More events are posted every week on the New York Flora Calendar of Events for botany and plant happenings statewide. Check back often to see what may be going on in your area. To access the calendar CLICK HERE.
By Steve Young
With a title like this is was anybody’s guess what this book was about. Michael Largo, author of “The Big Bad Book of Beasts” and other books (mostly about strange people), has compiled information about a wide variety of interesting plants from around the world “The World’s Most Fascinating Flora.” Each species or taxonomic group (birches, bamboos, blue algae) has two or three pages devoted to information about its taxonomy, naming history, natural history, range, uses, and other odd aspects that the author hopes you have never heard about before. A lot of information is well known but there are some stories I found interesting and fascinating. I found myself saying Huh fairly often. Many of the species contain chemicals, poisons, or other dangerous plant parts that have wreaked havoc with humans over the ages. Some of them have made a large impact in other ways like primary food sources or building material. It’s a real potpourri of facts that makes the book useful and not useful at the same time. All of the information comes to us without citations so we don’t know how true it is and some of it will probably be cited by others thus carrying any misinformation forward. There is a short bibliography at the end but it certainly doesn’t cover the tremendous amount of information here. The plants are listed alphabetically by common names, which are far from standardized, so it is hard to go back to a plant to look something up if you can’t remember the common name the author is using. For example, Humulus lupulus, Hops, are under Beer Plant and Nettles are in two places, under Nettle and under Bad Woman). To make matters worse there is no index to scientific names. Each plant has an illustration in black and white but they are done by eighteen different artists so there is a wide variety of styles, some more in the style of scientific illustration and some not so scientific. Unfortunately, the drawings for water hyacinth and Victoria water lilies were switched. Because the facts come fast and furious, I found that I couldn’t read too many descriptions before I became fact fatigued but I just came back to the book another day and read more. This is a great book to have if you need some extra interesting information about plants that are on a walk you are leading or you want to gross someone out with a weird plant fact at a party (although, in his fig description, he missed the fact that we often eat dead wasp bodies that remain in the fig fruit after pollination). It’s also a good book for some extra information about plants that make you go Huh.
Three new plant lists from Anne Johnson were posted at the NYFA plant list Google Map at http://www.nyflora.org/plant-lists/. The lists are for the preserves at Otter Creek, Crooked Creek, and Chippewa Creek near Route 12. Explore the map and see other plant lists around the state. If you have a plant list you would like to post you can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Have fun!
by Steve Young
The annual Cornell Cooperative Extension In-service invasive species conference happens this week at Cornell University in Ithaca. Invasive species are a big topic these days and New York State has set up a total of eight parnerships called PRISMs (Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management) statewide to deal with them. These are mainly funded by the Environmental Protection Fund and you can find a map and more information about them by clicking HERE. Look at the map and see which PRISM you are in. I coordinate the Long Island PRISM called LIISMA (Long Island Invasive Species Management Area) which includes Staten Island too. We have many partners who manage many invasive species across the islands that comprise New York’s coastal plain. LIISMA and the Lower Hudson PRISM span the most developed area of the state and thus we have the most invasive species infestations to deal with. We are also frequently finding new exotic species coming in from the south on their own or by the many horticultural and animal trade pathways that criss-cross this densely populated and fragmented area. We are always on the lookout for new species so we can evaluate their threat and take action before it is too late and they become too common to eradicate. Once a species becomes common it will never be eradicated unless it is affected by a pathogen that kills it completely and this rarely happens. That is why we put so much effort into prevention and early eradication of invasives. The Cornell conference will start off with a session on biological control which is one way managers can help suppress the most egregious invasives on a large scale. This technique is not without its problems and these will be discussed by a panel of experts. Other topics to be discussed will be invasive species research, communication science, agricultural pests, early detection and rapid response, and a statewide species survey. The twitter site @liisma_prism will be tweeting some of the highlights in the next few days so check in with them from time to time if you follow Twitter. If you have any questions about invasives, a good place to start is with the website http://www.nyis.info or the coordinator of your local PRISM.
A relatively new app for the iPhone (sorry, no Android one yet), Context Camera is a great way to record the location, date, and time of the photos you take with the iPhone and have them displayed right on the photo. If you look at the latitude and longitude of the photo above of grape leaves you can see where I took it. Put put the coordinates into Google Maps with a negative sign in front of the longitude. The street view will show you the where the grape vines are. The app also shows the time of day, date, accuracy, and direction you are facing. There are two comment areas where you can enter up to 16 characters each. This is helpful for a plant name, collection number, collector, or anything else you can think of. I have been using it to record invasive plant locations I see and then using the info on the photo to enter an observation in the iMap invasives database at a later time, especially if I don’t have access to the database in the field on my phone. People have sent me photos with it so I can see where they have taken the picture. It’s a great tool for documentation and I highly recommend it for fieldwork. The location format can be set to many different styles including UTM. The accuracy depends on how good your phone is and where you are but so far my points have been close to the plants and accurate enough. Give it a try!
I have found over the years that binoculars have become an indispensable part of botanizing for me. When I need to see plants that are inaccessible on foot or surveying an area by car, my binoculars let me see plants that I cannot get close to. Leaves high up in a tree, fruits way up on a vine, plants on a cliff, in the center of a deep marsh. All of these situations are helped by having a good pair of binoculars. If you turn them upside down and look the other way they can serve as a magnifying lens for looking at plant parts close-up. Take my advice and always have a pair of binoculars when you botanize. Oh yea, they are good for watching birds too.
Steve Young, NYFA
Categories: Field Trips, Plant Places, Plant Sightings
By Steve Young
I took a stroll along the Mohawk Bike Path in Aqueduct, Niskayuna today to see what wildflowers I could find. The trail runs at the base of a slope where it meets the floodplain of small creeks flowing into the Mohawk River. Here are the wildflowers that greeted me along the way.
Other wildflowers were still in leaf, like many of the violets, but I look forward to coming back with the Friday Field Group this week to see how far along thing are .