VNPS Annual Meeting 2015

‘Rescue, Reclaim, Restore: Challenges for Native Habitats in Virginia’s Great Valley’

September 11 – 13, 2015

Frontier Culture Museum, Staunton, VA

Hosted by the Shenandoah and Upper James River Chapters.




3–5 p.m. State Board meeting

5–6 p.m. Registration and social hour. Cash bar.

6–7 p.m. Buffet dinner

7:30–8 p.m. Lynn Cameron: Shenandoah Mountain: A Proposal to Protect our Wild Heritage

8–8:30 p.m. Nancy Sorrells: Effects of the Proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline on Native Habitat



7:30–9 a.m. Registration and field trip group organization

9–4:30 p.m. Field trips

5–6:30 p.m. Social hour. Cash bar. Music by Highlanders String Band

6:30–7:30 p.m. Buffet dinner

7:30–8:30 p.m. Annual business meeting, President Nancy Vehrs

8:30–9:30 p.m. Bobby Whitescarver: Native Communities in a Sea of Invasives: The Stories



8:30–9:30 a.m. Field trip group organization

9 a.m. Field trips leave


Reserved rooms for VNPS are available at the Best Western Staunton Inn, 90 Rowe Road, just off of U.S. 250 East at the I-81 Exit for Staunton and Waynesboro (a half mile from the entrance to the Frontier Culture Museum).

The special Annual Meeting rate applies only for Friday, Sept. 11, and Saturday, Sept. 12. The rate is $93 (tax included) per room per night. Reserve by August 29; 32 nonsmoking rooms with two double beds and three nonsmoking rooms with one king bed have been reserved.

For reservations, call 1-800-752-9471 and mention the Virginia Native Plant Society.

There are several other hotels nearby. Your registration packet will include information about local points of interest and restaurants.


I-81 Exit 222. Head west on U.S. 250. The Frontier Culture Museum is a half mile on the left. Proceed to the visitor parking lot. On Saturday and Sunday, park in the visitor parking lot. Walk down the main sidewalk to the Pavilion on your left. On Friday, continue through the parking lot and turn to the left of the flag poles. Follow the sign to the Dairy Barn parking area.

1290 Richmond Avenue, Staunton, VA 24401

Speakers and Highlights

2015 Annual Meeting

Speakers Will Focus on Habitats

Three speakers with years of experience in the Shenandoah Valley’s natural world will present programs at the Annual Meeting.

On Friday evening, Lynn Cameron, co-chair of Friends of Shenandoah Mountain and long-time board member of numerous outdoor organizations, will explain why Shenandoah Mountain is a special place in the national forest and deserves permanent protection. A retired librarian, Cameron spends most of her time building support for the proposed 90,000-acre Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area.

Following Cameron will be Nancy Sorrells, Sempervirens Editor for almost 20 years, who recently spent many months working to ensure that fracking would be banned from the George Washington National Forest. Even before that matter was settled, the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline became an issue in the mountains and valleys of western Virginia. She will talk about some of the habitats that could be affected by this natural gas pipeline project.

As the keynote speaker Saturday night, retired USDA District Conservationist Bobby Whitescarver will spin some true tales of planting native trees and restoring prairie in a sea of invasives and ignorance.  Be prepared to sit back and enjoy his light-hearted humor that will include stories about the apple pie that restored a watershed, a “plantapillar,” the gag order on fescue, and the connection between toilet paper and prescribed burns.

First VNPS Research Grants Awarded

The Virginia Native Plant Society has awarded its first two Research Grants to the Virginia Master Naturalist Program and the Ted R. Bradley Herbarium at George Mason University.

Each will receive $5,000 for work important to the promotion of native plants and botany in Virginia. The research will be done over the summer, and progress will be reported at the VNPS Annual Meeting.

Alycia Crall, director of the Virginia Master Naturalist Program, and Michelle Prysby, Virginia Master Naturalist Program Coordinator, received a grant for a project titled “Improving Knowledge of Native Plant Species Distributions in Virginia: A Citizen Science Project for Virginia Master Naturalist Volunteers.”

Under the grant, they will develop a citizen science program in collaboration with the Virginia Natural Heritage Program for monitoring the distribution of and threats to rare and threatened plant populations in the state. With citizen scientists, they will focus on identifying the primary threats to 30 species.

Andrea Weeks, associate professor of biology and director of the Ted R. Bradley Herbarium at George Mason University, received a grant for her proposed project, titled “Virginia’s Virtual Herbarium: Liberating Big Data for Our Native Plants.” Her grant will supplement funding from the National Science Foundation supporting high-throughput digital imaging of specimens from 11 Virginia herbaria and the transcription of information about each specimen by citizen scientists. The initiative will create a public, online herbarium of nearly 300,000 Virginia specimens of vascular plants.

The VNPS Research Grant Program was begun after the Society received a generous bequest from longtime member Marjorie A. Pitts, who had belonged to the Potowmack Chapter. It was launched with a call for proposals last winter. The stated goals were to encourage the study of native plant biology and ecosystems and to advance botany education. This first year of the program was envisioned as a pilot that included assessment of interest among researchers and the evaluation of related procedures. The Virginia Academy of Science provided technical advice, and seven volunteers stepped forward to form a selection committee, including academics and amateur native plant experts.

The pilot was an overwhelming success. The committee reviewed 18 student and faculty applications, including at least one from every major college or university in the commonwealth and several from conservation organizations. —Cathy Mayes, Treasurer Mayes, grants administrator, chaired the committee that established the grant program. Joyce Wenger chaired the selection committee. Thanks to the selection committee and the scientists who took the time to prepare applications for grants. The benefits of their work will be seen as the program develops.

Field Trips

Review the following field trip options, and be ready to make your selections for first and second choices on the Registration form – see the button at right to begin your registration.

Saturday, Sept. 12 FULL-DAY TRIPS, DEPART 9 A.M., RETURN BY 4:30 P.M.

1. ___ FULL Hone Quarry-Reddish Knob Duo. Take an auto tour of the proposed 90,000-acre Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area and go on two short hikes for a total of 3 mi. We will go to Hone Quarry Recreation Area and hike Cliff Trail to a scenic view (about 1 mi. round-trip. Moderate, but steep and rocky.) Then we will drive a narrow, winding forest road to Reddish Knob, the highest point in the national scenic area (4,397 ft.) with a panoramic view of the Shenandoah Valley and West Virginia. We’ll finish by driving to the old Shenandoah Mountain Picnic Area and hiking to the North River headwaters spring (about a 1.5-mi. hike round-trip. Easy.) Leader, Lynn Cameron. Group limit, 10. THIS TRIP NOW FULL

2. ___ Rockbridge County. Explore three habitats in the James River watershed. Stop 1: Brushy Hills. Moderate. Originally protected as a source for Lexington’s water, Brushy Hills’ 560 acres are being reclaimed for recreation and education. We will check management sites as we explore for September blooms and seed pods. 2 hours. Stop 2: Boxerwood Nature Center and Woodland Garden. Easy. Once a plant collector’s private garden, Boxerwood is evolving to nonprofit status as a public nature center, providing environmental education for all ages. 2 hours. Stop 3: Chessie Trail. As a riverine habitat along the Maury River, the trail has been a canal boat towpath and a railroad bed. We will see protection methods for identified native plant areas and invasive nonnative plant management as we explore a path framed by the geology of a mountain river gorge. 2 hours. Group limit, 15.

3. ___ FULL Maple Flats (sinkhole ponds in the George Washington National Forest). We will visit six to eight sinkhole ponds in the Maple Flats pond complex, including some of the largest and most significant in terms of rare species. Estimated total walking distance is around 4 mi., all on very moderate to level terrain. Some off-trail hiking will be necessary to reach all the ponds. Assuming the ponds will have drawn down enough, we should see many globally and state rare plants, including the narrow endemics Helenium virginicum and Boltonia montana, and several of the endemic natural community types of these Shenandoah Valley ponds. Leader, Gary Fleming, ecologist with the Virginia Natural Heritage Program. Group limit, 12. THIS TRIP IS NOW FULL

4. ___ FULL Geology and Plants East. Driving tour with many stops and short walks along the Blue Ridge Mountains and eastern edge of the Shenandoah Valley. We will look for geologic variation and its effect on forest and wild- flowers as topography changes. The tour will make a big loop, going up the Sherando Road to Love, then north on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Afton, then continuing north into Shenandoah National Park ($20 per car required) on the Skyline Drive to Rt. 33, and then back to Staunton. Leader, Tom Dierauf. Group limit, 12. TRIP IS NOW FULL

5. ___ FULL Sister Knob Shale Barren in Highland County. A 3-mi. walk up a gradual grade starting at Scotch Town draft up to South Sister Knob ending at Head Waters in Highland County. The focus will be shale barren natives. Car shuttle is needed. One-hour drive from Staunton. Leader, Jay Shaner. Group limit, 12. THIS TRIP NOW FULL

6. ___ FULL Cowbane Prairie and Mount Joy Natural Heritage sites.  We will visit Cowbane Prairie in Stuarts Draft along the South River in the morning. (3-mi. round trip; flat walking but could be soggy; boots recommended.) Cowbane is an excellent example of a wetland community once common throughout the Valley. Many native grasses and plants including Queen-of-the-Prairie (Filipendula rubra) not in bloom will be seen. Efforts to restore the area will be discussed. Lunch at Mount Joy in southeastern Augusta County will be followed by a 2-mi. tour of a sinkhole pond containing globally rare Virginia Sneezeweed (Helenium virginicum) possibly still in bloom. Learn why sinkhole ponds are different from vernal ponds. Leader, Adam Christie, Virginia Natural Heritage Program steward. Group limit, 12. THIS TRIP IS NOW FULL

7. ___ American Chestnut Foundaton trip to Lesesne State Forest in Nelson County. Learn to identify American, Chinese, European, amd Japanese chestnuts and Chinquapins. The foundation’s breeding program will be described. If time permits, visit a site off the Blue Ridge Parkway to harvest Chinese and American or backcross (hybrid) nuts. Leader, Jack LaMonica. Group limit, 12.


8. ___ FULL Lewis Creek and Poague Run Watershed Restoraton. The riparian areas of two watersheds within the Staunton city limits were highly degraded by farming practices. Native tree plantings in 1998 changed all that. Today Osprey nest in the area, and Brook Trout are due to be introduced. Learn about the challenges and see the results by walking 1.5 mi. through the riparian buffer. FIELD TRIPS Leader, Bobby Whitescarver. Limit 12. (This half-day trip pairs well with trip 10.) THIS TRIP NOW FULL

9. ___ Historical tour of Staunton and Lewis Creek watershed.  Hilly; walk about 1.5 mi. on downtown sidewalks with steps and hills to explore Staunton’s Lewis Creek and follow the water’s flow while listening to related stories. Topics: A little map study for orientation; Karst topography and local geology; Lewis Creek’s historic importance and its “disappearance/reappearance” in Staunton; how the creek became an “impaired waterway”; and Staunton’s municipal projects for improving the water quality of the creek. Leader, Betty Gatewood. Group limit, 12. Saturday, Sept. 12, Afternoon HALF-DAY TRIPS; DEPART 1 P.M., RETURN BY 4:30 P.M.


10. __ Augusta Forestry Center Visit a 100-acre tree nursery in Crimora. This state-run facility grows almost 40 varieties of native hardwoods and softwoods that are used statewide for restoration and conservation projects. Compare the natural method with the human method of growing trees. Limit 15. (This half-day trip pairs well with trip 8.)

11. __ Tilghman Road in the George Washington Natonal Forest. Asters and Monkshood (Aconitum uncinatum) are among the many visual possibilities on this stretch of Forest Service road. We will be looking for birds and mushrooms as well. Leader, Diane Holsinger. Group limit, 12.

12. __ Augusta Springs Wetlands. After a 25-min. drive west from Staunton, take the handicapped-accessible 2/3-mile boardwalk loop around the wetland and explore the natural history of this special area. It is home to Wood Ducks, Beaver, Pickerel Frogs, Tiger and Spicebush Swallowtail butterflies, and Green Herons. It was the site of a hotel and resort springs from the late 1800s, now long gone. Picnic tables are available under the shade of 100-plus-year-old maples. Many wetland natives, and an excellent birding spot. Leader, Mike Smith. Group limit, 15.


13. __ FULL Geology and Plants West. We will drive first to the Confederate Breastworks Overlook at the top of Shenandoah Mountain and enjoy a panoramic view of the surrounding Allegheny Mountain ridges in Highland and Augusta counties. After a discussion of the regional geologic setting, we will drive back east to the bottom of the mountain for our hike along the Ramsey’s Draft Trail from the Mountain House trailhead off of U.S. 250 past sedimentary rock outcrops along the stream. This is an easy hike, about 1 mi. round-trip, on an easy grade. This is one the first wilderness areas established in the George Washington National Forest. Leader, Malcom Cameron. Group limit, 10 THIS TRIP IS NOW FULL

14. __ FULL Grand Caverns (above ground!), Grotoes.  A 2.5-mi. loop. Flat walking on the South River, then an optional 200-ft. vertical climb to the top of Cave Hill for excellent views of the South River and Blue Ridge Mountains. Pass the entrance to Fountain Cave (closed). Learn about the riparian vegetation, geology, limestone ferns, historical connection to William Alphonso Murrill, who identified and named the organism causing chestnut blight and wrote The Natural History of Staunton. No fee to enter park. Leader, Mark Gatewood. Group limit, 20. After the walk, visit Grand Caverns (below ground!) for a 70-minute tour. (Fees: $18 regular, $16 senior, $13 each for group of 12). Excellent cave formations. www. THIS TRIP NOW FULL

15. __ FULL Chessie Trail in Lexington. As a riverine habitat along the Maury River, the trail has been a canal boat towpath and a railroad bed. In more recent times it has provided an informal place to hike or bike from Lexington to Buena Vista. Virginia Military Institute, Friends of the Chessie Trail, and volunteers with Master Naturalists and VNPS are working together to rescue this community resource. See protection methods for identified native plant areas and invasive nonnative plant management as we explore a path framed by the geology of a mountain river gorge. 2 hours. Group Limit 15  THIS  TRIP NOW FULL

16. __ James Madison University Edith J. Carrier Arboretum, Harrisonburg.  The arboretum provides a combination of botanical gardens set in a mid-Appalachian forest. This setting allows for research, teaching botany students and public outreach. Group limit, 15. Group limit, 15

17__ FULL Madison Run Moderate walk along a Shenandoah National Park fire road along Madison Run. Enter the park from the valley floor (no fee). Flora changes noticeably with elevation. A good, easily accessible place to see many native plants. 2–4 mi., depending on the group. Group limit, 15 THIS TRIP NOW FULL

Questions about registration or any details about the event?  Please contact Karen York at 540-837-1600.