Are You Lichen the Bark? Lichens and Mosses

Part 3: Lichens and Mosses

By Mary Free, Certified Extension Master Gardener

Photo © Mary Free, 2019-02-05, Bon Air Park, Arlington, VA.

Lichens and Mosses on Quercus phellos (willow oak), Bon Air Park, Arlington, VA.
Photo © 2019 Mary Free

Trees sustain biodiversity. Quercus (oak) is among the trees considered a keystone species, playing a crucial role in how the ecosystem functions. Oaks provide food or shelter for over 600 different insect species, 513 lepidopteran (moths and butterflies) species, 100 vertebrate species, more than 60 bird species (Abugattas 2010), and earthworms. Crevasses in oak and other barks form important habitats and microhabitats for ferns, orchids, fungi, and epiphytes. Epiphytes include mosses, algae, and lichens, 324 species of which have been reported on oaks in the United Kingdom (Broad 1989, 17). Lichens and mosses are integral to biodiversity in North American woodlands. Continue reading

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March 2019 Public Education Events

MGNV LogoThese public education events for March 2019 are open to all, but space may be limited. To reserve a spot, please register online at

Plot Against Hunger Spring Garden Kick-Off:
Growing Food for Our Neighbors in Need

St. Andrews Plot Against Hunger garden

St. Andrews Plot Against Hunger garden

Saturday, March 2, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m
Arlington Central Library
1015 N Quincy St, Arlington VA 22201

Come learn how to support our partner Arlington Food Assistance Center with fresh produce from your garden or community plot. There will be presentations on seed starting, composting, and lasagna & container gardening; exhibit tables on winter gardening and edible landscapes; and demonstrations of fruit tree pruning.  Also free vegetable and herb seeds!


Free.  In sponsorship with Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC).
RSVP to:
Light refreshments served. Continue reading

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VINE: Gelsemium sempervirens (Carolina Jessamine)

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

The fragrant yellow bells of Carolina Jessamine are a sure sign of spring. A profusion of flowers appear for several months, and the glossy, oval leaves remain attractive all year. This native is at home from Guatemala north to the southeastern United States. It is South Carolina’s state flower. Learn more . . .

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Are You Lichen the Bark? Five Birch Trees of the Mid-Atlantic Region

Part 2: Five Birch Trees of the Mid-Atlantic Region

By Mary Free, Certified Extension Master Gardener

Close-up of the lichen-dotted bark of a Betula nigra (river birch, red birch) tree in New London, Connecticut.   © 2019 Mary Free

Close-up of the lichen-dotted bark of a Betula nigra (river birch, red birch) tree in New London, Connecticut.
© 2019 Mary Free

The five birch trees listed below are native to different areas of the mid-Atlantic region. Their uses in a cultivated landscape are varied. Those with the showiest bark shine year-round as specimen, shade, or lawn trees. Some are at home in naturalist settings. Others thrive in poor soil and difficult sites. As with all plants, it is best to grow species native to one’s particular area, as they have adapted to local conditions and have the best chance for success. Numerous pathogens and pests can attack birches. They are most susceptible to these when grown outside of their native range. The stresses of inhospitable environments (hot summers, mild winters, dry and alkaline soils) weaken those birch trees, making them more prone to disease and vulnerable to pests, especially the bronze birch borer, which can kill them. Continue reading

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Between the Rows – February Edition

Welcome veggie gardeners! 

It’s time to check out the February VCE Garden Guide for vegetable and herb gardening!

VCE supports local gardeners with a host of resources, including free classes, plant clinics and this newsletter. Want to know more? Subscribe here to receive future editions.

All the garden guides are available at VCE Garden Guide under Resources on the MGNV site.

VCE Garden Guide - Between the Rows


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Urban Agriculture: Come Grow With Us!

2019 Winter-Spring Classes

Printable Flyer: Urban Agriculture Class Flyer 2019 (Legal Size)

Urban Agriculture: Come Grow With Us! 2019 Winter-Spring Classes Arlington Sessions: 1/14, 2/25 (6:30-8:30 pm) 1/29, 3/25, 4/9, 5/21 (7-8:30 pm) Westover Branch Library 1644 N. McKinley Rd. 4/30 (7:00-8:30 pm) Shirlington Branch Library 4200 Campbell Ave. Alexandria Sessions: 1/19, 2/23 (10:30 am-12:30 pm) 1/26, 3/23, 4/6, 5/11 (10:30 am-12:00 pm) Burke Branch Library 4701 Seminary Rd. 4/27 (10:30 am-12:00 pm) Barrett Branch Library 717 Queen St. Seeds: Selection and Starting Jumpstart your vegetable garden! Get the scoop on seed selection – hybrid vs. heirloom, which seeds to start indoors and what’s required to get them growing. Learn to make your own starter pots and how to create simple lighting systems. Germination is complex, but seed starting is reassuringly simple! January 14 (Monday), 6:30-8:30 pm, Westover Library January 19 (Saturday), 10:30 am-12:30 pm, Burke Library How To Build Inexpensive and Effective Grow Lights Give your plants a healthy start with grow lights that ensure your seedlings get great light indoors, even when it’s freezing outside. Grow unusual and hard-to-find varieties of vegetables not offered at local garden centers, or farm nutritious microgreens indoors. Learn the pros and cons of light systems and options for creating your own. Instructions and material lists provided to help you jumpstart your garden. January 26 (Saturday), 10:30 am-12:00 pm, Burke Library January 29 (Tuesday), 7:00-8:30 pm, Westover Library Grow What You Eat: Starting Your Own Vegetable Garden Learn easy-to-implement practices for selecting a site, evaluating and improving your soil. Find out which plants grow best locally, which are best planted directly via seeds and which are typically transplanted as seedlings. Discover how to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. Learn to identify and manage pests, weeds and diseases. Get free seeds and a vegetable garden calendar customized for our region. February 23 (Saturday), 10:30 am-12:30 pm, Burke Library February 25 (Monday), 6:30-8:30 pm, Westover Library Planning your Perfect Small Space Garden Grow more fresh produce in less space and save time with less watering, weeding and tilling. Learn simple principles and techniques of intensive gardening, including Mel Bartholomew’s square-foot system, that will bring you high yields with easy maintenance. March 23 (Saturday), 10:30 am-12:00 pm, Burke Library March 25 (Monday), 7:00-8:30 pm, Westover Library Tomato Love Americans love tomatoes—whether that first bite of a BLT, a bowl of cool gazpacho or cherry tomatoes picked off the plant and popped into your mouth, tomatoes are the 2nd most consumed vegetable in the world! Learn everything you need to know to grow exceptional tomatoes: understand the many varieties; select those that suit your needs; prepare your garden; plant and nurture your plants; and harvest tasty tomatoes of your own this summer. April 6 (Saturday), 10:30 am-12:00 pm, Burke Library April 9 (Tuesday), 7:00-8:30 pm, Westover Library Grow Your Own Herbal Teas Enjoy creating your own herbal tea garden! Bring the flavor, health, beauty and convenience of homegrown herbs to your teatime. Our simple DIY techniques will show you how to plant, care for and harvest herbs that thrive in our area — in a garden or in containers — for flavorful teas with minimal time and effort. April 27 (Saturday), 10:30 am-12:00 pm, Barrett Library April 30 (Tuesday), 7:00-8:30 pm, Shirlington Library Container Gardening for Food, Fun and Beauty Learn how to grow edible and ornamental plants in containers on your porch, deck, balcony or patio. This workshop will cover soil, containers, maintenance and selection of suitable plants. May 11 (Saturday), 10:30 am-12:00 pm, Burke Library May 21 (Tuesday), 7:00-8:30 pm, Westover Library ______________________________________________ Attend one class or the series! Classes are free of charge and open to the public. Advance registration is requested at under Events. Questions: call 703-228-6414 or email Sponsored by: Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia and Virginia Cooperative Extension


Posted in Public Education, Urban Agriculture