Category: Education

Field Notes

Autumn = Asteraceae!

September 10, 2021 - By Ellen Powell, VDOF Conservation Education Coordinator Virginia’s forests in fall are showstoppers, dazzling us with their vibrant colors. But my eyes are often drawn to the weedy roadside ditches and field edges, where fall wildflowers paint the landscape in an Impressionist haze. Fall-blooming flowers aren’t just for looks. They provide an important late-season food source for bees, wasps, butterflies, and other pollinators. Keeping these insects fed and happy is... Read More

Field Notes

Prescribed Burning with Dragon Eggs!

July 16, 2021 - By Lisa Deaton, VDOF Area Forester; contributor: Rod Newlin, VDOF Water Quality Engineer The Virginia Department of Forestry has many tools for prescribed burning, from bulldozers that pull fire plows, to UTVs with water tanks, to drip torches, fire rakes, shovels and more. The following two photos are from a dormant season burn of loblolly pine stands at Sandy Point State Forest, with a combined goal of wildlife habitat improvement and... Read More

Field Notes

(Don’t) Pick Your Poison

July 9, 2021 - By Ellen Powell, VDOF Conservation Education Coordinator Walking along a forest path this time of year, it’s tempting to reach out and touch all those lush, green leaves. That’s not always a good idea, because Virginia has three species of plants in the genus Toxicodendron. When the botanical name translates to “poison tree,” it’s best to look, not touch. The most familiar of Virginia’s poisonous plants is poison ivy, Toxicodendron... Read More

Field Notes

An Ode to Dead Trees

June 9, 2021 - By Ellen Powell, VDOF Conservation Education Coordinator Contributors: Lisa Deaton, Kenny Thomas, Chris Thomsen    Recently, I’ve received photos from several VDOF staff, which I’d planned to use in a “What’s in the Woods Today?” post. This time, all the photos had something interesting in common: trees that were either going, or gone. Fortunately, a dead tree can be full of life, in more ways than one. This sassafras in... Read More

Field Notes

The Early Caterpillar Gets the Leaf!

May 12, 2021 - By Katlin DeWitt, VDOF Forest Health Specialist Spring is a welcome season for many living things, signaling the end of cold weather and resurgence of color through plants blooming and leafing out. This period of awakening also means that insects emerge and utilize tender foliage for their own development. Forests support many insects throughout their life cycle, but some Lepidopteran species (butterflies and moths) are called early season defoliators, meaning... Read More

Field Notes

Woodland Weirdos

May 7, 2021 - By Ellen Powell, VDOF Conservation Education Coordinator There’s a lot going on underfoot in Virginia’s forests, from wild to wonderful to just plain weird. Some of our strangest plants break all the rules we learned back in elementary school. They aren’t green, they don’t photosynthesize, and they don’t even look like plants. At first glance, these odd growths emerging from the leaf litter appear to be mushrooms. A closer look... Read More

Field Notes

Arbor Day in Pandemic Times

May 4, 2021 - By Molly O’Liddy, VDOF Community Forestry Partnership Coordinator Despite these uncertain times, communities across the Commonwealth have continued to celebrate their love of trees in Arbor Day celebrations. In Virginia, Arbor Day is annually recognized as the last Friday in April. Traditionally, cities and towns have held parades, concerts and festivals that bring the whole community together. During the first Arbor Day, held in Nebraska in 1872, one million trees... Read More

Field Notes

Flower Power

April 28, 2021 - By Ellen Powell, VDOF Conservation Education Coordinator As a botany enthusiast, I spend a lot of spring hikes looking down, seeking out flashes of white and pops of color from early spring wildflowers. Fortunately, when I get tired of staring at the forest floor, there are blooms to be seen at eye level and above, thanks to our spring-blooming native trees and shrubs. I should first note that all of... Read More

Field Notes

A Woodcock Encounter

April 26, 2021 - By Scott Bachman, VDOF Senior Area Forester, Blackwater team Now that it’s April I will declare that spring is officially here in southeastern Virginia! Earlier this month, I was traveling a back road in Southampton County when ahead I saw a line of small objects on the highway. As I got closer, I could see they were birds. The lead bird was larger than the four that followed. My first thought was... Read More

Field Notes

Field Notes: The Early Shrub Gets the Sun

March 31, 2021 - By Ellen Powell, VDOF Conservation Education Coordinator With recent warm weather, Virginia’s woods are greening fast. After a dormant winter, plants gear up for photosynthesis again, using carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight to make food. You might be familiar with some early spring wildflowers that emerge on the forest floor, taking full advantage of the leafless canopy to gather some sun of their own before being shaded out by trees.... Read More