For the Love of a Tree in Mount Vernon

For the Love of a Tree in Mount Vernon

It is hard to imagine living anywhere else as beautiful as here in Virginia. One of the reasons it is so gorgeous is that we have many and varied native trees, especially our big deciduous trees with all the leaves. Indeed, soon the tree leaves will turn bright reds, burnt orange, and mellow yellows, to name a few fun fall colors. Many of us will be drawn to the forests for hikes and nature walks, and possibly a visit to Skyline Drive for the fall foliage. We have 41 pristine state parks filled with birds, turtles, foxes, and all manner of interesting wildlife. Here in our region, we have Huntley Meadows, the biggest and best Fairfax County park, and many smaller parks throughout our community. To top it off we have the picturesque Potomac River and the federal George Washington Memorial Parkway and bike path that runs along it from Mount Vernon to Old Town. Yet, it is our trees that really capture our imagination and do so much to protect our environment. It is these majestic, slow-growing, oldest living organisms on Earth, that bring us untold benefits that we must protect. It really is up to us as individuals to do our part to save our trees. This is a good week to start as it is the best time to plant young saplings, especially after all the rain we have had recently. Last week was Native Trees Week here in the Commonwealth and there are many ways to celebrate native trees and many online resources available to help us.

It is no coincidence that you may be viewing numerous advertisements for garden sales. This cool weather really makes it an ideal time for planting. The native ones are the best as they are easier to grow, require less water, and are a breeding habitat and food source for all manner of birds and animals. And, if you are looking for particular trees you can contact garden centers to order them and have them delivered to you. I use Campbell & Ferrara Nurseries, located locally on Richmond Highway across the street from the Gerry Hyland Government Center. They have a good selection of native plants and will do as much of the work as you need, from designing your garden to the plantings themselves.

There is also a native tree campaign happening here in our region to educate residents about the importance of native trees and how you can support this effort. There is no shortage of ways you can get involved and you can learn more at their website at

Planting trees is just one way in which to promote native trees. There are many of our neighbors who are tree rescuers volunteering in our parks to remove invasive plants – some that literally strangle our trees, like English ivy, which really should be banned. You can join groups like I have, including the Friends of Dyke Marsh, during their weekly efforts to control the invasive weeds threatening our trees. You can help them on any of these upcoming dates: Oct. 8 and 22, Nov. 5 and 19, and Dec. 3 and 17 at 10 a.m. at the Haul Road Trail entrance bulletin board and bench. Wear long sleeves and sturdy shoes to avoid poison ivy and insects. They will provide the rest. You can sign up by sending an email to and put “Invasive Plants” in the subject line. You will quickly become an expert at identifying the invasives. Arguably, it is even more important to do this than it is to plant young saplings, as a mature tree is far more beneficial to our health in its carbon sequestration, stormwater capture, and the shade it provides us.

Finally, nothing is more heartbreaking than to see perfectly healthy, mature trees being cut down for new construction or because a homeowner is worried about it falling on the house. It is far better to keep those trees as it adds value to the property and future owners will be glad for the shade they provide and the impact that has on reducing their air conditioning costs in the summer as it keeps the house cooler. An arborist can tell you if your tree is at risk of falling and options for mitigation.

Finally, look out for my upcoming town meeting to discuss saving our tree canopy and what may be happening to our oak trees, sometime in the near future with Sen. Scott Surovell. We hope to see you there and work together to care for our trees as they have been caring for us, the planet, and its inhabitants for millions of years.