Button buck enjoying one of Meadowood's many trails. (BLM photo by David Lyster)

Nature at Meadowood

Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area contains a variety of terrains and vegetation types. These include gently sloping open meadows, mature hardwood forests along steep slopes and floodplains, and riparian areas, freshwater ponds and streams. The diversity of plant communities within Meadowood provides a great variety of habitats for wildlife within a rapidly urbanizing region. The wildlife found at Meadowood includes deer, foxes, raccoons, amphibians, hawks and eagles, resident and migratory birds and waterfowl, insects and more. 


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Woodlands

Meadowood Recreation Area contains some of the best mature hardwood forest on the Mason Neck peninsula as well as less mature woodlands. Woody plants common to the woodlands, forests and forest edges at Meadowood include red and white oak, beech, sweet gum, Virginia pine, and even persimmon and paw paws. The trails at Meadowood pass through a wide variety of terrain and vegetation types, providing visitors with constantly changing seasonal experiences.

Meadows
 The meadows at Meadowood were originally cleared from the forest to create early orchards and hayfields. These early open fields were seeded with fescue and non-native grasses which are not optimal wildlife habitat. BLM manages the open meadows to encourage native vegetation, control invasive weeds, and provide wildlife habitat, including habitat that supports ground-nesting birds. Mowing, which is necessary to control invasive species and maintain open vistas, is conducted at times when wildlife is not dependent upon the meadow habitats.  
Native Plants
Native plants provide shelter and food for wildlife at Meadowood. BLM manages the property to conserve and encourage the growth and spread of beneficial native plants over non-native plants which provide little to no benefits to wildlife. 
 
Volunteers help us to increase plant diversity by planting native fruit- and nut-bearing shrub and tree seedlings in select areas. These plants, which include American hazelnut, Buttonbush, Black chokecherry, Shadblow serviceberry, and Winterberry holly, increase the diversity of vegetation and provide food and habitat for a variety of birds, butterflies and other wildlife at Meadowood.
Invasive Plants
In addition to providing a great diversity of native plant species and habitats, Meadowood also contains some of the many invasive plant species or weeds found throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region. Non-native invasive plants, many of which were introduced to the United States as ornamentals, often out-compete native vegetation, forming dense single-species habitats that provide little to no benefits to wildlife.  
 
Some of the problem species identified at Meadowood and the habitats they occur in are:
 
Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) – found along trails, roads and floodplains in wooded areas. Grass sized and bright green, stiltgrass resembles miniature bamboo.
Chinese silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis) – found in open meadows and field edges
Common reed (Phragmites australis) – found in moist open meadows and field edges
Chinese lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata) – found in open meadows and fields
Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) – found in woodlands and forest edges
Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) – found along forest and meadow edges
Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) - found along forest and meadow edges
Princess Tree (Paulownia tomentosa) – found along forest and meadow edges
 
BLM controls the spread of invasive plants by mowing and targeted herbicide application. Volunteers are instrumental in helping BLM to control the spread of invasive weeds. Volunteers help by hand-pulling or digging invasive plants before they seed and spread. 
Ponds, Streams and Riparian Areas
The ponds, streams and riparian areas at Meadowood host a wide variety of insects, fish and other wildlife. Waterfowl include herons, ducks and Canada geese. Other migratory and resident bird species may also be seen. Dragonflies are abundant and commonly observed at Enchanted and Hidden Ponds. The American eel has been found in our streams and ponds, and an occasional eagle can be seen watching the ponds for a bite to eat. Evidence of beaver may occasionally be found in the floodplains of Thompson Creek, Giles Run and South Branch; look for wood chips and small chewed tree trunks.
 
Enchanted Pond and Hidden Pond are home to a variety of fish and other wildlife at Meadowood, including herons, mallards and wood ducks, Canada geese, turtles, and other aquatic wildlife and insects. Fish in the ponds include bass, bluegill, catfish, and crappie. BLM and the State of Virginia survey the fish population in the fishing ponds periodically, and restock the ponds when needed. In addition, BLM stocks a small number of grass-eating carp in the ponds; the carp, which cannot reproduce, eat invasive aquatic weeds which can overwhelm a small pond.