Alumni Spotlight: Byron Carmean (Class of 1970)

On the Hunt for Virginia’s Big Trees

Photo of Byron measuring a bald cypress called “Big Mama” taken by Robert Llewellyn.

Byron has been hunting for the largest, most remarkable trees in the state since 1983 and to date, he has more than 270 trees in the Virginia Big Tree Database. He has also contributed over 60 trees to the book, Remarkable Trees of Virginia by Dr. Jeffrey Kirwan and Nancy Ross Hugo.

Byron taught horticulture in the Chesapeake public school system for 21 years and since his retirement his tree hunting efforts have increased. One of his most notable finds was in 2005 when he found a virgin stand of trees while canoeing in Southampton, VA. The stand includes trees over 1000 years old and is also home to several state champions, including the late bald cypress, “Big Mama” (see photo below). When Byron discovered the stand, the site was owned by a paper company and after Byron shared his find with the VA Department of Conservation and Recreation, they bought the land and made it into a state preserve called the Cypress Bridge Swamp Natural Area Preserve.

Byron’s favorite tree species is water tupelo (Nyssa aquatica L.). This tree has a very unique trunk shape due to buttressing (basal flaring). As water tupelo age, this widened trunk base can hollow out and he has found a water tupelo trees with hollowed out bases up to 10-11 feet in diameter on the inside!

In addition to finding Virginia’s big trees, Byron also contributed to the Atlas of Virginia Flora, which maps the distribution of every plant that grows in Virginia. This involved collecting, pressing and submitting plants to herbariums around the state.

Byron’s Favorite Course at VT:

Plant Propagation

Advice to Undergrads:

“You can’t know everything so focus on one to two things and try to do them well.”

Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Murphy (Class of 2005)

Making a Difference in the Urban Landscape

Position: Owner and Operator of Canopy, LLC, Washington, DC

Before Sarah graduated from Virginia Tech with her bachelor’s in Horticulture, she studied abroad in England at the University of Sheffield learning about urban ecology and greenroofs. Since her graduation in 2005, she has held a variety of positions in the greenroof industry ranging from research to design and installation. In 2007, she started her own company, Canopy, LLC in Washington, DC which is a company that blends architecture and landscape design concepts with a concern for the environment to create beautiful and functional vegetated rooftops and urban gardens.

During her greenroof career, Sarah has been involved with some interesting projects including spending two months on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean researching Best Management Practices for a putting green on the new Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships (read more), and putting an herb garden greenroof on the Historic Tabard Inn near DuPont Circle in Washington, DC (read more).

Sarah’s Favorite Courses at VT:

  • Nature and American Values
  • Woody Landscape Plants, I & II
  • Herbaceous Landscape Plants, I & IIAdvice to Undergrads:

“Internships are a great way to gain exposure to the industry and experience how different companies operate.”

2008 CALS Alumni Awards

Jeffrey Miller (’70) received the Outstanding Alumni Award

Jeffrey is president of Horticulture Management Associates LLC, a company that designs, hosts, and maintains websites for various organizations and nursery businesses. He serves as Executive Director of three prominent horticultural associations in Virginia (Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association, Virginia Green Industry Council, and the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association) and is a member of many organizations such as the American Association of Association Executives, Garden Writers of America, Nursery and Landscape Association Executives of North America, Southern Nursery Association, Virginia Farm Bureau, Virginia 4–H All–Stars, and the Virginia Tech Alumni Association.

His past awards include:

  • Virginia Tech Ag Alumni Organization Distinguished Service Citation (1996)
    Small Business Leader of the Year from the Christiansburg–Montgomery County
  • Chamber of Commerce (1992)
  • David E. Laird Memorial Award for outstanding contributions and service in the field of Environmental Horticulture by the Southern Nursery Association (1983)

    Josh Kane (’98) received the Outstanding Recent Alumni Award

    Josh’s entrepreneurial spirit and efforts transformed a one-man mowing operation into a $3 million company that employs over 30 people. His company, Kane Lawn & Landscapes, specializes in high quality landscape contracting activities in the northern Virginia area. Josh is a landscape designer and his designing talent has earned he and his company the very prestigious “Best in Show” award at the Washington Home and Garden Expo. He has also been awarded Planets National Safety Award the past several years. Josh is very active in his community with work donated to the local Habitat for Humanity and school clean–up drives, as well as sponsoring little league sports teams.