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Virginia Wildlife Habitat Cooperative

The Search for Pre-European Floodplain Relics

Old friend and colleague Dave Hirschman penned this ode to this tree of our Virginia floodplains a few days ago. Along with Sycamore, and others, it’s a great bookend to our recent post – In Praise of Elymus – where our focus was on the dominant native grasses of these same floodplains.

Floodplain restoration in these parts has primarily focused on tree planting with tree tubes. Some of these projects fail due to flood events and invasives, none we are aware of also focus on the accompanying tree understory.

What is the most stable floodplain landscape for our time? There is evidence that the floodplain and terrace savanna – with widely spaced hardwoods and thick native grasses and shrubs in the understory, may be what we should shoot for in our neo-restoration, what we call resiliency – work.

There are some floodplain savannas remaining. One area is right at our headquarters at Rapidan Mill, in an area of the property near a cliff that likely would have never had any reason to go under the plow. There must be other relics of Pre-European floodplain and terrace vegetation in the Rapidan-Robinson system. In the years ahead, the Rapidan Institute, as one part of the development of a comprehensive resiliency plan, will seek to find and study these areas should they exist.

This blog provides information and commentary that may not represent the views of the Center’s Directors and Advisors