Discovering GEMS Along The Severn

The long-awaited GEMS Expedition is getting underway!

Trailing arbutus

Bud Reeves and Emi McGeady Measure A Black Gum

Back in 1988, the Severn River Commission published a book by foresters Todd Davison and Colby Rucker, – GEMS Of The Severn.

The authors trekked through the forests, swamps, wetlands, ponds, and streams in the Severn River watershed and identified 500 special features, the GEMS, that we should take note of.

The GEMS described by the two fieldmen were all land based – forest, shrubs, fauna, wetlands, swamps, ponds, and some historical and cultural features.

Mountain Laurel

For example, trailing arbutus (above right) and the common mountain laurel (below right).

They did not venture into the river itself, but concentrated on the surrounding watershed.

Fast forward 33 years and SRA is launching the GEMS Expedition to update Colby and Todd’s work.

SRA’s GEMS Expedition trekked out along the shores of the Severn Run and Sewell Spring Branch in late March to begin identifying some of 500 special GEMS that were detailed in 1988.

A 30.1-inch diameter Makes This A Specimen Tree!

Pictured at left are SRA’s Field Investigator, Emi McGeady, and Anne Arundel County Forester, Bud Reeves, measuring the diameter of a large tree found in the Severn River Natural Environmental Area recently.

A Specimen Tree

It’s a Black Gum tree with a 30.1-inch diameter. Any tree over 30 inches in diameter is considered officially old, a “specimen” tree, which makes it special for the GEMS inventory.

This was one of the ways Colby and Todd designated large trees as “GEMS” back in 1988.

The GEMS that Colby identified range from swamp rose and trailing arbutus on the forest floor to the towering Tulip Poplars, Oaks and Pines.

He also included historical highlights in his GEMS Of The Severn, and many date back to when King Charles II in England granted patents to the early settlers in the 1600s.

In 1988, the two foresters used the then state-of-the-art tool for tracking things, a process called cartography that could produce printed maps.

During the 2021 GEMS Expedition, SRA hopes to create an exciting new education program that will update Todd and Colby’s fine masterpiece to see how many GEMS of 1988 still remain. And, we’ll starting including water-based GEMS as well.

Stay tuned for more details on the GEMS Expedition.