Help Has Arrived!

Faced with a whole mountain infested with Ailanthus sprouts, the legacy of 10,000 mature trees killed over a three year period between 2005-2008, (see September 12, 2013 post) I called out for help.  And I got it today.  Ryan Klopf, PhD, Mountain Region Steward for the Natural Heritage Program , a Division of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation which holds the conservation easement on Naked Mountain, and Wes Paulos, Mountain Region Steward Operations staff came armed with backpack sprayers.

Ryan Klopf, PhD and Wes Paulos, stewards with the Virginia Natural Heritage Program treating Ailanthus sprouts on Naked Mountain

Together we surveyed about a fifteen acre area to treat with diluted Round-up (Glyphosate).  I scouted for what we hoped would be the margins of the infestation, and Ryan and Wes treated the small sprouts with the herbicide. Unfortunately, I never found the margin; Ailanthus sprouts showed up no matter how far down the North or the South slope I traveled.  Very discouraging.  But, we have a plan to treat the whole mountain, section by section next season, or as much of it as we can.  Ryan will equip me with a backpack sprayer that works; I have an old one that doesn’t.  I was impressed today that their approach is much more efficient than my painstaking hand-pulling method.  Ryan and Wes covered three times the area I have covered after 16 hours of work!  I have my pesticide certification, so this is something I am familiar with and I know how to apply the chemical as safely as possible to protect native plant species, pollinators and human species.

While I was scouting I saw a gorgeous Late Purple Aster with knock-your-socks off color.  I assume the species is Symphyotrichum patens, but could it be S. phlogifolium which Flora of Virginia notes occurs mainly in rich upland forests and dry calcareous woodlands?  That would describe Naked Mountain.

Late Purple Aster (? S. patens or S. phlogifolium) Blooming on Naked Mountain. Click on photo to enlarge.

I also encountered a small but very distinguished critter.  He, or she, was the size of my pinky finger, about ¾ inch thick, maybe ten inches long and curled up on the root ball of a downed tree taking a sun bath.

Baby Timber Rattlesnake curled up in the sun on Naked Mountain. Click on photo to enlarge.

Last evening as I was returning home from a fascinating short course on Pollinator Conservation Planning provided jointly by the Xerces Society and the Natural Resources Conservation Services agency of the US Department of Agriculture, I spotted an interesting plant blooming next to my lower gate.  Here it is blown up.  Can you see the pollinators at work? Click on the photo to enlarge it.  Do you know what this rather common, but gorgeous species is?

Finally, I need to tell you that I am now in receipt of my fabulous 65th birthday present from a very dear friend.  Here it is:

Lara Call Gastinger, the extremely talented botanical artist who produced it and recently visited Naked Mountain (See September 12, 2013 post) was also the featured speaker at the annual meeting of the Virginia Native Plant Society.  What a treasure this gift is!

Oh, by the way, I was elected Chair of the Conservation Committee at the VNPS annual meeting.  Looking forward to the challenge to serve an absolutely fabulous organization!


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