The Maryland Native Plant Society

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  • MNPS Field Trip: Annual Winter Solstice and Hooley- Chapman Forest (Sunday)

MNPS Field Trip: Annual Winter Solstice and Hooley- Chapman Forest (Sunday)

  • 12/18/2016
  • 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
  • Charles County

Sponsoring Organizations: Maryland Native Plant Society; Virginia Native Plant Society- Potowmack Chapter; Botanical Society of Washington, Mattawoman Watershed Society

Celebrate the beginning of the winter season at Chapman Forest (Chapman State Park) with its spectacular scenery and diversity of native plants, wildlife, and natural communities!

This year we will visit the old-age forest section from the low river terrace and extensive Water-Willow shrublands along the Potomac River to the marl cliffs and ravines near Glymont.  This section of the park is a fascinating and regionally unique meeting ground for plants with a primary range in the inner Piedmont and mountains and those of the Coastal Plain.

Most of the ravines and rolling valleys throughout the forested tract between Mount Aventine and Glymont comprise a globally rate natural community called Shell-Marl Ravine Forest, coined by Harvard botanist M.L. Fernald in the 1930's after discovering similar forest communities in the Virginia tidewater region to the south.

This community type occurs only on the Coastal Plain where river bluffs and deep ravines over millennia have exposed underlying calcareous and glauconitic marine sands and marl beds deposited during the Paleocene, Eocene and Miocene epochs when the area was a shallow sea at the western edge of the Atlantic Ocean.  The Brightseat and Aquia Formations are the prominent underlying strata in this section of Chapman Forest.

The combination of deep ravines, calcareous soils, and close proximity to the Potomac River has produced a remarkable flora predominantly composed of species typical of the inner Piedmont and carbonate areas of the Appalachians that are otherwise rate to absent on the Coastal Plan, especially in association.  Chapman Forest is considered to be Maryland's largest and finest example of this natural community type.

During this year's trip, we'll see a diversity of species and natural communities, including Maryland state champion Pagoda Oak (Quercus pagoda) and Chinquapin Oak (Q. muehlenbergii).  We'll also see old-age Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), White Ash (Fraxinus americana), American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), American Basswood (Tilia americana var. americana), Winter Grape (Vitis vulpina), Pignut Hickory (Carya glabra), Sweet Pignut Hickory (C. ovalis), Sassafras (Sassafras albidum), Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) and other trees such as Dwarf Hackberry (Celtis tenuifolia), American Hop-hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra), Red Mulberry (Morus rubra), Shumard Oak (Q. shumardii), Deam's Oak (Q. x deamii), Paw Paw (Asimina triloba) and others.

If there's time, we also hope to take a moment to measure a champion-sized Deam's Oak at this section of the forest.

Leader:  Rod Simmons (and "usual suspects")


Notes:   Most of the walk traverses rolling, fairly open forest along trails, though some steep grades will occasionally be encountered.

For folks who aren't able to stay the full time, there will be numerous points throughout the field trip to depart from and easily get back to the parking area.

Bring: Wear sturdy shoes and bring lunch or snacks and water.  

Cancellation Policy: In the event of heavy-steady snow, sleet, or pouring rain, or icy, dangerous conditions of roads, the field trip will be cancelled.

Contact: (for additional information; not to register) Sujata Roy at or

Directions: Take Indian Head Highway (Rt. 210) south from Capital Beltway (495).  Proceed south on Rt. 210 for app. 15 miles. Continue on Rt. 210 past the Rt. 227 intersection at Bryan's Road (McDonald's, Burger King and shopping center on right and large CVS and builders supply will be on left) and start looking for Chapman Landing Road on right.  Take right on Chapman Landing Road and proceed a couple of miles to entrance to Mount Aventine (Chapman State Park) on right.  Park and meet in small parking lot at entrance gate (additional parking is available along the shoulder of Chapman Landing Road, though please be extra mindful of the neighboring residents and careful not to damage the road edges when parking).

For those interested in carpooling to the field trip -- or those who have room to provide a ride -- please email Kathy Bilton at closer to the time and she will send out a list of names, general location and contact info which she has received so that folks wishing transportation to the field trip can arrange something.  A number of folks in the Alexandria-Arlington-D.C. area will likely be looking for a ride to the site.

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