A Walk Through Living History at Highland

On December 6, the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards completed this year’s series of tree walks with a tour of the grounds of James Monroe’s Highland. Sharon Hiner, who is both a Tree Steward and an interpreter at Monroe’s Albemarle County home, blended the historical with the botanical as she led participants around the property.

Along the route, she pointed out ways to identify some of the stunning specimens on the site, from a sugar maple (Acer saccharum) – rare in our area – to one of the estate’s signature white ashes (Fraxinus americana). Highland was known as Ash Lawn through much of its post-Monroe era.  In this winter walk, Sharon concentrated on the structure of the trees, as well as bark, buds, nuts, and cones for identification clues.

Other highlights of the walk included a three-centuries-old white oak (Quercus alba) that was already a mature tree when Monroe purchased Highland in 1793, as well as an eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) that also dates back to the Monroe era. The tour concluded with the opportunity to identify a “mystery tree.”

Sharon will reprise the 90-minute Highland walk in April and November 2020.  Other walks scheduled for 2020 will be held at McIntire Park, Pen Park, and Darden Towe Park. The tree walks are free and open to the public, but they are limited to 25 participants and registration is required. Please visit our classes and walks webpage to learn more.

New Tree Walk at Darden Towe Park


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On Saturday, July 13, Kathy Nepote and Allen Ingling led our newest tree walk. In a corner of Darden Towe Park and around the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center, is a treasure trove of trees. Highlights include a wide range of native riparian trees, conifers, numerous ash trees exhibiting the progressive devastation of the emerald ash borer, a tulip tree grown from a seed of one of Thomas Jefferson’s, and 200-plus-year-old osage orange trees. The walk is an easy circuit on dirt trails down to and immediately around the Center. We will be repeating this walk later in the year and will post the dates on our calendar as they are scheduled. Come see what it’s all about!

Return to Pen Park for Tree Identification Walk

On June 15, the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards offered a reprise of our hour-long tree identification walk at Pen Park. Dana Denbar and Susan Mefford helped participants learn to identify about a dozen native tree species along the park’s fitness trail, among them sugar maple (Acer saccharam), red maple (Acer rubrum), tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), as well as hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), boxelder (Acer negundo) and sassafras (Sassafras albidum)Registrations are now being accepted for a tree ID walk at Darden Towe Park, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 13.