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June 2021 Update

At the bottom of this page, please see the short article on­­­­­ planting for bees, and share it as widely as possible.

Plant NOVA Trees is coming! Just as is the case for Plant NOVA Natives, Plant NOVA Trees is the collaborative effort of numerous organizations that are pooling their resources to get the word out about the importance of planting and preserving native plants. The five year regional campaign will be reaching out to residents, businesses and communities in general and climate-vulnerable communities in particular. The campaign organizers will not be doing any of the actual planting and preserving – that will be up to all of you on private property, where the need for trees is greatest, and to the local jurisdictions on public land.

Are you frequently on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter? – We need even more people to help with our social media presence. The more consistently we can post, the more native trees and other plants will get into the ground.

Email if you can help.

Do you have (or could you take) photos of people planting trees? We will need many such photos for the tree campaign. Obviously the people in the photo must have given permission.

Put on a tree event this fall

To launch the native tree campaign, we will be sponsoring a region-wide Celebration of Trees, September through November. We are hoping that numerous people will help us create buzz by reaching out to folks in all kinds of settings: neighborhoods, workplaces, faith communities, nature centers, etc. Some ideas for events include

· Tree walks (For the general public, you would want to make it short, snappy and fun.)

· Tree plantings

· Removing invasives that threaten trees

· Storytelling - traditional stories, or about trees that have meaning in your own lives

  • Tree art projects, for kids or adults

  • Poetry readings

  • Book displays

  • Webinars

  • Labelling trees with their names

  • Signs in front of trees describing their particular benefits to wildlife and humans

  • Creating a GPS map of your community’s trees

  • Collecting seeds from your trees to be sent to the state nursery that grows seedlings (easy instructions here)

  • Forest bathing

  • Tie yellow ribbons around old oak trees (and red ones around red maples, etc)

  • Music

  • Scavenger hunts

  • Geocaching - here is a great example.

  • Fairy houses in the woods

  • Photo contests

  • Create and show videos

  • Anything creative you can come up with!

If you do put on an event and it is open to the public, we would love to add it to our Celebration of Trees event calendar, so please let us know.

For Fairfax communities with children

Contact Tami Sheiffer, coordinator of the Watch the Green Grow program of Fairfax County Park Authority, who can offer a free online program to children. Take a fun look at why native plants are important to the ecosystem and how to identify these plants.

Ask the Experts - Register here.

Rain gardens

Wednesday, June 23, 9:30am-10:30am

A rain garden is a constructed landscaping element where stormwater is captured and filtered by native plants.

Maria Harwood from the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District will give some basic background and answer questions that are submitted ahead of time.

Invasive plants control

Wednesday, July 14, 5pm-6pm

Jim Hurley from Blue Ridge PRISM will introduce the subject and answer questions submitted ahead of time.

Next Steering Committee meeting – via videoconferencing – All are welcome. Thursday, July 8, 10:00am-12:00pm. Check our Event Calendar for future meetings.

This month’s newsletter article to share – Please distribute as widely as possible. Use this link for social media.

Planting for the picky eaters

Many insects are picky eaters, only able to eat the plants with which they evolved, meaning the plants that are native to their region. Butterflies are a good example, since although the adults can sip nectar from non-native flowers, their caterpillars depend on specific native plants. The majority of bees are more flexible than that, able to eat the pollen and nectar from a variety of species. They are known as generalist species, although even in their case they have their own favorites. The European Honeybee for example, is a generalist but chooses certain flowers in preference to others.

Of the approximately 400 native bee species in Virginia, about a fifth are plant specialists. Examples include the Spring Beauty Bee and the Blueberry Bee, which (unsurprisingly) depend on the flowers of Spring Beauties and Blueberries. These bees are short lived as adults, emerging when the plants they depend upon are in bloom and quickly gathering the pollen they need to store in their nests for their larvae, thus pollinating the plants while they are at it.

Our local ecosystem requires the full spectrum of plant/animal interactions to flourish. It is easily knocked out of balance when too many native plants are displaced by introduced species, something that has happened in many of our yards. We can restore that balance by planting a lot of native plants. One strategy could be to start with flowers that feed various specialist bees from early spring to late fall, because they will also supply food for the generalist bees. Since many of these flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds as well, they make a winning combination. A list of popular native garden plants that feed specialist bees can be found on the Plant NOVA Natives website. It feels good to help the bees, whose numbers are in decline.

One of the many charms of native bee species is that they are highly unlikely to sting you, assuming you don’t try to grab one or otherwise threaten it. While they are foraging on a flower, you can get your face (and your camera) right up to them, and they will almost certainly ignore you. Gazing at bees brings surprises, as they come in many sizes and colors, including metallic blues and greens. It is particularly mesmerizing to watch bees on plants such as White Turtlehead, where they pry open the flowers and crawl inside, then back themselves out again, butt first. You can get a peek at those and other cute native bees on this two minute video, filmed in Fairfax County.


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