Prince William Forest Park

We took the first of two field trips that are part of Gary Evans’ Introduction to Ecology at the Graduate School, USDA. We visited two sites in Prince William Forest Park, the first a farmed-out agricultural area that is undergoing old field succession on its way to becoming deciduous forest, and the second an area that was apparently never farmed intensively.

big cedarThe site of the old Taylor Farm homestead is mowed regularly, so the veg is largely panic grass and broom sedge, but nothing seems to be a match for this humungous eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana).

soil profileWe spent a lot of time with the soil profiles of the two sites. This soil pit is from our second study site, in the drainage of the South Fork of Quantico Creek. Laid out in the spade, left to right, you can see the samples from the O horizon (organic material), the mineral-leached A horizon (cocoa brown), and the iron-enriched B horizon (ruddy orange). A Munsell color chart is visible in the right of the picture. The green sprigs of princess pine (Lycopodium clavatum) bespeak a sandier soil than at the farm site. Mountain laurel also appears here.

I also appreciate that Dr. Evans discusses some of the economic aspects of the study of nature, for instance, pointing out that the tighter growth rings for oaks and chestnuts are what make these hardwoods valuable to furniture makers and handcraftsmen. He also noted that much of the public lands acquired in the Roosevelt New Deal era were the result of forced relocation of starving farmers who had nothing left but their patches of knackered land.