Master gardeners identify trees at Sams Lake Bird Sanctuary

Master Gardeners Rich Cocos (L) and Al Baird show off two of the small signs they created to identify large specimen trees at Sams Lake Bird Sanctuary as part of their advanced training in Urban Forestry. Photo/Special.

On a recent warm February afternoon, master gardeners Al Baird and Rich Cocos walked the trail at Sams Lake Bird Sanctuary and posted small signs identifying various trees in the nature preserve.

Visitors to the preserve will now benefit from their work and be able to know what trees are growing in this wetland habitat.

Al and Rich have just completed an in-depth five-day training seminar on Urban Forestry conducted by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension to receive a Gold Star for advanced training in Urban Forestry and Ecology.

The advanced training Gold Star Level is not for every master gardener. Applicants must be willing to commit to a higher level of volunteer service and serve as a resource to the Extension Office in the specialty area. Those who take Gold Star training must also complete a volunteer project in their area of expertise.

As part of their training, Rich and Al each created a tree identification book with information and samples on a minimum of 40 trees found in Georgia. They will be able to work with local homeowners to help identify trees and diagnose problems.

For their volunteer project, Rich and Al decided to identify a variety of the larger specimen trees at Sams Lake Bird Sanctuary, have signage made identifying each tree by common and botanical name and attach the signage to each tree identified.

The UGA Cooperative Extension in Griffin made the signs for the project. Among the trees they identified were red maple, blackjack oak, American beech, wild pear, loblolly pine, turkey oak, American sycamore and yellow poplar.

Al Baird became a master gardener in 1999 and because he has given over ten years of continuous volunteer service is considered a “Lifetime” master gardener. Rich Cocos became a master gardener in 2009.

After completion of their tree identification project at Sams Lake Bird Sanctuary, they will apply to the Extension office to receive their Gold Star in Urban Forestry and Ecology.

The Gold Star is the highest level of training available for master gardeners. Gold Star master gardeners must continue to update their training by attending at least one continuing education seminar each year.

Sams Lake Bird Sanctuary is a beautiful 56-acre property on Old Senoia Road, south of Fayetteville that has been restored as a wetland habitat. The land was donated to Southern Conservation Trust by the Drs. Ferrol and Helen Sams family, well-known residents of Fayette County.

Wetlands are nature’s water treatment stations – storing and cleansing storm water run-off and improving the quality of our streams. Wetlands also provide homes for migrating and local birds, wildlife and water-loving plants.

Take some time to visit Sams Lake Bird Sanctuary and enjoy the tree identification project just completed by master gardeners, Rich Cocos and Al Baird. For more information about becoming a master gardener or about the services of the Fayette County Extension Office, call 770305.5412.

— Written by Fayette County Master Gardener Bonnie Helander

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