Arboretum

Planted  in 1987, the Accokeek Foundation’s Native Tree Arboretum consists of 100 plus species of shrubs and trees that are native to the Chesapeake Bay region of Maryland. The trees were planted in an area approximately three acres with a meandering trail that is about a quarter mile long. Each tree has a marker with both botanical and common names.

Native Plants and Trees

The Accokeek Foundation promotes the use of native plants and trees in order to enhance a biologically diverse ecosystem by showcasing their beauty and educating visitors on their various uses within landscapes. These plants can be seen on throughout the park on the trails, within the gardens, and in the arboretum.

Benefits of Going Native: The use of native trees and plants in natural landscapes provides many benefits both for the homeowner and for native animal and insect species.

Learn More: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Native Plants for the Chesapeake Region

Invasive Vegetation Control

One of the most severe threats to the park is the presence of invasive species. These species are non-indigenous vegetation that spread quickly and aggressively when introduced to areas beyond their normal range; often choking out native plants and drastically affecting ecosystems. Their spread can decrease native biodiversity and cause dramatic environmental changes. Each year we set out to limit and reduce their presence at the park. Piscataway Park is invaded by such species as japanese honeysuckle, clematis, and bittersweet. As its steward, the Accokeek Foundation protects Piscataway Park’s natural resources from invasive species through mechanical control methods such as pulling, digging, cutting, and mowing. While labor intensive, the method does not require the use of any chemicals, but relies heavily on the use of hand tools and volunteers.

How you can help? Identifying invasive species in your habitat:

Japanese Honeysuckle:

  • Origin: Japan and Korea
  • Use:  Japanese honeysuckle was introduced to the U.S. in the early to mid-1800’s as an ornamental plant, for erosion control, and for wildlife forage and cover. Its highly fragrant flowers provide a tiny drop of honey-flavored nectar enjoyed by children.
  • Characteristics: A ubiquitous invader, Japanese honeysuckle thrives in a wide variety of habitats including fields, forests, wetlands, barrens, and all types of disturbed lands.
Japanese Honeysuckle

Clematis:

  • Origin: Japan and China
  • Use:  Initially introduced into the United States as an ornamental vine and is still widely sold in the nursery trade.
  • Characteristic: This species is found invading forest edges, right-of-ways and urban areas along streams and roads. It grows vigorously over other vegetation, forming dense blankets that block sunlight to the plants underneath. In late summer infestations are conspicuous as a result of its abundant showy white flowers.
Clematis

Bittersweet:

  • Origin: Eastern Asia
  • Use: Oriental bittersweet was introduced into the United States in the 1860s as an ornamental plant and it is still widely sold for landscaping despite its invasive qualities.
  • Characteristic: It occurs in forest edges, open woodlands, fields, hedgerows, coastal areas, salt marshes and disturbed lands. Oriental bittersweet is a vigorous growing plant that threatens native vegetation from the ground to the canopy level. Thick masses of vines sprawl over shrubs, small trees and other plants, producing dense shade that weakens and kills them. Shrubs and trees can be killed by girdling and by uprooting as a result of excessive weight of the vines.
Bittersweet

Potomac River

Piscataway Park inhabits one of the most beautiful spots along the Potomac River, with sweeping views of Mount Vernon, Fort Washington, and the undisturbed landscape of the Maryland shoreline. The Accokeek Foundation works to protect this shoreline through river clean-ups and sustainable land management practices.

River Clean-Ups:
One of the issues that plagues the park each year is an influx of trash that washes ashore from upriver, as well as down from urban areas in the form of runoff. In order to remove the trash and protect the wildlife in the park, the Foundation participates in the annual Potomac River Watershed Clean-Up–a watershed-wide day of volunteering that spans multiple states and hundreds of sites. Volunteers come from all over the area to help remove hundreds of pounds of trash from the shoreline in Piscataway Park. But the clean-up efforts don’t stop there. Throughout the year, individual volunteers and special groups dedicated to reducing the amount of trash in the Potomac make their way to the site to spend time cleaning up the park.

Riparian Buffer:
A major effort of the stewardship of the Potomac River in Piscataway Park was the Foundation’s installation of a Riparian Buffer Zone. The Riparian Buffer that runs along the entire shoreline of the site serves several important purposes:

  • Collecting runoff before it reaches the river. This includes sediment, trash, nutrients, and pesticides, all of which can be harmful to the delicate balance of the river’s ecosystem. Riparian Buffers help improve water quality by intercepting these things before they can reach river.
  • Providing habitat to native plants and animals. In addition to all of the plant species that make up the buffer, deer, rodents, wild turkeys, groundhogs, song birds, osprey, and Bald Eagles can all be found making their home amongst the dense vegetation.
  • Stabilizing the riverbank. The roots of the trees and plants in the Riparian Buffer help stabilize the bank from erosion that would deposit sediment and silt into the Potomac.

Sustainable Land Management Practices:
Agriculture and land management is closely tied to the health of the Potomac, and the Accokeek Foundation incorporates sustainable practices that will benefit the health of the river in addition to the health of the land. The Heritage Breed Livestock Conservation program uses a rotational grazing system that helps control runoff, erosion, and pollution from excess nutrients. Techniques used on the Ecosystem Farm–such as cover cropping, natural pest management, and drip tape irrigation systems–also help reduce the amount of excess nutrients that make their way to the river through runoff.  

Learn about Habitat Stewardship at Accokeek!