Archive for the ‘Rare Plant Surveys’ category

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.

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

Dragon’s Mouth Orchid Rediscovered On Long Island

June 10, 2010

It had been 25 long years since the state rare Dragon’s Mouth Orchid (Arethusa bulbosa) was seen on Long Island. Kim Smith, New York Natural Heritage Program State Parks Botanist was bushwacking through some wet thickets in a state park in Suffolk County when she spotted just one plant of this rare orchid. After further searching Kim did not turn up any additional plants. Now that we know they are still here we can intensify our efforts to locate more plants. Arethusa is an orchid that grows in medium to high pH wetlands and usually with sphagnum. It has been recorded from many upstate counties but wetland habitat loss has reduced its numbers.  It is very hard to see when it is not in flower and may not come up every year which limits the time when searches can be performed. It sure is rewarding to find it however since it is one of our most beautiful orchids. – Steve Young

Arethusa in the Adirondacks - Photo Steve Young

In Search of Nantucket Juneberry

April 29, 2010

From Steve Young, NY Natural Heritage Program. At the request of the Long Island Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, I spent two days on the South Fork of Long Island evaluating the condition of Nantucket Juneberry (Amelanchier nantucketensis), a globally rare shrub that grows in maritime grasslands and shrublands on Long Island. At one site, it was still doing well even though some gravel had been thrown on top of a few plants.  Here is a photo of the flowers with the tiny petals that characterize this species (click on the photos for a larger image).

The shrubs often occur in knee-high clumps with a few stems or many stems that are easy to spot, here along the Long Island Railroad.

Plants of bush Juneberry (Amelanchier stolonifera) are sometimes similar in size but their petals are longer and wider. These two species can only be told apart during flowering time so it’s critical to do surveys at the right time of year. This year plants were flowering a week earlier than usual.

Other interesting plants occur in the same habitat like this prickly pear.

This bastard toadflax was just in bud.

While I was searching for more plants I was being watched.  Three curious fox pups and one shy one were wondering what I was doing.

Out at Hither Hills State Park it is a wonderland of nature with beautiful dunes and lots of interesting plants.

Like this bearberry with its clusters of pink flowers.

Another trip to the South Fork is planned for late May to look for more rarities. I can’t wait.

Rails to Trails And The Need for Botanical Surveys.

January 29, 2010

The link below shows the need for complete botanical surveys when old railroads are converted to trails for the public. The article is by Steve Daniel who has had experience with a trail conversion near Rochester. The article also appeared in a recent issue of the NYFA News – Steve Young

Giant Pine-Drops (Pterospora andromedea) Rediscovered along Lake Champlain.

October 7, 2009

From Steve Young: Giant pine drops had not been seen along Lake Champlain since 1963 when it was observed on Valcour Island. This summer one plant was found along a trail north of Plattsburgh by Lawrence Gillett, a retired SUNY Plattsburgh geology professor. This beautiful saprophyte (or possibly a fungal parasite) is very rare in New York and only a few locations are presently known – west of Rochester. It seemed to be most common in New York in the late 1800s and early 1900s and mostly from central and western New York along big lakes and rivers. The only other Clinton County record is a 1905 collection at Bluff Point just south of Plattsburgh. This plant may appear one year and not reappear again for more than a decade, making it difficult to survey. It’s nice to know that it’s still around the Lake Champlain area.

Giant Pine-drops flowers at Letchworth State Park. Photo: Kim Smith.

Giant Pine-drops flowers at Letchworth State Park. Photo: Kim Smith.

Fir Clubmoss (Huperzia selago) Seen in New York for the First Time in 94 Years!

October 7, 2009

From Steve Young: On September 7 Anne Johnson, Nancy Eldblom, and David Werier were exploring the town of Waddington in St. Lawrence County when they came across a population of about 5 stems of Huperzia selago in dry sandy soil in a poor pasture reverting to a thick cedar stand. This was the first time this historical rare plant had been seen in New York since 1915 when it was collected in the Town of Fine, also in St. Lawrence County. Congratulations to the intrepid explorers for this significant find!

Fir clubmoss stem. Photo: David Werier.

Fir clubmoss stem. Photo: David Werier.

Fir clubmoss forking stem. Photo: David Werier.

Fir clubmoss forking stem. Photo: David Werier.