Field Notes: What’s in the Woods Today? Nov. 28, 2017

by Area Forester Lisa Deaton

‘Tis the Season!


Trees provide us with a colorful show every autumn, and then reveal yet more “decorations” once the leaves are gone.

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows in the tops of trees.

mistletoe in red maples lo res

The American holly berries are ripe.


Partridgeberry is one of my favorites for its fall berries and white flowers in the spring.


swath of partridgeberries

Running cedar can form quite a carpet, and it is popular for making wreaths.

running cedar 2

Grapevines about one half inch or thinner can also be woven into wreaths.  The brown crooked stems in this photo are likely fox grape or summer grape.


Another plant that brightens the woods this time of year is aptly called Christmas fern.

xmas fern 2

xmas fern 1




Field Notes: What’s in the Woods Today? Nov. 21, 2017

by Area Forester Lisa Deaton

A Day of Double Takes

It is still close enough to Halloween that I thought I saw a ghost in the woods last week.

ghost in tree


Upon looking closer, it was just a tarp, but it was hanging very high in this tree.  It protected a hunter’s tree stand at one time.


Then a bright red dot on a yellow-poplar caught my eye.

mite on tree trunk

I think it was a mite because it had 8 legs and a one-part body.

The third surprise was an old car in the middle of the woods.  The trees were not letting this large piece of metal prevent them from reaching for the sun.

Firebird in woods

A fourth surprise was three eastern white pines growing along a stream.  Eastern white pine is not native to this location in southeastern Virginia, and it grows one whorl  of branches per year.  So from this photo we can deduce that someone planted these trees about 30 years ago.

white pine w label

Another thing that surprises foresters in the woods is abandoned houses. I usually stop and take a moment to think about what the house was like on special days like Thanksgiving.

old house in woods

These journeys into the woods were to help landowners decide if it is a good time to harvest their trees.  Loggers working nearby had expressed interest in purchasing the timber.  Our Virginia Department of Forestry’s website offers a good deal of information on selling timber.

Field Notes: What’s in the Woods Today? Nov. 14, 2017

by Area Forester Lisa Deaton


When you work in the woods every day, it can be joyful to see something new.  After the rain last week, quite a variety of mushrooms sprouted.  The most unusual one I saw was hairy on top.hairy mushroom

These mushrooms were so tiny I almost missed them.tiny mushrooms

This mushroom is keeping company with a small army of lichens, and perhaps fungi, on the decaying log behind it.lichen log

This mushroom has an interesting sombrero shape, and is covered with ashes from a recent forest fire.mushroom at fire

One time I cleared a trail in New Kent County with a leaf blower, leaving the mineral soil exposed.  It rained soon after that, and I walked the trail with some teachers a few days later.  At least 20 different kinds of mushrooms had sprouted in the trail.mushrooms from Squirrel Trail

Field Notes: What’s in the Woods Today? Note. 8, 2017

Snack Time

by VDOF Area Forester Lisa Deaton

Last week I was asked to see if a 16-year-old loblolly pine plantation had grown large enough for a commercial thinning.

I was perplexed to find what looked like pieces of honeycomb on the ground.  There were no large hollow trees nearby, just young, solid pine trees.honeycomb

Then I noticed that there were several pieces of it scattered around a nearby hole in the ground. yellowjacket hole

Also, the nest pieces were paper-like and not made of wax.  Yellowjackets build nests in the ground, so perhaps a skunk or raccoon dug up this nest to eat the wasp larvae inside.  I am embarrassed to say that after 30 years of being allergic to yellowjackets, I’ve just learned that they are wasps, and not bees.

I walked a little further and saw empty soybean pods on the ground. soybeans

A number of animals and birds enjoy eating soybeans, but why were these in the middle of the woods?  I looked up, and realized I was fairly close to a soybean field (in the direction of the shining sun).

looking towards field

Here is one more photo from these woods of something mentioned in last week’s post:  a buck rub, where a white-tailed deer had rubbed its antlers against a young hardwood tree.buck rub