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
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
by Barbara Walvoord
(First published in Lathrop Lamp Post Sept. 29, 2016)
As most plants go brown in our gardens, patios, and by the meeting house or inn, residents (including Sharon and me) and staff are putting out pots of brilliant mums–yellow, bronze, purple–one last feast for the eyes.
In our meadows and forests, Mother Nature is also providing a feast for our eyes, as brilliant native asters bloom in purple and white. But unlike the alien mums, which nourish few insects, Mother Nature’s last summer blooms provide nectar and pollen for many insects, including the monarch butterfly and many types of bees. Asters also serve as host plants for the larvae of 105 species of native butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera). This is important because butterfly and moth larvae are such picky eaters. Most of them have developed the body chemistry and mouth parts to eat only one or a few native plants with which they have co-evolved. Continue reading Lathrop’s Asters–Summer’s Last Feast
By Barbara Walvoord
Spring woodland wildflowers face two problems:
- They can’t bloom before the soil is thawed
- They can’t bloom after the tree canopy cuts off their sunlight.
Between these two events, nature provides a window, because forest ground, under its leaf litter, freezes more shallowly and thaws more quickly than ground in open fields, and because forest trees Continue reading Hurry!! Spring Wildflowers at Lathrop
By Barbara Walvoord
Isn’t the blooming season past? Nope. One native shrub (or small tree) is just now blooming–witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana).
On the east campus, walk along the woods edge next to Basset Brook road, between the Inn and Mulberry Lane. Among the trees, you’ll see a beautiful yellow haze of delicate blossoms, each with multiple thin, ribbon-like petals.
“Witch hazel” is a recycled name, given long ago to a different species of tree in England, and reused by colonists for the tree they found here.
“Witch hazel” is also an ancient name, probably from the Old English wice, meaning weak or pliant, as indeed these branches are.
It’s a magical name, too, intimating witch-like powers, both as a medicine and as a divining rod for locating water. Blooming at Halloween, after several hard frosts, is magical by itself.
Both colonists and Native Americans used witch hazel as a medicine, and CVS still sells it. The factual, decidedly non-magical website Continue reading Witch Hazel: Blooming for Halloween at Lathrop
It’s nearly Michaelmas–Sept. 29, the feast of St. Michael– and, right on target, the flowers that colonists called “Michaelmas Daisies” are blooming in Lathrop’s fields.
Today, people call them asters, whose name means “star,” for their multiple petals in a star-like shape. Many of the native asters in our fields are various shades of purple
The purple New England asters (Aster novae-angliae) are a major source of nectar for monarch butterflies, which have hatched on our milkweed during the summer and are preparing for their long, long fall journey to Mexico. The butterflies are fleeing the dark, cold nights, from which St. Michael, the powerful, devil-fighting archangel, is invoked to protect those of us who have to stay here. Continue reading St. Michael’s Feast — For Monarch Butterflies
Report of the Land Conservation Subcommittee of the Green Committee
July 30, 2014
by Barbara Walvoord, Chair
Committee Members: Adele Dowell, Jim Dowell, Alfred Eipper, Sharon Grace, Chuck Gillies, Lyn Howe, Eleanor Johnson, Gillian Morbey, Diedrick Snoek, and Barbara Walvoord
Since our last report, the committee has moved forward in each of its eight lines of work:
- Master plan, finances, infrastucture
- Agricultural fields
- Removal of invasives
- Bushwhacking, mowing
- Herbicides, pesticides
- Planting natives
- Programming and information
Particularly, watch for these developments:
- Tomorrow, July 31, the state Biologist and the state Soil Conservation Planner are coming to walk our fields and give us ideas about how best to support wildlife, especially grassland birds like bobolinks and meadowlarks, which are increasingly at risk. Support for grassland birds and other wildlife is one of three alternative uses for our fields that we are researching. The other two alternatives (not mutually exclusive) are organic/sustainable farming, and a possible 5-8-acre solar field on a piece of our land not visible from our homes. A representative from a solar cooperative called Community Solar is coming August 18 at 10 a.m. in the Inn for a very early exploratory discussion. Nothing may come of it, and no commitments will be made without a GREAT DEAL more investigation and discussion with the whole Lathrop community, board, etc.
- Presentation in August or September by our naturalist consultant Laurie Sanders about the natural history, present status, and future of our land.
- Development of a native wildflower garden in front of Cranberry House. We’ll be sharing the plan with all of you and inviting you to participate in (or come and watch) a planting day in the fall.
- We are contacting contractors who can help us remove invasives in our fields, woods, and wetlands that are threatening our native plants and wildlife.
- We need information from residents about their needs and desires for walking trails.