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February 2023 Update

Common tree care practices can leave a lot to be a desired. Please see the short article at the bottom of this page and share it as widely as possible.

Almost time for spring volunteer events

Please check our SignUp Genius for opportunities to staff a table at various events around the region. We will add more as they come in. No experience is necessary! If you know anything at all about native plants, you will know more than 95% of the passersby. When you meet the other 5%, recruit them as volunteers!

Help label native plants in garden centers

Putting red “Northern Virginia Native” stickers on the plants in conventional nurseries is one of the most gratifying and useful thing you can do for the native plant movement. Please volunteer if you can! You would do it on your own time, and complete instructions will be provided. It’s a great way to learn your plants. Email

Team forming to approach local corporations

Can you help make some phone calls to corporate offices of community and social responsibility to invite them to participate in the regional tree campaign? We have a “package” of ideas for ways they can help their community plant or rescue trees or assist with educational outreach, something many are willing to do if asked. Email if you can work with us to make this happen.

Upcoming events

· 5th Annual Prince William Native Plant Symposium: Stop Mowing, Start Growing: Native Plants for Beginners and Beyond! Online and in-person (Manassas). Saturday, February 11, 9am-4pm. Details and registration here.

· “Native plants for Northern Virginia” walks at Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington. Next date: Friday, February 24, 3:00 - 4:30 PM. The hike will promote the use of native plants in home landscapes. We will learn about local ferns, shrubs and trees that attract birds, bees and wildlife. Teens ages 13 are welcome to attend with a registered adult. Registration Required.

· Doug Tallamy is coming in person! Sunday, February 26, Mt Vernon Unitarian Church, Main Building, 1909 Windmill Lane Alexandria, VA 22307. Book signing and wine reception starts at 3 pm. His Friends' Chat starts at 4 pm Tickets are $25 per person. Register here.

· Native Plant Book Club. Online or in person in Leesburg. First meeting February 28, 7:00 pm. Details here.

· Deer-Resistant Native Plants for the Northeast. Author talk by Ruth Rogers Clausen about her book of the same name. Sunday, March 5, 2 pm. Details here.

Local native plant sales kick off on March 7

The first of the year is the popular tree/shrub seedling sale held by the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, offering six seedlings for $17. The order site opens at 9 am and could easily sell out by noon. If you miss out, don’t panic. You can also order bare-root seedlings at rock-bottom prices from the Virginia Department of Forestry.

As we hear about other native plant sales, they will be added to our website.

Four grant opportunities

Fairfax Water’s 2023 Water Supply Stakeholder Grant Program applications are currently being accepted until May 5. Grants may be in the form of funds or technical support and the project must address issues within Fairfax Water’s service area or watershed serving Fairfax Water’s customers lying in Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun, or Prince William County (maps of both the service area and watershed are included in the application package). Eligible watershed protection projects may include Occoquan Reservoir shoreline stabilization, stream restoration, non-point source pollution management projects, or other activities aimed at improving water quality within the watershed.

Virginia Trees for Clean Water Grant Program will support statewide tree planting projects for the 2023 planting season. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year. This is a reimbursement grant, and some project match is expected and can include in-kind and volunteer hours. Grants may be awarded to civic groups, communities, local government, non-profit organizations, neighborhood associations, public educational institutions, state agencies, tribal organizations, and volunteer groups.

Projects may include but are not limited to the following.

* Riparian Buffers

* Community or Street Tree Plantings

* Neighborhood-wide Projects

* Turf-to-Trees

* Tree Giveaways

Coastal Resilience and Trees Fund grants are due April 4 and are for locations within the Coastal Zone (meaning not Loudoun). No match is required and funds will be issued up front. Project categories include capacity building, green infrastructure practice(s) installation, shoreline protection practice installation, stewardship, and tree planting projects.

Virginia Conservation Assistance Program grants by NVSWCD (meaning Fairfax County, City of Fairfax, and City of Alexandria) are now being accepted on a rolling basis. This is reimbursement program, and a 20% match is required.

See other grants and discounts on our website.

Report your native tree and shrub plantings

Please help Virginia meet its tree-planting obligations by reporting your tree and shrub plantings here. So far 10,387 have been reported!

Report your tree rescues

Millions of trees are at risk from invasive non-native vines. You can help save them on your own land or by volunteering on public land. So far, 6,653 tree rescues have been reported in Northern Virginia. Please add your report here.

Next Steering Committee meeting – via videoconferencing – All are welcome. Thursday, March 9, 10:00am-noon. Check our Event Calendar for future meetings.

This month’s newsletter article to share – Please use this link for social media.

Five myths about trees

It’s no myth that trees hold a special place in our collective psyche. Trees play a prominent role in myths, often symbolizing life and rebirth. Unfortunately, some of the stories about them are just plain wrong.

1. Trees need big piles of mulch. Or perhaps we should call this The Myth of the Angry Volcano Gods, who are appeased by stuffing trees down their maws. It’s hard to know how this harmful practice got started, but we are seeing it everywhere. Trees should be planted with the top of their roots level to the ground, just as in nature. Mulch should never be allowed to touch the trunk, as it causes bark rot. Shredded mulch can form a barrier to water when it mats down, so arborist wood chips are preferred – assuming mulch is needed at all – and no more than 2-4 inches deep. The Fairfax County Tree Basics booklet, which you can download for free, shows proper tree planting and care practices and is available in multiple languages.

2. Tree wounds need dressing. Trees cannot heal the way we do after they are cut, which is one reason why topping a tree is such a bad idea. A broken limb should be trimmed back to just beyond the branch cuff then left alone to try to close over, which with luck it may accomplish before fungi set in. Painting tar on the surface just encourages rot.

3. All leaning trees are dangerous. It is normal for trees to grow toward the light. They reinforce their wood to make themselves stable. If you are worried that a tree may become hazardous, you can get an opinion from a consulting arborist who is certified by the International Society of Arborists (ISA) and who has no financial interest in cutting it down.

4. Trees litter. Well, trees do create leaf “litter”, but that’s an unfriendly word to use to describe feeding the soil and providing habitat for fireflies and wintering grounds for butterflies. The best thing you can do for a tree and the ecosystem is leave the leaves underneath where they fall. If you are afraid they will smother the grass, you can chop them up with a lawn mower so they at least add organic matter to the soil, a practice that is good for the trees and the grass (but hard on the critters).

5. One tree is as good as another. Not so! All trees can provide shade and capture stormwater, but only native trees support biodiversity. In fact, native trees are the very backbone of our local ecosystem, providing the majority of the leaves upon which our native caterpillars feed, which in turn provide the diet required by baby songbirds. In fact, not only do some non-native trees do nothing to feed the birds, they are actually invasive, taking over and destroying what is left of our remnant woods and starting to threaten our bigger forests as well. With few exceptions, there are native trees to serve any landscaping need. Find out all about them on the Plant NOVA Trees website.


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