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Long Branch Nature Center:
A Neighborhood Resource

Long Branch Gardens Shine

The Long Branch Nature Center has a lot of cool stuff for kids and adults.

Visitors are often surprised at the range of plants in the Center's Native Plant Garden, all of them native plants perfectly adapted to this area and easy to grow. There are Virginia Bluebells, White Snakeroot, Turtleheads, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Bluestem Goldenrod, Green and Gold, Bloodroot, Spring Beauty, Rue Anemone, Cardinal Flower, Stonecrop, Wild Ginger, White Wood Aster, Wild Geranium, Mayapple, Trout Lily, Perfoliate Bellwort, Wild Bleeding Heart, Dutchman`s Breeches, Virginia Spiderwort, Crested Iris, Foamflower, Wild Columbine, Partridgeberry, Jacobs Ladder, Creeping Phlox, Green Dragon, Lady Fern, Polypody Fern, Christmas Fern, Maidenhair Fern, Royal Fern, Ostrich Fern, Winterberry, Mountain Laurel, Fringetree, Serviceberry amd Pinxter Azalea. They are clearly labeled, so you can easily pick out plants you would want to grow in your own garden. The Naturalist there, Alonso Albugattas, is a cornucopia of information about native plants. Since in his spare time he is the President of the Virginia Native Plant Society, he can also advise you on sources for the plants in their garden. And eventually the creator of the Native Plant garden will return from maternity leave as well. Long Branch has a lot more to offer than just exhibits!

Another Long Branch plant specialty is child gardens, and they now have a spider plant garden, a garden of the plants you find in fairy tales, a sensory garden where you see, taste, smell and feel plants, and are working on a dinosaur garden and a fern garden, helped along by four of Arlington's Master Gardeners who are volunteering there. There is also a butterfly garden, with the plants that the butterflies like when they are in the caterpillar stage.

Inside the Nature Center are exhibits of animals you might find around here if you are sharp-eyed and lucky. There are always some turtles swimming around and it smells a little bit like a zoo inside. The Long Branch staff nurses wild animals back to health for re-release into the wild. They also are repopulating our woods with things like toads to attempt to renaturalize the park.

There is lots more to Long Branch. The Nature Center staff runs all sorts of programs, from birding and plant walks for adults to frog walks and campfires for kids. The range is impressive, and there are films to illustrate some of the talks, or sometimes just the films themselves. Some of the events are listed in the Barcroft News, but there is a newsletter produced by the Nature Center if you want to make sure your don't miss anything.

Greg Zell, the Center's director, has been the prime mover in the reconstruction of Sparrow Swamp to protect the embankments of the W&OD Trail while still maintaining the wetlands environment that has brought many species back to Four Mile run, to the delight of young observers, bird watchers and anyone who enjoys wildlife. He just about has the problem licked, with funds he has rooted out here and there among the tangle of programs and a design that will hopefully meet all requirements.

Long Branch is worth a visit! You can take the trail or drive around to the parking lot entrance on Carlin Springs Road. From the W&OD at 7th Street, go right (north) past Sparrow Swamp, then take a left down the steep hill (17 per cent is steep) and cross Four Mile Run on the bridge where Long Branch runs into Four Mile Run. Follow Long Branch, first through the parking lot, then onto the trail. The Nature Center is about 300 yards up the branch. By car, the entrance to the parking lot is on Carlin Springs Road, between the hospital and the school. Call the Nature Center at 358-6535 to check their hours. They are closed on Mondays.

This page was last revised on: September 15, 2000.

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