Winter Newsletter 2024 Edith J. Carrier Arboretum at James Madison University

Celebrating 35 Years in 2024!

Dear Friends of the Arboretum,

There is much to celebrate this year as the Arboretum recognizes its arrival into full adulthood as an open-to-the-public garden for 35 years and as a woodland sanctuary for countless creatures who make their home in the various habitats here and have for over 100 years. We also celebrate this community forest as an educational facility that serves the community, young and old, to bring the natural world into focus for a deeper look within. This year our theme is Restoration, Resilience, and Reciprocity.....Seeding the Next 35 Years! We have plans to create many more planted areas and places that you can visit while here. Look for our Great Garden Giveback Campaign mailing to come this month and see how you can support more habitat creation and natural beauty this year.

It is with bittersweet feelings that I announce my retirement from JMU and the Arboretum this spring, on May 1st. It comes as a surprise for all of us here as there are so many projects in the works planned for our 35th year. And though challenging for every one of us to adjust to the passing of the torch I'm fully confident that myself and staff will figure out how to manage and do the best that we can to plan for the year ahead. Part-time staff and volunteers have already been wonderfully gracious in offering their help and support to see us through a new cycle, thank you!

It has been an honor to serve here in the role of Arboretum Director and I am grateful for the many opportunities to develop, improve, and steward this beloved woodland sanctuary for the last 16.5 years. It has been a joy to see so many people discover the Arboretum and enjoy the trails and gardens here over the years! And to continue operating as a free-and-open-to-the-public facility, 365 days/year is equally as wonderful. The community is lucky to have this green space as an all-season community forest and public garden. And travelers who pass through here are wonderfully grateful for our presence too, as they travel from all parts of the US, and some internationally who find themselves here exploring and discovering with delight and appreciation.

You, and so many Friends of the Arboretum having been involved along the way, have made working here an uplifting and enriching experience while you shared in the vision and mission here. Without the support from JMU staff and the donors, as vision holders and way makers, the contractors who constructed and installed new features, the volunteers who carry out programs and upkeep, and finally, the community who enjoy the spaces and learn so much from them, it never would have been possible to bring the Arboretum to where it is today. Nature, as well, has done much of the work to continue growing evermore complex over the decades and sustaining so much more life here, never ceasing, while only growing more beautiful with age. I give thanks to everyone who’s had a hand in the work here, including Nature, and will surely miss following the seasons as they come and go each year. May the Arboretum become more complex in its diversity of abundant life, become evermore magnificent with age, and continue providing its many services and programs to all of the abundant creatures who traverse the understory here throughout the seasons.

Please keep loving the spaces and places here and keep loving those who make it all possible!

In gratitude and in awe of this woodland,

Jan Sievers Mahon, Arboretum Director

"We need joy as we need air. We need love as we need water. We need each other as we need the earth we share." - Maya Angelou

18th Annual Litten Lecture

Environmental Education in Action!

Our education team was extremely active this fall pursuing our educational mission with lots of help from students, volunteers, and community organizations. Here are some highlights:

This fall we brought the Project Wild and Aquatic Wild workshops to over 150 JMU pre-service teachers in hopes of strengthening their future practice as educators and to increase their knowledge and familiarity with environmental topics and outdoor education. Besides experience working with particular activities, the students also received a set of resource books with outstanding lesson plans, courtesy of the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.

Meaningful Watershed Education Experience (MWEE)

We partnered with Harrisonburg City Public Schools to develop an inaugural Meaningful Watershed Education Experience for the entire Harrisonburg 4th grade. With a lot of help from long-time arboretum volunteers such as Mary Handley and Dave Forrer, Ali Sloop of the JMU Stormwater Team, the Shenandoah Soil and Water Conservation District, and new partners from Virginia Headwaters Master Naturalists, Harrisonburg Education Foundation, and the JMU Roop Learning Community, we hosted one school a day over six days.

Students participated in a kinesthetic activity modeling run-off, enjoyed seeing sources of water pollution in the Freddy the Fish demonstration, took a tour of the arboretum watershed as a habitat, learned about the role of plants in slowing down run-off and erosion, and saw how rain barrels can conserve run-off.

Dave Forrer, Master Naturalist and long-time volunteer at the Arboretum, leads students on an exploration of habitat connected to the watershed.

Students completed a LEGO design challenge to minimize run-off in a model community using the principles learned that day.

Teachers followed up back at school with an outdoor exploration of their schoolyards for run-off sources and a brainstorm of ways to minimize run-off at school.

Harvest Festival

Our 2023 Harvest Fest engaged over 400 community members and over 100 student and community volunteers for a great day of fun and learning. JMU student organizations like the Mycology Club, the Beekeeping Club; local organizations like Chess at 3 and the Explore More Discovery Museum, and Virginia Master Gardeners all pitched in with educational activities to augment our natural fun like bird watching and leaf pile jumping!

Virginia Master Naturalists educated students about the invasive Spotted Lanternfly.

A JMU student volunteer enjoys helping participants bird watch!

Staff from the Explore More Discovery Museum and JMU student volunteers help children make "bee buzzers."

Reading Roost Visitation Statistics

The Little Free Library at the Reading Roost has a guestbook for visitors to sign. Since the guestbook went in last August, we had nearly 150 individuals or groups take the time to sign it. Of those who provided their zip codes:

Check out our map of Reading Roost guestbook visitor locations!

42% were from Harrisonburg City or Rockingham County

33% were from elsewhere in Virginia

23% were from other places in the United States

2% were international visitors

History in the Making

You may have seen on the news and heard about the historic hatching of two cicada broods at once this spring. This will be the first time in 221 years that they've emerged together. For context, that last emergence would have overlapped with Jefferson's presidency. Sounds like a huge event for some areas! According to the map below and everywhere else that we checked, only a small area of southern Virginia will be affected. Don't be confused by the Roman numerals that show XIX as Brood 13 and XIII as Brood 17. They are indicated correctly on the map.

By Andrew M. Liebhold, Michael J. Bohne, and Rebecca L. Lilja (USDA Forest Service)

Within each brood hatch, there are multiple species that will hatch for both broods. There are 190 species found in North America alone and over 3,000 species found worldwide. The periodical cicadas often have red eyes and orange wings. It will be interesting to see if the two broods overlap and create a whole new cross-breed that could be created this year. Did you know: the sound of each species is unique to its hum! It is only the males who create sound to attract females. The males have sound boxes in their abdomens and the hotter the day the louder their sound.

Anyway, Virginia is not caught in the cross-hairs of this year's hatching. Virginia will continue to get the annual cicada emergence just as we do every year.

Cicada photo by JanetandPhil via Flickr

A Climate in Flux

How the New Hardiness Zones Could Impact Us?

The USDA's Plant Hardiness Zone Map is an invaluable resource for gardeners, farmers, and conservationists alike. For the first time since 2012, the United States Department of Agriculture has released an updated map that shows the culmination of average annual temperatures from 1991 to 2020.

The most notable aspect of this new map, in addition to a new 13th zone, is that most places in the US have shifted by 1 half zone. This includes Virginia! Take a look at the map below to see if can spot any differences in your city. Has it changed much? How so and could this mean for your native ecosystem?

A breakdown of the new hardiness zones across Virginia

Bonsai Club Begins!

Welcome, Ivy Makia!

Ivy Makia, PR/Marketing Specialist

Ivy Makia recently joined our Arboretum team as the PR/Marketing Specialist for the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum. A Florida native, Ivy has spent the better part of 5 years working as a native plant horticulturist around West Virginia and Virginia. When she's not gardening or painting, Ivy loves to cuddle with her fur babies and put on her favorite TV show.

Join Us for a Day of Birding Programs!

Upcoming Events

WonderCraft: Snowflakes

February 12th at 12:00 pm (Rockingham County)

February 19th at 12:00 pm (Harrisonburg City, Augusta, Page, & Shenandoah County)

On your division's planned day off, we invite you and your elementary and older-aged students to a paper snowflake workshop at the Arboretum.

We’ll meet in the Frances Plecker Education Center to share the true story of Snowflake Bentley and take a closer look at the fascinating structure of snow. Then we’ll enjoy making our own paper snowflakes to brighten up a winter wonderland. Whether you’re a beginner or have made entire blizzards before, we’ll have suggestions and instructions to step up your paper snowflake skills!

Winter Craft Night: Snowflakes & Valentines

February 12th at 6:30 am to 8:00 pm

Join us for our winter craft night making paper snowflakes and Valentine's Day art! We’ll be warm inside at the Frances Plecker Education Center. We invite everyone in the JMU community to embrace their inner kid and indulge in crafts, cookies, and hot cocoa! Bring your boo or your buddy. All are welcome!

Vermicomposting Workshop

March 30th at 3 pm

Photo by Kyle Spradley | © 2014 - Curators of the University of Missouri

Learn to “farm” indoors or outdoors with worms to produce nutrient-rich compost from your kitchen scraps. The Virginia Master Gardeners will teach us how to create and maintain a worm composter while saving money, improving the environment, and having fun! You will be able to see active worm bins; handouts will be available.

This workshop is free, but participants have the option of making their own composting set-up to take home for a fee of $12 for adults, $7 for kids.

Learning about Bats and Owls

More to come in 2024!

An observant crowd gathered around the pond waiting for the bats to emerge.

Our Bat Emergence night this fall drew a huge crowd—stay tuned for an entire series of opportunities to monitor the bats this coming summer. Another well-attended program was hosted by long-time friend of the Arboretum and Augusta Bird Club president, Rich Wood. Rich entertained and educated an excited gang with owl facts, fun, and calls before we went out on an owl prowl. While the owls didn’t want to show themselves that evening, we all enjoyed learning about them.

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