Attraction magazine has partnered with the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office and Chesapeake Conservancy to help readers find their next adventure. Each month, we’ll feature a new place from their helpful website, FindYourChesapeake.com. There, sign up for an e-newsletter, Trips and Tips, that delivers fresh ideas to your inbox each week.
Ready to try something new? At FindYourChesapeake.com also find expert advice on experiences like birdwatching, fishing, camping and hiking. Their team also developed content to help people explore the Chesapeake virtually so folks can stay safe at home during the pandemic. This month, the spotlight is on Adkins Arboretum, located on Maryland’s Mid Shore in Ridgely. The Arboretum’s original mission of displaying all the forest types of Maryland has since evolved to displaying and studying the Delmarva Peninsula’s indigenous plant communities, focusing solely on plants native to the Mid-Atlantic coastal plain. To that end, the Arboretum is now home to more than 600 species of native shrubs, trees, wildflowers, grasses, and ferns.
Replacing lawns and non-native plants with native plants has enormous benefits for the Chesapeake Bay, with typical landscapes receiving high inputs of chemicals, fertilizers, water and time, and require a lot of energy (human as well as gas-powered) to maintain. Native plants also provide the best source of food (seeds, berries and nectar) for bees, birds, butterflies and other wildlife because these plants and animals evolved together.
While many – but not all – of the Arboretum’s plants may be well into their winter dormancy, the Arboretum has much to offer, both for in-person visits and as a resource for everything you need to know about plants native to our area.
The grounds are open every day from dawn until dusk for self-guided tours, dog walking, and birding. Five miles of paths wind through the 400-acre arboretum, and the gravel South Meadow Loop Trail is accessible for wheelchairs and strollers.
In winter, your walk could include studying the distinctive bark of River Birch, spotting birds roosting in Eastern Red Cedar trees, coming upon Sweetgum gumballs or Swamp Rose Mallow seed pods, or finding Crane Fly Orchid or Golden Groundsel peeking through the leaves on the forest floor. The brilliant stems of Red Twig Dogwood provide spectacular winter color, particularly in snow. A list of plants you can expect to see each month is available at www.adkinsarboretum.org/native_plant_resources/whats_in_bloom.html.
Many creatures, including quail, bluebirds, deer, fox, and turkeys, can be found foraging for food, especially around the meadow areas. Birds commonly seen at Adkins Arboretum in the winter include Eastern Towhee, Great Blue Heron, Red-tailed Hawk, Barred, Horned, and Screech Owls, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and many more.
A list of birds, by season, can be found at www.adkinsarboretum.org/file_download/inline/0cfbc25e-1175-45d3-82e5-030e1a200cee.
On winter days more suited to contemplation than outdoor activities, the Arboretum’s website is a treasure trove of information and inspiration about plants and gardening. There’s a guide to books for gardeners at www.adkinsarboretum.org/native_plant_resources/books_for_gardeners.html.
The Native Landscape Design Center is available online as well at www.adkinsarboretum.org/native_plant_resources/design_center.html.
The Arboretum’s Living Collections Database may be accessed at www.adkinsarboretum.org/native_plant_resources/living-collections-database.html and allows users to search for a plant by its scientific or common name, or by what is currently blooming.
And, whatever you do, mark your calendar for Adkins Arboretum’s not-to-be-missed spring native plant sale in April.