Quercus Circle and Radiant Floor

Quercus Circle and Radiant Floor

July 30, 2016.

The Center for Urban Habitats finished surveying biota in the magnolia-pawpaw loop east of the quarries in mid-July. Among discoveries, a rare Piedmont hardpan ecosystem and large colonies of maidenhair fern. The report will be forthcoming.

In the meantime, planting in the galleries has continued much later than expected because—except for a dry patch in late July—we’ve had more rain than expected. A few notes from Devin:

Rachel and Jessie will be installing 250 Zizia aptera (Heart-leaved Golden Alexanders) in the Quercus circle (in the parking lot) today. This plant comes with a big benefit—it is a host plant for the black swallowtail (the featured photo shows the caterpillar snacking on one of our Zizia plugs). Many people plant Queen Anne’s lace, fennel, or other non-native carrot family species in their butterfly gardens to attract black swallowtails. Well, here’s a paramount example of one of the many native species that that butterfly utilizes. 

Here’s the Golden Alexander in full bloom.



(Continuing . . . ) Expect Rudbeckia fulgida to give you a tremendous show in the Quercus circle beginning next week.

Among the newest arrivals will be hundreds of bluestem goldenrod and a hundred marginal wood fern. Around 500 little bluestem will arrive in a few days. 

 The nodding onion left of the viewing platform is glorious, and the prairie wedgegrass and poverty oat grass seeded last fall has launched from the surface of that clayey heavy metal soil. It’s quite amazing. 

 A glorious specimen of Sabatia angularis (rose pink; identified on survey last year) is blooming in the lower-left area of the Prairie. We must overseed this biennial in the fall. It will take two years to produce flowers, but when it does, it will be a late July show of color that no visitor will soon forget.
sabatia angularis - 1                    Sabatia angularis_2


(Finally . . . ) The pollinator diversity and richness on the mountainmints (both short-toothed and hoary) around the viewing platform is impressive. Look for American lady, red-banded hairstreak, and juniper hairstreak presently, as they are fond of these Pycnanthemums.

OTHER NEWS—Visitor’s Center Development Continues Apace

This first picture shows the rebar pattern over which the heating tubes will be laid for our solar-powered radiant floor.



The second shows the rebar the heating tubes, and the beginning of the concrete pour.



The last shows the concrete being finished.

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New Discoveries

New Discoveries

July 14, 2016 (Allons enfants!)–

For the Quarry Gardens site, we have a preliminary report on the June 4 survey by members of the Virginia Herpetological Society noting 50 animals of 16 species.  Those already familiar to us include: Northern Cricket Frog, American Toad, Bullfrog, Eastern Fence Lizard, Eastern Ratsnake, Common Five-lined Skink, Gray Treefrog, Eastern River Cooter, Green Frog, Northern Ring-necked Snake, Fowler’s Toad, Eastern Box Turtle. New to us: Eastern Wormsnake, Eastern Red-spotted Newt, Three-lined Salamander, Northern Dusky Salamander—and several Little Brown Skinks (Scincella lateralis), a new county record for Nelson County. The final report will be in the fall issue of the peer-reviewed journal Catesbeiana. Here is the herp group at the viewing platform:

HerpsGroup6.16 - 1


Here are some of the things they found, including a fence lizard, a five-lined skink, and a little ringneck snake.

fence_lizard          five-lined_skink          Herps.ringneck- 1


Devin is continuing to catalog plants around the quarries. His report on the parking lot area, highlighted in the featured image, above, noted:

“We’ve had our eyes on the largest parking lot island (southernmost) since the onset of the project. We hypothesized that the area contained the remains of a well-developed ultramafic woodland, with an impacted shrub layer. . . . If you will walk around this island you will see an unbelievable array of rushes, sedges, and good herbaceous perennials intermingled with a textbook assemblage of mafic woodland woody vines, shrubs, and trees. We would like to give this area further study. . . . I estimate that there are probably 25-50 species of flora in there that are new to the Quarry’s list of biota. The most notable characteristic is that the giant island is nearly 100% free of non-native exotic species. It’s green with natives that love that base-rich, magnesium-rich substrate.”

On the domestic scene (at our house) today: garter snake under a tomato plant, and a black rat snake stalking eggs (unsuccessfully) in the chicken house.

Progress continues in the admin building, of which more in the next post.