Environmental Currents: Spring 2023

Environmental Currents: Spring 2023

Photo of yellow flowers with the Brandywine Conservancy logo in the bottom left corner

Directors' Report

Dear Fellow Conservationists,

It’s that time of year where we see and feel the first signs of spring—which means our landscapes and its inhabitants will reawaken themselves shortly.  The telltale sign is already here—spring peepers—a most welcome sound and music to our ears!

In this issue of Environmental Currents, you will learn how we use observation to understand the world around us. That includes identifying different types of amphibians in vernal ponds, like those spring peepers. Our guest blog by Wendy Love, a Pennsylvania Master Naturalist trained at Brandywine’s Penguin Court Preserve in Westmoreland County, PA, details how plant observation through the seasons is helping scientists track the impact of climate change on natural cycles. Brandywine and Penguin Court support this data collection as it is crucial in how we address our climate needs into the future.

While we learn more about the world around us, we also provide ways to jump in and take action this spring! Learn about Penguin Court and its partners’ “Monarch Waystation” initiative to celebrate Westmoreland County’s 250th anniversary. If you are interested in tackling those spring invasives and don’t know where to start, we have you covered in our spring invasives article. Another option is to join our Create Your Own Native Plant Pocket Garden series, where we will take beginners from start to finish on how to transition a small, but manageable, space to native plantings. Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art staff are also getting personally involved in this series. This year we are doing a staff challenge to implement a native plant pocket garden, and we have 25 staff members joining us. Stay tuned for updates on those transformations, and please join us in this journey to transform a space of your own!

All of our work would not be possible without the landowners who commit to doing this work—protecting our land and stewarding our landscapes.  These projects cannot come to fruition without the support of our partners. Also highlighted is the Radnor Hunt Races, with proceeds going to our work to protect land and water, and the Cheshire Land Preservation Fund, which has generously supported our conservation work for many years. We are also premiering the brand new “Where are the Cowboys?” book written by local author Kathleen Hood—a fun, educational and colorful book about the King Ranch Cowboys in Unionville, PA, aimed at all generations.  We are thrilled to announce that 100% of the proceeds are going to the Conservancy.

All of these elements together make a world of a difference—thank you for your interest and support in our work as we protect and transform our landscapes for generations to come.

— Stephanie and Grant

Stephanie Armpriester
Director of Conservation and Stewardship

Grant DeCosta
Director of Community Services

Vernal Pools and the Amphibians Who Love Them—Your New, Noisy Neighbors

Wood frog (lithobates sylvaticus).  Photo by Kevin Fryberger.

As all hibernating creatures begin to emerge from the cold winter months, we're taking a look at some different amphibians found in our local region and how to distinguish between their unique characteristics. Several of these amphibians will soon be seeking out vernal pools—small, seasonal depressions that temporarily fill with water—that serve as essential habitats for their breeding success.

Click here to read more

Conservation Partner Spotlight: The Cheshire Land Preservation Fund

Preserved Acreage in Highland Township
Preserved Acreage in Highland Township

Since 1967, the Brandywine Conservancy’s land preservation work has focused on protecting the lands in the Brandywine-Christina Watershed & important complementary lands throughout the region. Through a conservation easement and land donation, one of the Conservancy’s landmark preservation projects was to ensure the protection of 5,367 acres of rolling fields, meadows, streams—and their associated wetlands, floodplains and woodlands—of the Buck & Doe Run Valley Farms, a subsidiary of the legendary King Ranch cattle operation of Texas, in 1984.

The Conservancy’s efforts in that area continue today through the use of agricultural and conservation easements. To bring purchased easements to completion, the Conservancy partners with government entities such as the Chester County Agricultural Land Preservation Board (ALPB) and municipalities, as well as non-profit organizations such as the Cheshire Land Preservation Fund (CLPF)—an independent charitable trust established in 1989 to help preserve open space. The organization’s mission is "to promote and encourage the preservation of open space, agricultural resources, and natural ecological systems in Southern Chester County, Pennsylvania, in cooperation with other non-profit organizations having similar goals."

Preserved acreage in West Marlborough Township
Preserved acreage in West Marlborough Township

The CLPF is managed by three trustees and they frequently partner with the Conservancy by raising and contributing funds needed to complete open space preservation and environmental conservation projects, including easements. For example, over the past several years, the CLPF has contributed funds to purchase easements that preserved over 240 acres on properties in London Grove, Newlin and West Marlborough Townships, and provided funding for the Conservancy’s staff time and easement endowment to complete and record a donated easement on 96 acres in Highland Township. We are grateful to landowners for these important gifts and to our valued partners like the CLPF for supporting these easement efforts.


Much as the Radnor Hunt Races supports the Brandywine Conservancy, the Cheshire Point-to-Point supports the Cheshire Land Preservation Fund's open space and clean water programs. The 76th running of the Cheshire Races are scheduled to be held on March 26, 2023. If you attend, please be sure to stop by the “Partners in Preservation” tent, hosted by the Brandywine Conservancy, and say hello!

Phenology, Climate Change, and You

Butterfly and bumblebee nectarine on a plant. Photo by Xiawei Zhang
Photo by Xiawei Zhang

Most people recognize the seasonality of natural cycles is shifting. Trained volunteers are now helping scientists to quantify those changes. Wendy Love of Rector, PA is a volunteer who completed the Pennsylvania Master Naturalist (PMN) training at the Brandywine’s Penguin Court Preserve in 2020. She then became a Certified Local Phenology Leader with the USA National Phenology Network as a way to fulfill her PMN service requirements. The Network oversees a project called “Nature’s Notebook” through which seasonal changes in plants and animals are tracked. This data helps researchers, land managers and decision-makers as they deal with a changing climate. In the following guest article, learn more about the study of phenology and the walks Wendy has been hosting at Penguin Court, where she and volunteers monitor 16 individual plants throughout the growing season.

Click here to read more.

Yay for Waystations: How to Certify Your Property as a Monarch Waystation

Photo by Nora Nicole Sadler

By now, you may have heard that the International Union for Conservation of Nature classified the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) as endangered in July 2022. While this designation does not provide the monarch butterfly any legal protections in the United States, it does highlight the plight of this iconic species—which should help form recommendations to protect it and other pollinators. One action you can take to help monarch butterflies is to have your property certified as a Monarch Waystation. In the following article, learn more about the certification process and how you can get involved in helping monarchs thrive.

Click here to read more.

Tackling Invasive Species: Early Spring Work


As the winter season fades and people become eager to get outside and enjoy the warmer days of spring, there are quite a few invasive plant species also looking to exploit the early warmth and longer days. While most of the native floral communities are still in dormancy, a few species take advantage of this lack of competition by emerging very early in the spring season. In the invasive species spotlight below, learn more about some of these early blooming invasives and how to develop an approach to managing them on your property. 

Click here to read more.

Join us at the 92nd Radnor Hunt Races, Benefiting the Brandywine Conservancy

Grouping of horses running towards the camera in race formation
Photo by Bob Plant

Celebrating 92 years of horseracing on the Main Line, the Radnor Hunt Races return on Saturday, May 20, 2023 in Willistown Township, Chester County. Tickets are now on sale for this springtime tradition that draws the best thoroughbred horses, riders and trainers across the country. All event proceeds benefit the open space and clean water programs of the Brandywine Conservancy—the sole beneficiary of the Races for more than 40 years.

Built on a rich history of horse racing that has been cultivated in this region for nearly 100 years, the Radnor Hunt Races is supported by the legacy of protecting the stunning open spaces that make this region such a beautiful place to call home. With the help of the Races and many likeminded partners, the Conservancy has protected over 70,000 acres of open space—including the Radnor Hunt racecourse itself and surrounding lands—and continues to improve and safeguard water quality, land protection, outdoor recreation and historic preservation in southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware.

Click here to learn more and purchase tickets.

Admission is sold in advance and must be purchased by May 10, 2023—there are no Race Day sales.

New Book Release:

Where are the Cowboys? Searching for the King Ranch Cowboys in Doe Run

Book cover of "Where are the Cowboys? Searching for the King Ranch Cowboys in Doe Run"

The history of the King Ranch in Unionville, PA comes alive with this exciting new publication, "Where are the Cowboys? Searching for the King Ranch Cowboys in Doe Run." Author Kathleen Hood teamed up with the former King Ranch Cowboys and local artist Randall Graham to create a book that captures the essence of life on the ranch from the cowboys’ perspective. "Where are the Cowboys?" provides factual information on the ranch operation, historic photos and videos, and is sure to be enjoyed by the entire family.

Click here to order your limited-edition copy today! 100% of the proceeds from the sale of this publication are donated to the Brandywine Conservancy.