillars in a nesting season. One life relies on the next to keep the habitat alive and healthy. This is yet one more way that the forest comes to life during the spring season.
Who’s serving up the multitudes of hungry caterpillars?
Oak trees (Quercus species) serve as hosts for over 500 Lepidoptera species (butterflies and moths). That’s a lot of caterpillars crawling around during any given season of the year in oak canopies! And this is just the caterpillars, not to mention all of the other types of insects that feed on trees.
Cherry Trees (native Prunus species) - feed over 450 species of Lepidoptera such as the Red-Spotted Purple, Coal Hairstreak and Tiger Swallowtail
Birch trees (Betula species) - A host for over 400 species of Lepidoptera such as the Mourning Cloak and Sphinx moths.
Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)- A host for over 30 species of Lepidoptera such as the Juniper Hairstreak
Sassafras trees (Sassafrass albidum) - Host for over 30 species of Lepidoptera and one well-known species, the Spicebush Swallowtail.
Maples, elms, pines and hickories all host at least 200 or more species of butterflies and moths
When you plant a new tree this spring considering planting one of those best suited to support the bird habitat around your home such as an oak, cherry, birch, willow, or pine tree. Choose a native species and watch your landscape transform the surrounding habitat in 10 years.
What is your favorite part about volunteering at the Arboretum?
Being outside and enjoying the Arboretum. It's simply a lovely place to work. I also enjoy interacting with the staff since they are so knowledgeable about everything Arboretum. Their expertise is amazing. I'm learning a great deal from them and they are very generous in sharing their knowledge. They are just nice people to work with and they seem appreciative of the small contribution I make. I love the fact that so many people, especially students, walk or ride their bikes through the Arboretum on their way to the university. They should feel very fortunate to enjoy such scenic surroundings.
Where is your favorite spot in the Arboretum?
Any of the small streams that feed into the pond and the pond itself. But I do feel I need to explore the Arboretum more.
What is a fun fact about you?
Hmmmm. "Fun fact?" I retired from JMU after working there as a professor and administrator for 30 years. When I'm at the Arboretum and there are students I'm working alongside, it's hard for me not to ask lots of questions of them and I have to remind myself not to give academic advice. Those behaviors are hard to shake.
Wildflowers of Spain
Brown Bag Lecture with Rae Lynn Kasdan
Wednesday, March 27 | 12 - 1 PM | Free event
The Picos de Europa is a mountainous region on the north coast of Spain, and it's also the name of a national park that straddles three provinces. It is part of “green Spain” as the geography is influenced by the Atlantic and the climate is cool and moist. The scenery is spectacular and dominated by mountains ranging from 500-8,700 feet. The Picos is considered by some to be one of the last truly wild places in Europe and is an area of great biodiversity. Traveler and local Rae Lynn Kasdan will share her experience of exploring this incredible region over the course of an 8-day excursion, showcasing the blooming wildflowers found there.
Bring your lunch and join us in the Frances Plecker Education Center!
Understory: Native Wildflowers
Artist talk with photographer Jackie Labovitz
Thursday, March 28 | 5 - 7 PM | Free event
Jackie Bailey Labovitz grew up in rural Virginia, and graduated with a degree in fine arts. After completing a fellowship at the National Endowment for the Arts, she became an independent art curator. She created collections for embassies, consulates, and corporations around the world. Jackie will talk about selected pieces from her collection, Understory, a photography exhibition celebrating the short perennial lives of native plants that bloom beneath the forest canopy.
Light hors d’oeuvres served. Meet in the Frances Plecker Education center.
Spring Wildflower Walks
April 3 | April 17 | April 24
10 AM - 11 AM | Free event
Take an educational stroll with Arboretum Director, Jan Sievers Mahon, during this most exciting and beautiful time of year. Learn about spring ephemerals and where to find them in the Arboretum!
Free event, no registration required. Meet at the Frances Plecker Education Center.
Thursday, April 11 | 5:30 - 6:30 PM | $20
Join Sound Healer and Yoga & Meditation Teacher Connie Magee for an etheric journey in the woods. Trees provide healing medicine for the soul, and the otherworldly tones of two large gongs and chimes provide a magical soundscape that dances within the sounds of nature. Find a comfortable spot on your yoga mat or lawn chair, settle into a guided mind-body meditation, and drift away. You'll notice the birds and woodland creatures connecting to the vibrations, and you will deeply relax and tune in simultaneously.
Meet outside the Frances Plecker Education Center.
Spring Celebration Plant Sale
Friday April 12 & Saturday April 13 | 9 AM - 3 PM
Come celebrate spring here at the Arboretum! Shop from a wide array of spring perennials, shrubs and trees to make any home or business landscape environmentally conscious and beautiful.
Reptiles & Amphibians of the Arboretum
Saturday, April 13 | 11 AM - 12:30 PM | Free event
Explore the world of herpetology by getting up close and personal with the reptiles and amphibians of the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum this spring! Meet us at the Jurney Stage Garden for an afternoon of exploring through reptile show-and-tell and a herp walk through the Arboretum! Free, no registration required.
Spring Bird Walks
Saturday April 13 | 8 AM - 9 AM
Wednesday, May 8 | 8:30 AM - 9:30 AM
Learn about the birds of the Arboretum with an educational walk through the grounds with Rockingham Bird Club Member/Photographer, Greg Moyers on April 13 and arboretum staff member and Augusta Bird Club member, Rich Wood on May 8.
Meet at the steps of the Frances Plecker Education Center. Free, advanced registration required.
Fairy Houses & Gnome Homes
Tuesdays: April 16 | May 21 | June 4
12 - 1 PM | Free event
The Edith J. Carrier Arboretum invites parents and children to come hear an enchanting story about fairies and build your very own fairy house or gnome home out of natural materials found in the woods. This event moves indoors to the Frances Plecker Education Center if it rains. Fairy houses are built outside in the children's garden so dress for the weather. Free event, no registration required.