of Blandy Experimental Farm
from the archway in the 150-year-old original wing of the
Quarters building, at the heart of the farm and arboretum.
The Quarters is believed to have been housing for field slaves
at Tuleyries. Today the building contains a library, laboratories,
office space and dormitory rooms for researchers, staff and
Farm fertile ground
flourish. Butterflies, birds and turtles abound. Folks can even
watch the grass grow, literally, in a meadow of recently sown
warm-season grasses native to Virginia.
haven for flora and fauna is Blandy
Experimental Farm, one of U.Va.'s northernmost grounds. The
700-acre farm in Boyce is also home to the state's 170-acre Orland
E. White Arboretum, designated as the State Arboretum of Virginia
The two entities provide the Commonwealth's citizens and visitors
a "didactic landscape" of the woody plants of Virginia,
the southeastern U.S. and their exotic relatives, said Mary Olien,
assistant curator for education.
Among them are 28 varieties of dogwoods, including 200 specimens
of cornus florida, Virginia's state tree; the most extensive variety
of boxwood in North America; and more than half of the world's
pine species, she said. The farm also boasts one of the largest
ginkgo groves in the Western Hemisphere. Among Blandy Farm's missions
are to promote the study of ecology, an awareness of plant biology,
the horticultural potential of native plants, and stewardship
of the natural environment, said director and U.Va. research professor
history In 1905, Graham F. Blandy, a New Yorker who made his
fortune in the stock market, bought Tuleyries, an estate in
Clarke County. Upon his death in 1926, he willed a portion
of the estate to U.Va., stipulating that it be named "Blandy
Experimental Farm" and that it be used "to teach
boys about farming." Orland E. White was hired in 1927
as the first director, and upon his retirement in 1955, the
arboretum was named in his honor. From 1930 to the 1960s,
Blandy was an active research center of U.Va.'s biology department.
From the 1960s to the early '80s, however, the farm sat dormant,
as the biology department shifted its focus to molecular studies.
In the early '80s, U.Va.'s environmental sciences department
expressed an interest in using the property for its research
purposes, and the farm's fields are fallow no more.
that end, Blandy supports the academic programs of the University
and other institutions by providing plant collections, protected
habitats, and programs and facilities for research and teaching,
Bowers said. In addition, Blandy assists in efforts to control
invasive plants, to conserve rare and endangered plants, and to
enrich the cultural environment and recreational opportunities
of the region by providing an outdoor setting for cultural events.
enhance Blandy's public mission, "We're trying to attract
non-profit organizations to base their headquarters at Blandy,"
Olien said. "So far, the American Boxwood Society, the Northern
Shenandoah Valley Audubon Society and the Virginia Native Plant
Society are based here."
receives some 70,000 visitors a year. They participate in a variety
of activities -- bird watching, gardening workshops, weekly research
forums and a monthly concert series, to name a few -- or just
wander the grounds on their own, said Olien, who hopes to increase
the number of schoolchildren who visit.
year 4,000 students participated in school programs at the arboretum,
which are now offered year-round. Olien also plans to host teacher
workshops at the farm.
venture will not only bring students to Blandy physically, but
virtually. "We are among the partners helping to develop
and promote Virginia Naturally 2000," an initiative of Gov.
Jim Gilmore's to promote lifelong learning about and stewardship
of Virginia's environment and natural resources, Olien said. The
centerpiece of the program is a virtual library, a Web gateway
to statewide environmental resources, she said.
arboretum, on Route 50 in Clarke County, nine miles east of Winchester,
is open 365 days a year, dawn to dusk. For details on upcoming
events, call 540-837-1758, ext. 0, or visit the Web site: http://www.virginia.edu/~blandy.
-- then and now
E. White, Blandy's first director (1927-55), collected plants
worldwide. He was interested in discovering what types of plants
would thrive in the farm's limestone-based soil. Today, the collection's
focus has shifted to preserving plants that are native to Virginia.
latest addition to the arboretum is the Nancy Larrick Crosby Native
Plant Trail, begun in 1997. The woodland and meadow portions of
the trail are nearly complete, and a wetland section is planned.
"Blandy is a terrific resource for the department. It provides
landscapes in which to perform environmental science, classes
for our students to learn environmental science, and faculty colleagues
for both research and teaching," said U.Va. environmental
sciences chair James Galloway.
This year, there are six undergraduate and seven graduate fellows
at Blandy. A summary of their research results will be presented
at the Blandy Research Forum Aug. 9.
the fellows are two U.Va. undergraduates, Erin McMahon and Jerry
McGuire. McMahon's project involves 50 Clarke County students
in a countywide survey of butterflies, exploring the extent to
which they can be used as indicators of human impact and land
use from urban to rural areas.
the mentorship of U.Va. environmental sciences assistant professor
Howie Epstein, McGuire is gathering data on native grasses to
serve as the baseline for continuous study. This information will
also be given to the Natural Resource Conservation Service.
Faculty and graduate student research now under way includes:
Charting habitat fragmentation. Bowers studies small mammals
in small land tracts. The data collected is applied to birds
and larger mammals to see how changes in habitat affect wildlife.
Inbreeding in plants. Dave Carr, arboretum curator and research
assistant professor, studies the evolutionary significance of
breeding with closely related plants compared to breeding with
more distantly related ones. This research is important as conservation
and management programs typically focus on small populations
where inbreeding is likely.
Tracking turtles. Dave Bowne, a U.Va. graduate research fellow,
is studying Eastern Painted Turtles, their population characteristics
and movements, how and why they move from pond to pond. He attaches
radio transmitters to their bodies to track them.
Measuring carbon dioxide. Epstein and John Albertson of U.Va.'s
environmental sciences department hope to quantify changes to
the carbon cycle that result from the abandonment of agriculture
and regrowth of forests, a phenomenon currently widespread in
the eastern United States.
Studying microbial grassland community. U.Va. graduate student
Sanghoon Kang and his adviser, U.Va. environmental sciences
professor Aaron Mills, are studying the microbial community
in a restored grassland to gain insights into management of