The Quarry Gardens’ 40 acres are buffered by a 400-acre Virginia Outdoors conservation easement. That land includes three forest community types fronting the Rockfish River, where Devin Floyd, of the Center for Urban Habitats, led a survey team of six in August.
Above is a Rough green snake, Opheodrys aestivus, having its portrait made by Theo Staengl. The green snake was one of nine reptiles or amphibians observed in the two-day survey. The survey team also included field technicians/photographers Ezra Staengl, Drew Chaney, Olivia Lewis, and Emily Luebke.
The forest community types—Acidic Cliffs, Hemlock-Hardwood Bluffs, and Boulderfield Forest—are steep and generally north-facing. They host a number of plant species more typical of the Appalachian mountains to the west, only rarely found and poorly documented in the Piedmont.
These images by Devin show a section of the cliffs from below and above (the tiny blue dot on the left side of the lower right photo is one of the crew). At top left, the Smooth solomon’s seal, Polygonatum biflorum, caught by Ezra reveals seldom-seen seeds where twin white flowers bloomed in April.
The hemlock forest is ranked S1 (critically imperiled) by Virginia DCR’s Natural Heritage Division, in part because it requires very specific conditions—north-facing steep bluffs fronting a stream—and because the introduced Hemlock woolly adelgids, Adelges tsugae, (at right, photographed by Emily) are killing the trees. At center bottom, Ezra is checking out animal hair caught on a fallen log. Above, Theo’s photo shows that where trees fall, mushrooms abound. The hemlock forest on its west side includes Chestnut oaks and shortleaf pines more than 200 years old. Ground level plants found here include Trailing arbutus, Partridgeberry, and Hay-scented fern.
The acidic Boulderfield forest, estimated at 90-120 years old, is dominated by a canopy of Umbrella magnolia and Red maple with large colonies of evergreen Intermediate woodfern on the floor—and little in between. Native Red mulberry and Ilex montana (normally a mountain species) were noted in the survey plot and Pinxterbloom azalea and hybrid Highbush blueberry outside of it. Note the tiny surveyer in blue at lower left; photo by Devin.
For the record
Thirty species of birds were noted including the Worm-eating warbler, above, along with Hooded warbler, Black-and-white warbler, Louisiana waterthrush, and the first Great egret seen on the property.
Fourteen species of Odonata were observed, including the uncommon Tiger spiketail, above, a secretive species that breeds in forested seeps and streams, photographed by Theo. Though butterflies prefer open sunny areas to forests, nevertheless, six species were observed, including the uncommon Gemmed satyr. Six moth species were also observed.
The surveys captured a number of species new to the property record, and one—Kral’s sedge, Carex kraliana—county first.