Tag Archives: wildflowers

Happy Second Birthday Nature Times!

 

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In this second year of Nature Times we have gotten to know snapping turtles, carnivorous plants, black squirrels, and Sammi, Trailside Museums’ 36 year old bald eagle.  We’ve learned how trails are mapped, how a flock of sheep and goats have become one of State Parks’ 21st century mowing crews, and ways to explore State Parks on foot, in kayaks, on snowmobiles, and on frozen lakes. The stories have featured all kinds of work that State Parks staff and volunteers do throughout the year to help preserve and protect some of New York’s unique and exceptional places. These range from protecting sand dunes on Lake Ontario and old-growth forest at Allegany, to creating native grasslands at Ganondagan State Historic Site, and monitoring invasive species infestations and removing invasive species both on land and water.

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We mark this second birthday with 61 new followers and over 24,000 page hits!  And we thank the 32 staff, interns, and partner organizations who have shared their passion for State Parks through the blogs that they have written. We also want to recognize our partnership with the New York Natural Heritage Program who helped in initiating this feature and continues to provide support.

We look forward to continuing our celebration of State Parks in the months to come in Nature Times.  Hope to see you soon at one of our Parks or Historic Sites!

Happy 1st Birthday, Blog!

It is NatureTimes’ first birthday and it is spring! So get outside and celebrate, the snow will soon be melted and signs of life are appearing all around. Dust off your nature guides and your binoculars, get on your boots, and get out to a park near you. Last year, we posted some images of wildflowers that are the first to appear. Check that out – see how many you remember (hover over the photo to see the name). Here are some other flora and fauna to look for in the coming month.

To date, the Nature Times blog has 97 followers and 15,102 page visits. Thank you for keeping up with us, and be sure to tell your friends and family!

Post by Julie Lundgren, NYNHP.

 

 

 

 

Harbinger of Spring: Skunk Cabbage

Walking in the woods this spring, especially in wet areas, you may notice these popping up through the snow. On closer inspection you will notice that it is, in fact, a plant! What you are seeing is the large spathe of the Skunk Cabbage plant. This plant has a very interesting flower structure and strategy for pollination.

Let’s learn about the flower structure first: The large fleshy hood is called the spathe; which encloses and protects the club-like spadix. The spadix is the surrounded by tiny flowers.

spadix
Diagram by Lilly Schelling.

Skunk Cabbage is one of the first wildflowers that emerge in spring. This is possible because the plant produces heat, thereby melting the snow around it. The coloration of the spathe varies from greenish to purple, often accompanied by spots or stripes. Two color variations are depicted below:

lilly photo
Photo by Lilly Schelling.
kelly photo
Photo by Kelly Starkweather.

Notice how the plant on the right resembles the look of raw meat, and if you smelled it you would notice a rather pungent skunky odor; hence the name Skunk Cabbage! These characteristics attract flies which pollinate these plants. You can experience the intense smell by scratching the leaf next time you see this plant in the woods.

Skunk Cabbage can be found in many of our state parks in swamp or wetland habitat. Though the plant has the “Cabbage” in name, it is not edible. The leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals that cause a painful burning sensation in the mouth when consumed. Even boiling the leaves does not rid them of all the irritating crystals.

Post by Lilly Schelling, OPRHP.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Native Spring Wildflowers

Spring is in the air and with warmer temperatures come the spring flowers everyone hopes to glimpse.  Most of the flowers people have come to associate with spring are not native to North America though.  Crocus, daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips, for example, are all European flowers.  There are, however, many native plants that “spring” up at this time of year.

Native plants are valuable for a variety of reasons.  They contribute to the biodiversity and health of ecosystems and provide habitat for birds, insects, and other wildlife.  Also, as they are acclimated to the local environment, native plants are often hardier and require less care than imported plants.

As you walk through the woods this spring, look for native plants growing beneath the trees.  In 1936, Minna Anthony Common made a list of plants that were native to the Thousand Islands Region in the journal she kept detailing her work on the Rock Ridges Nature Trail in Thousand Island Park.  These three were among the native plants that were already growing along the trail when she began to work on it.

bloodroot

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) has white flowers with 8 to 12 petals that are approximately 1¼ inch wide.  The flowers sprout on 3 to 6 inch stems through folded leaves.  The deeply lobed leaves open as the plant grows.  When the root of the plant is cut, it “bleeds” a reddish- orange liquid.  This is what gives the plant its name.  Bloodroot prefers moist soil and partial shade and is often found along the woodland edge.  At the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center, bloodroot can be found in the flower bed along the front of the museum building.

spring beauty

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) has small (½ to ¾ inch) pink or white flowers with darker pink veins.  Each plant has a single pair of long narrow leaves.  These flowers also prefer moist woodland habitats.

roundlobe hepatica

Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis) is a member of the buttercup family.  It has ½ to 1 inch wide blue, pink, or white flowers and three lobed leaves.  Hepatica begins blooming in early spring and will continue to bloom into the summer season.  Hepatica prefers partial shade and is often found in woodland habitats.

If you are interested in learning more about native plants, visit us at the Nature Center.  We have a many books about native plants in our library and gift shop.  We also have a copy of Minna Anthony Common’s journal available for our visitors to read.  Best of all, we have miles of trails where visitors can see these plants in their native habitat.  The best way to learn about nature is to experience it.

Post by Molly Farrell, Nature Center Director at Minna Anthony Common Nature Center (Wellesley Island State Park).

Sources:

Common, Minna.  Rock Ridges Nature Trail: Record of the Trail, journal kept by Common while developing the trail system

Newcomb, Lawrence. Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide. Little, Brown and Company, New York. 1977.

USDA Plants http://plants.usda.gov (accessed 3/10/2015)

Minnesota Wildflowershttp://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/flower/virginia-spring-beauty (accessed 3/10/2015)

Prairie Moon Nursery www.prairiemoon.com  (accessed 3/10/2015)