Tag Archive: Woodland Plants

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

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

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


Native Ecosystem Restoration Expanded in Southeastern Virginia

February 16, 2021 - The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) and the Meadowview Biological Research Station (MBRS) recently acquired land that expands an existing conservation easement on the Joseph Pines Preserve in Sussex County.  The 196-acre purchase by MBRS increases the preserve property to nearly 428 acres. The easement, donated to VDOF by MBRS, includes the entire preserve. “This partnership exemplifies the positive impact of multiple agencies and nonprofit organizations working together with a shared... Read More

Field Notes

Field Notes: Hitchhiking Seeds

August 31, 2020 - By Ellen Powell, VDOF Conservation Education Coordinator When you think of summer hitchhikers, you probably think of chiggers and ticks. Ick! But did you know that beggar-ticks and harvest lice might also grab a ride on your clothes? Don’t worry, these don’t carry diseases or make you itch. They are the harmless seeds of some of our native plants. Seeds that cling are adapted to travel to new locations on... Read More

Field Notes

Field Notes: Fantastic Ferns

May 15, 2020 - By Ellen Powell, Conservation Educator Woodland walks in May are a study in fresh, vibrant green. Tree canopies have leafed out, shrubs and saplings fill the midstory, and underfoot, ferns and other ground covers sprawl across the leaf litter. Ferns are not flowering plants; their reproduction is altogether different. They have a unique two-phase life cycle. The sporophyte form is the plant we recognize as a fern. It releases spores, which... Read More

Field Notes

Field Notes: Good Green, Bad Green

April 7, 2020 - By Ellen Powell, Conservation Educator The calendar and the plants agree – spring has arrived in central Virginia! Patches of green among the leaf litter mean spring wildflowers are making their annual appearance. Often called “ephemerals,” for their short-lived bloom time, those in flower this week include pennywort (Obolaria virginica), star chickweed (Stellaria pubera) and wild geranium (Geranium maculatum). Unfortunately, the shrub layer of many hardwood forests reveals a “dark... Read More

Field Notes

Field Notes: Finding Green in the Winter Woods

March 24, 2020 - By Ellen Powell, Conservation Educator   Central Virginia’s hardwood forests in winter are a study in neutrals; everything is some shade of brown or gray. But look closely at the forest floor, and you’ll see accents of green that hint at spring to come. Low-sprawling Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) displays its fronds all winter. The plant is so-named not only for its holiday greenery, but for its leaflets, shaped like... Read More

Field Notes

Field Notes: The Beauty of March

March 23, 2018 - by VDOF Area Forester Richard Reuse March and April are the most beautiful months in Virginia. Relative humidity is low, the spring ephemeral wildflowers are blooming and the bugs aren’t out yet….except for the ticks. Here are some of the things I’ve seen this month. These are trout lilies. It’s very unusual to find them in eastern Virginia. Oh deer…there’s a fungus among us. A nice loblolly pine stand that... Read More

Field Notes

Field Notes: What’s in the Woods Today? Feb. 5, 2018

February 12, 2018 - Waiting for Spring by Area Forester Lisa Deaton This great blue heron, like many of us, seems to be contemplating warmer weather. The daffodils in the eastern part of the state are getting ready to bloom. The squirrels are carrying mouthfuls of leaves from the forest floor and adding them to their nests in the trees.  I tried to catch a photo of that, but squirrels move so fast. The... Read More