VNPS Potowmack News

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Exploring Native Woodland Grasses and Glades with Rod Simmons

posted Sep 19, 2014, 9:59 PM by Marty Nielsen

The Potowmack Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society invites you to the following field trip, part of our 2014 series “Celebrating the Grasses of VA”:

Exploring Native Woodland Grasses and Glades with Rod Simmons

A walk at Bear Island and the Gold Mine Tract


Saturday, September 27

10:00 am to 2:00 pm


Location:  Along the Potomac Gorge near Potomac and Great Falls, Maryland




VNPS programs are free and open to the public, but registration for field trips is required due to limited space.



We’ll walk a portion of Berma Road to the southeast trail head into the Gold Mine Tract and up to the bluffs overlooking the Potomac River and the Virginia highlands.  Then along the ridgeline of the southwest-facing, forested bluffs where we should see a variety of woodland grasses.  Near Great Falls, we’ll come down out of the Gold Mine Tract and take either Berma Road or the C & O Canal Towpath and Billy Goat Trail along and through Bear Island.


In addition to grasses, both the Gold Mine Tract and Bear Island offer some of the greatest diversity of native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers in the region, as well as uncommon to rare plant communities and scenic views.


Note: This field trip follows Rod’s lecture on the same topic, which will be held at Green Spring Gardens at 7:30 pm on Thursday September 11.


Rod is a plant ecologist, with a background in biology and geology, who has extensively surveyed the flora and natural communities of the mid-Atlantic region, especially the inner coastal plain and piedmont of the greater Washington, D.C. area.  He is a Research Collaborator with the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution; a member of the Virginia Botanical Associates; and works closely with the Virginia and Maryland natural heritage programs.  He is a past president of the Botanical Society of Washington, a past president of the Maryland Native Plant Society, and a current board member of the Maryland Native Plant Society and the Virginia Native Plant Society.  He is the Natural Resource Manager for the City of Alexandria.



For more information about our field trip location, visit:





For questions, please email:

Fall Plant Sale!

posted Aug 26, 2014, 1:00 PM by Marty Nielsen

Our fall plant sale is almost here!  Please mark your calendars for Saturday September 13th, 9am-3pm.  We'll be in our usual spot at our propagation beds behind the greenhouse at Green Spring Gardens Park.  Click here for a Google Map to the beds.

See the attachment below for a typical list of plants for sale.

Mason Neck State Park: Visit with Lisa Bright

posted Aug 15, 2014, 1:20 PM by Marty Nielsen

Mason Neck State Park:

Visit with Lisa Bright to one of her favorite places


VNPS programs are free and open to the public, but space on field trips is strictly limited.  


Located on the Mason Neck peninsula, surrounded by Pohick BayBelmont Bay and the Potomac River, this is an especially good place to witness many interesting Coastal wetland plants. We will walk through the trail along the wetland to the pond and to the marsh area to see an amazing variety of Coastal species, including some great patches of  lowbush and highbush blueberry, black huckleberry, swamp doghobble, serviceberry, possumhaw, and VA sweetspire. We will also find pickerel weed, arrow arum, three squares,  rose mallow, cardinal flower, smooth beggarticks, fringed and shallow sedge, sneezeweed, and many others. 

Note: At the entrance to the park, the state charges a parking fee of $5.00 per car. 

Bring a lunch if you would like to join us after the walk for a picnic near the parking lot while we review the list of plants we discovered.

Lisa Bright is co-founder, Executive Director and Dharma Teacher of the Earth Sangha. She has been studying and propagating the native plants of the mid-Atlantic since 2000 and has spent many years collecting seeds from local forests and meadows for the Wild Plant Nursery.  She has covered Mason Neck and many natural areas in our region repeatedly in different seasons over the years, but says she always finds new species overlooked in previous seasons.  

For more information about the Earth Sangha, visit

Manassas Battlefield with Marion Lobstein

posted Jul 1, 2014, 7:35 AM by Marty Nielsen

Mark your calendar for Saturday August 2nd, 9AM! 

Stay tuned for details....

Wavyleaf Grass Identification, Ecology and Management

posted Jun 18, 2014, 12:14 PM by Marty Nielsen

Wavyleaf Grass Identification, Ecology and Management

A workshop with Dr. Vanessa Beauchamp of Towson University

Saturday, July 5

Great Falls, VA

(See below for times and registration details)

Wavyleaf grass is a recently-introduced invasive grass which is rapidly spreading in our area.  It has the potential to devastate forests in Virginia and Maryland.  Infestations are being actively sought by Early Detection teams in both states.  The public is being asked to assist in the early detection work by mapping and reporting the locations of any sightings.  Towson University has developed a smartphone app to assist in reporting.  

Dr. Vanessa Beauchamp, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and head of the Plant Ecology Lab at Towson University will be leading this workshop to train citizen scientists on the identification, ecology and management of this very invasive grass, including potential look-alikes, impacts and use of the new smartphone app.  The workshop will be held at Fraser Preserve and will be followed by a field trip to infestations within the Preserve.

Free and open to the public.  RSVP is required.

Two sessions:

9:30 am -12:00 pm


1:00 pm -3:30 pm


Fraser Preserve Workshop

posted Jun 18, 2014, 7:23 AM by Marty Nielsen

Walk and Weed at Fraser Preserve:

A field trip with Margaret Chatham


Saturday, June 21
9:00 am to 12:00 pm
Great Falls, VA

RSVP required:

VNPS programs are free and open to the public, but reservations are required for field trips.

Come see what’s blooming at Fraser Preserve.  In May, it’s jack-in-the-pulpit, pawpaw, hooked crowfoot, puttyroot (if the deer don’t eat them all) and clustered sanicle.  In June?  We’ll see.  Then spend half an hour getting up close & personal pulling wavy leaf basket grass.  No equipment needed, beyond the usual needs of a woodsy walk: water, insect repellent, long pants.

This is a somewhat strenuous walk, two miles down & up & down & up (but that way you get to see wetlands & hilltops!)  Carpooling is encouraged.

 Our Leader:

Margaret Chatham is a Potowmack Chapter Board Member, a story-teller and a long-time volunteer at Fraser Preserve.

 The Site:

Fraser Preserve is a 220-acre tract owned by The Nature Conservancy. Many of the natural habitats found in the Piedmont region are represented at Fraser.

 For more information about this beautiful site, see:

Field Trip to Runnymede Park

posted Jun 9, 2014, 1:28 PM by Marty Nielsen

Sedges and Grasses of Runnymede:

A field trip with the Grass Bunch


Saturday June 14

9:30 am to 12:00 pm

Herndon, VA


RSVP required:


The Summer 2014 Newsletter is here!

posted Jun 4, 2014, 8:05 PM by Marty Nielsen

Check out our summer newsletter below.  Newsletter editor Alan Ford said, "We have a great article on Merrimac Farms written by Charles Smith, and much else worthy of your attention."

Spring Plant Sale!

posted May 9, 2014, 2:17 PM by Marty Nielsen

Our Spring 2014 plant sale is Saturday May 17, from 9-3pm at Green Spring Gardens Park.  Look for our tent behind the greenhouse and visitor's center.  Hope to see you there! 

Monthly Meeting April 10th

posted Apr 2, 2014, 10:24 PM by Marty Nielsen

Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve:

Restoring a Primeval Wilderness in the D.C. Area



Thursday, April 10

7:30 - 9:00 pm


Green Spring Gardens

4603 Green Spring Road

Alexandria, VA  22312

703 642-5173


 VNPS programs are free and open to the public.  No reservations are necessary for   this presentation.



Naturalist Louis Halle called Dyke Marsh “the nearest thing to primeval wilderness in the immediate vicinity of the city.”  It is one of the last large tracts of freshwater tidal marsh along the Potomac River, and is one of the most biologically diverse habitats in the Washington, D.C. region.  The marsh is home to 300 known species of plants, 6,000 arthropods, 38 fish, 16 reptiles, 14 amphibians and over 270 species of birds.  It is the only site in the upper Potomac River zone with a breeding population of marsh wrens and has state-threatened breeding populations of least bitterns.  The state-threatened river bulrush is common in the marsh.


U.S. Geological Survey scientists have concluded that 1.5 to two acres of wetlands are vanishing every year, a rate so severe that Dyke Marsh will be gone in 10 to 20 years.  Dredging reduced what was once 200 acres of emergent marsh to 83 acres and destabilized the whole system, spurring the loss of another 23 acres.  Today fewer than 60 acres remain.  The National Park Service is proposing a restoration plan to stabilize and restore the marsh. 

Friends of Dyke Marsh President and VNPS member Glenda Booth will describe Dyke Marsh, its significance, the NPS restoration goals and the importance of wetlands and wetlands restoration.

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