Virginia coastal plain   Darian Copiz
  Mar 28, 2005 06:40 PST 

This weekend I went to two locations east of Fredericksburg VA, I
measured only one tree, but the sites were nevertheless interesting.

The first site was Alexander Berger Memorial sanctuary in Spotsylvania
and Caroline counties. The portion that I went to was a ravine of Snow
Creek that ran from the southwest to the northeast into the coastal
plain portion of the Rappahannock River. The ravine was lined by seeps
on both sides, probably the result of layers of sand/gravel underlayed
by clay. A large beaver pond is located lower down on the site with a
very nice dam. I measured one pin oak which was actually juts outside
the sanctuary at the edge of a farm field. It was 17' 10" cbh, 93.4'
tall, and had a longest limb of 57'. The height and limb were just very
quick measurements, it could be taller-broader. In the actual sancturay
I didn't measure any trees but was still impressed by them. All the
larges trees were on the slopes of the ravine, none of the big ones were
at the base. Tree species consisted of sweetgum, tuliptree, chestnut
oak, southern red oak, black oak, probably a few other oaks, beech,
hackberry (could possibly have been laevigata), red maple, river birch,
and holly. The sweetgums and tuliptrees were the largest with dbh's
probably over 4'. The trees were tall but not extremely tall, my
estimate would be about 120'. 

There was one very impressive chestnut oak
on the northwest facing slope. No record breaking trees, but very nice
trees. The most interesting thing about the site was a large colony of
Rhododendron maximum growing all along the northwest facing slope of the
ravine. This was mixed in with large mountain laurel and some hollies.
Hexastylis virginana was also growing in this area. Does anyone know of
any other sites with R. maximum growing on the coastal plain? It was
pretty interesting seeing rhodo's and holly growing together.

The second site I went to was Caledon Natural Area, a state owned park
in King George County. It is the site of a significant bald eagle
nesting area. Exploring this site consisted of following a stream that
ran into a marsh on the south side of the Potomac River. The soil
appeared to be somewhat similar to the Berger Memorial site, but the
ravines were not nearly as steep or deep. It was also interesting that
for much of the area there was very little understory. The woods were
very open, and very quite. This may have been because of management
practices, but I didn't see any stumps. Along the sandy bottomed,
small, winding stream there were large tuliptrees, and beeches. Other
species were red maple, American elm, and some oaks. I don't actually
remember seeing any sweet gum at this site. On one not very large tree
there was a Campsis radicans vine that had about a 10" diameter at the
base As the stream got into the marsh area, an understory of mountain
laurel started and became denser as the marsh became larger. One
mountain laurel was very tree-like with an estimated dbh on a very
straight trunk of about 8", height of about 18', and first branching
almost 6' up. The Caledon Natural area is a large site, I only got to
explore a portion of it. It probably doesn't have any height records,
but does have some nice large trees.

With Spring arriving, I will probably not be measuring any trees until
next winter unless I come across something very significant.