Our Meadows are STILL Full of Butterflies

By Barbara Walvoord

Our monarch butterflies have left for Mexico, but many butterflies will stay all winter. They survive in an astonishing variety of life stages—as caterpillars, as adults, or in cocoons–tucked into crevices, resting on the ground, rolled up in leaves, or attached to twigs.

The pearl crescent caterpillar stops eating its usual aster plants and spends the winter resting at the base of the plant until spring.  The adult arctic skipper crawls into a crevice or tree bark and goes into a dormant state.

Some butterflies, like this black swallowtail, overwinter in a cocoon.  In summer, it will stay in the cocoon only 2 weeks, but if the chrysalis forms in Fall, it will go into a hibernating state called “diapause” until warmer spring weather. 

At Lathrop, we save our overwintering butterflies by mowing only 1/3 of our meadows and fields each year, so that 2/3 of the overwintering butterflies survive.

In a garden, the more plant material you can leave over the winter, the more butterflies you will save.  Leave fallen leaves on the ground. Continue reading Our Meadows are STILL Full of Butterflies


The Critical Importance of Old Trees

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, Oct. 20-26, 218

Why we need old trees was the subject of an Oct. 16 talk by renowned expert on old-growth forests Bob Leverett. An engineer by training, he showed Lathrop residents how he measures the volume of old trees and the amount of carbon they sequester.  His research has shown that, contrary to popular misconception, old trees sequester the most carbon, compared to young trees, and old trees keep on sequestering more, as they get even older.  The protection of our western Massachusetts forests, as they age, Continue reading The Critical Importance of Old Trees

How to Walk Safely in our Woods and Fields this Hunting Season

By Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, Oct. 13-19, 2018

Oct. 15 – Dec. 31 is the season for hunting deer and turkey, both of which are plentiful on our land.

But our critters can live in peace this fall, because, on the east campus, Lathrop has ended its longstanding agreement with a hunter,  that he and a few of his friends could hunt on our land in exchange for his mowing our trails and fields.  On the north campus, and the adjacent Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area, no hunting has ever been allowed.

However, we can’t completely guarantee that no hunters will trespass on our land.  So when walking our trails, wear orange or pink on your torso and head. Facilities Director  Mike Strycharz notes that orange clothing is a good idea anytime, because it’s easier to find you in the Continue reading How to Walk Safely in our Woods and Fields this Hunting Season

Lathrop’s Old Trees

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, Oct. 6-12, 2018

On Tuesday, October 16, in the Mt. Tom room at 1:30, Bob Leverett will talk about old trees and then lead a walk/ride to Lathrop’s oldest oak—Ad’s oak– opposite the community garden.  We hope to have vehicle transportation for those who need it.

Trained as an engineer, Leverett began his activities on behalf of old-growth forests in the mid 1980’s and has become a leader in the old-growth forest movement.

He is the co-founder of the Native Tree Society, co-founder and President of Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest, chairperson for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation Forest Reserves Scientific Advisory Committee, the co-author of the Continue reading Lathrop’s Old Trees

What a Beautiful Sight!

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post September 29-Oct. 5, 2018

Bright orange bittersweet berries in this photo taken in 2014 on Cranberry Lane may look beautiful draping our trees in fall. But the the really beautiful sight is the DEAD vines of Oriental bittersweet, as shown at the top of this article,–same patch of bittersweet, after we killed the vines.

Alien invasive oriental bittersweet vines smother a tree and weigh it down, often killing it.  Native grape vines do the same.  Grape used to thrive only at the edges of large contiguous forests, but these days, since our forests are so cut up, edges–and grapes–are everywhere.  It’s a native acting invasive.

Vine fruits feed birds, but alien and invasive vines also harm wildlife by killing trees and shrubs and forming a monoculture.  For example, an oak tree supports the larvae of 518 species of native butterflies and moths.  Maple supports 287. Continue reading What a Beautiful Sight!

The Well-Equipped Traveler

By Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, Sept. 22-28, 2018

A well-equipped forest traveler needs three things: a defense against danger, a food supply, and a compass to find the way home. This little red eft that Doris Atkinson found on the east campus Bassett Brook Loop Trail is a well-equipped traveler.  It’s a juvenile eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens), at this stage called a red eft.  We can’t tell sex at this point, but let’s call this one Eft—a guy.

This past spring, Eft was born from an egg his mother had attached to underwater vegetation in a pond.  All summer long, Eft stayed in the home pond, breathing with gills and eating small aquatic creatures like mosquito larvae.  Infant mortality was shocking–98% of Eft’s siblings were eaten by predators.

Now, as fall approaches, Eft, the lucky survivor, has exchanged gills for lungs and is leaving his natal pool to spend his 2-3 “teenage” years traveling in the woods.  His Continue reading The Well-Equipped Traveler

Packing Material Gone Rogue

By Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post of Sept. 4-11, 2018

Having arrived in the U.S. as packing material for porcelain, Japanese stilt grass now invades river banks and forests, smothering native plants, including tree seedlings; secreting chemicals toxic to other plants; and significantly reducing wild life, except a type of invasive rat, which loves it.

We’re Trying to Prevent This: Japanese stilt grass has taken over this forest (not ours), smothering natives and reducing wild life. http://nyis.info/invasive_species/japanese-stiltgrass/

Seeds arrive in streams and animal hooves, and are viable in the ground for 5 years.   Japanese stilt grass has newly come to Lathrop’s campuses, but WE’RE ON IT!

It’s an annual, with shallow roots.  Small invasions can be pulled by hand in late summer, before the plants set Continue reading Packing Material Gone Rogue

Nurturing Lathrop’s native plants and wildlife.