Posts Tagged ‘Christy Mathewson’

Monday, July 13, 2009

Baseball and Botany Go Together in Saranac Lake

Baseball and blooms are both in full season, so we’ll let Christy Mathewson field the July wildflower date observations (May and June lists here and here).

The following notes are verbatim from a hand-written list compiled by the pitcher in 1922, when the charter Hall-of-Famer was in Saranac Lake trying to recover from tuberculosis. He died there in 1925.

July 2
Water Avens
Yarrow or Sneezewort (White Rays, also Pink Rays!!!!!)
Common Milkweed
Indian Poke or False Hellebore
Purple Flowering Raspberry
Fireweed; Great Willow Herb
July 4
Cow Parsnip
July 5
Common Elder
Yellow Avens or Field Avens
July 12
Great Mullein
Meadowsweet
St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum)
Bull Thistle
Common Parsnip yellow
July 15
Day Lily (H. fulva)
July 16
Water Lily: Water Nymph
Maiden Pink (D. Deltoides)
Yellow Loosestrife (Lysmachia terrictris)
July 17
Canada Thistle
Early Goldenrod (S. juncea)
Loosestrife (in swamp) (Lysimachia stricta?)
Broad-leaved Arrow Head
Joe Pye Weed
Shinleaf
Daisy Fleabane?
Lance-leaved Goldenrod
Hardhack: Steeple Bush (S. tomentosa)
Chicory?
Asparagus
July 20
Catnip
Blue Vervain
Bellflower (C. rapunculoides, Linn)
Tansy, Bitter Buttons
Elecampane
Bouncing Bet
July 22
Pickerel Weed (P. cordata)
Narrow-leaved Arrow Head
Ladies Tresses
Jewel-weed: Spotted Touch-me-not
Monkey Flower
July 22
Blue Aster (A. sagittifolius?)
Potato (Irish)
Lettuce (L. interfrifolia? purplish)
Turtlehead (C. glebra)
July 24
Water parsnip
Golden Ragwort – Squaweed
Smaller Purple-fringed Orchis
Monkey Flower (M. Ringens)
Ladies Tresses (S. ceruns)
July 26
Dalibarda (D. repens)
Fetid Currant
Pipsissewa or Princess Pine
Common Evening Primrose (Oe. biennis?)
July 31
Bedstraw (Galium triflorum)
Mad-dog Skullcap (S. lateriflora)
White Aster (A. acummatus and umbelatus)
August 1
Bedstraw (G. asprillum)
Bottle Gentian
Wild Cucumber, Wild Balsam Apple
August 3
Skullcap (S. galericulata)
Bladderwort (U. vulgaris)
August 4
Climbing false buckwheat

Some of the common plant names Mathewson noted have faded from use in this region (hardhack, sneezwort, wild balsam apple). My posthumous crush on this guy deepens every time I look at his list. His excitement over pink rays in the yarrow (!!!!!) and uncertainty over a species of primrose (?) are endearing. It’s hard to imagine a contemporary pro athlete taking such careful notice of the natural world.

Photo: Christy Mathewson attends a town league game in Saranac Lake, 1920s. Courtesy of Historic Saranac Lake.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Bloom Index, Part II

It’s a fresh new month and time for an update to our bloom-dates table. But first, my friend Gerry Rising, Nature Watch columnist for the Buffalo News, reports that phenologists are asking regular jamokes to share their observations of trees and wildflowers. You can become a citizen scientist by noticing when chokecherries or even dandelions bloom in your back yard.

Two Web sites collect this information: the National Phenology Network and Cornell University’s Project Budbreak. Plant and animal life cycles can be susceptible to climate variations, so phenologists (the people who study seasonal patterns) are interested in your observations.

Following are median bloom dates for June from Mike Kudish’s Adirondack Upland Flora. Mike says the dates are most accurate for 1,500-to-2,000-foot elevations (the “Adirondack upland”).

June 1: Jack-in-the-pulpit, chokecherry, Solomon’s plumes
June 2: Low sweet blueberry
June 3: Wild sarsaparilla
June 5: Clintonia, bog rosemary
June 6: Bunchberry and white baneberry
June 7: Canada mayflower and bog laurel
June 9: Starflower and black chokeberry
June 10: Fringed polygala, three-leaved false Solomon’s seal, nannyberry
June 12: Labrador tea, Indian cucumber, small cranberry
June 13: Pink lady’s slipper
June 14: Hooked buttercup (Earliest sunrise, 5:13 a.m.)
June 15: Blue-eyed grass
June 17: Wild raisin, common cinquefoil
June 20: Sheep laurel
(June 20-23: Longest days of the year, 15 hours, 41 minutes)
June 26: Bush honeysuckle and tall meadow rue
June 27: Wild iris
June 29: Wood sorrel

The late naturalist Greenleaf Chase made a list for the Nature Conservancy of rare blooms on some of its Adirondack protection sites. On alpine summits he found Lapland rosebay aflower in early June, Diapensia, Labrador tea, bog laurel and mountain sandwort in late June. Greenie would visit the Clintonville pine barrens in early June to see Ceanothus herbacea (prairie redroot). Viola novae-angliae (New England blue violet) also flowers in early June on the Hudson River ice meadows near North Creek; Listera auriculata (a native orchid called auricled twayblade) blooms there in late June.

Lastly is a list of plants that amateur botanist and hall-of-fame pitcher Christy Mathewson identified around Saranac Lake in June 1922: wild carrot, bunchberry, mountain laurel?, sheep laurel, wintergreen, trailing arbutus, labrador tea, star flower, moss pink, forget-me-not, heal-all, ground ivy, bluets, ox-eye daisy, dandelion, hawkweed, Canada hawkweed, spring beauty, yellow pond lily, live-for-ever, horsetails, blueberry, twin flower, red berry elderberry, hop clover, harebell, yellow wood sorrel, sundrop, dewberry, wild red raspberry.

Boys, take note: being good at sports is nice. Being good at sports and knowing your wildflowers? That’s hot. Special thanks to Adirondack Daily Enterprise columnist Howard Riley for finding Mathewson’s handwritten list in the Saranac Lake Free Library archives and sending me a copy.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring Adirondack Wildflower Bloom Dates

Elsewhere in the Northeast, wildflowers are tentatively testing the air, while in the Adirondacks it’s still ski season. It won’t be long, though, till coltsfoot raises its fuzzy yellow head along roadsides.

Two of this region’s most-observant botanists made a study of when each native flower reappears in spring. The late Greenleaf Chase retired from the Department of Environmental Conservation but never tired of guiding friends to see rare blooms in rare places. Professor Mike Kudish, formerly of Paul Smith’s College, created a bloom-date chart for his book Adirondack Upland Flora.

And in case you think botany effete, consider that original Hall-of-Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson kept a list of flowers he found around Saranac Lake in the summer of 1922, when he was there to recover from tuberculosis. (An excerpt: “June 24, 1922: Musk Mallow, Pink Petals also White Petals!!!!”)

Starting with the vernal equinox tomorrow, daylight increases at its fastest rate, Kudish writes. The ground begins to thaw. Around April 5 the mean daily temperature begins to rise above freezing.

Here are Adirondack Upland Flora’s first median flowering dates (at elevations of 1,500 to 2,000 feet; if you live at lower elevations expect to see blooms sooner):

May 2: Trout lily, red maple
May 3: Spring beauty
May 4: Trailing arbutus
May 5: Dutchman’s breeches and squirrel corn
May 6: Round-leaved violet
May 7: Sweet gale
May 8: Sweet white violet
May 9: Painted trillium
May 10: Strawberry
May 11: Bartram’s serviceberry
May 12: Purple trillium
May 14: Leatherleaf
May 15: Blue violet, early saxifrage, Canada honeysuckle, kidneyleaf buttercup; most hardwoods begin to leaf out rapidly
May 17: Marsh marigold and sugar maple
May 19: Bellwort
May 20: Goldthread and toothwort
May 21: Canada violet and serviceberry
May 22: Witchhobble, downy yellow violet, red cherry (Christy Matthewson reported witchhobble blooms in April)
May 23: Dwarf ginseng
May 25: Red elderberry
May 30: Foamflower
May 31: Pussytoes

Shortly before he died in the early 1990s Greenie Chase made flower-finding notes for Kathy Regan, when she was staff biologist at the Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter. In late May, he suggested, visit Valcour Island to see ram’s head ladyslipper and look on alpine summits for lapland rosebay.

We’ll post more of Christy, Greenie and Mike’s bloom notes as spring and summer progress. You can see Christy Mathewson’s list yourself in the William Chapman White Adirondack Research Center of the Saranac Lake Free Library.