The Registry is a voluntary program launched in 1989 by the VNPS to preserve outstanding examples of native plants and their habitats. The primary requirement for eligibility is that a site have regional or state significance because of its native plants.
The Quarry Gardens include ten vegetative communities on two principal geologic formations; several of these communities are rare. Owing in part to variations in elevation, geology, and soil, The QGs’ documented assemblage of locally native plant species—more than 600—is the largest of any botanical garden in the state. This is especially remarkable because the only plants cultivated here are those native to the immediate area of Schuyler.
Offering further potential to inspire public interest in native plants are the quarries themselves, with their massive boulder piles and majestic walls reflected in pools of water.
Tried out the new iPhone camera on an hour’s walk around the Quarry Gardens Tuesday morning. Lots to see now, as spring ephemerals awaken in sunlight before the trees leaf out and cast them into shade. Top left: Dwarf crested iris, Iris cristata, is in scattered masses along the South Quarry trail. Top right: Native columbine, Aquilegea canadensis, is blooming against a wall at the Visitor Center and on the Waterside Talus. Bottom left Heartleaf, Asarum hexastylis, an evergreen member of the ginger family, volunteers in small patches. Bottom right: Yellow trillium or Toadshade, Trillium luteum, is forming a small colony near the Giant’s Stairs, along with another Toadshade, which has maroon flowers.
Top left: The native Moss phlox, Phlox subulata, spills over a wall near the Pine Needle Path. Top right: Blossoms of Dogwood, Cornus florida, peek out into clearings along roads and trails. Bottom left: The Christmas ferns, Polystichum acrostichoides, green all winter, are unfurling fresh fronds. Bottom right: Quaker ladies or Bluets, Houstonia caerulea, are making tiny unexpected nosegays.
Top left: Heartleaf foamflowers, Tiarella cordifolia, sway along the base of a wall. Top right: Wild pink, Silene caroliniana, can be found in dry rocky places. Bottom left: A tiny bud peeks out from between two leaves of the poisonous Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum, found below the Giant’s Stairs and forming large colonies near the East Trail boulder pile. Bottom right: Blossoms of the Paw Paw tree, Asimina triloba, may be seen in the parking islands; a large colony may be found in the forest hardpan wetland off the East Trail.
More than 600 species of plants native to the Central Virginia Piedmont can be found here—it’s the largest collection of any botanical garden in the Commonwealth. We’ll be glad to have you join us for a scheduled tour—social distancing, of course. (If you are an official Friend of the Quarry Gardens, you may visit any time.) Bring your camera.
The Quarry Gardens will open two weeks early with wildflower walks for groups of 10 or fewer. To join us, just go to quarrygardensatschuyler.org and sign up on the Visit page. We’ll assemble at the picnic pavilion and walk the trails. Anyone who wants to stay outside can do so, others can use the visitors’ center if they wish. A Spring is a terrible thing to waste.
Conditions were almost perfect (moderate temperature, dry leaf litter, light winds) for fires at The Quarry Gardens this week. Blazes swept over the three parking lot islands—which surveys have found to be extremely biodiverse—and over the prairie beneath the platform overlook between the two quarry pools. These prescribed burns have been planned for awhile and are likely to be repeated every few years.
If successful, they will help us manage such overabundant natives as blackberry, greenbrier, Virginia pine, red cedar, and beech, and non-natives such as fescue and Japanese honeysuckle. At the same time, burning may encourage some long-dormant and rare plants to wake up and grow—all while preserving our fire-adapted and fire-tolerant species such as oaks and hickories.
Devin Floyd and his properly certified Center for Urban Habitats team coordinated the burn, led by Ryan Lepsch, a Crozet Volunteer Firefighter who arranged for the required permits, assisted by Jessie Wingo and Rachel Floyd.
There is such a thing as too many trees, a condition common in today’s forests where many young saplings share nutrients. This condition contributes to stress and disease and prevents the best trees from growing healthier and larger. Small fires like these can help to create more dynamic forests with stronger, healthier trees.
We’re looking forward to fresh new growth in coming weeks.