Posts Tagged ‘Botany’

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Day On Lot 8: A Dan Crane NYCO Commentary

Towering White Ash on Lot 8When the results for Proposition 5 came in last November, I decided I must visit Lot 8 in the Jay Mountain Wilderness. Since the voters of New York State made this area yet another sacrificial lamb at the altar of greed and profitability, I knew it would only be a matter of time before the chainsaws, bulldozers and explosives moved in and converted a living and breathing forest into something akin to a war zone.

It soon became evident this juggernaut of “progress” was unstoppable, as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) relinquished their roles of protecting the environment and the Adirondack Park. Instead, these governmental organizations engaged in the complete evisceration of nearly every environmental protection law on the books in an attempt to ensure NYCO Minerals, Inc. destroyed Lot 8 as soon as possible.

This left me little choice but to put hastily together a 6-day bushwhacking trip through the Jay Mountain Wilderness, with an entire day allocated to exploring the condemned Lot 8 in all its natural glory before its destruction. I felt it would ease my conscience somewhat for not doing enough to prevent its impending demise in the first place. Unfortunately, despite getting up-close and personal with Lot 8, I only ended-up feeling worse. In between the joy and wonder of experiencing this property for myself firsthand, was a sense of deep sorrow, bordering on moroseness, as the fate of everything I saw, smelled and heard was never far from my mind.
» Continue Reading.



Monday, June 9, 2014

Beavers And Trees: A Woodland Arms Race

Beaver_castoreumAround a beaver pond, we sometimes catch a whiff of beaver odor. People have described it to me as smoky, woody, or like tobacco. It may waft over from the lodge, or it might emanate from scent mounds – little piles of mud by the water’s edge. Beavers make scent mounds by dredging up mud from the bottom of a pond, then carrying it up on land in their front paws while walking upright. The beaver drops the mud, then squats over the mound and applies castoreum from glands near the base of the tail.

The smell means: keep away! In some neighborhoods, this territorial advertisement works remarkably well. I’ve been involved in studies where human-made scent mounds effectively deterred free-ranging beavers from settling in unoccupied beaver habitat. » Continue Reading.



Saturday, May 31, 2014

Goodbye Wildflowers – Hello, Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard flowersEver since humans invented agriculture and started moving from continent to continent, they have taken plants with them. In most cases imported, non-native plants do not spread much beyond the bounds of horticulture. But the exceptions are increasingly worrisome to biologists. Removed from the pests and diseases that kept them in check in their natural habitats, some plants multiply explosively. They can smother native ecosystems in a matter of a few years.

Some of these invasive plants, such as bush honeysuckle, Japanese knotweed, phragmites reed, and purple loosestrife, are all too familiar in our region. As if that’s not enough, we must now add a new menace to the list. The latest member of this rogues’ gallery is garlic mustard, a pungent herb in the cabbage family. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, May 22, 2014

Seed Dispersal: Sneaky Plants and Gullible Ants

EliasomesI don’t trust flowers.

There are grounds for my suspicion; flowering plants are proven masters of deception. For instance, the sundew uses sparkling droplets of sticky “faux dew” to ensnare and digest curious flies; bee orchids dupe male wasps into wasting their copulatory efforts on floral structures that look and smell like a female wasp. And what about humans? As I labor on behalf of flowers, fertilizing, tilling, watering and sweating, I sometimes wonder if I’m being led down the proverbial garden path. Exactly who’s cultivating whom? » Continue Reading.



Friday, May 16, 2014

Spring In The Adirondacks: Fiddlehead

FiddleheadSpring is an exciting time of year. The forest seems to abound with new life, radiating with new sights, sounds, and smells. I recently went for a walk to photograph the early spring wildflowers in bloom around Heart Lake and Mount Jo. Heavy winds made photographing the flowers difficult. The fiddleheads on the other hand were more stable and offered the opportunity to capture the brilliant detail found in the young leaves just starting to emerge from the coil of the fiddlehead. » Continue Reading.



Sunday, May 11, 2014

Ed Kanze: The Secret Life Of Pollen

ed_kanze_pollenSnort it and sneeze, but don’t hate it. Pollen, each grain essentially a plant sperm and some other odds and ends wrapped up in a sturdy waterproof container, makes the world go ’round.

Listen here and join me in contemplating what pollen is, what it does, and why the world would be a barren place without it in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze. » Continue Reading.


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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Dandelions: Make Salad, Not War

DandelionFlower-Photo-by-Greg-HumeThere’s no arguing spring with the dandelions. When they bloom, I know that winter’s finally outta here. By May, my fields and yard are dusted with that mellow dandelion yellow. I don’t mind. I keep honeybees, and dandelions are one of the more reliable sources of early spring nectar and pollen.

Dandelion is a poetic name. Derived from the French phrase, dent de leon, it refers to the deep serrations of the leaves, which, at least to the French, resemble the teeth (dent) of a lion (leon). The flower heads are packed with innumerable tiny florets. The heads open during the day and close at night. » Continue Reading.



Friday, May 2, 2014

Ed Kanze: Heat, Sweat, And A Well-Cooked Steak

warning-hotIs it possible to survive time spent in a room so hot that it could fry a steak and eggs? Listen to my tale of a famous series of experiments conducted in England in 1775.

Two of the great botanists of the time, Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, braved the inferno with only minor discomfort and lived to tell the tale. The action heats up in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze. » Continue Reading.



Monday, April 14, 2014

First Signs of Spring: Skunk Cabbage

skunk_cabbageIt’s spring. Red-winged blackbirds are calling, chipmunks are foraging and flocks of robins abound. Bending down to smell the first subtle scents of crocuses and daffodils, we give thanks that winter is over. Sometimes, we also take a whiff of skunk cabbage flowers, just for the olfactory shock value.

Skunk cabbage grows throughout the Northeast and Midwest, ranging from North Carolina well up into the northernmost reaches of Quebec. The flower emerges through the snow and ice of March in the understory of wooded swamps, along riverbanks, lakeshores, and in other habitats with rich wet soils. First growth is an exotic, crimson-hued, three to six inch tall cowl –called a spathe – that surrounds and protects a spherical cluster of flowers. Each flower measures ¾-inch across and consists of 50 to 100 tightly packed florets. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tree Pruning Time: Six Weeks Before Buds Open

Proper-Tree-PruningSo far as tree health is concerned, the optimal pruning time is the six weeks or so before buds open. We should still have ample time to prune, as spring appears to be in no hurry to get here.

Pruning is a skill that can be readily learned, and, if you practice it enough, you’ll enter into the art of it. It requires the application of a few basic principals using the right equipment. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, March 20, 2014

First Day of Spring: Starting Seeds Indoors

starting-seeds-indoorsEven while we remain snowbound, the days are growing longer and the sun is getting higher; robins are singing, and there’s a good chance spring will come sometime in 2014. For those who still believe in spring, late March is the time to start planting vegetable and flower seeds indoors.

Raising your own plants gives you the option to pick unusual varieties not available commercially in the spring, and it’s a lot cheaper than buying transplants. For kids it can be a fun activity, and for the rest of us it’s at least in part about seeds of change; a sign we believe growth and change are possible despite a bleak forecast. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, February 6, 2014

Buds: Spanning the Seasons

twigsThe sign in the window, which read, “Clearance! Hats and Gloves 50% off,” puzzled me. Snowflakes swirled on gusty winds. The bitter cold stung my fingertips—I wondered if I should buy warmer gloves while I had the chance. Clearance? Temperatures hadn’t climbed above freezing for days; the warmth of spring was a distant dream.

Blow out your boots, or lose your wool hat in winter, and when you go looking for a replacement you are likely to find sandals and sun hats on display. I used to rail against such a setup, assigning it to an insatiable human propensity for speed, afraid that at some point we might just lap ourselves. But when I began to study trees, and learned how their growth patterns transcend traditional seasonal boundaries, I softened my stance. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Adirondack Geology: The World Of Talus Slopes

talus screeGeological forces over millions of years coupled with the action of glaciers and weather have created massive piles of boulders at the base of towering rock walls and steep slopes in numerous locations throughout the Adirondacks.

Some of the more prominent accumulation of talus, sometimes called scree by climbers, occurs around Chapel Pond, throughout the Wilmington Notch, in the Cascades, around portions of Bald Mountain near Old Forge, and in many places near the shores of Lake Champlain. Talus is also present along the edges of some sections of rivers and larger streams that cut through substantial deposits of bedrock. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Burdocks and Cockleburs: Have Hooks, Will Travel

bursHang off, thou cat, thou burr! vile thing, let loose,
Or I will shake thee from me like a serpent!

-William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The aroma of wood smoke lingers as you take your evening stroll. The sun has slipped behind the hills as the moon takes its watch at the other end of the valley. It’s the moment of twilight when solid figures are no longer discernible from shadows, and so you fail to notice the tiny hitchhiker lurking beside the path.

Upon your return, you reach down to untie your shoes and feel a painful pinch. After a blood-curdling “YOWCH!” you reach the light switch. Once your eyes adjust, you see the culprit – a spine-covered bur.

It’s no easy task getting to the roots of a burdock plant (anyone who’s ever tried to pull one out of the soil will know this pun is intended). Both burdocks (in the genus Arctium), and their look-alike cousins the cockleburs (in the genus Xanthium), belong to the aster family, a huge group that includes sunflowers and goldenrods. They are also both characterized by a tendency to prick fingers and ride through the laundry cycle on socks. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Adirondacks Rapid Response: An Invasives Success Story

Early-detection-invasives (Photo Brendan Quirion-TNC)Many invasive species stories follow a similar narrative. When the non-native species first shows up, people either don’t notice it, or they don’t take the threat seriously. Suddenly, the invader explodes across the landscape, and conservationists spring into action. but so often, it’s too late.

That’s why invasive species success stories are so few and far between.

The Adirondacks is different. Here, over a huge landscape, the Conservancy and partners have excelled at a coordinated approach that’s making a difference: early detection and rapid response. » Continue Reading.



Monday, November 11, 2013

Giant Puffballs: Orbs of the Mushroom World

puff_ballWho left that soccer ball on the front lawn? Come on, you know it didn’t just grow there.

Pretending to confuse a giant puffball mushroom with a soccer ball (or vice versa) is a well-worn joke among mushroom foragers. For the rest of us, finding out that there exists a common mushroom in New York, Vermont and New Hampshire that frequently grows to soccer ball size sounds like more of a hidden-camera, the-joke’s-on-you kind of gag.

Not only do these giant mushrooms exist, says Ari Rockland Miller, a Vermont based mushroom foraging expert, they are edible, even delectable, early in their lifecycle, when their flesh is white and has the consistency of Styrofoam. » Continue Reading.



Friday, November 8, 2013

Ed Kanze: A Ball, A Gall, And A Fly

ed_kanze_ball_gallIf you’re observant, you’ve noticed them in fall and winter: peculiar lumps that bulge from the stems of certain goldenrods. If you go ice-fishing, you may slice open the lumps and pluck out the grubs inside for bait.

These peculiar structures are called ball galls. Listen here to learn who makes them, and why, in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, October 24, 2013

Strangle-Vine: Invasive Swallow-Wort

swallow-wort1The invasive plant sometimes called dog-strangling vine doesn’t harm pets, but it lives up to its name as a strangler, choking out native wildflowers as well as Christmas tree plantations and fields of prime alfalfa. In Northern New York, in Jefferson County, a nearly 1,000-acre tract on an island lies blanketed under this perennial Eurasian vine.

Dog-strangling vine grows in almost any soil type, has a prodigious root system, and is particularly good at making and dispersing seeds. It is so toxic that no North American bird, mammal or insect will eat it, and it bounces back from the most powerful herbicides. No wonder biologists and agronomists have been losing sleep over it. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Adirondack Forests: Explaining Fall Color Change

DSCN4905As a very young lad I was told that the summer sun bleached pigment from clothes hung on the line, and saved up the colors to paint on autumn leaves. It occurs to me that solar dryers (a.k.a. laundry lines) and fall leaf colors are similar in that they operate free of charge, but their performance depends on the weather. The same clear-sky conditions that produce dry, good-smelling (and a teensy bit faded) laundry also make for the best leaf color. While the former process is well-understood, the latter is a story fraught with murder and intrigue, and requires some explanation.

Chlorophyll, the green molecule at the center of the photosynthesis miracle, is what makes the world go ‘round. Some say money is, but without chlorophyll the sole life on Earth would be bacteria, whereas without money we’d only have to barter. (Given that both items are green, it’s easy to understand the mistake.) Green gives way to fall colors, though, when trees start killing their own chlorophyll, revealing yellow xanthophylls and orange carotenenoids that were in the leaves all along.

How could a tree be so heartless as to slay its chlorophyll? » Continue Reading.



Thursday, October 3, 2013

Amy Ivy On The Fall Foliage Season

GFP_2053autumnbyway725The northeastern United States is one of the few locations in the world that develops intense fall color (along with northern areas of China, Korea and Japan) and our region is just hitting its stride.

With all the variations in colors and tree species, it can be difficult to determine when an area is truly at peak color. I’d encourage you to enjoy all the transitions as they occur and look for the spots of color and beauty throughout the fall months around the region.

There are many factors that influence fall color.  The yellow and orange pigments are always present in the leaves; they are just masked by the green chlorophyll until fall.  As the leaves begin to get ready to drop the green fades away, revealing the yellows and oranges.  » Continue Reading.



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