Monday, July 30, 2012

Richford Seed Collecting Trip. On Friday we headed up to Krissy's neck of the woods in Richford, New York to collect Danthonia spicata, or Poverty Oatgrass seed which grows along the old roads of an abandoned seed potato farm with the Natural Areas Crew. Here we are gearing up for our expedition.
Here's a shot of Zeb and Kelsey collecting seed along the road bed.
It was a really nice day, partly cloudy, mid-seventies, lots of blackberries to eat along the way. This shot should give you some idea of how nice the trip was.
We had views "out to Pennsylvania" apparently.
And took our mid-morning repast at the side of a delightful former irrigation pond left over from the potato farming days.
Here's what all the fuss was about, Danthonia spicata - Poverty oatgrass. This fantastic little native is drought tolerant to the extreme, clear thrive in rocky soils and is used in the native lawn display becuase of its naturally low growth habit. when used at a lawn grass it only needs mowing about once a year. all in all an excellent little plant.
But not he only exciting plant we found that day, Polygala sanguinea - Field Milkwort was found in fairly large concentrations in certain spots. A relatively overlooked plant it's beauty and poor soil tolerance may lead to its increased horicultural use in the future. Add to the its use a native nectary and the liklyhood looks even better.
Also on this site I saw one of my all-time favorite plants Spiraea tomentosa, or Steeplebush. This showy sub-shrub has not gained much traction in the nursery trade, passed over time and again for the over-used, over-varietized, increasingly invasive Spiraea japonica - Japanese Spiraea. With more interesting flower shape, and a greater tolerance for soil moisture extremes (as well as fuzzy orange leaf undersides) I think its high time the nursery trade gave this beautiful, versatile native its due.
PEEPS on Patrol This week Krissy and I had the pleasjure of working with the PEEPS. It stands for Plantations Environmental Education Program for Sustainability and is comprised of a group of carefully selected Ithaca-area teens who intern at plantations in all of its various areas and participate in educational experiences. Initially we had them workking on identifying and eradicating the invasive weed Torilis japonica - japanese Hedge Parsley but once they finished that we moved on to collecting seed from Elymus hystrix- Bottlebrush Grass. You can see us harvesting the seeds below.
While we were there a pair of PHD students working on a native bee study were there netting bees and we got to learn a bit about the role of native pollinators. Here is the male half of the PHD team.
Garden Bugs This butterfly was enjoying the anise flavored nectar of Agatache foeniculum - Anise Hyssop. I think the butterfly is Limenitis arthemis arthemis - The White Admiral or Red-spotted Purple, either way its a beaut!
This medium-sized version of a very large spider is Argiope aurantia, the Garden Spider is found throughout north America from Canada to Mexico, from the Atlantic to the Pacific and even on Hawaii. This lovely lady (you can tell its a female by it's overall robustness, specifically in the abdomen) has set up house in one of the Lavendula angustifolia shrubs in the herb garden.
Floral Field Day. This learning Monday we participated in Cornell's Annual Floriculture Field Day. The morning was essentially taken up by lectures, which while interesting, did not offer many opportunities for photos. The afternoon however was spent out at Bluegrass Lane, Cornell's Horticultural test fields. It was windy, but I did manage to get a few shots for the blog. Here we see one of the first-prize winners of the container planting contest. It helps to prove my point that while flowers are enjoyable its always better to think about the effect of longer lasting foliage first. Not a flower on it, but the creative use of bog/emergent plant foliage netted it a goal over more blossom heavy arrangements.
Here's a close up of Sarracenia leucophylla, or White-top Pitcher Plant, one of the bog plants used in this award-winning container.
And here is an unidentified species (at least by me) of the same genus as above as used in the winning container.
The following are a few of the shoits I took of the perennial field collection housed at Bluegrass Lane. Check out my Picasa page in Sept./Oct. for more pics of this site as I'll be up there a lot in Bill Miller's Perennial and Annual ID class.
More Plant Profiles for your general edification. First we have a shot of Rudbeckia laciniata, the Green-headed Coneflower. This tall cut-leaved plant has the distinction of being the only Rudbeckia (the genus of Black-eyed and Brown-eyed Susans) which is truly native to the Cayuga Lake Watershed.
Here is a close up of the blloms of Pycnanthemum muticum, the Clustered or Shot toothed Mountain Mint. This aromatic native is a favorite of many pollinators including: Honeybees, wasp mimic flies, sweat bees, and many other native bees.
Mimulus ringens, or Allegheny Monkeyflower is a beautiful member of the Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae). It is found in floodplains and open swamps throughout the northeast but I feel is very reminiscent of a more tropical clime.
Another native of floodplains Eutrochium purpureum, or Joe Pyeweed is a favorite of pollinators and gardeners. Capable of reaching upwards of 7 feet in ideal conditions this tall perennial is a show stopper along stream beds or in garden beds.
More birds in the Garden! Here's a shot of Megaceryle alcyon, the Belted Kingfisher. I've been trying to get a shot of this particular bird for weeks now but it remained stubbornly camera shy. I finally got this one of it perched on the glacial erratic joined by a Quiscalus quiscula, or Common Grackle.
Cardinalis cardinalis or the Northern Cardinal is seen here exhibiting some odd behavior. Because of the fact that it was perched on the ground and splaying its wings and tail in an odd fashion I thought it might be injured. When i walked closer to take a look the bird flew away and perched in a tree normally and without apparent discomfort. As a result I feel this bird was originally warming itself in the sun or possibly anting. Anting is a habit of many birds, and is known to be practiced infrequently by Cardinals, whereby the birds allow ants to crawl on their feathers and essentially attack them with acids. These acids can act as insecticide, miticide, fungicide, or bactericide for the birds. Occasionally some birds (mainly blue jays) will ant in an effort to get the ants to discharge their acid sacs rendering them more palatable to the jay!
These fellows are a common site on Fall Creek as they prefer to live in running water and are common in our area. These are female Mergus merganser americanus, or Common Mergansers. These narrow-billed diving ducks have toothed beaks which allow them to catch and hold their slippery fish prey.
I believe these fledgling Ardea herodias, or Great Blue Herons are the same one that were raised up at the Lab of Ornithology Nest. Four of them gangled around in the treetops along Fall Creek until my photographic intentions unfortunately caused them to fly on.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Here's a few new plant profiles. First up is Allium cernuum the Nodding Wild Onion. This native of dry woods, rocky outcrops, and prairies is perfectly suited to the hot dry summer we're having. Like all onions it has a thick fleshy bulb the helps support it through droughts. It is also a great attractor for pollinators.
Also drought tolerant and loved by pollinators is this Pycnanthemum muticum(?) or Clustered Mountain Mint. This relative of true mint does have a strong relatively minty smell and as you can see here is a favorite of pollinators.