Eating Black Raspberries at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

(Originally printed in Lathrop Lamp Post July 8, 2017)

Sharon and I saw native wild black raspberries (Rubus occidentalis) along the east campus Wide Woods Path recently, and we ate the few that had ripened–delicious!  We’ll be back for more, unless the rest of you have gotten there first.

Black raspberries are generally sweeter than blackberries, and when you pick them, they have a hollow core, like red raspberries, whereas blackberries have a white core and are usually longer in shape.

Humans have been eating raspberries and blackberries for a very long time. Fossil seeds of the genus (Rubus) have been found in the Czech Republic, dating back to the Miocene period more than 5 million years ago, when apes were plentiful in the Old World, and human ancestors were splitting off from Chimpanzee ancestors.  I imagine some pre-human finding raspberries along a forest edge and Continue reading Eating Black Raspberries at Lathrop


What We’ve Achieved

by Barbara Walvoord

(Originally printed in Lathrop Lamp Post, June 22, 2017)

Lathrop’s “Free Fifty” is 50 acres of forest from which, in the past 3 years, we’ve been removing invasive plants in order to increase native plants and the wildlife that depends on them.

Our achievement is visible as we compare two sections of our forest–one where we have removed invasives with one area where we have not (Photos June 19, 2017).

The contrast is stunning.  On the north side of the Farmer’s Field,  where we have not worked,  huge invasive multiflora rose bushes, now in bloom,  “exclude most native shrubs and herbs…and may be detrimental to nesting of native birds”  In the background,invasive Oriental  bittersweet vines are strangling the trees.


On the south side where we’ve worked for three years to remove invasives, you’ll see piles of dead multiflora rose and bittersweet vines. Among them, native plants are arising, like the native gray dogwood pictured above.  It delights us with its lacy white blossoms, and it hosts the larvae of 115 species of native butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera).  These caterpillars are a large part of the diet of many baby birds. (  Continue reading What We’ve Achieved

The Super-Adaptable Garter Snake

by Barbara Walvoord

(Originally printed in the Lathrop Lamp Post, June 15, 2017)

At Lathrop, we find common garter snakes in lots of places–in our gardens, by our ponds and streams, under rocks or brush piles, and, like this one, in the grass along our walking paths. These little, non-poisonous snakes are super adaptable.

They adapt to life in very different climes, from southeast Alaska down through most of the U.S.  Their range extends farther north than any other snake in the western hemisphere.

They eat lots of different foods–mostly frogs (swallowed whole!) and worms, but also tadpoles, newts, fish, leeches, insects, slugs, crayfish, small mammals, birds, and occasionally carrion. Continue reading The Super-Adaptable Garter Snake

Illegal Aliens at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

(Originally published in Lathrop Lamp Post, June 10-16, 2017)

I’m not talking about humans.  In fact, Lathrop has recently joined with other Valley residents to help welcome immigrants fleeing danger and oppression in other countries.

But  illegal alien PLANTS are a different story.  Some alien plants, having left behind the enemies and competitors that control them in their native lands, have overtaken woods and fields throughout the U.S., and have shoved out our native plants.  This is bad because these aliens did not co-evolve with our native wildlife, so they do not as fully provide the food and cover that our native birds and other wildlife need. Because these plants threaten our native plants and wildlife, many states, including Massachusetts, have declared certain alien invasive plants illegal to sell or propagate.

For example, Lathrop’s landscaping has many (now illegal) burning bushes, also called winged euonymus (Euonymus alatus). Their seeds are sprouting in our woods on both campuses. This internet photo shows a woods taken over by winged  euonymus.  The second photo shows winged euonymus coming into our Lathrop woods in 2014.  Since then, the Land Conservation Committee, with grants, resident donations, and thousands of hours by resident volunteers and by our Continue reading Illegal Aliens at Lathrop

It’s Easy Being Green at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

(Originally printed in Lathrop Lamp Post May 27 – Jun 2, 2017)

If you walk along the edges of one of our Lathrop streams or ponds these days, frogs may plop into the water at your approach. You may hear the “jug-a-rum” of the American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianos) or the “gunk” of the green frog (Lithobates clamatans), like this one found by several residents who were pulling invasive plants near the east campus Teaberry pond.

You can tell our frog is a green frog by its greenish color and by the ridges that run down each side of its back. You can tell our Teaberry frog is a male because its tympanum or eardrum, located just behind the eye, is larger than the eye. At this time of the year, our male is probably defending the pond as his territory.  He mates between April and August, clasping his lady love from behind, and fertilizing her thousands of eggs as she lays them in the pond water.

Continue reading It’s Easy Being Green at Lathrop

Careful! Don’t Hit a Turtle on our Road

by Barbara Walvoord

( Originally printed in Lathrop Lamp Post,  June 2-9, 2017)

Last spring, Sharon and I found a painted turtle on the road at Mulberry Lane.  Last week we found another one at about the same spot. Last year’s turtle was dead, its shell smashed by a car. This year’s turtle was alive, working its legs rhythmically, hauling its protective shell purposefully across the road.  It knew where it wanted to go, and we had built a road in its way.

Undoubtedly, our turtle has come from a slow moving stream or a pond.  During the winter, it burrowed into the mud at the bottom, or found a muskrat burrow.   While dormant, its body reduced the need for oxygen, so it could “breathe” through its skin, throat lining, and thin-walled sacs near its anus.  Emerging in spring, our turtle stayed near water.  After a graceful courtship dance, in which the male swam around the female, as they stroked each other gently with their legs, the couple sank to the bottom of the pond for underwater mating. Continue reading Careful! Don’t Hit a Turtle on our Road

The Bird that Stayed

by Barbara Walvoord

(Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, May 20-26, 2017)

Sometimes on a bird walk, with bird songs all around, and lots of  little flying shapes flitting through the trees, your leader stops, cocks her head to listen, then points into the woods, and says, “blue-winged warbler” or “Red-eyed vireo.”  Everyone raises their binoculars, and the lucky person who actually spots the bird says, “See that first little pine tree? Look to the left of it, the third tree down, just to the right of that dead tree?  The vireo is on a branch at about 11 o’clock, about half way up.”  And you raise your binoculars, crane your neck, and then, just as you’ve found the tree, your spotter says, “Oops, it flew.”

On the north campus bird walk May 9, a pileated woodpecker took pity on us.  It was hammering hard on a tree, trying to find the carpenter ants that are its main food.  When we came along, it just kept hammering, right in plain sight, even as we all inched closer, and Lucy raised her long zoom lens and followed it around the tree to get some fabulous photos. Continue reading The Bird that Stayed

Nurturing Lathrop’s native plants and wildlife.