Lathrop Forests Fight Global Climate Change

by Barbara Walvoord
(First published in Lathrop Lamp Post December 8, 2016)

My granddaughter Lauren Warner enjoyed our north campus forest one day last winter.  But our forests are not just wonderful places to walk and play. They help fight global climate change by storing carbon. 

Our Lathrop forest is part of the so-called “midlatitude forests” stretching from the Carolinas up into New England, Canada, and the Midwest.  The past few years of carbon monitoring at the Harvard Forest have shown that these forests are reducing the global increase in carbon by more than 10 percent. Continue reading Lathrop Forests Fight Global Climate Change

Lathrop’s “Free Fifty” Forest–An Amazing Achievement

by Barbara Walvoord

(First published in Lathrop’s Lamp Post, Nov. 10, 2016)

November is a month of truth for a forest. Most native shrubs have lost their leaves or turned to muted colors. But some very dangerous invasive plants are still going strong, their vibrant colors now highly visible, as they crowd out native plants but fail to provide the food that native wildlife needs: 96% of birds need insects, not just nectar and seeds, to raise their young; 90% of insects eat only native plants (Douglas Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home).

Lathrop’s “Free Fifty” Forest project has been removing invasive plants from 50 acres of forest on both campuses. These before-and-after photos, taken 2 years apart in the same spot, tell the story of our amazing achievement. The top photo, taken in November of 2014, shows red leaves of invasive burning bush and yellow-green leaves of invasive honeysuckle invading our forest on the east campus. The bottom photo, taken two years later in Nov., 2016, shows all the invasives removed. Now the native winterberry (center left in the photo), as well as native high-bush blueberry and others are thriving in our woods, supporting more wildlife than before.




The next photo, taken April, 2014, shows invasive Japanese barberry coming into our north campus woods along the stream. The photo below it shows two years later, 2016, a bit later in the season, where you can see the dead barberry in the middle, and other plants thriving around it.


north-barberry-gone-6-20-16img_1034 Continue reading Lathrop’s “Free Fifty” Forest–An Amazing Achievement

Walking on Water: The Barnes Aquifer at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

(First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post Nov. 4, 2016)

If you walk the east campus woods, you are walking on top of a small portion of the Barnes Aquifer, which stretches under Easthampton, Southampton, Westfield, and Holyoke. It’s one of the most important water sources in western Massachusetts.

About 14,000 years ago, melting water from glaciers carried clay and silt down to the sea, but deposited the heavier sand and gravel right here, as a great underground aquifer, perfect for collecting and purifying water. In 2015, Easthampton won a gold medal for the best tasting water in the U.S.

Surface water soaks down into the aquifer, along with whatever pollutants it is carrying. Roads, homes, and businesses can interfere with healthy regeneration of the aquifer

Water moves out of the aquifer in two ways: the water moves up into the bottoms of streams that flow over it.  In at least two places on our east campus, streams emerge from underground, as in the photo at the top of this page.  To find this disappearing stream, walk down the mid-woods path, then keep going straight across the mid-woods meadow, bearing a little to the left, to an orange flag at the woods’ edge.  The stream is a short way into the woods.  Flags mark the spot.  Be careful not to step into a hole. Trail map at

Also, multiple wells supply 1.2 billion gallons of Barnes Aquifer water per year to 60,000 people.

About 25 years ago, tests showed that some wells drawing from a part of the aquifer exceeded federal standards for contamination by TCE (trichloroethylene), a common degreaser and cleaning agent and a suspected carcinogen.  Experts ran hundreds of tests and tried to identify contamination sources. Easthampton built a treatment plant, and Holyoke closed its contaminated wells. The Barnes Aquifer Protection Committee now works to protect the quality of the aquifer ( One of its projects is to prevent development on key plots of land that are important to recharging the aquifer.

A proposal to protect one of these key plots will be considered by the Easthampton City Council on Wed., Nov. 16, at 6 p.m.  Please join us, as several members of the Lathrop Land Conservation Committee drive (over the Barnes Aquifer) to the meeting to show our support for the project   Contact me ( or 203-5086) if you’d like a ride. More information at

Lathrop Hawks on the Move–or Not

by Barbara Walvoord

(First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, October 29, 2016)

A few days ago, I saw a red-tail hawk (Buteo Jamaicensis) on the move: it dove for a songbird that was on the ground–and missed.  The little bird shot away to the side, while the hawk pulled up like a plane whose landing is suddenly aborted.

Hawks have to be on the move to eat. Red tails circle or perch, then dive onto their prey with talons outstretched.  Two hawks sometimes collaborate to catch a squirrel: one hawk swoops down on one side of the tree, and, when the squirrel scoots over to the other side of the tree, the other hawk swoops down and snatches it. Continue reading Lathrop Hawks on the Move–or Not

The Power of Berries

by Barbara Walvoord

(First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post Oct. 22, 2016)

Our Lathrop berries are powerful forces in nature. Through the fall and winter, the sweet fruit provides critical  nourishment for our birds, chipmunks, and bears.  But to the plant, a berry is a seed with an enticement–a sweet treat that gets some creature to eat the berry and pass it out the other end, in some distant place, with a nice little blob of fertilizer. Berries are a plant’s wings–they allow it to spread beyond its rooted place.

For that very reason, the berries of invasive plants are really bad news.  Berries eaten and then excreted spread invasive burning bush, barberry, and honeysuckle from our landscaped areas into our forests, where they crowd out native plants, but fail to provide the insects, cover, and nesting areas that our wildlife needs. Birds that eat these berries unwittingly spread their own destruction.

One of the worst berries is the alien invasive buckthorn berry, because it gives birds diarrhea, thus weakening them as winter approaches.  Nineteenth-century European settlers brought buckthorn with them, but they didn’t bring the enemies and competitors that limit buckthorn’s spread in its native land. Buckthorn’s heavy thickets crowd out our native plants and change the composition of the soil, making is less hospitable to natives.

Another bad berry is invasive bittersweet vine, whose orange berries are popping out now, as the vines smother our trees.


As we have been removing these bad berries at Lathrop, we have saved and nurtured our good berries: pin cherry berries cascading from their branches (top of this page)  black cherry; arrowwood vibernum; red mulberry; high-bush blueberry, whose popular berries are almost all eaten by now; grey dogwood, with its unusual waxy white berries; winterberry, which some of us have planted in our gardens for a fall and winter show of brilliant red berries lining every branch; and, pictured below,  wintergreen berries nestling one by one on our forest floor.


We are making our land a feast of powerful berries.

What to Do About Loose Cats at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

(First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post,  Oct. 8, 2016)

A resident recently saw a cat kill a bird on our campus and asked that I write about it.  The web photo at the top of this post shows what it looks like.

House cats kill 3.7 billion birds per year in the U.S. and are a major factor in the decline of songbirds. ( Domestic cats are among the world’s 100 worst invasive species (“A Plague of House Cats,” Smithsonian, Oct. 2016, p. 20). Continue reading What to Do About Loose Cats at Lathrop

Lathrop’s Asters–Summer’s Last Feast

by Barbara Walvoord

(First published in Lathrop Lamp Post Sept. 29, 2016)

As most plants go brown in our gardens, patios, and by the meeting house or inn,  residents (including Sharon and me)  and staff  are putting out pots of brilliant mums–yellow, bronze, purple–one last feast for the eyes.

In our meadows and forests, Mother Nature is also providing a feast for our eyes, as brilliant native asters bloom in purple and white.  But unlike the alien mums, which nourish few insects, Mother Nature’s last summer blooms provide nectar and pollen for many insects, including the monarch butterfly and many types of bees.  Asters also serve as host plants for the larvae of 105 species of native butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera).  This is important because butterfly and moth larvae are such picky eaters.  Most of them have developed the body chemistry and mouth parts to eat only one or a few native plants with which they have co-evolved. Continue reading Lathrop’s Asters–Summer’s Last Feast

Nurturing Lathrop’s native plants and wildlife.