The Preserve at Bull Run Mountains's Journal

January 12, 2021

Observation Highlight of the Week: Kalmia latifolia

Observational Highlight #6: Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel)
Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve



Happy New Year all!

December flew by a bit more expeditiously than I was expecting, so I will be covering the remaining EZ-2-ID plants of December in this new year :)

To start off 2021 we will be diving into one of my favorite plants of the Appalachians - the mountain laurel! It may be better known by you botanist types as Kalmia latifolia , and is a close relative of our last observational highlight, the spotted wintergreen.

Now before we jump into that relationship, let's thank iNat user and friend of the preserve @saucierj for his amazing observations of our flowering mountain laurel from last summer. This project is driven by all those curious individuals utilizing the iNaturalist application to learn more about the world around them, or those just wanting to share the extraordinary beauty that can be found along one's journey through the woods. Every observation uploaded from the preserve allows us to better understand the biodiversity that is contained within this unique ecosystem, and what organisms you all find to be interesting enough to photograph.

But now let's dig into this amazing plant.

The mountain laurel is one of my favorite species on the preserve and also one of its most recognizable! This broadleaf evergreen species is closely related to last week's observational highlight, being within the family Ericaceae. However, it might be more familiar to gardeners as a member of the genus Rhododendron . While the mountain laurel isn't displaying its beautiful floral display at this time of year, the acute, entire waxy leaves are very distinct among the relatively whimsical oak and beech leaves of the preserve's south section trails.

For those unfamiliar with leaf identification, the woody stem of the plant can offer a quick giveaway. The twisting shape and flaky bark tend to stick out among the tree seedlings and bramble that also occupies the understory. While you may encounter a stray mountain laurel in certain areas of the preserve, the plant is usually "shoulder to shoulder" with its fellow laurel. These groups of laurel can be hard to miss among the dreary browns and greys of winter.


ABOUT #BullRunMountainsNaturalPreserve
The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serve as a living laboratory that sits in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a natural area preserve to protect the unique ecosystems found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the special ecosystem found here and sharing it with the public through managed access.

Follow us on Social Media!
Instagram: @bullrunmountains
Facebook: Virginia Outdoors Foundation (Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve)
Our website: VOF RESERVES: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve
Meetup Events: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Guided Hikes Group

Posted on January 12, 2021 22:28 by mjwcarr mjwcarr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 02, 2020

Observation Highlight of the Week: Chimaphila maculata

Observational Highlight #5: Chimaphila maculata (Spotted Wintergreen)
Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve



It's December already? Wow, this year has flown by!

It might be raining like April, but winter is right around the corner. To celebrate the soon-to-be changing seasons we will be focusing on preserve species that will be easy to spot and identify!

This week's observational highlight is Chimaphila maculata, or the spotted wintergreen! This individual was observed by preserve visitor and citizen scientist Susan Parent (iNat user @susanparent) last December! Thank you Susan for uploading your observations from your visit :)

Also referred to as striped wintergreen, the spotted wintergreen is a small perennial evergreen that can be found along the trails throughout the preserve. The species is adapted to growing in relatively infertile, acidic soil which is the common substrate in the rocky terrain of the Bull Run Mountains. The species belongs to the family Ericaceae, which includes blueberries, huckleberries, and rhododendrons. This family is remarkably well represented along the ridges and hollows of the preserve.

Among the blanket of dead leaves of the forest floor, you will likely find the small green leaves of the spotted wintergreen. Their distinctive white-veined leaves and red stems make them easy to identify once you've picked them out from the groundcover.

A dot of green is always a welcome change from the brown and orange of winter, so keep those peepers primed! There is always green to be had as long as you look. That lack of color can deter many of us from exploring the outdoors, but there is always something new to stumble across outdoors!


ABOUT #BullRunMountainsNaturalPreserve
The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. The Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serve as a living laboratory that sits in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a natural area preserve to protect the unique ecosystems found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the special ecosystem found here and sharing it with the public through managed access.

Follow us on Social Media!
Instagram: @bullrunmountains
Facebook: Virginia Outdoors Foundation (Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve)
Our website: VOF RESERVES: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve
Meetup Events: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Guided Hikes Group

Posted on December 02, 2020 13:51 by mjwcarr mjwcarr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 25, 2020

Observation Highlight of the Week: Calostoma lutescens

Observational Highlight #4: Calostoma lutescens (Calostoma)
Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve



This week's highlight is of the collared calostoma (Calostoma lutescens, oh how I love it when common and scientific names overlap) observed by preserve visitor and iNatuarlist user @pgwamsley

This remarkable looking fungus was observed just about two months ago on our south section trails. This isn't to say that the opportunity to see them has passed. Just last week another cluster of collared calostoma was observed by @sammie10 ; You can view her observation here.

But let's start digging into what this peeled orange of a mushroom really is!

The collared calostoma is a member of the gasteroid fungi which is characterized by producing spores inside of their fruiting bodies, as opposed to on external structures like the gilled mushrooms. Now, the taxonomy of fungi, or even mushrooms, is something of a wonder in itself. The taxonomic history of this species has been spicy with revisions moving it across classes. The species is currently suspected to be evolutionarily related to the Boletales clade of mushrooms, which include more commonly recognized "mushroom" forms.

The species is Mycorrhizal, or rather in a mutually symbiotic relationship, with oaks. They can grow along or gregariously, such as in the illustrated in our observation here! They are distributed across the eastern United States from Arkansas to Massachusetts, and specifically abundant in the southern Appalachians. As appetizing as the fried egg look-alike mushroom is, it isn't considered edible.

Thanks again to all our visitors who continue to document the amazing diversity our natural area preserve protects!


ABOUT #BullRunMountainsNaturalPreserve
The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. The Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serve as a living laboratory that sits in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a natural area preserve to protect the unique ecosystems found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the special ecosystem found here and sharing it with the public through managed access.

Follow us on Social Media!
Instagram: @bullrunmountains
Facebook: Virginia Outdoors Foundation (Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve)
Our website: VOF RESERVES: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve
Meetup Events: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Guided Hikes Group

Posted on November 25, 2020 20:04 by mjwcarr mjwcarr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 19, 2020

Observation Highlight of the Week: Goodyera pubescens

Observational Highlight #3: Goodyera pubescens (Downey Ratlesnake Plantain)
Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve



This week's highlight is the downy rattlesnake plantain ( or Goodyera pubescens) which was observed by @mjwcarr back in August.

This species is currently the most commonly observed orchid species here at the preserve. Its silver-reticulated evergreen leaves make it an easy thing to see during the winter - so keep an eye out! The orchid prefers dry to moist, acidic soils in upland habitats, the typical habitat through many areas of the preserve. The colloquial name rattlesnake comes from the interlaced pattern of the leaves which roughly resemble the scales of its snake namesake. The entire plant is also covered in short, very fine downy hairs that can be hard to miss without a close inspection.

Despite the name, the rattlesnake plantain should not get confused with the garden variety plantain that many consider weeds (that is the greater, American, and ribwort plantain). This is a real deal orchid, and so proper excitement should be exhibited whenever one is spotted! According to the USDA plant fact sheet (just google the reference below), the rattlesnake plantain was used by indigenous peoples to treat snakebites, burns, and other ailments.

Please be sure to share any observations you come across here on iNaturalist!


ABOUT #BullRunMountainsNaturalPreserve
The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. The Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serve as a living laboratory that sits in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a natural area preserve to protect the unique ecosystems found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the special ecosystem found here and sharing it with the public through managed access.

Follow us on Social Media!
Instagram: @bullrunmountains
Facebook: Virginia Outdoors Foundation (Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve)
Our website: VOF RESERVES: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve
Meetup Events: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Guided Hikes Group

Posted on November 19, 2020 03:19 by mjwcarr mjwcarr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 10, 2020

Observation Highlight of the Week: Opheodrys aestivus

Observational Highlight #2: Opheodrys aestivus (Rough Greensnake)
Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve



Rough Greensnake (Opheodrys aestivus) observed by @jvillari

This gorgeous snake was found during an inventory and photographic documentation project underway at one of our cultural heritage properties. Also known as the grass snake, it’s easy to see where it gets its namesake. This nonvenomous colubrid, or constrictor, is a connoisseur of terrestrial arthropods and is likely to be found in moist, open woodlands and grasslands (they are particularly partial to spiders for all you arachnophobes). They are also one of the most arboreal snakes in our region, meaning they spend a considerable amount of time above ground in trees and shrubs.

The rough greensnake can be found in suitable habitat throughout the southeastern United States. On closer inspection, you’ll find that it gets its name “rough” from the keeled or ridged scales along its body (see picture two for a better look!).

Unfortunately, many of our snakes are misunderstood and frequently find themselves facing misplaced hate. Snakes play a vital role in our ecosystem as managers of “pest” animals like rats, arthropods, and even other snakes. Killing snakes is also illegal within the state of Virginia, and in the majority of cases unneeded. Please be considerate of our limbless neighbors and give nature its due respect and admiration.


ABOUT #BullRunMountainsNaturalPreserve
The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. The Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serve as a living laboratory that sits in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a natural area preserve to protect the unique ecosystems found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the special ecosystem found here and sharing it with the public through managed access.

Follow us on Social Media!
Instagram: @bullrunmountains
Facebook: Virginia Outdoors Foundation (Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve)
Our website: VOF RESERVES: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve
Meetup Events: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Guided Hikes Group

Posted on November 10, 2020 03:07 by mjwcarr mjwcarr | 2 comments | Leave a comment

November 05, 2020

Observation Highlight of the Week: Heterocampa umbrata

Observational Highlight #1: Heterocampa umbrata (White-blotched heterocampa)
Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve



White-blotched Heterocampa Moth (Heterocampa umbrata) observed by @saucierj

Sometimes vast beauty can come in small sizes. That’s exactly the case with this White-blotched Heterocampa moth caterpillar (quite the name right?). This moth caterpillar belongs to the Family Notodontidae or the prominent moths. Their namesake, prominent, comes from the tufts of long “hairs” trailing along the edges of their forewings. Adult prominent moths are typically unassuming in appearance humbly displaying a drab blend of tans and browns. However, many of the caterpillars from this family are anything but modest.

Boasting a veritable wardrobe of bold bands, slick stripes, zigzags patterns, and in some species bear bizarre body bits to mimic twisting twigs, foliage, and partially eaten leaves. Besides having a bit of a flare most prominent moth caterpillars are picky eaters restricting their diet to a single family of woody plants.

We have an abundance of Lepidoptera (moth and butterfly) species along the bull run mountain range and are always excited to see a new species added to our biological index!


ABOUT #BullRunMountainsNaturalPreserve
The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. The Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serve as a living laboratory that sits in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a natural area preserve to protect the unique ecosystems found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the special ecosystem found here and sharing it with the public through managed access.

Follow us on Social Media!
Instagram: @bullrunmountains
Facebook: Virginia Outdoors Foundation (Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve)
Our website: VOF RESERVES: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve
Meetup Events: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Guided Hikes Group

Posted on November 05, 2020 20:37 by mjwcarr mjwcarr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Archives