Category: Education

Field Notes

Praise for Fallen Leaves

December 15, 2021 - By Ellen Powell, VDOF Conservation Education Coordinator December is here – time to look forward to gifts, family visits, amazing food, and some welcome time off work. Raking leaves doesn’t rank very high on the December fun meter. But think of those fallen leaves as free mulch, there for the taking in this season of spending. Maybe you think of mulch as the chopped wood chips or bark that comes... Read More

Field Notes

The Benefits of a Live Christmas Tree

December 3, 2021 - By Cory Swift-Turner, VDOF Public Information Specialist — Every holiday season, thousands of Virginians carry on a family tradition by loading up in their car and driving to one of the state’s nearly 500 Christmas tree farms, to find the tree that will be the centerpiece of their Christmas decorating. Whether you are selecting a pre-cut tree, or cutting one down yourself, there is something exciting about finding the special... Read More

Field Notes

Woodpecker Attends New Employee Orientation

November 15, 2021 - By Scott Bachman, VDOF Senior Area Forester Several weeks ago, the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) Eastern Region had the opportunity to show off our work for the agency’s most recently hired employees, during their orientation tour. A group of our region’s staff – Heather Dowling, Jeremey Falkenau, Bryant Bays, Lisa Burke, Brenda Clarke and I – collaborated to come up with several days of activities that we hoped would... Read More

Field Notes

A Walk at Whitney

October 13, 2021 - By Ellen Powell, Conservation Education Coordinator Last week I took a hike at Whitney State Forest, located in Fauquier County, just south of Warrenton. I was a little early for brilliant fall colors, but right on time for another kind of “fall.” There were loads of nuts on the ground, one of the hallmarks of autumn in a Piedmont oak-hickory forest. Known in wildlife circles as hard mast, nuts provide... Read More

Field Notes

The Vine That Ate Charlottesville

September 29, 2021 - By Ellen Powell, VDOF Conservation Education Coordinator I know what you’re thinking. But no, the vine that ate Charlottesville isn’t kudzu. It’s porcelain-berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata). You might know this species as an ornamental vine, often seen spilling over pergolas in fancy gardens. It’s great for covering a bare patch of ground or an unsightly old shed. The fruits are quite beautiful, with pale green, lavender, magenta, and blue berries often... Read More

Field Notes

Old-Timey Apples

September 21, 2021 - By Zach Olinger, VDOF Forest Management and Education Specialist The property that is now the Matthews State Forest was donated to the Commonwealth by the late Judge Jack Matthews and his wife, Clare. Judge Matthews had varying interests that helped lead him to the decision to donate his land to the Department of Forestry. Among these were the American chestnut, all types of native wildlife, educating youngsters about conservation, and... Read More

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