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

Sneaking in the Woods

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post of Aug. 25-Sept. 3, 2018

By Barbara Walvoord

Last week I wrote about our wonderful success in removing invasive plants from our north campus woods.  More broadly, we’ve removed invasives from fifty acres of our forests on both campuses.

The bad news: Alien invasive ground covers like vinca (also called periwinkle or myrtle), pachysandra, English ivy, ajuga, and snow-on-the-mountain are sneaking into the woods from surrounding gardens or arriving when residents throw plant parts into the woods.  Continue reading Sneaking in the Woods

The House that Jack Built

By Barbara Walvoord

Most living things in our woods have either green leaves or mouths.  The ones with green leaves—the trees, shrubs, and wildflowers—practice photosynthesis–using sunlight to make food out of water and carbon dioxide.

The ones with mouths are creatures like insects and rabbits who eat the plants that have made food out of water and carbon dioxide, and then creatures like the bobcat, coyote, and hawk, who eat the creatures that have eaten the food that the plants have made.  This is the house that Jack built, otherwise called a food web. Continue reading The House that Jack Built

Our Lathrop Nursery

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post of August 18-24, 2018

Resident Alice Richardson clipped branches from a number of the native plants in the garden near Inn, and laid them out on a table as illustrations for the residents who would attend her talk last Tuesday.

At the presentation, a resident picked up a swamp milkweed branch from the table, and surprise—unbeknownst to Alice, there was a monarch butterfly chrysalis on it.

While Alice was talking, a monarch butterfly was flitting around the garden’s two species of milkweed—the only plant the monarch larvae can eat.  We residents remember when monarchs were Continue reading Our Lathrop Nursery

Pollinators Galore! The Native Plant Landscaped Area near the Inn

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post,  Aug. 18-24, 2018

On August 14, twenty residents attended Alice Richardson’s talk about the native plant landscaped area near the Inn, and the birds and pollinators it supports.  Installed last fall in an area with a large bare spot and several invasive shrubs, the garden has gone from puny plugs to glorious flower, abuzz with pollinators.  We asked designer Owen Wormser, of Abound Design, to stay between a very formal look (which native plants can do), and a meadow, so Owen placed shrubs for anchors, interspersed with wildflowers in drifts, taller in back and shorter in front, all bordered with native grasses and sedges. The garden was installed by residents with help from Jeff Allen, financial support from the Residents’ Association and the Land Conservation Committee, and help from Facilities. Continue reading Pollinators Galore! The Native Plant Landscaped Area near the Inn

Nurturing Lathrop’s native plants and wildlife.