Archive for the ‘Rare Plant Surveys’ category

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

http://www.saveauburntrail.org/home/not-an-ordinary-rail-bed

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.

NYS Museum Conservation Seminar Series – October Plant Lecture

September 19, 2009

The New York State Biodiversity Research Institute and New York State Museum are sponsoring a Biology and Conservation lecture series in October. A variety of speakers will present lectures on recent biodiversity research and conservation initiatives in the state. The lectures are free and will be held at noontime on Wednesdays in the state museum theater.

Wednesday, October 28, Noon
Forgotten Floras: Making the Case for Vouchered Plant Collections
In 2004, a species-area curve analysis revealed that at least 10 counties in the state documented fewer than half the plant species than predicted. Five years later, Otsego, Montgomery and Fulton counties were surveyed, generating more than 1,000 new records, including several rare and some newly invasive plants. Dr. Donna Vogler, of the State University of New York College at Oneonta, discusses the major findings of those efforts and the role of voucher-based natural history collections in the increasingly molecular and digital world of biology.

Montgomery County Flora Survey, Doug Idleman, Connie Tedesco, Jamie Barber, Laurie Freeman and Donna Vogler

Montgomery County Flora Survey, Doug Idleman, Connie Tedesco, Jamie Barber, Laurie Freeman and Donna Vogler. Photo: Steve Young

Searching for Downy Wood-mint

September 8, 2009

From Steve Young: I searched a powerline in southern Albany County today looking for plants of Blephilia ciliata, downy wood-mint, that were last seen there in 1998.  This is only one of three locations in the state for this rare plant. The area was on dry limestone outcrops, good habitat for Blephilia. The photo below from the Missouri State Univ. herbarium shows what it looks like:

Blephilia ciliata in flower

Blephilia ciliata in flower

After searching for about 30 minutes I didn’t see any plants but I did see some mint family plants and some other interesting plants. Fortunately I didn’t see any ticks!

From the mint family there was wild basil (Clinopodium vulgare) and majoram (Origanum vulgare).

wild basil flower cluster

wild basil flower cluster

marjoram flower cluster, note purple bracts

marjoram flower cluster, note purple bracts

New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus) was mostly in fruit but a few flowering stalks remain.

New Jersey Tea Flowers

New Jersey Tea Flowers

New Jersey Tea Fruits

New Jersey Tea Fruits

Macoun’s cudweed (Pseudognaphalium macounii) was in flower, a plant that I rarely see in this area.  In fact it is not recorded from the NYFA Atlas for Albany County. Its leaf bases are wide and extend down the stem a little ways.

Cudweed flowers

Cudweed flowers

cudweed leaf bases

cudweed leaf bases

Two interesting members of the aster family were still in flower, the smooth blue aster (Symphyotrichum laevis) with its shiny, smooth, leather-like leaves and field-thistle (Cirsium discolor) with some serious pollination going on.

smooth blue aster flowers

smooth blue aster flowers

smooth blue aster leaf

smooth blue aster leaf

field-thistle flowers and pollinators

field-thistle flowers and pollinators

I won’t give up on the downy wood-mint since it may not be there every year. I’ll check again next year a few weeks earlier. We wouldn’t want to lose one of our best populations in the state!

A Good Day At Catskill Marsh

August 16, 2009

From Steve Young: On Thursday the 13th of August I joined Chris Zimmerman of The Nature Conservancy and Melissa Kalvestrand, a graduate student at SUNY Albany, on a trek through the freshwater tidal marsh and mudflats of Catskill, or Ramshorn, marsh.
Catskill Marsh 2009

Melissa gathered up all the equipment needed to record the plants in each plot of the marsh within and around a patch of Phragmites.  The data will be used to analyze the effect the removal of the Phragmites will have on the marsh vegetation. Fortunately I got the middle of the canoe and Chris and Melissa paddled across Catskill Creek to the marsh, a short distance away.

Catskill Marsh 2009-2

Chris carried the plot marker through the high Phragmites with Melissa in the lead.  They had marked the plots with GPS and flags on previous days so it was not trouble finding them again.

Catskill Marsh 2009-5

At each plot Chris estimated how much cover each species produced in the square while Melissa recorded the data. I was there to help them with plant identification to make sure all we didn’t miss anything.

Catskill Marsh 2009-6

We saw a wide variety of plants in the marsh, some common species like the flowers of hog peanut here (Amphicarpa bracteata), and many other species that can only be found in marsh habitats.

Catskill Marsh 2009-7

There are lots of species with arrow-shaped leaves like this leaf of wapato (Sagittaria latifolia).  There’s also arrowleaf (Peltandra virginica), pickerel-weed (Pontederia cordata) and spatterdock (Nuphar advena).  They are not so hard to tell apart in flower but it’s good to know what they are in leaf and the characters that separate them.

Catskill Marsh 2009-14

For the few hours of low tide a whole new flora reveals itself as the water goes down and the small mud plants appear, mostly strap-leaf arrowhead (Sagittaria subulata) but other small mud plants are hidden among the larger ones and one has to be willing to get down in the mud to see them (take note Mike Rowe of the Discovery Channel). At high tide the spatterdock leaves float on the surface of the water but at low tide the rest of the plant is seen stretching up from the mud. One wonders how much photosynthesis these plants can get in while exposed since their leaves are often covered in mud.

Catskill Marsh 2009-20

We were fortunate enough to see the flowers of the little strap-leaf arrowhead with are male and female.  The male flower is shown here with three white petals and yellow stamens.

We were able to finish the plots by midafternoon under cloudy and cool conditions with no mosquitos! It was a great day in the marsh and we even got so see a few plants of swamp lousewort (Pedicularis lanceolata), a state threatened plant. It was time to go home and hose the mud from the jeans before they went in the washer.

Yellow-crested Orchis Survey on Long Island

August 12, 2009

On August 6th, Kim Smith of the New York Natural Heritage Program visited a known population of Platanthera cristataDSC01270DSC01283 (Yellow-crested Orchis) on Long Island. This species is endangered in New York and known from only a few sites in the state, so it is a very rare sight to see. The plants were growing in pitch pine litter near a salt marsh. When she first walked up to the site, she spotted one or two of the beautiful yellow orchids, but then realized that there were hundreds of them scattered across the area. She estimated there were close to 400 plants in total!

New Rare Plant Finds for Franklin County

June 30, 2009

A new large occurrence of rhodora, Rhododendron canadense, was found in southern Franklin County this Spring and a new occurrence of fragrant wood-fern, Dryopteris fragrans, was found on a mountainside in the northern part of the county. Both occurrences were found by Douglas Egeland of Bloomingdale, NY and reported to the New York Natural Heritage Program. Congratulations Douglas!

Large twayblade, Liparis lilifolia, in Canada and New York

June 10, 2009

Holly Bickerton, a Canadian biologist, is preparing the Canadian COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) status report update for large twayblade, Liparis liliifolia (S2 for ON, S1 for QUE), also a state endangered orchid in New York.

She reports that since the last status report in 1998, eight new occurrences have been discovered in Canada (for a new total of 19 extant occurrences, a substantial increase), with a significant range movement to the north and east. Large new populations have recently been documented near Kingston, ON, and north of Montreal. Previously, the species Canadian range was believed to be near Toronto. Interestingly, the Kingston occurrence is from a red maple swamp growing on sphagnum hummocks, which is a new habitat type for Canadian populations, but is not uncommon in NY. This opens up a lot of potentially suitable habitat in such swamps, across eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

Before the early 1990s the plant was known from the Hudson Valley as far north as Albany County. Then in 1992 and 1994 it was discovered in central New York near Syracuse and along Lake Ontario. Both of these occurrences were on hummocks in red maple hardwood swamps, just a few plants each. Since then we have not found any new occurrences to the north. Our largest occurrence is in a red maple hardwood swamp down in Ulster County. We should be searching more red maple swamps along the Great Lakes and into the Adirondacks to see if populations are expanding north as they are in Canada.