Indian Pipes: Visible Signs of Invisible Connections

by Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in Lathrop Lamp Post Sept. 7, 2017

Indian pipes (sometimes called ghost plants) bloom on both campuses–on the north campus along the path in the forest, and on the east campus not only in the forest but also along Bassett Brook Drive, across from the Inn, under a group of large white pine trees.  You can see them from the sidewalk.

Indian pipe is white, so people sometimes think it’s a fungus, but it’s actually a plant related to the blueberry family.  Unlike most plants, Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora)  don’t use sunlight to produce their own chlorophyll–hence they’re not green,  and they can grow in a sunless forest understory.

But they still need the sugar from chlorophyll.  They get that sugar from the trees under which they grow.  The relationship is a Continue reading Indian Pipes: Visible Signs of Invisible Connections

Advertisements

Native Plant Landscaping at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in Lathrop Lamp Post Aug. 26-Sept. 1, 2017

Soon, plants will be removed from a small area near the Inn, adjacent to Disabled Parking.  Then, on September 18, native plants will be installed.  At 10:30 a.m., residents of both campuses are invited to that area for refreshments, a short ceremony, and an explanation by our landscape designer, Owen Wormser.  Residents may dig in some native plant plugs. Professional staff will do the rest.

The East Campus Residents’ Association, the Land Conservation Committee, and Lathrop are contributing to the project.

Only the two red pines, native to our area, will stay.  It will be painful to see healthy shrubs removed, but the new native plants will much better support our  birds and butterflies, whose populations are in Continue reading Native Plant Landscaping at Lathrop

Lathrop’s Deer: A Complex Society

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in Lathrop Lamp Post August 17, 2017

This fawn, recently photographed by resident Doris Atkinson on the east campus, is moving about with its mother, still nursing, but learning, among other things, the communication skills it will need as an adult.

Communication began at birth in May.  A loud bleat meant “Mom, where are you?” and a soft nursing murmur meant, “Mmm, this is good.”  By lying perfectly still, and having almost no body odor, our spotted fawn communicated to our coyotes and bobcats, “Fawn? What fawn?  There’s nobody here–just dappled shade.”

But now that our fawn is up and about, it must learn to communicate within a complex social unit consisting of related females, their fawns and yearlings, and adult males, all of which have contiguous or Continue reading Lathrop’s Deer: A Complex Society

A Banquet of Goldenrod at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

Originally publish in Lathrop Lamp Post August 10, 2017

We have banquets for humans at Lathrop–the 4th of July picnic, the lobster feast, the Thanksgiving day meal.  But we also have banquets for our non-human residents.  Right now, goldenrod is on the menu.  The most numerous native wild flower in Lathrop east campus meadows, goldenrod is turning our land into a rich yellow banquet for our wild residents.

ACHOO! you may be saying.  However, goldenrod is not the culprit; instead, it’s ragweed, which blooms at the same time. Resident Alice Richardson, a landscape architect who knows a TON about native plants, explained the general rule to me in an e-mail: “As a general rule, most pollen allergens are produced by visually insignificant flowers which are typically wind pollinated – e.g. some trees, most grasses, ragweed.  Showy flowers have evolved to attract pollinators Continue reading A Banquet of Goldenrod at Lathrop

Young Singers in Concert at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in Lathrop Lamp Post, Aug.  3, 2017.

Summer music camps for kids are in full swing now, and Tanglewood  is featuring its Young Concert Artists’ Series.  At Lathrop, our coyote youngsters are also starting to perform in evening or pre-dawn concerts.

The young performers will have been born in April or May, in a burrow dug by their mother under a fallen tree or in a thicket.  The den might be up to 15 feet deep and a foot or two wide.   Careful moms will have made several dens so the kids can be moved from one to the other to avoid detection and keep down parasites.  Not a bad excavation achievement for a critter weighing 20 or 30 pounds, with only her feet as tools.

The youngsters have emerged from the den by now, and as their young bodies grow, mom is increasingly busy hunting to feed them.  She’ll take a wide variety of food–mice, Continue reading Young Singers in Concert at Lathrop

Picky Eaters at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

(Originally printed in Lathrop Lamp Post July 20, 2017)

Butterflies are not as numerous as we remember from our childhoods, but numbers of them still visit our Lathrop gardens and meadows.  This eastern black swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) was sipping nectar from a native blazing star (Liatris spicata) in Sharon’s and my front cottage garden.

Black swallowtail butterfly on blazing star in Sharon’s and my garden, July, 2017

Butterflies may sip nectar from a variety of flowers, both native and alien.  This eastern black swallowtail,  says my butterfly  book, will even sip from purple loosestrife, a horrible invasive that has made thousands of acres of wetland inhospitable to most wildlife. Continue reading Picky Eaters at Lathrop

Hosts at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

(Originally printed in Lathrop Lamp Post July 27, 2017)

If you walk our meadows these days, it might look as though a host of different butterflies–fritillaries, monarchs, swallowtails, blues, crescents–are flitting around a host of different flowers–black-eyed susans, Joe Pye weed, goldenrod, purple coneflower, blue vervain, and daisy fleabane–all in a whirling riot of color and flight.

But these butterflies and plants will pair up when it comes time for the butterflies to lay the eggs that will hatch into caterpillars. Then “host” will have a very specific meaning.

A plant is said to “host” a butterfly not merely when the butterfly sips its nectar, but when the butterfly can lay its eggs on the plant, and the hatching larvae (caterpillars) can eat the plant.  Plants develop chemicals that repel eaters, and co-evolving caterpillars develop ways to overcome the defenses, usually only the defenses of Continue reading Hosts at Lathrop

Nurturing Lathrop’s native plants and wildlife.