Wild Ideas: Beat the winter blues with nature walks and talks  

First it’s too cold, then it’s too icy, then it’s too rainy. If you have the winter blues or blahs, try attending some upcoming nature events. Along with learning about nature, this is a great way to meet others who share that interest and to find out about other nature-related activities and volunteering opportunities.

Virginia Native Plant Society events

On Sundays, the VNPS Piedmont chapter continues its free Winter Speaker series and Second Sunday Walks. The Winter Speaker Series talks are held at Emmanuel Episcopal Church Parish Hall, 9668 Maidstone Rd., Delaplane; free refreshments are provided. While the talks end in March, the walks continue throughout the year at various sites, including the popular spring trek to see masses of trillium, bluebells and other spring wildflowers in bloom.

By Pam Owen
Join VNPS plant expert Carrie Blair (holding branch) on Feb. 25 at Rady Park Arboretum, Warrenton.

For more information about all Piedmont chapter events, including the upcoming walks and talks, email piedmontvnps@gmail.com or visit vnps.org/piedmont. For VNPS statewide or chapter events, go to the calendar at vnps.org.

Second Sunday Walks:

Rady Park Arboretum (Feb. 25, 1–3 p.m., Warrenton): Join tree expert and Piedmont chapter member Carrie Blair for a tour of this seven-acre site. The arboretum was developed by master gardeners to help inform Fauquier County residents about successful tree and shrub combinations, including natives. It has has level terrain and easy walking paths and features several demonstration gardens with diverse plants native to Virginia. “It is a unique and successful long-term project that makes a fine example of what can be achieved when people invest in a well-defined effort and pass it on to others to maintain and improve,” Blair says. The event kicks off with a a tree scavenger hunt among the dozens of carefully chosen, maintained and labeled native woody specimens. Meet Blair in the picnic shelter to get instructions for that. If you plan to attend, RSVP to Blair at 540-364-1232 or carrie@treeloversschool.com.

Thompson WMA (Mar. 11, 1 p.m.): Take a walk down to a special seep beside the Appalachian Trail to see skunk cabbage and possibly other early bloomers. The hike to this “treasured site . . . will be worth anyone’s participation if they want to see one of the rarest and best examples of a Central Appalachian Basic Seepage Swamp,” says Ron Hughes, who is leading it.

By Pam Owen
Look for skunk cabbage and more early-blooming flowers on the Mar. 11 VNPS Second Sunday Walk at Thompson WMA.

Hughes is a biologist and facilities manager for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Region 4, which includes this WMA. The site also contains black ash and other northern plant species. Because the trail goes down and then back up — about three-quarters of a mile total and 20 minutes traveling time — it is “moderately difficult,” Hughes says. Contact the Piedmont chapter for more details.

Winter Speaker Series:

Controlling Stiltgrass and Other Invasives (Feb. 18, 2 p.m.): Jim Hurley, an area steward for the Blue Ridge Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM, at blueridgeprism.org) talks about what property owners can do to control nonnative invasive plants. These invasives are one of the top threats to biodiversity in our ecosystems and a challenge for public-land managers, farmers, gardeners and landscapers. Hurley has extensive experience leading volunteers and contractors to combat these invaders.

Pollinator Habitat (Mar. 18, 2 p.m.): Emily Sinclair, an interpretive ranger at Sky Meadows State Park, talks about the park’s efforts to attract and support pollinators, including managing invasive plants and installing pollinator plots. The park, Sinclair says, “strives to conserve Virginia’s native plant communities, and the pollinators on which they are mutually dependent.” She notes that several conservation groups have partnered in this effort and that pollinator-related initiatives are being undertaken among Virginia’s other 37 state parks. “Public lands possess a unique opportunity to educate and engage the public about these issues,” she adds.

Other nature events

“Woods and Wildlife Conference” (Feb. 24, 8:30-4:30): Learn about woodlands and how to manage them, at Germanna College in Culpeper. Cost is $45 per person; $80 per couple. While preregistration ended on Feb. 14, you still may be able to reserve a spot at this popular event. For more information or to register (online or by mail), go to forestupdate.frec.vt.edu or contact Adam Downing: 540-948-6881 or adowning@vt.edu.

“Landscaping Your Property for Attracting Wildlife”

By Pam Owen
Learn about Sky Meadows State Park’s efforts to attract pollinators at the VPNS Piedmont chapter’s Mar. 18 Winter Speaker Series talk.

(Mar. 18, 2 p.m.): Cole Burrell, an acclaimed landscape and garden designer, lecturer, author, photographer and naturalist, tells how to landscape property (especially small- to medium-sized), to attract birds, butterflies and insects with the use of native plants. At the Little Washington Theatre, 291 Gay Street, Washington, Virginia. For more information: 540-675-1253,  info@littlewashingtontheatre.com, littlewashingtontheatre.com, or Facebook (Theatre291).

© 2018 Pam Owen

Pam Owen
About Pam Owen 322 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.”