The Maryland Native Plant Society

The Maryland Native Plant Society
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  • Winter Solstice Field Trip & Hooley

Winter Solstice Field Trip & Hooley

  • 12/19/2021
  • 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM
  • Chapman State Park, Charles County, MD


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Leaders: Rod Simmons, Mary Farrah, Scott Graham, Andrew Benjamin, Robin Firth, Bonnie Petry, and Russ Bailey

Celebrate the beginning of the winter season at Chapman Forest (Chapman State Park) with its spectacular scenery and remarkable diversity of native plants, wildlife, and natural communities!

This year, we will visit the old-age forest section from the low river terrace and extensive Water-willow Shrublands along the Potomac River to the marl cliffs and ravines near Glymont. This section of the park is a fascinating and regionally unique meeting ground for plants with a primary range in the inner Piedmont and mountains and those of the Coastal Plain.

Most of the ravines and rolling valleys throughout the forested tract between Mount Aventine and Glymont comprise a globally rare natural community called Shell-Marl Ravine Forest, coined by Harvard botanist M.L. Fernald in the 1930s after discovering similar forest communities in the Virginia tidewater region to the south.

This community type occurs only on the Coastal Plain where river bluffs and deep ravines over millennia have exposed underlying calcareous and glauconitic marine sands and marl beds deposited during the Paleocene, Eocene, and Miocene epochs when the area was a shallow sea at the western edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The Brightseat and Aquia Formations are the prominent underlying strata in this section of Chapman Forest.

The combination of deep ravines, calcareous soils, and close proximity to the Potomac River has produced a remarkable flora predominately composed of species typical of the inner piedmont and carbonate areas of the Appalachians that are otherwise rare to absent on the Coastal Plain, especially in association. Chapman Forest is considered to be Maryland’s largest and finest example of this natural community type.

During this year’s trip, we’ll see a diversity of species and natural communities, including Maryland state champion Pagoda Oak (Quercus pagoda), Chinquapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii), and Dwarf Hackberry (Celtis tenuifolia). We’ll also see old-age Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), White Ash (Fraxinus americana), American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), American Basswood (Tilia americana var. americana), Winter Grape (Vitis vulpina), Bitternut Hickory (Carya cordiformis), Pignut Hickory (Carya glabra), Sweet Pignut Hickory (Carya ovalis), Sassafras (Sassafras albidum), Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), and other trees such as American Hop-hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra), Red Mulberry (Morus rubra), Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardii), Deam’s Oak (Quercus x deamii), Paw Paw (Asimina triloba), and others.

Field trip is free and open to non-members. Registration is not required.

For ARMN members, this event will apply towards advanced training hours in botany, dendrology, forest ecology, and geology.

Bring: Wear sturdy shoes and bring lunch or snacks and water. Most of the walk traverses rolling, fairly open forest along trails, though some steep grades will occasionally be encountered.

Directions: Take Indian Head Highway (Rt. 210) south from Capital Beltway (495). Proceed south on Rt. 210 for app. 15 miles. Continue on Rt. 210 past the Rt. 227 intersection at Bryans Road (McDonald's, Burger King, and shopping center on right and large CVS and builders supply will be on left) and start looking for Chapman Landing Road on right. Take half right on Chapman Landing Road and proceed a couple of miles to entrance to Mount Aventine (Chapman State Park) on right. Park and meet in small parking lot at entrance gate (additional parking is available along the shoulder of Chapman Landing Road, though please be extra mindful of the neighboring residents and careful not to damage the road edges when parking).

Carpooling: For those interested in carpooling to the field trip – or has room to provide a ride – please email Kathy Bilton at closer to the time and she will send out a list of names, general location, and contact info which she has received so that folks wishing transportation to the field trip can arrange something. A number of folks in the Alexandria-Arlington-D.C. area will likely be looking for a ride to the site.

For folks who aren’t able to stay the full time, there will be numerous points throughout the field trip to depart from and easily get back to the parking area.

*In the event of heavy-steady snow, sleet, pouring rain, or icy, dangerous conditions of roads, the field trip will be cancelled.

Contact: (for additional information; not to register)

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