Simmons, Roderick H. (Active)
City of Alexandria, Parks
Mid-Atlantic flora
Rod is a plant ecologist, with a background in biology, geology, and ecology who has extensively surveyed the flora and natural communities of the mid-Atlantic region, especially the inner Coastal Plain and Piedmont of the greater Washington, D.C. area. He is a Research Associate with the National Museum of Natural History, Dept. of Botany, Smithsonian Institution; a member of the Virginia Botanical Associates; Affiliate Faculty in the Dept. of Biology at George Mason University; former contract botanist for the National Park Service, NatureServe, and others; and works closely with the Virginia and Maryland natural heritage programs. He is the author of numerous papers in scientific journals, technical reports, and articles. He is a longtime contributor to the U.S. National Vegetation Classification (USNVC) and has performed hundreds of forest, wetlands, and stream assessments.

He is a member and a past president of the Botanical Society of Washington and serves on the boards of the Virginia and Maryland Native Plant societies. He is a frequent lecturer and field trip leader for various organizations. Rod has worked for the past 27 years as the Natural Resource Manager and Plant Ecologist for the City of Alexandria, Virginia. He was recently honored in the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) 2022 Annual Report, page 9, at

Rod is a lifelong resident of northern Virginia and has witnessed many changes in the natural landscape and culture of the region over the years, from the relatively undisturbed and weed-free greater landscape, little marred by the occasional "early generation" non-native invasive plants, to the increasingly rampant wave of late-1990s weeds and other species and beyond. Growing up in the late 1960s and early 70s in the Holmes Run Gorge area near the old Falls Church municipal airport, formerly on a vast gravel terrace at Bailey's Crossroads, Rod has an indelible memory of the many thousands of acres of floristically diverse and largely undisturbed forest, field, stream, and wetland habitats throughout the greater region - and happily exploring a number of them. In those days, natural areas and wildlife were close at hand and one could simply walk down the street to find them. Most prominent among first memories were the numerous occasions spent alone amongst plants, in field, forest, boggy area, and the like - native or otherwise.

Also fondly remembered are the countless weekend trips as a youngster with his father to a number of the region's famous old nurseries - Hill's, Westcott's, Campbell and Ferrara, and others - where one would spend many hours perusing the stock, looking for new and rare specimen plants, as well as the best specimen of each. All of the above undoubtedly inspired Rod's innate affinity for plants and vegetation communities in particular. Also informing his early formative worldview was a subscription to National Geographic Magazine (at the tail end of the "Golden Years" of this iconic publication) given to him by his grandfather when he was five years old. Countless hours were spent poring over each issue by Rod and his siblings. None of us had ever seen anything like what was depicted in the magazine. Having many interests but not knowing exactly how any of them pertained as a university major to a gainful career at the time, Rod stretched out much academic study from the early 1980s at a number of schools, including several years as Biology Major at George Mason University, into the 1990s and ultimately earned a B.S. in multidisciplinary studies (emphasis in geology and environmental science) at Indiana University. Since then, he has earned at least 50 classroom hours and Continuing Education Units (CEUs) at Virginia Tech and other schools, all the while having too much fun to pursue a graduate degree!

In the early 1990s, Rod was hired as the curator of flora and plant ecologist at the Winkler Botanical Preserve in Alexandria, Virginia, which was at that time a fairly large, pristine, forested natural area with a spectacular remnant flora and habitats. This role took on a myriad of duties, and presented considerable opportunities for collaboration with federal, state, and local scientific communities, including drafting "Guidelines of Native Plant Use for Ecological Restoration" for the Federal Native Plant Conservation Initiative (now the Plant Conservation Alliance) that was newly created in 1993 after President Clinton signed an Executive Memorandum ordering the use of native plants on federal properties. Since that time, Rod's work has involved conservation biology, systematic botany, vegetation ecology, herbarium science, environmental policy and law, environmental education, and natural lands management and ecological restoration. He was elected to membership in the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 2017.