Wild Ideas: Ramp up to spring with nature events

Learn about the culinary and medicinal uses of wild plants, such as these violets, at a VNPS talk by McNeill Mann, of Earth Village Education, on March 19 in Delaplane. By Pam Owen

While this year spring seemed to have arrived in February, as I’m writing this on Monday (Mar. 14), I’m watching a nor’easter making its way through . . . now there’s sun, and now snow again. Although it’s still a bit early for spring nature walks, here are some nature-related indoor activities to tide you over until spring officially arrives:

“Wild and Scenic Film Festival” (Mar. 18, 1–4:30 pm): Sponsored by the Friends of the Rappahannock, this sixth year of the festival features “wildlife, nature, environmental and outdoor adventure movies that inspire action.” Adult admission, $10 in advance, $15 at the door; free to all students. At the Daniel Technology Center, Germanna Community College, Culpeper. Doors open at 1 p.m. Purchase tickets online riverfriends.org. For more information, call 540-373-3448 or email info@riverfriends.org.

Learn about the culinary and medicinal uses of wild plants, such as these violets, at a VNPS talk by McNeill Mann, of Earth Village Education, on March 19 in Delaplane. By Pam Owen

“Edible, Medicinal and Utilitarian Uses of Native Plants” (Mar. 19, 2 pm) In the last of the VNPS Piedmont chapter’s winter talks this year, McNeill Mann, administration director and farm coordinator of Earth Village Education in Marshall, talks about identifying and using many native plants for food and medicine. Mann has long been fascinated with wild edible and medicinal plants, starting in Arizona and continuing in the Appalachians in North Carolina, where she began studying and eating the flora there. She has attended numerous classes, workshops and conferences about wild edible plants, herbalism, nutrition, and food preservation and fermentation. At Emmanuel Episcopal Church Parish Hall, 9668 Maidstone Road, Delaplane. The talk is free and open to the public, no reservations are necessary; refreshments provided. For more information, go to vnps.org/piedmont or email piedmontvnps@gmail.com.

A consortium of conservation groups host a documentary on northern bobwhite quail, “Bobwhites on the Brink” Mar. 24 in Bluemont. By cuatrok77 via Wikimedia

“Bobwhites on the Brink” (Mar. 24, 7 pm): This inspiring national documentary from the syndicated public-television series “This American Land” details the plight of the northern bobwhite quail and efforts to restore its habitat range wide. Following the movie, local experts from the Quail Recovery Initiative, Piedmont Environmental Council, and Virginia Working Landscapes (VWL) discuss the state of the bobwhite in Virginia, what landowners can do to bring them back to their property, and how habitat can be managed effectively for pollinators, songbirds and big game. At Shenandoah University River Campus at Cool Springs Battlefield, 1400 Parker Lane, Bluemont. Free admission, but registration is required, online at tinyurl.com/wi-bobwhites. For more information, contact VWL at 540-635-0038 or SCBIVWL@si.edu.

CSWCD is offering seedlings for sale, including white oaks, a great host for butterflies and moths.

Tree seedlings for sale (Mar. 30-31, 2-7 pm): Feeling the itch to plant something? How about some trees? Culpeper Soil & Water Conservation District has the following seedlings available for $5 each: American plum, indigobush, flowering dogwood, sugar maple, white oak and white pine. Trees benefit our environment by controlling erosion, reducing toxins, converting carbon dioxide to oxygen, and enhancing wildlife habitat. Proceeds from the sale go to educational programs. Reserve your seedlings now by calling Stephanie at 540-825-8591; pick-up is at the CSWCD office in Culpeper. For more information about each tree species, and pricing on tree tubes and rain barrels, see the flier at tinyurl.com/wi-treesale.

Shenandoah National Park facilities’ opening dates: Byrd Visitor Center now open Fridays through Sundays (9:30-4) when Skyline Drive is open; converts Mar. 23 to seven days a week. Big Meadows Wayside, Mar. 23. Skylands, Mar. 30 (starting at 3 pm). Elkwallow Wayside, Apr. 7. Big Meadows Lodge, May 11 (starting at 3 pm). Dickey Ridge Visitor Center, Apr. 7. For more information on facilities, go to tinyurl.com/wi-snpschedule. Spring ranger-guided programs run Apr. 15 to May 27; download a schedule of the programs at tinyurl.com/wi-snpspring.

The March 12 VNPS Piedmont chapter “Second Sunday” walk features vernal pools, which provide important habitat for many species, including breeding areas for amphibians. By Pam Owen

Working Woods Walk (Apr. 9, 2 pm): Explore beyond the mansion and the lawn to the Landmark Forest of James Madison’s Montpelier and consider society’s dependence on this resource then and now. The walk, a Virginia Leaf Program led by Virginia Master Naturalists, is along a state-of-the-art trail showcasing various forest and habitat tending methods. At 11350 Constitution Hwy, Montpelier Station, VA; $5 per person. For more information, go to montpelier.org.

Youth Art in the Park Wildflower Art Contest (submission deadline Apr. 14): As part of its Wildflower Weekend (May 6-7), Shenandoah National Parks holds this contest for local students to show their creativity. It’s open to all K-12 students in the following counties: Albemarle, Augusta, Greene, Madison, Nelson, Page, Rappahannock, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Warren. Artists must use wildflowers that are native to the Blue Ridge Mountains of the park as their subjects. Go to tinyurl.com/wi-wildflower-weekend for details on the contest and Wildflower Weekend. For more information about the park, go to nps.gov/shen.

Spring plant sales: Plant sales that feature native plants start next month, including the 16th annual Rappahannock Plant Sale at Waterpenny Farm, 53 Waterpenny Lane, Sperryville, Apr. 29, 9-3. A wide array of high-quality local growers, including Blue Ridge Botanicals, Eastwoods Nursery, Hill House Farm and Nursery and Morningside Farm & Nursery, will be selling plants. It’s a “fun community celebration of gardening and plants,” say Waterpenny Farm owners Rachel Bynum and Eric Plaksin. The huge annual Garden Fair at Blandy Experimental Farm is May 12-14, at 400 Blandy Farm Lane, Boyce; for more information, go to tinyurl.com/wi-gardenfair. For other sales, see the VNPS list at vnps.org/spring-2017-plant-sales.

© 2017 Pam Owen

Pam Owen
About Pam Owen 338 Articles
Writer, editor, photographer, and passionate nature conservationist living in Rappahannock County, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Two favorite quotes: By E.O. Wilson, who coined the term "biodiversity," "Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction”; by Douglas Adams, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they pass by.”