Lathrop’s Invisible Project

By Barbara Walvoord

On July 9, nine residents trekked through fields and woods to the far north section of the east campus along Bassett Brook. This land is largely invisible to most residents.  It lies beyond our trails and beyond the “Free Fifty” acres of forest from which we’ve removed invasives in the past.

Jeff Allen leads residents to see where he has been removing invasives

It’s still a basically healthy forest, quiet and beautiful, with maples and pines on rolling slopes along the multi-channeled Bassett Brook and its wetland.  But scientific research shows that the increasing presence of invasive plants like multiflora rose, shrub honeysuckle, and oriental bittersweet could significantly reduce the wildlife our land can support (

So we’ve begun a project to remove invasives, following science-based guidelines recommended by experts.  Resident volunteers Continue reading Lathrop’s Invisible Project


The Lathrop Strawberry Festival

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, June 30-July 13, 2018

Strawberry shortcake, strawberries on cereal, strawberries with cream.  Just down the road from the north campus the other day, I bought two pints of Hadley strawberries that were some of the best Sharon and I had ever eaten.  Yum!

And Lathrop’s wild strawberries are blooming in our woods, some in areas where we cleared invasive plants that were choking them out.  As the delicate white blossoms dot the floor of our forests and glades, creatures are also saying, “Oh, yum—strawberries!”

Here’s who researchers found at nature’s own strawberry festival in a Michigan woods:  lighting on blossoms, leaves, or stems were sweat bees, carpenter bees, chalcid wasps, jumping spiders, , dancing wasps, ichnuemon wasps, gall wasps, leafhoppers, thrips, froghoppers, weevils, aphids, root-maggot flies. and braconid wasps like this one.

I guess this is what botany graduate students do: lie on the ground with magnifying glasses in hand, counting all the insects that land on a wild strawberry plant.  Continue reading The Lathrop Strawberry Festival


by Barbara Walvoord

First published in Lathrop Lamp Post, June 23-29, 2018

Well, finally, something native is blooming in the native plant landscaped area near the Inn.

Last year, with money from the Residents’ Council and the Land Conservation Committee, and help from Facilities, we planted native shrubs and wildflowers that will nourish butterflies and birds better than the alien plants they replaced.  We used plugs instead of larger plants to save money, so they looked pretty puny earlier this spring.

To our embarrassment, however, there WERE robust plants and lovely early-spring blooms in our supposedly all-native garden—the Continue reading Finally!

Empty Nest

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, June 16-22, 2018

The first time mama robin tried building a nest on the railing of our porch, the pieces of grass and unfinished nest parts kept falling off the railing.  Finally, though, she figured it out, and built this amazing nest.

It’s incredibly strong and useful, though without what we would call modern conveniences.

No hired contractors or power tools, so Mama had to bring in about 350 pieces of grass and twigs about 6 inches long.  She wove them Continue reading Empty Nest

Coneflower: A Butterfly’s View

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in Lathrop Lamp Post, June 9-15, 2018

Compare these two coneflowers: the one above, and this one:

Now here’s a story about them.

Suppose you wanted to provide food for pollinators and birds.  So you decide to plant some native plants.   You research the native wildflowers that are high in value to wildlife and that fit your garden in terms of color, bloom time, and soil/sun preferences.  You find that purple coneflower pictured at the top of this article (Echinacea purpurea)  provides pollen and nectar many butterflies: American lady, giant swallowtail, great spangled fritillary, painted lady, pearl crescent, red admiral, silvery checkerspot, spicebush swallowtail, eastern tiger swallowtail, variegated fritillary, viceroy, fiery skipper, gulf fritillary, sachem, tawny-edged skipper, and more.  Wow!  It supports the larvae of the silvery checkerspot butterfly. Its seeds are loved by birds, especially goldfinches.

You go to the nursery, and they show you a variety called Echinacea purpurea ‘Razzmatazz’.  It looks different from the “straight” native coneflowers you’ve seen in your research. It has huge double blooms instead of single blooms, and a deep lavender color.  Gorgeous!


You buy it and plant it.  But one morning you find a little note tacked to the plant: “I came to this coneflower for pollen, but these are double blooms, so I can’t get in.  Signed, Burt the Bee.”   Later in the fall, you find another note: “I came to this coneflower for seeds, but Continue reading Coneflower: A Butterfly’s View

Lathrop Turtles are Traveling

by Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, June 2-8, 2018

It’s time to be watching for turtles at Lathrop.  The females are leaving their streams to find nesting sites—loose, unvegetated soil such as gardens.  But they may turn up on porches, sidewalks, or roads. A painted turtle was killed by a car on Mulberry Lane two years ago.

If you see a turtle, let it alone, unless it’s in immediate danger of being hit by a car.  In that case, it’s okay to pick it up by the back of its Continue reading Lathrop Turtles are Traveling

Welcome Back, Warblers!

By Barbara Walvoord

Our warblers are back at Lathrop!   Cornell’s website lists 38 birds whose common names end with “warbler” (versus 32 named “sparrow”).  These include the hooded warbler, the orange-crowned warbler, the unspellable and unpronouncable prothonotary warbler, and the worm-eating warbler.  One of the largest bird families, warblers  (Parulidae) also include birds with other names such as ovenbird, yellowthroat, and redstart.

Warblers vary a lot.  Some live in forests, some in shrubby areas, some in marshes, and Lucy’s warbler lives in the mesquite deserts.  Some warblers are brightly-colored, some not.  Some sing beautifully, but the blue-winged warbler’s song sounds to humans like an insect buzz. Continue reading Welcome Back, Warblers!

Nurturing Lathrop’s native plants and wildlife.