WVU Core Arboretum News & Notes
Free, guided walks begin April 9 at WVU Core Arboretum
February 23, 2017
Spring will soon be here! Mark your calendars for the WVU Department of Biology spring ephemeral wildflower walks and the Mountaineer Audubon spring bird walks. These free, guided tours are a spring tradition at the WVU Core Arboretum. The wildflower walks will happen on three Sundays in April (April 9, 16, 23) at 2 pm. The bird walks will be the last Tuesday in April and the first two Tuesdays in May (April 25 and May 2, 9) at 7:30 am. All tours will meet in the Arboretum parking lot. Additional free parking is available at the nearby WVU Coliseum. No reservations are needed. Dress appropriately for the weather and for hiking.
by Zach Fowler
Pawpaw Parties at WVU Core Arboretum!
September 24, 2016
Come to WVU Core Arboretum to taste pawpaws! The pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is the largest fruit native to West Virginia. Pawpaws have a luscious, tropical flavor that some describe as a combination of banana, mango, and pineapple and a smooth, creamy texture. Pawpaws ripen in Fall, and the Arboretum’s trees are starting to produce enough ripe fruit to gather. Pawpaw Parties will be on Thursday evenings from 5:30 to 7:00, or while supplies last!
A table will be set up in the lawn area at the Arboretum, and all are welcome to stop by and try a pawpaw. Literature about pawpaws and how to grow the pawpaw seeds that will be left after trying the fruit will also be available. Depending on how long the pawpaw season lasts, we will try to host several Pawpaw Parties. Pay attention to the Calendar of Events section of this webpage for more details. Pawpaw Parties are free and open to all.
by Zach Fowler
Coming Soon Pawpaw Parties at WVU Core Arboretum!
Come to the WVU Core Arboretum to taste pawpaws! The pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is the largest fruit native to West Virginia. Pawpaws have a very luscious, tropical flavor that some describe as a combination of banana, mango, and pineapple and a smooth, creamy texture. Pawpaws ripen in Autumn, and the Arboretum’s trees should soon produce enough ripe fruit to gather. Our first Pawpaw Party will likely be in a week or so. We will have pawpaws to taste and information about pawpaws and how to plant pawpaw seeds. Pawpaw Parties are free and open to all. Stay posted for more details!
by Zach Fowler
Announcing: WVU Core Arboretum Work Day Wednesdays!
The WVU Core Arboretum is starting a volunteer work program—Work Day Wednesdays. Volunteers help keep the Arboretum beautiful, and you can be a part of the crew each Wednesday, starting on August 31, from 4-7 pm! We will work on trails, do invasive species removal, clean drainage channels, maintain lawn areas, etc. The program is open to all. It is hard work, but good exercise, and it is much appreciated by the Arboretum’s many users. Interested volunteers should email Zach Fowler (firstname.lastname@example.org) to schedule a time slot, and register on iServe. There is a limit on the number of volunteers that we can accommodate each day, but the program will be ongoing. Volunteers will meet near the Arboretum parking lot. Volunteers should wear closed toe shoes, long pants, and clothes that are okay to get dirty. The event will be cancelled if the weather is dangerous.
by Zach Fowler
Graduate Student Research at WVU Core Arboretum
How does wildlife adapt to urban areas? This is one of the major questions for my dissertation research at West Virginia University. The secretive and elusive Cooper’s hawk was once only seen in dense forested areas but is a now a common visitor in our backyards and city parks. This makes this bird an ideal candidate for understanding how species are adapting to urban environments. For my research, I have been taking genetic samples from Cooper’s hawks all across the country to compare those that nest in urban areas to those that nest in more traditional forested areas. The Arboretum has been home to a few different species of birds of prey including red-tailed hawks, barred owls, and Cooper’s hawks. In at least the last two summers, a breeding pair of Cooper’s hawks have chosen the Arboretum as the best place to raise their young, and I was lucky enough to catch these birds to collect genetic samples for my research (the birds were released unharmed back to their nest). Using these samples, I hope to get a better understanding of how the genes of wildlife change as a result of living in close proximity to humans. The Arboretum is home to dozens of species of wildlife, including the Cooper’s hawk, which makes this place an important safe haven in an urban jungle.
by Meghan Jensen
Meghan Jensen is a Ph.D. candidate in the Wildlife and Fisheries Program of the WVU Division of Forestry and Natural Resources.
WVU Core Arboretum Magicicada Festival Successful
Thanks to all who visited the WVU Core Arboretum for the Magicicada Festival on Saturday, May 28, and thanks, especially, to the volunteers that made it happen (including the chefs)! More than 70 people came to the morning events, and well over 300 people came to the afternoon events! It was wonderful to see so many members of the community come out to an educational event and actively engage with science and the University. Participants learned about cicada biology and ecology, watched talks on current cicada research, did cicada-related arts and crafts activities, and ate cicadas prepared by great local chefs! People also got to see plenty of cicadas and learn how to tell the different species apart. It was a celebration of cicadas! If you have not gotten to see or hear the cicadas yet, there are still plenty of them at the Arboretum, and there will be for a few more weeks! They are even chorusing in the bushes around the parking lot today.
WVU Core Arboretum Spring Nature Walk Report
The WVU Department of Biology Spring Ephemeral Wildflower Walks and Mountaineer Audubon Spring Bird Walks at the WVU Core Arboretum were a success this year! In the course of three wildflower walks and four bird walks, over 45 species of plants were seen in bloom and over 70 bird species were seen and/or heard. We had great participation from community members and students, also! It seemed like everyone really enjoyed themselves, including the guides, and hopefully everyone learned something new. Most of the spring flowers are gone now, but the summer flowers are just getting started, and many of the birds will be here and singing for most of the summer. Come visit!by Zach Fowler
WVU Core Arboretum/WVU Herbarium 2016 Newsletters
Graduate student research at WVU Core Arboretum
As part of my research with the West Virginia Climate History Project, I am monitoring the wildflowers in the Arboretum to determine how long the flowers are in bloom. I will be monitoring bloodroot, trout lily, and cutleaf toothwort, which are wildflowers that bloom for a very short amount of time. I am also interested in learning how elevation in the Arboretum affects when the flowers bloom. This is part of a bigger research question that addresses how wildflowers are responding to a warming climate. If spring is coming earlier than it did 100 years ago, then how are the plants and animals responding? By studying spring wildflower blooming and bird migration in our backyards, we can better understand the future of ecosystems in the face of a changing climate.
by Lori Petrauski
Lori Petrauski is a graduate student and Graduate Teaching Assistant in the WVU Division of Forestry and Natural Resources.
Free, guided walks begin April 10 at WVU Core Arboretum
Spring is here! Mark your calendars for the WVU Department of Biology spring ephemeral wildflower walks and the Mountaineer Audubon spring bird walks. These free, guided tours are a spring tradition at the WVU Core Arboretum. The wildflower walks will happen the last three Sundays in April (April 10, 17, 24) at 2 p.m. The bird walks will be the last two Tuesdays in April and the first two Tuesdays in May (April 19, 26 and May 3, 10) at 7:30 a.m. All tours will meet in the Arboretum parking lot. Additional free parking is available at the nearby WVU Coliseum. No reservations are needed. Dress appropriately for the weather and for hiking.
by Zach Fowler
Spring cleaning at WVU Core Arboretum
Volunteers from WVU Sierra Student Coalition, WVU Climbing Club, and a few who found us through the new WVU iServe helped with some spring cleaning at the Arboretum. They picked up lots of trash from along the banks of the Monongahela River on Saturday, March 5! We do not have a user-generated litter problem here at the Arboretum, but the river continually deposits trash along its banks. This clean up is an annual task, unfortunately. Volunteers help keep the Arboretum beautiful!
by Zach Fowler
WVU Student Sierra Coalition volunteers at WVU Core Arboretum
Witch hazel blooming at WVU Core Arboretum
October 30, 2015
Just in time for Halloween, the native witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is blooming at WVU Core Arboretum! Witch hazel is a shrub or small, crooked tree native to much of Eastern US. The native witch hazel blooms in autumn, after most leaves have fallen, and its flowers have a light, pleasant smell. Witch hazel is known for its ballistic seed dispersal, in which its seed pods burst open and launch its seeds up to 30 feet from the parent plant. It also commonly host to some fascinating aphid leaf galls (they are gone, now, but they will be back). The native and various cultivars and crosses of witch hazel are sometimes used in landscaping, and the bark is used to make the astringent topical witch hazel ointment available at pharmacies. The native witch hazel is one of the last plants to bloom at the Arboretum, an opposing bookend to the Chinese witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis), which is one of the first flowers to bloom.
There are various accounts of how it got its name, but most link it to the Anglo-Saxon word wych, meaning bend. According to some, it makes a great dowsing rod, as it bends toward water (water witching). It is also often a particularly bent tree.
The witch hazel has a rather long blooming period, and it is just now at peak bloom, so you should be able to visit and see and smell it for a week or so. It can be found near the bridge at the top of the Taylor Trail.
by Zach Fowler
Volunteers help WVU Core Arboretum as part of WV Day to ServeOctober 8, 2015
Pawpaw parties at WVU Core Arboretum!
September 26, 2015
The pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is the largest fruit native to West Virginia. Pawpaws have a very luscious, tropical flavor that some describe as a combination of banana, mango, and pineapple and a smooth, creamy texture. Pawpaws ripen in fall, and the Arboretum’s trees produced lots of them this year. We held two pawpaw tasting parties this fall. Over 40 people came on September 18, and over 60 people stopped by to taste a pawpaw on September 26! In addition to eating the fruit, we discussed the ecology and history of the pawpaw tree and how to plant the seeds that one ends up with after eating a pawpaw. The pawpaws are gone for the year, but look for this event again next fall
by Zach Fowler
WVU Honors Day of Service participants volunteer at Core ArboretumAugust 19, 2015
Almost 50 freshman honors students worked at the Arboretum on Friday, August 14, as part of the WVU Honors Day of Service. These students painted the rail around the parking lot, moved tons of gravel, trimmed lots of trails, and participated in a riverside sing along of Country Roads. Thanks to these students, the event coordinators, and the WVU Center for Service and Learning! Check out the press release and video for the welcome week service effort in which these students took part (the Arboretum made it into the video).
by Zach Fowler
Jon Weems’s Last Day at WVU Core Arboretum
June 30, 2015
Today was officially Jon Weems's last day as a WVU employee. Jon has worked at the WVU Core Arboretum for over 38 years, and the results and impact of his service are too great to be described by words. Thank you so much, Jon, for all that you have done for the University, the community, and the state. You will be missed by many. I hope that you have a long and happy retirement!
by Zach Fowler
Ant Mimic Spider!
May 27, 2015
One day last week, while Jon and I were eating lunch, I happened to look twice at a small ant crawling on my arm. Something was strange about the ant's head and the way that it moved. I poked at it and it jumped! Strangely enough, the ant was also trailing a web, which it frequently anchored to the surface upon which it was crawling. As you may have guessed, this was an ant mimic spider, and not an ant at all!! One of the most fascinating aspects of the mimicry to me was that the spider used its two front legs to imitate antennae (which ants have and spiders do not) by continually waving them around. This behavior is not very evident in the photo and also helped it only have 6 apparent legs. The spider's pedipalps were carried differently than they appear in the photo, too. They were positioned to look remarkably like ant mandibles. In other words, it looked even more like an ant than it does in these photos!!
Some quick web research indicated that there are many species of spiders (over 100) in several families that mimic ants! Apparently this mimicry helps some species to avoid predation and others to sneak up on food.
I captured the spider and put it in a zipseal bag to photograph and get identified later. That evening, I was able to get a couple of photos of the spider through the microscope, but nothing that I was really happy with--the spider was so fast that it was very difficult to position, focus, and shoot all at once--so I decided to try some more the following day. When I returned in the morning, the spider had escaped into my office!! Apparently, I did not have the prison bag zipped all the way tight. I was not worried for my safety, but I was sad that the spider was almost certainly doomed. Additionally, I only got three pictures that were not too great, and I was never able to get a positive identification to species.
These poor photos are all that are left of the little spider. All are magnified, as the spider was only about 5 mm long. I think that it is a species of jumping spider because of the eye arrangement, but I do not know more than that. In the first photo, you can get a pretty good sense of its "antyness." In the third photo, you can really see the "spideryness" of its head and eyes.
It was amazing to see this little spider, and I have been looking suspiciously at every ant since then.
If you want a fascinating diversion, do some internet research on mimicry and all of its forms!!
by Zach Fowler