There is nothing like the scarlet red color of a cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis, in bloom along a stream bank or lakeshore right now in late summer. If you have been out and about in the last month or so, paddling, boating, or hiking, you might have been lucky enough to happen upon this stunning beauty during your outing.
Besides being one of my favorite flowers, it is also a favorite of the ruby-throated hummingbird. And while as many as 19 species of plants found in the Eastern US have probably co-evolved with hummingbirds, the cardinal flower is the most well-known. The range of the ruby-throated hummingbird and the cardinal flower are very similar, demonstrating how closely the two are linked. The long tubular flowers of cardinal flower and the long, narrow bill of a hummingbird are a perfect match. By reaching all the way down into the bottom of the five-petaled flower in search of nectar, the hummingbird gets food, and in return, the cardinal flower gets pollinated. » Continue Reading.
The National Weather Service has issued a frost advisory for tonight (Monday, Sept 10) for the southern and western Adirondacks, including Northern Warren, Hamilton, Herkimer, and Fulton counties and Southeastern St. Lawrence, Southern Franklin, and Western Essex counties. A frost advisory means that frost is possible. Temperatures are expected to be generally in the mid to lower 30s. Near freezing temperatures and areas of frost will damage unprotected crops and tender vegetation and sensitive outdoor plants may be killed if left uncovered.
Tom Kalinowski wrote about the impact of the first frost on Adirondack plants and wildlife last year.
Ellen Rathbone wrote about the impact on frost on garden plants in 2009.
The Almanack frequently posts the latest weather advisories on our Facebook Page.
It’s Harvest Time in the Adirondacks and events are planned across the region that feature locally-grown foods and local farms. The local food and farm economy is a growing part of Adirondack economic life as more residents and businesses choose local food first.
Over the past several years new farmers markets have sprung up in communities across the region. In Chestertown, a new weekly farmers market is bringing 500 people a week into the village. Local business people are praising the effort, the Grand Union has added staff for the Wednesday market, and local restaurants are seeing increased lunch business. “This is the biggest thing to hit Chestertown in 20 years,” one long-time businessman said at a recent town meeting. » Continue Reading.
August is a month known for ripening raspberries and blackberries, the appearance of locally grown sweet corn and other fresh produce at farm stands, the return of back to school ads on TV, and the unwelcome arrival of hay fever season.
For many people, exposure to certain types of pollen triggers a most unpleasant nasal reaction that can linger for days. While the pollen of numerous plants contributes to this often severe irritation of the nose, sinus cavities and upper respiratory tract of many, ordinarily healthy people, ragweed is, by far, the leading culprit responsible for making life miserable for those unfortunate enough to be afflicted with this common medical condition. » Continue Reading.
This time of year you might be noticing some red or lavender flowers along the sides of the roads or in old fields as you are out driving or hiking. If you slow down and stop to take a look, what you might be seeing is one of our native species of the genus Monarda, commonly known as Beebalm or Oswego Tea by many gardeners. There are a variety of cultivars and hybrids available at most garden centers with enticing names – such as ‘Coral Reef’ or ‘Raspberry Wine’. Gardeners have been using beebalm in their gardens for years – it is a great choice for attracting hummingbirds and other pollinators and is a beautiful splash of summer color.
The group of plants in the Monarda genus are often just called beebalm as a whole – even though there are many distinct species. And many gardeners don’t realize that we have a number of different native Monardas in our area – in fact Monarda is a North American genus of over a dozen species. » Continue Reading.
Long considered beautiful photographs of the Adirondack landscape, Seneca Ray Stoddard’s views also serve as documents of the plants that inhabited the region in the 19th century. Since he was rediscovered in the late 1970s, Stoddard’s work has been featured in numerous exhibits that explored the history of 19th century life in the Adirondacks. A survey of the 3,000 images in the Chapman Historical Museum archives, however, revealed hundreds of images that are purely natural landscapes. The subject matter is the Adirondack environment – not great hotels, steamers, camp scenes or other obvious evidence of human activity. » Continue Reading.
Following the maple run, ramps – also known as wild leeks – are one of the first harvests available from the our north country earth. Using a serving spoon or just your fingers, you can easily and gently loosen the bulb and roots from a ramp cluster in rich (and usually moist) forest soil.
You’ll find bright-green aromatic leaves around 4 to 6 inches high that look like those from a lily of the valley, as it’s of the lily family. Be careful not to remove an entire cluster, as you want the ramps to rejuvenate the following year. » Continue Reading.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A multi-year project to protect the upstream waters of Indian Brook has been completed by the Lake George Association (LGA). The project is located at the intersection of Federal Hill and Sawmill roads in the town of Bolton.
Over a number of years, a small section of Indian Brook started to collect sediment in an area that was once a swimming hole. Eventually the swimming hole completely filled in, and non-wetland vegetation became established. Without the swimming hole to slow the velocity of the water, the brook started to carry more sediment downstream and into Lake George, contributing to a delta at the mouth of the brook. In 2009, the LGA cleaned out the swimming hole. Approximately 500 cubic yards of material were removed. In the spring of 2010, native shrubs were planted along the bank to filter storm runoff. The former swimming hole is now functioning as a sediment basin, allowing sediment that is carried during high flow periods to swirl around and drop out of the stream. The sediment remains in the basin and does not flow down to the Lake.
This summer the LGA completed construction of a second sediment basin, a little further upstream from the original. “Our goal with this second project was two-fold,” said Randy Rath, LGA project manager. “One, create an offline basin that will capture and settle out suspended material during storm events. Two, enhance an existing wetland area and use the natural process of wetland formation to remove some nutrients present in the water column.”
“The wetland area is actually more like a sand bar,” Rath said. “It was originally formed during the 2005 storm event that brought about 7” of rain and washed out many roads in the Bolton area. During the storm, some finer material was deposited on the back end of the sandbar, and the area was eventually able to support wetland vegetation.”
LGA Education Director Emily DeBolt selected plants to match wetland species already present in the area. After installation by LGA staff, the wetland plants were given over a month to grow. With frequent watering from LGA staff and some timely rain, all of the plants and grasses survived a hot summer. Initially the wetlands were separated from the flow of the stream by sand bags and a straw bale dike. Fortunately the dike was not opened until after Tropical Storm Irene, and even though water overflowed the dike during the storm, the basin and wetlands remained intact, and continue to function as designed.
A third component of this Indian Brook project included roadside drainage improvements. A roadside ditch was stabilized and several check dams were put in place to slow the stormwater flow running down the shoulder of Federal Hill Road. A small basin installed at the end of the ditch captures the flow and allows sediment and debris to fall out. Additional road shoulder work allows for some stormwater sheet flow to occur over a vegetated area. The remaining shoulder work reinforced and directed the flow around a bend in the road to another small basin that captures the stormwater.
“Now with these essential upstream projects complete,” Walt Lender, LGA Executive Director, said. “We expect to see a dramatic reduction in the growth of the delta at the mouth of Indian Brook. The size of the delta that exists there now we know is not healthy for the Lake, and we are moving forward with our effort to remove this delta, as well as deltas located at the mouth of Finkle and Hague brooks,” he added.
Photos: Above, an area of Indian Brook earlier this year filled in with sediment; below, the same area of Indian Brook after a sediment basin and wetlands enhancement area was created.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
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