Posts Tagged ‘native plants’

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stoddard’s Natural Views Exhibit Opening May 4th

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.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Native Foods: Adirondack Ramps

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.


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 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.


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.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

LGA Completes Indian Brook Project

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.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

‘Owner’s Manual’ for Landowners Available Free

When you buy a car or a refrigerator, you receive an owner’s manual. But when you buy a piece of land, you’re on your own. Until now, that is. A new owner’s manual is now available for New York landowners, and it’s free.

Cornell Cooperative Extension is working with the publishers of Northern Woodlands magazine to distribute this new publication that will provide New York landowners with essential information for taking care of their land and getting the most out of it. The guide, called The Place You Call Home: A Guide to Caring for Your Land in New York, is being distributed free of charge to people who own 10 or more acres in New York. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Adirondack Botany: A Bevy of Beechdrops

If you find yourself walking through the woods in late summer/early autumn, and you come across what looks like a slender, branched twig stuck in the ground, take a closer look. It could be a stick, or it just might be a really nifty plant: beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana).

Now, I know what you are thinking. That can’t possibly be a plant, or, if it is, it is dead. The lack of “verdure” (or, as described in Gray’s New Lessons and Manual of Botany (1868), “herbs destitute of green foliage”) is an immediate indication that you are looking at a very special plant, a plant that is wholly dependent on others for food.

Neltje Blanchan wrote in her 1917 book Wild Flowers Worth Knowing likened beechdrops to thieves:

Nearly related to the broom-rape is this less attractive pirate, a taller, brownish-purple plant, with a disagreeable odor, whose erect, branching stem without leaves is still furnished with brownish scales, the remains of what were once green leaves in virtuous ancestors, no doubt. But perhaps even these relics of honesty may one day disappear. Nature brands every sinner somehow; and the loss of green from a plant’s leaves may be taken as a certain indication that theft of another’s food stamps it with this outward and visible sign of guilt.

It’s beautiful writing, rather poetic, but sadly casts human traits onto nonhuman lives, in this case a poor hapless plant whose only fault is that it cannot make its own food.

Perhaps we should take another look at beechdrops. Neither thieves nor helpless, maybe we should consider them as opportunistic, perhaps even an advanced lifeform. Why waste energy making your own food when you can eat the food produced by others? HM…it sounds thoroughly American to me!

Over the eons it this plant has cast aside the need to have leaves (note the previously mentioned scales). Leaves exist to provide additional photosynthesizing surfaces. If one does not photosynthesize, one has no need for leaves.

Still, a plant has got to eat, and if it isn’t making its own food by mixing up sunlight with water and CO2, then it must find another food source. Beechdrops have a special structure on their roots called a haustorium. This structure grows out of the stem, root or hyphae of some parasitic plants, and on beechdrops it grows from the roots. The haustorium engulfs the root of the target plant (beechdrops are obligate parasites of beech trees) and taps the root for its life-giving sap.

Neltje mentioned beechdrops’ disagreeable odor. The plant is highly astringent, filled with compounds that make it beneficial medicinally, but not necessarily something one would want to add to a nosegay. Native Americans and settlers alike knew the benefits of beechdrops, which could help cure diarrhea and dysentery, heal wounds (antiseptic), work as a sedative, and even sooth aching eyes. At one point in time beechdrops were used as a folk medicine for cancer, although modern testing found it had no such virtue.

I came across a couple rather robust stands of beechdrops recently. What struck me as odd was that there wasn’t a beech tree to be seen! Because these plants are entirely dependent on beeches for survival, they shouldn’t have grown where I saw them. Admittedly, I was in a hurry, so I only did a quick scan of the forest; it is possible I overlooked the host plants. After all, it was a pocket of hardwoods, mostly sugar maples. Beech trees traditionally grow with birches and maples, so they should have been there. I’ll have to return and conduct a more thorough inventory.

If you find some beechdrops, you will want to have a seat and really look at them. They are quite beautiful, with small, striped, tubular flowers. Purple, red and brown are the colors they sport, and they wear them well.

You might think, as you gaze upon the plant, that the flowers on the lower end of the stem are just buds, waiting to open. In fact, they are fully fledged flowers in their own right, but they are cleistogamous. This means that they never open – there is no need for them to open because they are self-fertilized. The flowers closer to the top of the plant, the ones that form those delicate tubes, are chasmogamous and therefore require fertilization.

Why a plant would have both kinds of flowers? Some careful thought soon brings enlightenment. This is a plant that grows close to the ground (no more than a foot and a half tall, often less) in the woods. There is little wind near the ground (so much for wind-pollination), and there isn’t a whole lot of insect activity at this time of year in the woods. If a plant isn’t smelly and able to attract flies, it may not get a whole lot of action. So, some plants, like beechdrops, hedge their bets by producing a few flowers that require pollination, but also producing flowers that are completely self-contained, just in case. Based on the literature I’ve read, they’ve made the wise bet – it seems that the flowers that actually do get pollinated by visiting insects don’t produce fertile seeds, only the cleistogamous flowers are able to reproduce.

So, let’s not shun the parasitic plants. They have an otherworldly beauty about them and have merely tapped into a surplus foodsource not of their own making. It’s an entirely modern way of living, and since we as humans have embraced this lifestyle, I think it’s only right that we give a friendly nod to those plants that have done so as well, for they are, perhaps, kindred spirits.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Adirondack Wildflowers: Primrose Watching

Every summer when I was little, my sister and I would spend two weeks at my grandparents’ house in Gloversville, where we would visit with cousins, run through sprinklers, ride our bicycles past beautiful old Victorian houses, feed the birds and squirrels, slide down banisters, and generally have the kind of summer vacation that creates the best memories. One of the evening events that sticks out in my mind, besides making and eating banana splits, was The Watching of the Primrose.

My grandparents’ house (in which my great-grandparents also lived) was surrounded by gardens. All around the foundation, and along the edge of their property, flowers (and tomatoes) blossomed. Bleeding hearts, four o’clocks and foxgloves stand out in my memory, and there, next to the back corner, stood one tall stalk – an evening primrose. As the sun crept toward the horizon and the day came to a close, we’d go outside and stand around this stalk, which was nearly as tall as I, and watch.

Slowly, ever so slowly and then with gathering speed, pop! the bud would open and the yellow petals, all folded inside like a mini floral umbrella, would unfurl. It was a stop-motion film but there in real life. Today’s kids might not be held spellbound by this wonder of nature, but back in the ‘70s, it was still magic.

Do we wonder today why this flower would open when the sun goes down? Flowers exist to bring in pollinators, and in this part of the world most of those pollinators are insects or birds, and most of these pollinators are diurnal – they only come out during the day. What would be out at night to pollinate the primrose? Bats? If we lived in the Southwest, bats might be a consideration, but up here our bats are all insect-eaters. Birds? But the only nocturnal birds around here are owls, and they, being strict carnivores, shun plants except as perches and nest sites.

This leaves insects. Anyone who has been outside in the evening knows that there are some insects that love the night, like mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes, like owls, are seeking something warm-blooded for a meal (well, at least the females are). But if you are like me, and you sit up at night reading in bed with the glow of your lamp shining through the open windows, your reading is likely disturbed by the soft thuds of insects bouncing into the window screens as they attempt to reach that light. Moths.

Indeed, it is a moth that is responsible for the reproductive success of the evening primrose. In fact, there are many plants that depend on moths for night-time pollination, and they all have something in common: pale petals. Flowers with white or yellow petals show up pretty well at night, especially when the moon comes out. The creative gardener might plant a bed with naught but night-blooming flowers – what a delight to visit when sleep is held at bay by a restless mind.

The moth that visits the evening primrose is Schinia florida, the evening primrose moth. This moth has pink and white wings, and a furry white body. The reason for this pink coloration is not readily apparent. During the day the moth snoozes within the now-closed primrose flower. As the flower ages (each flower “lives” only a short time), its petals turn from yellow to pink, creating the perfect hideout for its pollinator.

I don’t know that I’ve never seen this moth, but I will certainly keep my eyes open for it now. I know where there are a few evening primroses, and it’s been many years since I’ve enjoyed their show. I think I will take some time over the next week or two to seek them out. Not only will I marvel as they open to greet the night, but I will perhaps peek inside the dying blooms during the day to see if anyone is sleeping inside.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Wildflowers: Adirondack Lobelia Varieties

Late summer is lobelia season, and the Adirondacks are a great place to find these beautiful flowers, the most stunning of which is the cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis). Most lobelias, however, are not red; they are various shades of blue. Here in New York we have seven species of lobelia (including cardinal flower), and today I want to introduce you to Lobelia inflata, commonly known as Indian tobacco.

I encountered Indian tobacco for the first time this summer. I was busy photographing some ladies tresses when I saw this lovely pale blue flower blooming nearby. I took a couple photos to identify later, and promptly returned to the orchids. When I looked at the photos the next day, I knew I had a lobelia, but was unsure which kind. As soon as I knew which species it was, I decided I needed to learn more. After all, a plant with the name “Indian tobacco” must surely have an interesting history. Into herbals and books on ethnobotany I delved.

As it turns out, Indian tobacco has a rather long and well-documented history of medicinal uses among many of our native peoples. The most common uses involved remedies for a variety of respiratory ailments, such as asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia and coughs. I was surprised to learn that the plant was smoked to treat asthma. Coltsfoot is another plant that has traditionally been smoked for asthma and other bronchial disturbances. Is it just me, or does this seem counterintuitive? I mean, if one is having difficulty breathing, does it make sense to inhale smoke for a treatment? This is another example of “things that make you say ‘hm’.”

The plant was probably named “tobacco” because when broken it produces a scent similar to tobacco, and apparently it tastes like tobacco, too. Not having ever used tobacco, or sampled this lobelia, I can neither confirm nor deny these statements. However, the active chemical ingredient in the plant is lobeline, which has similar effects on the body as nicotine. In fact, some folks believed Indian tobacco could be used to help people quit smoking. Several products containing lobeline used to be available for just this purpose, but in 1993 the FDA determined that they were ineffective (the products, not the FDA) and prohibited their sale.

More recent studies, however, suggest that lobeline might be helpful in the treatment of persons with drug addictions. Medicinally, this is a plant to watch.

Many lobelias grow in damp, if not down right wet, conditions, but not Indian tobacco. This species prefers dry sites and is often found growing along roadsides. It’s actually a fairly common plant, most likely overlooked because its small flowers (one-quarter inch long) are not all that showy at a distance. Up close, however, they are quite attractive, with three petals pointing downward, and two sticking up, kind of like little blue ears above a wide blue beard.

When the seedpods develop, the reason for the species name inflata becomes apparent: they look like inflated bladders. In fact, for novice botanists this might be one of the best identifying traits to look for when trying to ID this plant.

As the summer draws out and the cicadas sing, it’s time to seek out the lobelias. Walk along roadsides, walk along lake shores. Look for pale blue or bright red flowers, with three petals hanging downward, and two pointing up. They are funny-looking flowers, but delightful to find.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Purple Loosestrife and the Adirondacks

I was recently on a road trip to and from the beautiful state of Maine. The trip took me across Lake Champlain, through the agricultural and ski lands of Vermont, zipping down the forest-lined highways of New Hampshire, and then into Maine itself, where I briefly visited the coast before heading upstate to Augusta. As beautiful as each of these states is, there was one thing they all had in common: purple loosestrife.

I know, you are thinking “we’ve got purple loosestrife here in New York, too – even in the Adirondacks,” and you would be correct in this thought. But let me tell you – the Adirondacks have nothing compared to these other states, where this elegant purple flower is thick as thieves in every body of water I passed – be it fresh or salt. I was bowled over by how far its reach had stretched, and how established it had become. » Continue Reading.