Annual Meeting 2019 Events

Abrams Creek Wetlands Saturday Morning Sunday Morning [ Sunday Morning Registration Full ]
The Abrams Creek Wetlands are home to a number of rare plant species and ecological communities, and they are a distinctive wetland site in the Shenandoah Valley. The wetlands encompass nearly 60 acres that have been an area of interest to the Virginia Natural Heritage Program (VNHP) since 1980, when ecologists made the first of several visits. Since 1998 Shenandoah University faculty and staff in the Environmental Studies Program have been studying this site in collaboration with the VNHP. In October 2003, Winchester established the 25 acre Abrams Creek Wetlands Preserve. Our leader will show us the special features of the preserve and tell us about the past and ongoing studies of the plants that inhabit the Wetlands. Easy walk, mostly on paved surface, although seeing some plants may require stepping off into moist areas or higher vegetation.

Abrams Creed Wetland Preserve Photo by Dr. Woodward Bousquet

Abrams Creek Wetlands Preserve
Photo by Dr. Woodward Bousquet

Led by former Shenandoah University student Ashley Landes, who has been active for years in the study and care of the Preserve.

Bear Wallow Saturday Morning
Walk near the Bear Wallow parking lot near Massanutten Mountain, part of the George Washington National Forest. This area offers a variety of terrain, varying from dry and sandy habitat to a stream passing through a peat bog. It has many interesting plants and fungi.

Dillens Tick-trefoil (Desmodium glabellum) Photo by Richard Stromberg

Dillens Tick-trefoil (Desmodium glabellum)
Photo by Richard Stromberg

Led by Richard Stromberg, a member of the Piedmont Chapter of the VNPS with an extensive history as a hike leader and newsletter editor both for Piedmont Chapter and the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.  He helped start up the Shenandoah Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists.

Bull Run Mountains—A Natural History Sunday Morning
Tour the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve, not usually open to the public, to enjoy the autumn landscape. While most flowers will be gone, you will see many fungi and non-flowering plants and observe how plants prepare for winter.

Trees & Sky - Photo by Mike Belknap

Photo by Mike Belknap

Led by Michael Kieffer, Executive Director of the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy.

Clifton Institute Saturday Afternoon
The Clifton Institute is a living study and outdoor classroom of the ecology of 900 acres of Clifton Farm in the northern Virginia Piedmont. Tour a mosaic of different habitat types (upland forest, meadow, shrub field, wetland, vernal pool, stream, and pond), each of which is home to a different community of plants and animals. See restoration projects in different stages, including one of the richest native meadows in the region.

Clifton Institute
Photo by Germán Perilla

Co-led by Bert and Eleanor Harris, Executive and Managing Directors, respectively, of the Clifton Institute. The Harrises have PhD’s in different aspects of biology and have done extensive research in ecology, also teaching at local universities.

Compton Peak Sunday Morning [ Registration Full ]

Compton Peak Shenandoah National Park September 2015 Copyright (c) used with permission

View from Compton Peak in September
Copyright ©, used with permission

Hike along the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park, stopping for a variety of plants. We will first head to the top of Compton Peak with a fantastic view of the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains to the west. Then, a spur trail will take us steeply down hill to see some basalt columns, one of the best geological features of the park. This hike is about 2.5 miles round trip and has 850 feet of elevation gain.

Led by Sally Anderson, an expert botanist, past president of VNPS, and a director of the Flora of Virginia project.

Digital Journaling Sunday Morning
The program includes discussions on digital photography, GPS, and how the computer and the Internet have enhanced the ability to identify species and to share and look up journal entries.  Examples will be Android-based but IOS (Apple) users should be able to find the same tools.

Digital Journal File Explorer Screenshot by Richard Stromberg

Led by Richard Stromberg, a member of Piedmont Chapter of the VNPS and Newsletter Editor both for Piedmont Chapter and the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.  He is a celebrated flower photographer.

LOCATION: Blandy Library

Drawing Wildflowers and Nature Journaling Sunday Morning

Young Sycamore Drawing by Susan Sharpe

Young Sycamore
Drawing by Susan Sharpe

Approximately one hour of lecture and exercises will be followed by a guided outdoor excursion. Drawing materials will be available, but participants may wish to bring their own. Sketch pads, pencils, pens, colored pencils and watercolors will be discussed. Beginners are welcome, as well as more experienced artists.

Led by artist Susan Sharpe, who has been teaching drawing and painting since her retirement in 2006. Her work, mainly landscape painting, has been shown at galleries in Middleburg and The Plains.

LOCATION: Blandy Community Classroom

Endangered Pollinators Saturday Morning

Asclepias incarnata with Monarch butterfly
Photo by Sue Dingwell

In this workshop we will focus on monarchs—their biology, life cycle and population status—and on the great varieties of other critically threatened pollinators, the reasons for their decline and the importance of native plants to their survival.  A walk through Blandy’s pollination garden, the native plant trail, and community garden will follow a presentation and discussion.

Led by Marie Majarov, a  Virginia Master Naturalist, freelance photographer and writer. Marie is active with the Outdoor Writers Association of America and has won numerous awards for both her photography and writing. She worked many years with the late Dr. Lincoln Brower, the world-renowned entomologist. Her article, Grassroots: A story of Virginia’s Working Landscapes, was published in the March/April 2019 issue of Virginia Wildlife.

Photo by Lillian Ledford

Engaging Kids & Nature Saturday Afternoon
Learn native plant and botany-focused activities and strategies for engaging youth and families in outdoor learning experiences.

Participants will model activities and receive tools and activities to use at their own native plant walks and programs.

Co-led by Candace Lutzow-Felling, Blandy Experimental Farm’s Director of Education, and Emily Ford, Blandy’s Lead Environmental Educator.

LOCATION: Blandy Parkfield Learning Center


Forest Mushrooms Sunday Morning
Explore the hardwood forest of Shenandoah River State Park, finding and identifying mushrooms living there. This is an easy walk.

Waxcaps (Hygrocybe) with newt - Photo by Penny Firth

Waxcaps (Hygrocybe) with newt
Photo by Penny Firth

Led by Penny Firth, a Virginia Master Naturalist and retired General Natural Resources Manager and Biological Scientist at the National Science Foundation.

Gravel Springs Gap Saturday Afternoon [ Registration Full ]
Explore the different habitats of this botanically rich trail and learn about Shenandoah National Park’s ginseng protection program. The one-half mile loop trail is mostly gentle with some short, very steep places.

American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) photo by Richard Stromberg

American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
Photo by Richard Stromberg

Led by Wendy Cass, Botanist at Shenandoah National Park since 1997. She manages the Park’s forest vegetation monitoring program and is involved in projects to monitor and protect rare plant species and communities throughout the Park. Her duties include assisting outside scientists and NPS staff with botanical issues, managing a team of summer technicians, performing environmental compliance work, and helping manage the Park’s Natural Resources Volunteer Program.

Great Photos with Your PhoneSaturday Morning

Camera Phone with Hand and Trees by Linus Schutz from Pixabay

Photo by Linus Schütz from Pixabay

Learn how to take great photos with your phone camera. Do you get frustrated with the pictures you get from your phone? You can take fabulous images with just a few tips and apps. No need to understand camera exposure—just learn to use your finger to make adjustments. Following the presentation, you will venture out to try what you’ve learned.

Led by Joyce Harman, an award-winning art and nature photographer, Virginia Master Naturalist and volunteer in Shenandoah National Park. Her work is on exhibit at the Old Rag Gallery in Sperryville.

LOCATION: Blandy Library

Hawksbill-Crescent RocksSaturday All Day 
Explore rare, high-elevation habitats in the Hawksbill-Crescent Rocks area. At an elevation of 4,050 feet, this is the highest peak of Shenandoah National Park.  See examples of high-elevation greenstone barrens and non-vascular boulder fields, boulder field woodlands, rich cove forests, northern hardwood forests and numerous vascular plants, lichens, and bryophytes that are rare and restricted.  

This 3 mile hike is moderately strenuous, over rocks and uneven ground, and may include a portion off-trail. Sturdy footwear and long pants are required for this hike. Parts of the trail are very rocky and uneven, and other parts are lined with wood nettles and prickly shrubs, so lower body protection is essential.

Co-led by Gary Fleming, Vegetation Ecologist, and John F. Townsend, Staff Botanist, of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage. Gary was part of a team that conducted a two year long inventory of the rock outcrops in Shenandoah National Park. He is also a gifted photographer. John is a co-author of the Flora of Virginia.

Shenadoah National Park Crescent Rock Overlook by famartin CC BY-SA 4.0

Shenandoah National Park Crescent Rock Overlook
Photo by famartin license CC BY-SA 4.0


Jeremy’s Run Saturday Morning
Enjoy the special beauty of Shenandoah National park with an active woodland hike. The trail starts at Skyline Drive and crisscrosses Jeremy’s Run, a tributary of the Shenandoah River, multiple times. The trail provides a particularly lovely setting and a nice selection of forest flora. This is an easy hike with only moderate elevation change but hiking poles are advised for fording the creek on stepping stones.

Jeremy''s Run at Shenandoah National Park by Karen Hendershot

Jeremy’s Run at Shenandoah National Park
Photo by Karen Hendershot

Led by Marjorie Prochaska, past President of the Piedmont Chapter of the VNPS. Marjorie has a degree in biology and currently volunteers at the Smithsonian in the Entomology Department. Always loving nature, she has been an avid rock climber and is still an active hiker. Marjorie is also a Virginia Master Naturalist and a long-time member of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.

Jones Nature Preserve Saturday Morning [ Saturday Registration Full ] Sunday Morning [ Sunday Registration Full ]
Tour this wildlife friendly property with Bruce Jones, a former Piedmont Chapter director who has established grasslands, hedgerows and shrub thickets, provided snags, logs and nest boxes, and planted pollinator plots on his 75 acre farm. See Bruce’s use of the federal Conservation Reserve Enhancement (CREP) and Wildlife Habitat Incentives (WHIP) Programs to improve habitat. Learn about studies done by the Virginia Working Landscapes program and see Bruce’s successful pink lady slipper propagation. Entomologist Nate Erwin will accompany the walk. Moderate walk on mostly level, grassy terrain.

Jones Nature Preserve Photo by Richard Stromberg

Jones Nature Preserve
Photo by Richard Stromberg

Led by Bruce Jones. Accompanied by Nate Irwin.

Wild Medicine: The Art & Science Sunday Morning
Discover why wild medicine is more potent than its cultivated cousins.  Medicine from plants has been used by all living creatures instinctively throughout time. Virtually displaced by pharmaceutical drugs in the Western world, learn why 80% of world cultures still use it and how modern science is proving its efficacy.  Hear why it is critical that we preserve our knowledge of wild medicinal plants in the 21st Century.

Medicinal Native Plants Collage

Goldenrod (Solidago), Viola, Virginia Rose (Rosa), Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
Photos by Kim Strader

Led by Geo Derick Giordano, a Registered Medical Herbalist and founder of Geo’s Joy Herbal Medicine, LLC & The Sanctuary Wellness Center located in Berryville, VA.  An avid organic gardener, cook and educator, she is a professional member of the American Herbalist’s Guild.

LOCATION: Blandy Parkfield Building

The Mushroom Kingdom Saturday Morning
Learn about mushrooms, the least studied living kingdom. They play an important role in the ecosystem and in human culture where mushrooms have been used for food, medicines and dyes. Beautiful slides of exotic-looking species will be presented. Bring mushrooms from home to identify.

Led by Ann and Rob Simpson, Professors of Biology at Lord Fairfax Community College. The Simpsons are co-authors of several books, including a series of wildflower books for the National Parks. They were recognized in 2015 by the Outdoor Writers Association for excellence in outdoor communication, and are co-authors of the Nature Guide to Shenandoah National Park.

LOCATION: Holiday Inn

North Marshall Peak Saturday Morning
Hike up North Marshall peak in Shenandoah National Park’s Northern District. The hike will be out and back, one-half mile each way, with an elevation gain of 400 feet on the way out. The destination is an outcrop with great views. Steve will discuss the Park’s Rock Outcrop Management Plan and plants along the way. The hike is considered moderate because of elevation gain and rocky uneven footing.

View From Marshall Peak Shenandoah National Park Copyright (c) used with permission

View From Marshall Peak Shenandoah National Park
Copyright © used with permission

Led by Steve Paull, Lead Biological Science Technician for the botany program at Shenandoah National Park and formerly the Rock Outcrop Management Plan Coordinator at the Park.

Ogdens CaveSunday Morning 
Tour Ogdens Cave Natural Area Preserve in Frederick County. The cave seems perfectly isolated from the farmlands above. Light only reaches in a few yards and, at times, a stream near the entrance rises to the low ceiling to completely close off the passage. Yet the cave is home to diverse wildlife, including five rare species: two amphipods, an isopod, a springsnail and a beetle.

Led by Tyler Urgo, an avid outdoorsman and a Regional Land Steward with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. His duties cover the management of Virginia’s nine Natural Area Preserves in the Shenandoah Valley Region.

Plant Families Saturday Afternoon
Recognizing the characteristics of major families of flowering plants can be an important step and shortcut in identifying your plant specimens with the Flora of Virginia and with the graphic key of the Flora of Virginia App. Join Marion Lobstein to learn some easy ways to recognize the “gestalt” or intuitive recognition of the members of major plant families. If you have the Flora of Virginia and your Mobile Flora of Virginia App, you are encouraged to bring those resources to the workshop.

Led by Marion Lobstein, Professor Emeritus of Northern Virginia Community College, vice president of the Foundation of the Flora of Virginia Project, and a life member of VNPS and Foundation of the State Arboretum.

LOCATION: Blandy Library

Seed Propagation WorkshopSaturday Afternoon
Ever want to try your hand at growing native plants from seed? This workshop will help you understand the requirements for starting your own natives. Learn about collecting, cleaning and storing seed, what stratification is and how to do it, and learn about soils and how best to plant and tend your seeds.

Led by Kim Strader, Volunteer Coordinator for Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy who just recently retired after 20 years as the Assistant Curator for Blandy Experimental Farm’s Native Plant Trail.

LOCATION: Blandy Community Classroom

The Seep at Thompson Wildlife Management Area Saturday Morning

Black Ash at Thompson WMA by Karen Hendershot

Black Ash at Thompson WMA
Photo by Karen Hendershot

Journey into the rare habitat within an upland forest seep in the G. Richard Thompson Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The cool microclimate of this feature, called a Central Appalachian basic seepage swamp, supports a number of plant species normally seen in the north, including Black Ash (Fraxinus nigra). Prepare for some bushwhacking and muddy conditions to see this exceptional area.

Led by Ron Hughes, a wildlife biologist for the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries . The Thompson WMA is one of the 18 WMAs under his management. He is a board member of the Piedmont Chapter of the VNPS and is a Master Naturalist. Ron grew up in the countryside exploring nature and has worked in wildlife research in five different states.

Sky Meadows Outdoor Learning LabSaturday Afternoon
Explore a 76 acre area within Sky Meadows State Park used by Master Naturalists and park volunteers for botany training, monitoring vernal pools and bluebird boxes, and educating park visitors. The area includes pollinator plots and a trail for visually impaired visitors.

Sky Meadows State Park
Photo by VA State Parks Staff license CC BY 2.0

Led by Alex Newhart, a retired scientist who worked in entomology, biochemistry, and physiology and a Virginia Master Naturalist.

Skyline Drive Car Safari  Saturday Afternoon  Sunday Morning
Cruise along a 24 mile caravan trip through Skyline Drive, featuring easy walking on flat, roadside terrain. Beginning at Dickey Ridge, several stops will be made to observe beautiful vistas and roadside flora, and to discuss the geology that makes this area unique. The tour culminates at Elk Wallow Wayside.

Shenandoah National Park Tunnel Overlook by National Park Service - N. Lewis

Shenandoah National Park Tunnel Overlook
Photo by National Park Service – N. Lewis

Saturday Afternoon Led by Phil and Ellie Daley. Phil is active with Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve, and Blue Ridge. Ellie is a member of the board of Piedmont Chapter and a Master Naturalist.

Sunday Morning Led by Marion Lobstein and Sara Dydak. Marion is Professor Emeritus of Northern Virginia Community College, vice president of the Foundation of the Flora of Virginia Project, and a life member of VNPS and Foundation of the State Arboretum. Sara is a Virginia Master Naturalist and educator with a background in geology who has been leading geology field trips in Shenandoah National Park over the past few years.

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute Forest Monitoring Plot Tour Saturday Afternoon
Tour the Forest Monitoring Plot at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) near Front Royal with forest ecologist Kristina Anderson-Teixeira. See and hear about the tree mortality census, part of the Biotic Disturbances and Tree Mortality in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Ecoregion project funded by a VNPS grant. This project focuses on the effects of insect pests and pathogens on forests of Virginia’s Blue Ridge ecoregion, and will help improve general scientific understanding of the net impact of biotic disturbances on forest diversity, structure, and function.

About a mile including some hilly and off-trail walking.

Deer Exclosure at SCBI - With Deer (left) vs Without Deer (right) Photo by Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Deer Exclosure at SCBI – With Deer (left) vs Without Deer (right)
Photo by Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Led by Kristina Anderson-Teixeira and Alyssa Terrell. Kristina is a forest ecologist at the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute’s (SCBI) Conservation Ecology Center and at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Center for Tropical Forest Science. She leads the ecosystems and climate research initiative for the Center for Tropical Forest Science – Forest Global Earth Observatory. She was recently selected for the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). Her research focuses on interactions of forest ecosystems worldwide with Earth’s changing climate. Alyssa Terrell, recipient of a VNPS grant, is leading the tree mortality census this year, and will help lead the tour.

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute Driving Tour Saturday Morning  [ Registration Full ]
The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) is a leader in the global effort to save wildlife species from extinction and train future generations of conservationists. This tour includes a 3 hour driving excursion of the property, visiting the Virginia Working Landscapes demonstration ecology plots, an American Chestnut breeding orchard, and homes of cheetahs, Przewalski’s horses, Addra gazelles, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, Scimitar-horned oryx, Eld’s deer, and Red Crowned and Whooping cranes.

Native Meadow Demonstration Plots at SCBI RaceTrack Hill Photo by Charlotte Lorick

Native Meadow Demonstration Plots at SCBI RaceTrack Hill
Photo by Charlotte Lorick

Led by Smithsonian staff and volunteer docent Sally Cunningham.

Stony Man-Passamaquoddy Saturday All Day [ Registration Full ]
Climb Stony Man outcrop, at 4,011 feet, the second highest peak in Shenandoah National Park. The summit is a high elevation greenstone barren that includes arboreal species unusual in Virginia. The path leading to the peak contains a rich variety of forest species and some of the oldest exposed rock in America. This is a 1.5 mile round trip. The trail is rocky and gently climbing. After a picnic lunch, we will hike the Passamaquaddy loop trail.

The hike will be a total of  3.5 miles, and we will cross Little Stony Man on the loop.

View From Stony Man Outcrop Shenandoah National Park Copyright (c) used with permission

View From Stony Man Outcrop Shenandoah National Park
Copyright © used with permission

The morning portion will led by Cathy Mayes, the outcrop monitor for Stony Man outcrop for 10 years. She is a member of the board of VNPS, a Master Naturalist, and a director of The American Chestnut Foundation. The afternoon portion will be led by Sally Anderson, an expert botanist, past president of VNPS, and director of the Flora of Virginia project.

Trees at Thompson Wildlife Management Area Saturday Afternoon Sunday Morning [ Sunday Morning Registration Full ]

Thompson WMA VNPS Registry Sign Photo by Karen Hendershot

Thompson WMA VNPS Registry Sign
Photo by Karen Hendershot

Cure “tree blindness” as you explore large, native trees within an Appalachian Rich Cove Forest at the G. Richard Thompson Wildlife Management Area, the original Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and a Piedmont Chapter Registry Site. Located on Blue Mountain, it is probably the best example of this community type in Virginia and is unmatched in herbaceous diversity throughout the growing season.  

Led by tree expert and past Piedmont Chapter President, Carrie Blair. Carrie’s extensive knowledge of tree identification was gained as a Front Royal/Warren County Tree Steward, Master Naturalist, docent at the Arboretum of Virginia, and an inveterate explorer of the local woodlands for many years.

Appalachian Trail and Trees at Thompson WMA by Karen Hendershot

Appalachian Trail at Thompson WMA
Photo by Karen Hendershot

Virginia Working Landscapes at Oxbow Saturday Afternoon
Visit Oxbow Farm, a privately owned property that integrates conservation management with agriculture, from established native warm-season grass stands to hay fields managed for plants, birds and pollinators, including an example of a grassland plant survey. Explore plant communities in wetland and forested habitats, including a demonstration of Virginia Working Landscapes’ surveys for forest orchids. Wear waterproof shoes or boots.

Led by Joseph Guthrie, Survey Coordinator, Virginia Working Landscapes, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

Wildcat Mountain Natural Area Saturday All Day
This field trip includes sites of special botanical interest within the The Nature Conservancy’s 699 acre Wildcat Mountain Natural Area in Fauquier County’s inner Piedmont. This is an area of natural beauty and good botany, predominantly oak hickory forest communities, with altitude ranges between 500 and 1200 feet. As a geological monadnock of basic rock, its vegetation is more allied with the Blue Ridge than that of the surrounding Piedmont. Numerous exposures of weathered, Precambrian greenstone (Catoctin metabasalt) occur throughout. Humus-filled crevices provide footholds for many specialized and rock-loving species. The preserve has been temporarily closed to public access but is open to us by special permission.

Wildcat Mountain Loop Trail Copyright (c) used with permission

Wildcat Mountain Loop Trail
Copyright © used with permission

Led by Emily Southgate, a Senior Scholar at Hood College, where she primarily teaches graduate level field courses. She has done extensive research in historical ecology. The second edition of her book, People and the Land through Time, will be  published in September, 2019. Emily also regularly leads botany walks for VNPS. Accompanied by Jocelyn Sladen, a resident of Wildcat Mountain, founding member of VNPS and long time member of the Piedmont Chapter. Jocelyn has explored the mountain’s woodlands since childhood.