Tree Walk at Ivy Hill Cemetery

Big oak tree at Ivy Hill Cemetery in Alexandria amid gravestones.

This colossal Southern red oak near the entrance to Ivy Hill Cemetery was one of the remarkable specimens admired by Tree Stewards on their tree walk. But it needs to be shorn of the ivy climbing its branches to live a few hundred more years. We’ll be back to Take Ivy Off Trees.

Tree Steward trainees and their mentors were agog at the magnificent tree specimens at Ivy Hill Cemetery in Alexandria on Sunday, Oct. 28th when they gathered for a tree identification expedition led by instructor Emily Ferguson. They encountered innumerable oaks of  many stripes; maples; hickories (fuzzy-tipped and not); dogwoods with checkered bark; lenticeled cherries, both native and exotic; sassafras flashing all three leaf forms; a catalpa sprout; trees that sprawled, those that clung, big-leaved, to a shady slope, and every tree shape in between in this garden of arboreal splendor.

The cemetery, founded in 1856, pre-dates the Civil War and may have been spared cutting for sightlines by troops in that hostility. Its beautiful Timber Branch Creek is as it was formed centuries ago by enormous chunks of rock that scooted in under a glacier.

Tree Steward trainees take notes, sketch leaves, collect leaf samples and listen carefully as instructor Emily Ferguson (red backpack) leads them on a tree identification walk in Ivy Hill Cemetery on Oct. 28, 2018. In an unusually late season for leaf color, only dogwoods were notably absent their green chlorophyll at the end of October.

Tree Steward trainees take notes, sketch leaves, collect leaf samples and listen carefully as instructor Emily Ferguson (red backpack) leads them on a tree identification walk in Ivy Hill Cemetery on Oct. 28, 2018. In an unusually late season for leaf color, only dogwoods were notably absent their green chlorophyll at the end of October.

After a two-hour walk, the group gathered in the cemetery’s Crypt for refreshments and a lesson in funeral practices of the past, some rather unsettling. Before backhoes, speedy transportation, and warm winters, some deceased needed a resting place before burial. The Crypt, a brick-lined cavern in a hillside at Ivy Hill, held bodies on bunk-bed-style shelves in cold storage until the ground thawed or funeral arrangements could be made. This usually was temporary, until a spring thaw when the shad started to run in Virginia rivers and the Shadblow or Serviceberry trees first opened their blossoms.

Not all of the Crypt’s occupants departed in a timely fashion. Clippings from old newspapers indicate that some families were tardy in claiming their next of kin. In particular, Ivy Hill’s General Manager Lucy Goddin tells the tale of one lovely resident who exceeded all expectations of hospitality in the Crypt.

For that, you really need to take a tour and talk to Lucy, who assures us that would not happen today!

Click to learn more about the cemetery and its historic preservation society:

Tree Stewards and trainees photograph and admire trees on a walk at Ivy Hill Cemetery on Oct. 28th.

Tree Stewards and trainees photograph and admire trees on a walk at Ivy Hill Cemetery on Oct. 28th.

 

 

About TreeStewards

TreeStewards of Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, are trained volunteers who work to protect, preserve, and enhance urban tree canopy through public education and volunteer activities such as planting, pruning, and caring for trees.
This entry was posted in Education, Events, Fall Tree ID, Ivy Hill Cemetery, New Training Class, The Crypt, Tree ID and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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