Sunday, March 29, 2020

Crabapples in Bloom

Crabapple in bloom near the trail
Although the coronavirus outbreak has forced closure of some park facilities, the trails remain open in Alexandria as of this writing, and they offer the opportunity to get outdoors while maintaining the requisite social distancing.

Walk the wetland loop at Four Mile Run Park this week and you'll notice white-pink splashes of color in the early spring woods. As the cherry blossoms fade around DC's Tidal Basin and in local neighborhoods, a similar-looking five-petal flower is starting to bloom. The crabapple (Malus spp.) is a native tree that is an important food source for wildlife. Crabapples are closely related to the familiar apple, though the fruit is much smaller, less than 2 inches in diameter, and notoriously bitter. In the city's early history, crabapples were cherished as ornamental trees, with fruit used to make cider. Non-native varieties were also brought to North America from Europe, readily hybridizing. Just what varieties are present at Four Mile Run is unknown, though upon close examination it is clear that there are quite a few different kinds, some with doubled flower petals.
Flowers resemble cherry blossoms

More than twenty crabapple trees are visible from the trail, from little shrubs to trees about fifteen feet in height. Several are thick with flowers. Most are along the paved trail between the MOM's parking lot and practice field 3. A few are close to the trail edge, though you might nonetheless want to practice crabapple social distancing on account of mud, thorns, and poison ivy.

Stay healthy, and enjoy the park trails responsibly!


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Signs of Spring

We're back! Photo: D. Howell
If you've been thinking that spring seems to be early this year, you are not alone. Ospreys have returned from their winter migration, seen Sunday fishing over Four Mile Run. With Potomac water temperature breaking into the 50's (Fahrenheit), migratory river herrings should be in the creeks any day now: first alewife, then blueback herring, then American shad. It can't be long before the serviceberry (shadbush) are in bloom. All signs of spring you can enjoy at Four Mile Run Park.

With spring come some volunteer opportunities, particularly restoration planting. Celebrate spring by helping to re-introduce Carolina willow (Salix caroliniana, also known as coastal plain willow) to the banks of Four Mile Run on March 20-21. Or join in a spring stream clean-up with Girl Scouts April 18. Details on these and other upcoming events are listed on the calendar.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Winter Events at Four Mile Run

Belted kingfisher (male). Photo: D. Howell
Just like the belted kingfisher breaks up the quiet and the dull colors of winter with a high-pitched chattering call and bright blue-white-black as it flashes by, you can disrupt the stillness of winter by participating in some great upcoming events. Take a walk, help clean up the park, do some restoration planting, or socialize with fellow Four Mile Run devotees. See the Calendar of Events for details on these and other opportunities.
  • Wednesday, February 12 - West Glebe Bridge Open House (6pm) & AlexRenew's Water Stories (7pm)
  • Saturday, February 15, 10:00 a.m. - Winter Wetland Walk
  • Sunday, February 16, 9:00 a.m. - Land-based 'Presidential' Clean-up
  • Saturday, February 22, 4:00-6:00 p.m. - 4MR Happy Hour at New District Brewing
  • Saturday, March 21, 9:00 a.m. (details to be posted) - live-stake restoration planting of Carolina Willow

Winter by the Four Mile Run wetland trail