Archive for June 2010

Workshop on “Gardening With Native Plants on a Budget”

June 25, 2010

The Farmscape Ecology Program at Hawthorne Valley Farm, Columbia County, is offering a four-session workshop on gardening with native plants on a budget, which will be facilitated by experienced landscaper Ruth Dufault of Bittersweet Gardens. The workshop will take place once a month during the summer and will be held at the Creekhouse on Hawthorne Valley Farm in Harlemville, Ghent.

So, what is a native plant? Why should we worry about whether the plants we cultivate in our gardens are native or not? And are there even any native plants decorative enough to warrant their cultivation in an ornamental garden? How about their susceptibility to deer browsing? Which ones need shade, which ones love sun, which ones go together well? And where would I get these native plants from, short of going out and digging them up in their natural habitat?

If you have you ever wondered about any of these questions, this hands-on gardening workshop with landscaper Ruth Dufault (Bittersweet Gardens) offered by the Farmscape Ecology Program at Hawthorne Valley Farm might be for you. Supported by Judy Sullivan from Project Native, who will showcase examples of native plants available at some local nurseries, Ruth will start the four-session workshop with an in-door introduction to gardening with native plants. During the following practical, hands-on, half-day, out-door sessions, Ruth will facilitate the participant’s involvement in planning and implementing a native plant garden around the newly renovated home of the Farmscape Ecology Program, the “Creekhouse” (former Hawthorn Clinic) in Harlemville. She will help participants envision the different native habitats that might be represented in the future garden, facilitate the selection of appropriate plant species, demonstrate soil preparation, and begin the planting process. The workshop is very much geared towards creating an esthetically pleasing, ecologically sound, low cost, low maintenance ornamental garden through a process that can be adapted to the conditions around your own house.

The sessions are planned for:

Friday, July 16th, 7-9pm (Introduction)

Saturday, July 17th, 9-12am (Planning the Garden)

Saturday, August 21st, 9-12am (Implementation)

Saturday, September 18th, 9-12am (Implementation)

The workshop will be held at the Creekhouse, 1075 Harlemville Road, on Hawthorne Valley Farm in Ghent, Columbia County, New York.

Suggested donation is $15/session, $50 for entire workshop, but nobody will be turned away for lack of resources. If you are interested in participating in some or all sessions, please register with the Farmscape Ecology Program, or 672-7994. For more information on the Farmscape Ecology Program, see

Hawthorne Valley Farm


In Search of Long Island Rare Plants 1 – Silverweed

June 24, 2010

From Steve Young – NY Natural Heritage Program

Earlier in June I travelled down to the South Fork of Long Island where, with funding from The Nature Conservancy, I explored various natural areas in search of rare plant populations that have not been seen in 20 years or more. My first stop was a salt marsh on Peconic Bay where I was on the lookout for Silverweed (rare plants should never have weed in their name) Argentina egedii ssp. groenlandica that had been documented in the mid ’80s (this used to be called Potentilla anserina).

The marsh had an extensive ring of Phragmites around it (not mentioned on the form from the ’80s) and I was sure the plants had been overrun by it.

Phragmites around the marsh.

I searched and searched and was on my way out of the marsh when lo and behold there was a small patch of Silverweed hanging on where the Phragmites was not so thick.  Its bright yellow flowers were calling out to say, “I’m still here!”

Its leaves are green on the top and white hairy on the undersides.

In the Napeague area I looked for another old record in the saltmarsh but it was not to be found.  The marsh was beautiful in the late day sun.

The mosquito ditches were evident here as in almost every saltmarsh on Long Island.

One of the uncommon plants of the saltmarsh I saw was saltmarsh arrow-grass, Triglochin maritima with its tall spike of flowers and small tepals. It is the only genus in the Arrow-grass family, Juncaginaceae, a monocot family that has one other species in NY, Triglochin palustre, a rare plant of calcareous fens.

On the dunes surrounding the marsh are plants of pine-barren sandwort, Minuartia caroliniana, an uncommon plant on the Heritage watch list along with two other sandworts, Minuartia groenlandica of the alpine summits and Minuartia glabra of the Shawangunks. Its white showy flowers are hard to miss.

My last stop was a saltmarsh along the northwest side of Napeague Bay to look for a small population of Silverweed that had boats sitting on top of it in 1985. Again, the dreaded Phragmites has moved in and taken over almost all of the marsh except for a few small areas that had yellow thistle. To my surprise I discovered a new population of the rare slender blue flag, Iris prismatica, just hanging on in the same area as the thistle.  One rare plant lost but another gained.  That leaves about seven populations of the Silverweed remaining on Long Island and Fishers Island.

A plant of yellow thistle.

The yellow flower heads with long bracts.

Iris prismatica still stands!

More about the iris in a future post along with searches for white-edge sedge, Carex debilis var. debilis (sedge searches can be fun!) and the two varieties of southern arrowwood, Viburnum dentatum.

Hudsonia – Woody Plant Identification and Natural History in Winter

June 24, 2010

November 5, 2010 — Woody Plant Identification and Natural History in Winter

  • Learn how to use keys to identify trees, shrubs, and woody vines in winter condition
  • Acquire identification skills that are useful for, e.g., wetland boundary delineation, surveys for rare species, habitat identification, reviews of land use proposals, and landscape design
  • Examine the identification characters of many species in the field
  • Browse a collection of books about the identification and ecology of northeastern woody plants
  • Learn how herbarium specimens can be used as reference for identification of new material
  • Discover facts about the natural history and human use of various species
  • Learn where some of the rare woody species occur, which woody plants are useful indicators of environmental conditions, and how certain invasive nonnative species are troublesome in our region.

This workshop is designed for biologists, environmental professionals, horticulturists, and students who already have some field experience with woody plants and want to develop their abilities to identify woody species in winter using twigs, buds, leaf scars, pith, bark, and other winter identification characters. The workshop emphasizes hands-on observation and practice with plants in the field, specimens, hand lens, keys, and field guides.

Course instructors Erik Kiviat PhD and Gretchen Stevens have 40 and 30 years of experience, respectively, with the northeastern woody flora in winter condition.

Lunch and snacks will be provided. Tentative location: Bard College Field Station, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Course materials (books, 10x hand lens) will be for sale at the site. We expect to use Muenscher’s Keys to Woody Plants revised by Cope (2001), and G. Petrides, A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs 2nd ed. Several binocular dissecting microscopes will be available.

Course fee $275 payable to Hudsonia Ltd by check or credit card (full fee due 15 October, early registration fee $250 by 1 September). Call Linda Spiciarich 845-758-0600 or email to register.

Ecoregions of New York Map Available for GIS

June 23, 2010

A new map of the ecoregions of New York is available to use with ArcMap GIS and will soon be available in print.  This was a joint effort of the EPA, New York Natural Heritage Program, USGS, NYS DEC, and NRCS. Two of the principal authors are Greg Edinger from the NY Natural Heritage Program and Doug Carlson from NYS DEC.

You can download the files for GIS as a zip file at:

The printed maps will soon be available for $10 at the USGS store at:

Ecoregion Map from GIS

A portion of the printed map.

iPad and Handwriting Recognition App for Plant Listing in the Field

June 22, 2010

The iPad now has a good app for handwriting recognition and I would like to know if anyone has tried it in the context of taking plant lists in the field.


My ultimate goal would be to have an app that would produce a list by entering any part of the genus or species and any synonym.  As you entered the genus or species it would suggest species you are writing and you could select the proper one to add to the list as you walk along. If you write an old synonym because you are not up on the current taxonomy it would display the most up-to-date name to select.  The running list would display on one side of the iPad so you could go back and change anything too. Maybe someday . . . . – Steve Young

Endangered Small Whorled Pogonia Rediscovered in New York After Decades of Search

June 14, 2010

Small whorled pogonia (Isotria medeoloides), a federally threatened orchid, was discovered in Orange County, New York in late May by Kimberly Smith, a botanist for DEC’s New York Natural Heritage Program and the Office of State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Kim spotted the orchid in a state park where she was performing botanical surveys for other rare plants. No one has seen this small orchid in New York since 1976 when botanist Mildred Faust photographed two flowers in a swamp in Onondaga County. Beaver have flooded that area since then and invasive plants have come in so the orchids are no longer there. The orchid is present in 17 other states in the Eastern United States and in Ontario but it is endangered or threatened in each one.

Botanists have spent decades looking for small whorled pogonia throughout New York where it had been collected only five times before 1976, from 1887 to 1923. Botanists collected it once in five different counties: Washington, Ulster, Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk. Orange County is now added to the list of counties where it grows. Botanists for the New York Natural Heritage Program have rediscovered other rare plants that no one has seen in many decades, sometimes for over 100 years, but this discovery is especially important because it involves a globally rare and federally threatened orchid. Congratulations Kim! – Steve Young

Small Whorled Pogonia, Orange County - Photo Kim Smith

Is Japanese Lilac-tree Invasive?

June 11, 2010

The New York Natural Heritage Program has received two reports this year of Japanese Lilac-tree, Syringa reticulata, naturalizing in floodplains, one in Columbia County and one in Saratoga County. In Columbia County it was reported as a dominant in one area. It has opposite, heart-shaped, drooping leaves and large terminal clusters of small cream-colored flowers. It is in full bloom now and its fragrance is more like an unpleasant privet fragrance than the sweet fragrance of most lilacs. This plant has long been sold as an ornamental but its popularity may be increasing, as well as its opportunity to naturalize.  It has been described on the internet as “not widely naturalizing.”  If you have seen this plant naturalizing in a floodplain or any other natural area please leave a comment below.  We would also like to have an idea of how widely available it is for sale in New York.  Google the scientific name for more information on its natural history and horticultural use.  – Steve Young

Japanese Lilac-tree in Saratoga County. Photo Jackie Donnelly