Many thanks to all the participants (over 50 in all!) and field trip co-leaders Ken Bawer and Jim Long who braved the gloomy weather forecast and made the December 18, 2016 Winter Solstice Field Trip and Hooley at Chapman Forest in Charles County, Maryland (Chapman State Park) such an enjoyable and memorable outing! Hearty thanks as well to MNPS, VNPS, Botanical Society of Washington, and Mattawoman Watershed Society for sponsoring the event, as well as the TreeStewards of Arlington and Alexandria, Arlington Regional Master Naturalists, and all the others who participated.
It was great seeing everyone in the large (and growing) ’family’ of friends to celebrate the beginning of the winter season in one of the exceptional natural areas that we are fortunate to have in our midst. Watching the incoming, high-energy arctic weather front speed across the Virginia highlands from the northwest and blast us with sustained 50 MPH-plus winds atop the river bluffs was indeed a rare opportunity to appreciate the awesome force of nature (John Muir style), and also wonderfully illustrate why wind-shearing (mechanical weathering) is the dominant factor in producing and maintaining the open, savannah conditions of the globally rare Coastal Plain River-Bluff Xeric Oak Forest (USNVC: CEGL006490) atop the bluffs!
Below are a few photos of the Solstice event kindly taken by Greg Zell and others. A Survey of Rare Natural Heritage Resources Along Three Trails at Chapman State Park, Charles County, Maryland for some more background on the site (federal and state rankings for some rare species and some nomenclature may be out of date).
Some other links with further information: Mattawoman Watershed Society and Friends of Chapman State Park.
Gathering at old carriage road entrance and drive to historic Mount Aventine. Photo by Greg Zell.
Robin Firth (far right) discussing an interesting mushroom find. Photo by R.H. Simmons.
Traversing the rolling “sandhill” section of the old-age forest (glauconitic sands of Eocene and Miocene epochs). Photo by R.H. Simmons.
State Champion Chinquapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii) on rolling ’sandhill’ of loamy, calcareous, marine sands. James’s Sedge (Carex jamesii) is locally abundant here, along with Hitchcock’s Sedge (Carex hitchcockiana), Eastern Few-fruited Sedge (Carex oligocarpa), and other calciphiles. Photo by R.H. Simmons.
December 18, 2016 Winter Solstice Field Trip participants gathered for lunch atop a high knoll in Shell-Marl Ravine Forest section of Chapman Forest. Old-age Sweet Pignut Hickory (Carya ovalis) behind Randy Phoebus (standing); old-age Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra), Chinquapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii), and others in background. Photo by R.H. Simmons.
Celebratory Solstice Toast and Hooley. Photo by Greg Zell.
VNPS Past President Sally Anderson and old-age, State Co-Champion Pagoda Oak (Quercus pagoda) atop the wind-sheared bluffs along the Potomac River. This tree sits right at the edge of a stand of globally rare Coastal Plain Dry Calcareous Forest: Quercus muhlenbergii / Cercis canadensis / Dichanthelium boscii - Bromus pubescens - Erigeron pulchellus var. pulchellus - Aquilegia canadensis Forest (USNVC: CEGL007748). A high cover of Hairy Wild Rye (Elymus villosus) is prominent at this site.
December 18, 2016 Winter Solstice Field Trip participants with giant, old, forest-grown Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) in Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forest section near the Marsh Trail along the Potomac River at Chapman Forest. Photo by R.H. Simmons.
Massive, ancient 19’ CBH Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) with characteristic, alternating deeply- furrowed, thick bark and smooth patches on lower trunk. This is a characteristic tree of Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forest sections near the Marsh Trail along the Potomac River at Chapman Forest. Photo by Eileen Grant.