Great Gains by Garlic Mustard Grabbers

by Barbara Walvoord

Volunteers have been uprooting invasive garlic mustard in our east campus woods by Mulberry Lane.  Roger Herman, Ethel White, and Lyn Howe (all pictured), as well as Sharon Grace and  Barbara Walvoord, have pulled hundreds of these destroyers of our native woodland wildflowers.garlic mustard Roger crop 4 16 IMG_0789 (1)

We have not only grabbers but cheerleaders like Eleanor Johnson and Adele Steinberg (pictured), who stopped by Mulberry Lane to cheer grabbers Ethel White and Lyn Howe, visible in the background.

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Round One is complete, advantage Grabbers!  We have pulled nearly all visible second-year plants (the ones that produce seeds and then die for good).  In coming weeks,  the ones we missed will bloom, thus be more visible, and we’ll get them before they go to seed.  Continue reading Great Gains by Garlic Mustard Grabbers


Living to 100 at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

Not only we humans at Lathrop, but our wood turtles, too, can live to be 100.  A Massachusetts “species of special concern,” native wood turtles (Glyptemis insculpta) live along Bassett Brook.

In this “Year of the Brooks,” we humans at Lathrop are working to protect the streams where our wood turtles have spent the winter buried in the mud.  Emerging now, they’re dancing on the sandy banks.  Potential mates approach one another slowly, almost touching noses, and then sway their heads from side to side, dancing for several hours before mating underwater. A female may do it with multiple mates. In June, the female may travel quite long distances (for a turtle) to find just the right stream bank spot for her nest. After laying eggs, she and others lumber off to forests, fields, and wetlands for the summer. Continue reading Living to 100 at Lathrop

Red Winged Blackbirds: Marking Territory

by Barbara Walvoord

Blue flags mark Lathrop’s wetland territories, as part of our long-range planning.  But territories are also being marked by red-winged blackbird males, back from their winter migration, arriving ahead of the females.

When a male red-winged blackbird perches atop a bough or cattail, flashes his red shoulder patches, and sings out conkaREEEE, he is not fluting a joyful “tra-la-la spring is here,” nor a seductive “come live with me and be my love.”  Rather, he is growling to other males, “This is my territory, so get the hell out.”

Our red-winged blackbird is among the 2% of birds who are not monogamous.  He will mate with however many  females he can attract to his territory, and it’s the real estate they look at, not the red patches or the song. Continue reading Red Winged Blackbirds: Marking Territory

Two Ways You Can Help our Native Wildflowers Now

by Barbara Walvoord

Our native woodland wild flowers, like Indian pipe, jack-in-the-pulpit, mayflower, and  trout lily, not only lift our hearts with their beauty, but support our food chains. 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). Invasive plants crowd out our native wildflowers and reduce wildlife.

  1. Don’t dump plants (especially ground cover), plant parts, or soil in the woods.  Patches of our land on both campuses are already covered with alien invasives like ivy, vinca, pachysandra, and bishop’s weed, crowding out native wildflowers.
  2. If you can, go into the woods on either campus and pull garlic mustard, one of the most dangerous invasives for our U.S. woodlands (  If the plant has not yet formed blossoms, you can leave it there; if it has blossoms, remove it, because, even when pulled, the blossoms can develop seeds.  A single garlic mustard plant can produce hundreds of seeds, which are viable in the soil for up to 7 years.

Continue reading Two Ways You Can Help our Native Wildflowers Now