Archive for February 2011

Northeastern Field Botany at Its Best: June 19-23, 2011, Ithaca

February 21, 2011

Joint the Botanical Society of America – Northeastern Section for this year’s field extravaganza with:

Torrey Botanical Society

Philadelphia Botanical Club

Cosponsored with:

The Finger Lakes Native Plant Society

New York Flora Association


June 19-23, 2011 (Sunday-Thursday) at Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York

The 2011 Field Meeting will examine the flora of Tompkins County and
vicinity in upstate New York. Housing will be on the campus of Ithaca
College, at the southern edge of the city of Ithaca. Located at the
southern end of Lake Cayuga, Ithaca is in the heart of the extremely
scenic Finger Lakes region. The city is home to the campus of Cornell
University, including the Cornell Plantations, a remarkable botanical
garden and arboretum as well as owner of numerous natural areas.
Tompkins County also is renowned for three state parks with magnificent
gorges and waterfalls, plus many additional designated natural areas
that are open to the public.

Accommodations are in double-occupancy dormitory rooms of Ithaca
College. The rooms are in “traditional style residence halls” (non-air
conditioned rooms, shared bath facilities). Also, there are several
nearby motels. Participants wishing to stay in a motel will need to make
their own arrangements. Box lunches are included for each day of field
trips (Monday through Wednesday). Also included are two breakfasts and a
buffet dinner. The remaining meals will be purchased individually at a
food court on the campus, or at nearby restaurants and stores, since the
campus dining hall will not be open. Transportation will be by a rented
bus and by car-pooling.

Our field trip coordinator and leader is Mr. David Werier of the Finger
Lakes Native Plant Society and the New York Flora Association. The sites
he has chosen represent a diversity of vegetation types and will include

• Lime Hollow Nature Center, Marl Ponds, and Chicago Bog: acidic bog,
limy marl ponds, rich woods;

• Bear Swamp Sempronius: calcareous rich shrub fen, cool rich northern

• Michigan Hollow: sedge meadows, rich peat swamp, rich and acidic woods;

• Thatcher’s Pinnacles and Biodiversity Preserve: rich forests with
older trees, terminal moraine

deposits, steep slope with native red pine, dry rim with dwarfed
southern-affinity forests;

• Taughannock Falls State Park: impressive gorge and waterfall, rich
forests, talus slopes;

• South Hill Swamp Natural Area: swamp white oak swamp, diversity of

In place of the first two, we may include these recommendations from Mr.
F. Robert Wesley, Natural Areas Manager at the Cornell Plantations:

• Landers’ Corners Bog: /Carex pauciflora/, /Listera australis,/
/Orontium aquaticum/;

• Jam Pond Bog: large open bog surrounded by red maple-black
spruce-tamarack peatland forest.

There will also be a variety of evening lectures. An optional informal
trip to the Cornell Plantations is planned for the morning after the
meeting on Thursday June 23.

For a registration form click on this link.

For further information contact:

Larry Klotz, Chair:

Robynn Shannon, Co-chair:


Details on Invasive Plant Symposium at the Northeast Natural History Conference

February 19, 2011

Click on the photos below for a larger version of the talks and presentation. Register before March 1st for the lower rate!

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center Recommended Plants for New York

February 18, 2011

Visit THEIR WEBSITE to see a list of New York commercially available native plants suitable for planned landscapes.  We have not gone through the list to see how good it is but maybe some of our readers can comment. They have a lot of nice photos however.

2011 Is the UN’s International Year of the Forests

February 17, 2011

You can help celebrate this with the UN by going to their website and learning more.  This is important since most of New York is forested.

Here is the introduction at their website:

Welcome to the International Year of Forests, 2011 (Forests 2011) Web site, a global platform to celebrate people’s action to sustainably manage the world’s forests. The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests.

Here, you will find information regarding events being organized throughout the International Year as well as interactive web tools and resources to promote dialogue on forests. Tell us how you plan to celebrate “forests for people” during 2011, so that we may showcase your stories and initiatives through this website.

Access the website HERE.

Sunset over the forests of the Long Island Pine Barrens. Photo Steve Young.

Dodder (Cuscuta pentagona) Exploits Odors to Find its Host

February 17, 2011

While browsing the website Parasite of the Day, I came across an interesting article about dodder and a reference about how they key on odors or chemical signals of some plants to find a host.  Here is a detailed entry about it in the Why Files Blog. This species is considered uncommon in New York and there are four other species that are endangered and threatened in the state. To find out more about two of them, you can go to the NY Natural Heritage Program Plant Conservation Guides.

The flowers of Cuscuta gronovii, a common species of dodder, in Schenectady. Photo Steve Young

Watson, Jeopardy, and Plant Identification

February 16, 2011

I just returned from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy where I watched IBM’s Watson computer compete against humans in a game of Jeopardy.  The huge auditorium of the EMPAC building was full of people (mostly students) interested in watching the competition on the big screen and listening to the panel of experts, alumni from RPI, who were responsible for designing and programming Watson. One of the panelists said that even though supercomputers like this were great at gathering information and answering questions in the Jeopardy format, they are still a long way from being able to do the same thing with audio or visual clues. I can attest to that personally since I use voice software everyday and the programmers still have not figured out how to come up with the right homonym in context. It got me thinking about when supercomputers would be smart enough visually to identify plants as well and as fast as a trained botanist. There are projects out there that identify plants visually, one using mainly tree leaves, and others that would read the DNA bar code of plants to identify them. Some groups of plants might be easy to identify but when you get down to grasses, sedges, willows, hawthorns and other difficult groups you might have a real challenge on your hands.

One of the panel members was asked why compete on Jeopardy. He explained that after they finished beating chess world-champion Garry Kasparov with the supercomputer Deep Blue they needed a new challenge. One night after discussing this they saw everyone rush out to a bar to see Ken Jennings compete on Jeopardy.  They figured that would be the next big challenge; to show how far computers have come with their information-gathering power.  So far the humans are no match for Watson (although Watson confused Toronto as an American city in final Jeopardy).  I think one of the next big challenges for IBM would be to visually identify a wide variety of plants faster than our best botanists (with a supercomputer called Linnaeus?).  I think that might take awhile. – Steve Young

The panel discusses Watson at the EMPAC before the show. Photo Steve Young

An Interactive Visual Identification Key to Carices of North America

February 15, 2011

Now you have no excuse to not learn more about the genus Carex in New York with the release of this new identification key.  It is a stunning assemblage of photos and drawings of the species of Carex in North America. You can sort them multiple ways, starting with New York, and even compare two species. The photos are high resolution so you can zoom way in on the spikelets. It would be nice if there were photos with the key characters identified on the photo. The website is HERE but you can view a short video on its features below. You will need Microsoft Silverlight on your computer to get it to work. – Steve Young