Posts Tagged ‘Botany’

Monday, April 16, 2012

Adirondack Wildlife: The Porcupine and Salt

Over the next several weeks, the buds on hardwood trees and shrubs will open and the forests will again be cloaked in green, providing our many herbivores with a welcome change in their diet. While many plant eaters are able to subsist on woody buds and cellulose laden layers of inner bark throughout winter, leafy matter provides far greater levels of nourishment. The porcupine, a common denizen of the deep Northwood’s forest, is among our region’s first order consumers to ingest greens when they emerge in spring.

In winter, the porcupine settles into a routine of eating only the bark and needles of a very few species of trees in the area around its den. The stomach and small intestine of this rodent contain strains of microorganisms that act on this ultra-high fiber material in order to derive the energy needed to remain alive in this climate. Yet the limited amount of nutrients, particularly nitrogen, in such plant tissues makes this type of food less than ideal for maintaining a healthy diet. Despite ingesting large volumes of woody matter each night in winter, the porcupine often loses weight continuously as this bleak season progresses. » Continue Reading.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Emily DeBolt: April is Invasive Pests Month

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has announced that it is dedicating the month of April to sharing information about the threat that invasive plant pests, diseases and harmful weeds pose to America’s fruits, vegetables, trees, and other plants—and how the public can help prevent their spread. What are some actions that we can all take to help protect our Adirondack forests and waterways?

Be Plant Wise. Buy native plants and avoid using invasive plant species at all costs. Many invasive plants still commonly sold in New York have been banned in surrounding states such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and others for years. Nurseries may not be selling purple loosestrife or japanese knotweed anymore, but Burning Bush, Japanese Barberry, Norway Maple, and Yellow Iris are all still commonly sold – and are very invasive. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Emily DeBolt: Preparing for Spring Planting

Well, spring has been officially here for more than a week now – and the unusually warm temperatures sure have me ready to get out in the garden and get planting. And I don’t think I’m alone. Nurseries and garden centers in the area are scrambling to get their plants in earlier than usual to meet customer demands. But this recent cold front has helped snap me back to my senses, at least for a few days. We might be having an early spring, but we still have a good while until the threat of spring frosts are over. Not that a little frost bothers our hardy North Country native plants.

Labrador violet (Viola labradorica), a great native groundcover with beautiful purple flowers and foliage, was flowering through the snow at the nursery last fall on October 29 and it is already flowering this spring! Now that is what I call one tough little plant.

So instead of rushing out and buying a bunch of plants, now is a great time to do some planning if you haven’t already. Just like you should have a grocery list when you go to the store to keep yourself from buying too many unhealthy (but all too tempting) snacks, you should have a plan before you arrive at the nursery (And of course part of that plan should be to buy native plants – but more on that in future posts). Otherwise, those displays of pretty flowers will suck you right in!

Remember, when selecting plants for the garden, whether native or not, always keep in mind site conditions such as sun, soil, and water. You also want to be sure to think about your zone. If you keep these things in mind, they can help stop you from those impulse plant purchases for plants that may look pretty in the catalog or on the shelf, but just aren’t meant to grow in our area. If the right plant isn’t in the right place, you can have the greenest thumb in the world, but still not be able to make it grow.

Plant Hardiness Zone Maps help gardeners determine which plants are most likely to thrive in a location. Even when gardening with native plants, you have to keep zones in mind. For example New York State covers zones 3-7. So there might be plants native to southern New York zones 6 or 7, but they aren’t for us – since the park is mostly zone 4.

If you are an experienced gardener, you are probably very familiar with what zone you are gardening in – or at least you might think you are! In late January the USDA released a new version of hardiness zone maps for 2012.

Hardiness zones are based on the average low winter temperature. Zones are divided by 10 degree increments, with a and b subsections for 5 degree increments. In the new 2012 maps many locations across the country shifted and became a subsection warmer. So if you were a 4a you might now be a 4b, and if you were a 4b you might now be a 5a. This new map is based on 30 years of temperature data, from 1976-2005, and was created with new and improved algorithms that took elevation and other terrain features into account. The old maps were based on a shorter and older temperature record, and simpler modeling, so they had become outdated. The new maps are much more accurate for our current conditions.

Another great thing about the new map is that it is also now interactive – so it is much easier to see exactly what zone you are in. You can just enter your zip code and ta-da – the site will tell you what your new zone is! Click here to go to the USDA website and enter your zip code to try it out.

Take a look at the map and see if your zone shifted. If it did, there might be some new plants that you might want to go ahead and try out this year that you hadn’t tried before. I wouldn’t go out and plant a dozen of something new, but maybe get a few and see how they do. I know I might add some Sweetspire, Itea virginica, a great native alternative to the popular non-native butterfly bush, to some of my own gardens and see how it does. According to the new maps – it should do just fine! But I think I will do some testing on my own first for my own specific site conditions. After all, algorithms and equations are great, but they aren’t Mother Nature!

More info on local weather and gardening from Cornell Cooperative Extension can be found online.

Photos: Labrador violet flowering in the snow last October, and already again this spring.

Emily DeBolt and her husband Chris own Fiddlehead Creek Farm and Native Plant Nursery in Hartford, NY where they grow a wide variety of plants native to New York and the Adirondacks for sustainable landscapes.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

New Contributor: Emily DeBolt on Native Plants

Please join us in welcoming the Almanack‘s newest contributor, Emily DeBolt. Emily is committed to promoting native plants and landscapes. She and her husband Chris own Fiddlehead Creek Farm and Native Plant Nursery in Hartford, NY (just outside the blue line in Washington County) where they grow a wide variety of plants native to New York and the Adirondacks for sustainable landscapes.

Emily graduated from Cornell University and received a Masters Degree at SUNY-ESF, falling in love with the Adirondacks during her time in Newcomb at the Huntington Wildlife Forest. Readers may recognize Emily’s name from her work as Director of Education at the Lake George Association.

Emily is a member of the New York Nursery and Landscape Association, the New York Flora Association and a member of the newly formed Adirondack Botanical Society.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Natural History: The Ecology of Adirondack Fires

There are several natural disasters that can alter the ecological make-up of an area. Wide spread tree disease, severe winds and intense ice storms can all seriously damage or destroy the dominant members of a forest community. However, the most catastrophic force of nature is fire, as a major blaze can significantly impact more than just the composition of trees that cover a given location.

Unlike other natural calamities, fire can wipe out most of the plants that root in an area. In an ice storm, or a major wind event, it is primarily the older and taller trees that are subject to the greatest devastation. Seedlings, saplings, the various shrubs that form the understory and the array of herbaceous plants that grow on the forest floor often benefit from the increase in sunlight that result when the canopy has been drastically thinned or eliminated. During an intense fire, however, the entire plant community can be obliterated. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Great Adirondack Backcountry Invasion

A war is raging in our wilderness areas, and the Adirondack Park is slowly becoming ground zero. Invaders from faraway lands are gaining a foothold in the Park’s interior, where the native inhabitants are woefully unprepared for the coming onslaught. Unfortunately, backcountry enthusiasts are the unwitting foot soldiers for these invaders.

Exotic invasive plants are sprouting up far away from their usual haunts on lawns and along roadsides. Exotic invasive species are non-native species, typically introduced to an area by humans, either purposely or accidently. These species exhibit traits allowing for fast growth, rapid reproduction, swift dispersal and tolerance of many different habitats. These traits facilitate colonization and eventual subjugation of much of the native vegetation. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Caitlin Stewart: Go Native With Spring Plantings

Go native with your spring plantings and choose Adirondack plants for your property instead of invasive ornamentals. Invasive plants like swallow-worts, Japanese barberry, Norway maple, and giant hogweed may look beautiful, but are bad news for our economy and environment. The Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District can help you choose native Adirondack alternatives for your landscaping needs.

Invasive plants are a top contender for economic and environmental degradation in New York State. Damage and loss caused by invasive species affect you, costing American taxpayers billions of dollars every year. By planting native vegetation in your yard, garden, or forest, you are reducing erosion, improving wildlife habitat and food, providing windbreaks, promoting valuable wood production, and protecting Adirondack biodiversity. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Honey Bee Numbers Drop: Native Bees Rejoice?

In recent weeks, there have been several news reports concerning the large scale devastation of honey bee colonies this past winter throughout the Northeast. While these losses are described as catastrophic by those that rely on these insects for the production of certain agricultural crops, other individuals note that the honey bee has only a minimal impact on the Adirondack environment, and a few may profess that a serious decline in honey bee numbers could have a positive effect on some of the native species of bees that reside within the Park. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: The Primeval Boreal Forest

The wonderful thing about entering the primeval forest is that you feel it before you really see it. This has been my experience in old growth forests in other places but it is heightened at Lost Brook Tract because of the elevation gain and the remoteness, both having their own attendant sensations that add to the overall effect. Or perhaps it is heightened because I love the Adirondacks more than any place I’ve ever been. Whatever the underlying reasons, it is a powerful feeling.

I haven’t noted exactly where it happens, but somewhere on the way up the bushwhack route the forest changes as one moves beyond the territory that was logged in the early part of the twentieth century. Continuing on into the virgin forest a completely immersive feeling descends. I can’t put it into words very well but I want to say that it is a weight, an immensity, some combination of sight, sound and smell that presses in. Every time I come into the area of Lost Brook Tract I experience a sense of awe, of hushed breathing, even a tiny spark of fear. This is followed by a distinct and exquisite sense of beauty. My wife Amy describes it as being swallowed up. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Major Climate Adaptation Meeting Planned

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Division of Fish, Wildlife & Marine Resources and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies will co-host a public meeting to discuss the draft National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy. The public meeting will take place at DEC’s central office, 625 Broadway, Albany on Thursday, February 9th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fort Ti Offers Garden & Landscape Symposium

The King’s Garden at Fort Ticonderoga is presenting its first Garden & Landscape Symposium, “Planting the Seeds of Knowledge for Home Gardeners,” on Saturday, April 14. This new annually planned day-long symposium, geared for both beginning and experienced gardeners, provides helpful insights from garden experts who live and garden in upstate New York and Vermont. This springtime event takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center and is open by pre-registration only.

This one-day program focuses on practical, easy-to-implement strategies for expanding and improving your garden or landscape. The programs are offered in an informal setting that encourages interaction between speakers and attendees. Speakers include: » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Adirondack Climate Change and Temperature

There are numerous physical characteristics of the atmosphere that can be measured to provide weather insight. Unquestionably, the data most commonly collected by meteorologists and amateur weather observers, and the one most often mentioned in casual conversation is temperature. On daily weather reports, the first order of business is noting how warm or cold it currently is, has been, and probably will be over the next several days. While the presence of sun, the threat of precipitation, and the strength of the wind may also be discussed, it is temperature that seems to dominate when the topic of weather is addressed.

Likewise, in presentations and lectures on global warming, temperature is of prime concern and useful in helping to document changes in climate. In the report Climate Change in the Champlain Basin sponsored by the Nature Conservancy and written by Dr. J. Curt Stager and Mary Thill, average temperatures were noted and analyzed from areas in the Champlain Valley and in the eastern section of the Adirondacks which drains into that basin. Additionally, other well researched national and global reports support the case for global warming partially based on the change in average temperatures at various locations over a long period of time. While average temperatures are useful for describing a climate and weather trends, they do provide some room for debate and discussion.

Average temperature is calculated by simply taking the high and low reading for the day and averaging them together. For example, a normal high temperature for mid January in the Central Adirondacks is about 24 degrees, and a normal low is about 2 degrees. This yields an average temperature of 13 degrees.

Any increase in wind speed and cloud cover over the past few decades could suppress the nightly radiational cooling of the atmosphere and result in warmer minimum temperatures. Even with a slight breeze, the air does not cool as it does when perfectly calm. A thin layer of overcast can likewise limit heat loss to space and prevent the temperature from falling, as can the presence of an air mass with high humidity.

If the temperature only drops to 10 degrees on that mid January night, it would produce a daily average temperature that is 4 degrees warmer than normal, despite the same high temperature of 24 degrees.

When I first moved to the Adirondacks in the very early 70’s, I heard on several occasions that 15 nights during the month of January should be at, or below zero. That seemed to be the case until the 80’s. Over the past decade I can’t recall any year when we have had 15 nights in January with subzero mercury readings. (In noting weather records, I realize that the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s were exceptionally cold. That may have been a function of the “mini-nuclear winter” that occurred after more than 500 nuclear weapons were tested in the atmosphere during that cold war era, or the result of some natural phenomena, and perhaps that saying was only valid for that period when our climate was unusually cool.) On the other hand, I do not believe that daytime temperatures in winter, or during any other season, have risen at all over the past 40 years.

In Stager and Thill’s report, it was noted that June and September are the months that have experienced the greatest increase in average temperature for the Adirondack region. It would be interesting to note if this was the result of an increase in both daily highs and lows, or just mainly in the lows.

An increase in just the low temperatures at this critical time of the year, when the last and first frosts of the season typically occur, would have a profound impact on the length of the growing season, and affect the ability of the region to support non-native plants.
I believe that a warming trend is in progress however, I don’t think that our daily maximum temperatures are much higher. I also believe that our nightly minimums have risen noticeably. As I have stated in my other articles, I do not keep any weather records of my own, nor have I spent the time and effort analyzing available records to ferret out this information. I only speak from 40 years of personal experience noting temperatures and weather events in the Saranac Lake region.

The study sponsored by the Nature Conservancy was a great step in the right direction, however, much more needs to be done. It takes countless hours of sifting through volumes of weather records and analyzing them in numerous ways in order to gain better insight into this extraordinarily complex problem. I wish those individuals that want to explore this issue the very best in trying to secure funding for their research, as valid scientific investigations, rather than undocumented ramblings, are desperately needed to determine what may happen to nature here in the Adirondacks.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Adirondack Climate Change: Rainfall Trends

A significant part of climate is precipitation, and fundamental to any discussion on the impact that global warming is having on a region’s climate would have to include possible changes to the rain and snowfall patterns. While unusually prolonged periods of precipitation can turn a backcountry camping trip into a nightmare, discourage golfers, boaters, and other outdoor enthusiasts, and frustrate anyone trying to put a new roof on his/her home, or a coat of stain on the deck, too much rainfall, especially concentrated over a short span of time, can wreak havoc with the environment. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Will Climate Change Mean More Wind?

Global warming has been the topic of numerous articles, lectures and books over the past decade, and while some of these works focus on its causes and on possible ways to slow this impending climate shift, others discuss the consequences of an altered weather pattern on the environment. While I have only limited insight into this extraordinarily complex phenomenon, I do have some opinions with regards to the potential impact that a more thermally energized atmosphere would have on the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

12th Northeast Natural History Conference Planned

To better serve the entire Northeast Region, the Northeast Natural History Conference (NENHC) will now be rotated to a new location each year. With the cooperation of SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, the 2012 conference will be hosted in Syracuse’s OnCenter Convention Center. The conference has also been expanded to three days, April 15-19, 2012 Workshops and field trips prior to and/or following the main conference days are in the planning stages as well.

This 12th Northeast Natural History Conference is again expected to be the largest regional forum for researchers, natural resource managers, students, and naturalists to present current information on the varied aspects of applied field biology (freshwater, marine, and terrestrial) and natural history for the Northeastern United States and adjacent Canada.

NENHC welcomes your participation and has issued a call for: presentations – oral and poster; session organizers; workshops, field trips, and special events; participating organizations; exhibitors.

Early registration is now open. Visit their website for more information.



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