Invasive Plant Removal: Why does your local watershed group think this is important?

Crooked Branch Ravine Park acts like a sponge, soaking up rain water and keeping it where it falls.  It is also home to many native plants that support wildlife, including warblers and other song birds on their long migrations.

CBR map
The circle indicates the approximate location of Crooked Branch Ravine Park.

Protecting areas like this will help keep the rain where it falls and help improve water quality; this need is great in urban areas with lots of impervious surface.   Unfortunately, this little park has many non-native, invasive plants and over time they will threaten the tree canopy (natures’ best invention for capturing rain water).  And, as native species are lost so is the diversity that supports wildlife.

This is important work. We would appreciate your help.

  • Sunday,  May 6 from 1 – 3 p.m.  or as long as you can stay.
  • Bring gloves and hand clippers.  An old screwdriver is sometimes helpful for removing ivy from trees; we will show you how.
  • We do ask that you bring your own water.
  • Bring a friend!

Map to meeting site

Invasive Removal in Crooked Branch Ravine Park

Please join us as we continue invasive removal in Crooked Branch Ravine Park.    The buds on trees and shrubs there are just about to burst and will then provide berries and nuts for the critters as well as food for caterpillars.

Moth and butterfly eggs are laid on the plants that the caterpillars of that species will eat; the great majority need natve plants and some of them are picky eaters, requiring certain species.  The caterpillars become the primary food source for baby birds.  No caterpillars, no baby birds.  If the non-native plants are allowed to continue their rampant growth, we will loose many of the plants, including large trees, and the area will not be able to sustain the year round residents and migrant birds that depend on it.

This is important work and we would really appreciate your help.

  • Sunday,  April 8  from 1 – 3 p.m.  or as long as you can stay.
  • Bring gloves and hand clippers.  An old screwdriver is sometimes helpful for removing ivy from trees; we will show you how.
  • We do ask that you bring your own water.
  • Bring a friend!
  • If you have never done this type of work before we will glady show you what to do.

Map to meeting site

hickory buds
Hickory buds are ready to pop!

Help Save Crooked Branch Ravine Park

This beautiful little green space along Reedy Creek provides food and shelter to birds and other wildlife, is home to some native plants that are no longer common in the city, and helps protect water quality by acting like a sponge during rain events.  Sounds pretty important, doesn’t it?  The problem is that English ivy and other invasive plants are rampant in some areas and habitat is being destroyed.  That is why we need your help!

Please come help us remove ivy from the ground and from trees…

  • Sunday, February 18 from 1 – 4 p.m.  If you can only stay an hour, that’s OK.  Every hour counts.
  • Bring gloves and hand clippers.  An old screwdriver is sometimes helpful for removing ivy from trees; we will show you how.
  • We do ask that you bring your own water.
  • The temperature should be in the mid 50s and comfortable for working outside.

Map to meeting site

Bluberry flower CBR
Vaccinium species (blueberries for the birds) are found in some areas of Crooked Branch where English ivy has not yet covered the ground. 

 

Invasive Plant Removal: Crooked Branch Ravine Park

UPDATE:  Snow makes for wet gloves and cold hands and so, we have decided to reschedule the invasive removal project to next Sunday, Dec 17.  Hope you can come. ice in the creek 2

  • Please  join us on Sunday, December 17,  from 1 – 4 p.m.  Only have an hour to spare?  That’s quite alright.  Every little bit helps. 
  • We will meet at the end of Northrop Street where there is a path into the park.MAP
  • Bring gloves, pruners, and, if you have one, a small saw for cutting large ivy vines.
  • Cool weather is a great time for this kind of work.  Dress warm and join in the fun.

Here are just a few pictures of this lovely. little park.  Please help save the native plants of Crooked Branch Ravine.  Without your help them may be gone forever.

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Saving the Native Plants of Crooked Branch Ravine Park

Reedy Creek and a small tributary, Crooked Branch, flow through Crooked Branch Ravine Park.  This small, passive park is home to many native trees, shrubs, and perennials that could be lost to advancing invasive plant species, particularly English ivy and privet.  Reedy Creek Coalition members are planning to have a workday once each month to remove invasive species.  Our efforts will focus on 1) removing ivy from trees and other plants that are significant sources of seed and 2) monitoring and removing small patches of non-native plants and seedlings from an area that is not yet severely impacted.

  • Please consider joining us on Sunday, April 2 from 1-3 p.m.
  • We will meet at the end of Northrop Street where there is a path into the park.
  • Bring gloves, pruners, and, if you have one, a small saw for cutting large ivy vines.

 

Blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium) is leafing out and just starting to set some buds.  This plant is fairly common in this little patch of woods.

 

 

 

Saving the Native Plants of Crooked Branch Ravine Park

Reedy Creek and a small tributary, Crooked Branch, flow through Crooked Branch Ravine Park.  This small, passive park is home to many native trees, shrubs, and perennials that could be lost to advancing invasive plant species, particularly English ivy and privet.  Reedy Creek Coalition members are planning to have a workday once each month to remove invasive species.  Our efforts will focus on 1) removing ivy from trees and other plants that are significant sources of seed and 2) monitoring and removing small patches of non-native plants and seedlings from an area that is not yet severely impacted.

  • Please consider joining us on Sunday, March 5 from 1-3 p.m.
  • We will meet at the end of Northrop Street where there is a path into the park.
  • Bring gloves, pruners, and, if you have one, a small saw for cutting large ivy vines.

We intend to continue these efforts on a monthly basis and and hope that you will join us.

This lovely little evergreen is easily found in the park, but will not survive as English ivy spreads.  The plant blooms in late spring.  Please help save the native plants of Crooked Branch Ravine.

chimaphila-maculata-spotted-wintergreen-flower-with-ivy
Wintergreen, Chimaphila species

 

 

In Praise of American Hazelnut, Corylus americana

As you probably know, we Reedy Creekers take our native plants seriously.  Bill Shanabruch – watershed resident, RCC member, and native plant enthusiast – shares his thoughts on the American hazelnut.   

Corylus Americana (American hazelnut) has become one of my favorite plants over the last couple of years.  Perhaps it is because I see two of these remarkable shrubs/small trees every day when I look out our dining room window.  But I think it has more to do with the subtle and changing beauty of this plant as it goes through the seasons.  Recently, I was stunned at the remarkable change that occurred after one day of warm weather on February 7.  The male catkins which formed last September had suddenly doubled in length and started to turn from green to yellow.  This is a sure sign that the female flowers will open very soon.

February - Elongating male catkins
February – Elongating male catkins
Male catkins - close up
Male catkins – close up

What other native plant do you know that flowers in mid-February?  Ok – skunk cabbage for one; but there are not many.  It turns out that you almost need a magnifying glass to appreciate the little red female flowers produced by American hazelnut.  There is no big show of color because American hazelnut is not dependent on insects for pollination.  No need to attract bees or butterflies or beetles or hummingbirds.  American hazelnut uses the winter wind for pollination.  And that brings us back to those male catkins that are changing shape and color.  They are currently preparing to disperse pollen to the wind.  In another week or so, one will be able to gently tap a catkin and see a little puff of yellow pollen released.  That is the time to look closely for the tiny red flowers that will be open and waiting for the wind to perform its magic.

After another couple of weeks, the catkins will turn brown and eventually fall to the ground – mission accomplished.  Then it’s time for the leaves to appear.  The young leaves provide a welcome splash of red before they turn dark green.  In a mild winter, the ensuing spring may bring hordes of inch worms and other caterpillars that seem to love chomping hazelnut leaves.  In some springs, the hazelnuts become almost completely defoliated.  That’s good news to the birds that are feeding their nestlings with caterpillars.  And somehow, the hazelnuts just seem to shrug it off.  By early summer, they look as healthy as ever.  That’s one of the other reasons I love hazelnuts – they seem to be very forgiving and almost indestructible.  Sun, shade, drought, wet summer, clay soil, organic soil – nothing seems to matter very much.  The cockroach among Virginia’s native plants?

August - Developing hazelnuts
August – Developing hazelnuts
Developing hazelnuts - close up
Developing hazelnuts – close up
Nearly mature hazelnuts in early September.
Nearly mature hazelnuts in early September.

By midsummer, it becomes readily apparent that the February mission of the catkins and little red flowers was successful.  The first clusters of developing hazelnuts become apparent and the dog days of summer can be spent watching their progress.  By September, one can see a trace of the mature brown nut through the yellow cover encasing each hazelnut.  American hazelnuts are quite edible; but they are smaller than their European cousins that are grown commercially.  And good luck getting to them before the squirrels!!  By the middle of September, we see little piles of hazelnut shells all over their favorite perches in our backard – porch steps, bench, lawn chairs, anywhere off the ground with a better chance to see and avoid predators.

While one is watching the development of the hazelnuts, it is easy to miss the early formation of the male catkins hidden amidst the foliage.  By the time the hazelnuts are mature, the next generation of male catkins are already about one-inch long.  But they will remain hidden for another two months or so while the leaves turn color and become the focal point.  Eventually the leaves fall, and at last, the catkins are the star of the hazelnut show throughout the winter.

Fall color
Hazelnuts in early November. There are two plants showing a little genetic variation. The plant on the right always changes color about two weeks before the plant on the left.

 

 

Saving the Native Plants of Crooked Branch Ravine Park

Reedy Creek and a small tributary, Crooked Branch, flow through Crooked Branch Ravine Park.  This small, passive park is home to many native trees, shrubs, and perennials that could be lost to advancing invasive plant species, particularly English ivy and privet.  Reedy Creek Coalition members are planning to have a workday once each month to remove invasive species.  Our efforts will focus on 1) removing ivy from trees and other plants that are significant sources of seed and 2) monitoring and removing small patches of non-native plants and seedlings from an area that is not yet severely impacted.

  • Please consider joining us on Sunday, February 5 from 1-3 p.m.
  • We will meet at the end of Northrop Street where there is a path into the park.
  • Bring gloves, pruners, and, if you have one, a small saw for cutting large ivy vines.

This lovely little evergreen is easily found in the park, but will not survive as English ivy spreads.  The plant blooms in late spring.  Please help save the native plants of Crooked Branch Ravine.

chimaphila-maculata-spotted-wintergreen-flower-with-ivy
Wintergreen, Chimaphila species

 

 

Winter beauty at Reedy Creek

These strange ice formations were found along the banks of Reedy Creek after the single digit weather.  An explanation that fits the situation was found at www.mnn.com/earth-matters/climate-weather/stories/7-strange-ice-formations….

 When the temperature of the soil is above freezing, and the temperature of the air is below freezing, water flowing below the soil’s surface is drawn up through capillary action, and it freezes on contact with the air. More water is drawn up and freezes, and ice is formed in a needle-like column. While the process is simple enough, the resulting delicate “hair” growing up from the ground is something rather amazing to look at.

Take your time, be observant,  and you can always find something interested at Reedy Creek and Crooked Branch Ravine Park.

Photo credit: Joe Rupp
Photo credit: Joe Rupp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Native Plant of the Week: Great Blue Lobelia

Common Name: Great Blue Lobelia

Scientific Name: Lobelia siphilitica

 

General Description: Great blue lobelia is a close relative of cardinal flower and has many similar characteristics.  It is a clump-forming perennial that reaches 2-3 feet in height and has long, terminal flower spikes.  The stunning blue flowers appear in the latter half of summer to provide both color and nectar when many other flowers are spent.

Habitat: Great blue lobelia is commonly found in moist open woods, marshes, and along streams.  It is not fussy about sun; but it requires moist conditions and prefers rich soils.

Additional information: Great blue lobelia attracts a variety of insect pollinators as well as hummingbirds.  As with cardinal flower, it is best to plant great blue lobelia in part to full shade to minimize supplemental watering. This plant will spread slowly from the mother plant and can also provide “volunteer” seedlings; but it is not an aggressively spreading plant.  Great blue lobelia has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes – one of which led to its unsettling species name.

You are welcome to visit the Native Plant of the Week 

at 4020 Dunston Avenue.  

The featured plant is in the front yard and will be marked.