Natural Resources

The section of Virginia that includes the City of Alexandria and Arlington and Fairfax counties contains a broad diversity of habitats and geologic conditions and is perhaps the most floristically diverse in the state. Flora and plant communities are the dominant natural resources on parkland in the eastern U.S., and those that remain in Alexandria are diverse and require careful stewardship.

Page updated on Dec 1, 2016 at 6:07 PM


 Agalinus purpurea - RHS
Native biodiversity: Purple False Foxglove (Agalinis purpurea) and pollinators.  Photo by R.H. Simmons.  
  

   Natural resource management includes vegetation surveys and natural resource inventories and assessments throughout the City’s parks, natural areas, open space, wetlands, and waterways for the purposes of planning, management, and resource protection.  It also involves providing environmental review, technical assessments, Best Management Practices, and reports to City staff and consultants, as well as assistance to federal, state, and local agencies, organizations, and individuals concerned with natural resources in Alexandria.  In addition, this service increasingly includes overseeing and performing non-native invasive plant control efforts throughout the City, as well as ecological restoration projects.

   In Alexandria these activities are coordinated by the Natural Resources Division of the Dept. Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Activities (RPCA).  This integrated team consists of Bob Taylor, Division Chief, and Rod Simmons, Natural Resource Manager and Plant Ecologist, as well as their respective staffs.  In addition, a number of ongoing invasive exotic plant removal, stream cleanup, and ecological restoration planting projects are partnered with the National Park Service, Earth Sangha, Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, TreeStewards of Arlington and Alexandria, Arlington Regional Master Naturalists, and other locally active organizations and numerous volunteers.   



Fig 2 - Geologists 
Geologists Steve Self (left), Tony Fleming (center), and Callan Bentley (right) examining the Occoquan Granite outcrops along Holmes Run at Dora Kelley Nature Park.  Photo by R.H. Simmons.

   Geologic features are also important natural and scenic resources that support rare and specialized natural communities.  In 2016, Geologist Tony Fleming completed a several year project to survey and map Alexandria’s geology and soils, the first comprehensive geologic survey for the City.  For further information on Alexandria’s geology, peruse the Geologic Atlas of the City of Alexandria, Virginia and Vicinity at www.alexandriava.gov/89974.  Also, the greatly revised and improved Native Vascular Flora of the City of Alexandria, Virginia, including natural communities within the City, is served at the Alexandria Flora and Natural Communities webpage at https://www.alexandriava.gov/22560, with material continually added and updated.     


Green Ash 19'19 
 State Champion Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) in the Del Ray section of the City of Alexandria – in the 1500 block of Commonwealth Ave. in the courtyard of Lacy Court Apartments.  This is one of many notable trees that are surviving relics of the once-extensive alluvial floodplain community and associated backswamps that extended throughout the lower Holmes Run and Four Mile Run valleys, Del Ray, and Old Town.  Photo by Greg Zell. 

   In addition, The City of Alexandria Herbarium (AVCH) is the repository for a baseline collection of native and exotic plant species and is an invaluable resource for conservation planning.  The herbarium contains a representative specimen of each of the City’s native and exotic plants, as well as voucher specimens for the Alexandria Flora.  This research collection is a representation of Alexandria’s botanical diversity and is an important resource for research and managing natural resources.

   Documenting Alexandria’s old-age and notable native trees is also an important component of the City’s natural resource management program.  Many old and very large specimens have been found in the City of Alexandria, including an American Holly (Ilex opaca) and Dwarf Hackberry (Celtis tenuifolia) that are recognized as National Champions (“the largest known of its species”) on the National Register of Big Trees – www.americanforests.org/resources/bigtrees.  Numerous other trees were discovered that are regional, state, and City champions.  Alexandria trees that are State Champions are included on the Virginia Big Tree Program website at cnre.vt.edu/4h/bigtree/.  These old-age trees are not only unique ecological resources, but also serve as touchstones to the past and provide important evidence of our vanishing natural history and floral past.



  non-native invasive plant infestation -RHS
Massive infestation of Porcelain-berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata) at Daingerfield Island, City of Alexandria, Virginia.  This is one of Alexandria’s and the region’s most recent and worst weeds.  Photo by R.H. Simmons.  

 Together these ongoing programs and projects provide a variety of services and contributions to help maintain and preserve the many special sites, natural areas, and native biodiversity that remain in the City of Alexandria. 

  TD Meadow Complex - RHS
The nearly 4-acre complex of natural, managed meadows at the Telegraph Road and Duke Street interchange.  This site has been actively maintained as a native meadow mosaic by RPCA Natural Resources Division for 20 years, and is a designated “Native Plant Conservation Zone”.  The site overall is floristically diverse and is a refugia for native plants and wildlife, include native pollinators and their host plants, such as the Common Milkweed in the photo above.  Photo by R.H. Simmons.

 

Contact info:

Rod Simmons
Natural Resource Manager / Plant Ecologist
Natural Resources Division
Department of Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Activities
City of Alexandria, Virginia
2900-A Business Center Drive
Alexandria, VA  22314
703.746.4651 (office)
Rod.Simmons@alexandriava.gov 

Robert W. (Bob) Taylor, Ph.D.
Division Chief, Natural Resources
Department of Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Activities
City of Alexandria, Virginia
2900-A Business Center Drive
Alexandria, VA 22314
703.746.4641 (office)
Robert.Taylor@alexandriava.gov
 

    
 

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