Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

iNaturalist App and Plant Identification

March 30, 2020

If you have not use the iNaturalist app to enter plant photographs and location information you haven’t had the opportunity to use the automatic identification feature. For those of us who have, we are increasingly amazed at how good it is at identifying the plant to species, especially those that are not grasses, sedges, or rushes. This feature works with computer machine learning that compares your photo to the millions of others in the database that have been confirmed by others to pick the closest match. It is not uncommon now to be on plant walks where people are using the app to identify plants instead of using plant ID books or to supplement them. The same thing is happening with other groups of organisms like birds that can be identified on a phone app by their song or call or by app keys like Merlin. It will be interesting to see how automatic ID progresses and how it will change what we use to identify plants. If you register for iNaturalist and enter an observation you can click on the species field and the program will give you a choice of species to select and the first species selected is often correct (see photo). If it is not correct then other people who use the site and know the correct identification can enter that. Then the computer can add that correct identification done by a human into its memory to refer to next time. The only challenge this auto ID has is that it can’t tell you why that is the species it chose, what the identifying characters are so you can learn them for next time. Maybe that feature will be included in the future. Check it out and let us know what you think.

Climate change and native plant restoration

March 6, 2017

This winter has been the perfect testament to the climate change our state (and the whole planet) is experiencing. In February maples and willows bloomed— over a month early for many places! One of the burning questions on every plant conservationist’s mind is how our native plants will weather this new weather. What will happen as our summers get wetter and hotter, and our winters subject to more extreme temperature fluctuations? Some scientists theorize southern populations of natives will gradually migrate further north, following favorable climate patterns. Others believe this will spell big trouble for plant diversity— on both a micro and macro scale: rapid changes in climate may not give plants enough time to adjust, diminishing not only the kinds of species capable of occupying any one habitat, but the genetic diversity of those species too. One thing is mostly agreed upon however—local populations of native plants have the best shot at making it through these changes and adapting to a potentially very different meterological reality. A new program in the east coast called ‘Seeds of Success’ seeks to provide land managers working to restore landscapes affected by climate change weather (think Hurricane Sandy and its demolishment of the sand dunes around New York City) with this kind of plant material in order to give these ecosystems the best chance at resiliency and facing off against new— and often damaging— weather patterns. Although Seeds of Success has been active in the western states for many years, it’s only recently that the program has begun work in the East. Working through the North Carolina Botanic Garden, the Mid Atlantic Regional Seed Bank, and the New England Wildflower Society the program sources seed from wild populations of native plants most critical to coastal restoration projects (like Solidago sempervirens, Spartina patens, and Distichilis spicata) and distributes them in bulk to end users like Fish and Wildlife, or state Departments of Environmental Protection/Conservation. Coastal landscapes from Chesapeake Bay to Long Island to the Boston Harbor Islands will benefit from this effort, hopefully making them better equipped to adjust to changes in the long run.

Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide botanical name update

September 7, 2016

We think this is one of the best field guides for identifying wildflowers in New York. Unfortunately the scientific names have not been updated since it was published in 1977 and now just under 30% of them are out of date.  Steve Young of the NY Natural Heritage Program has compiled a list of changes for each page of the guide.  It is available at the following web site:

It will take an hour or so to write in the new names but it is worth the time to be up-to-date. Have fun in the field!

Field Trips and Workshops for 2016 Posted

March 25, 2016

By clicking on the title of the event below you can find out more information about signing up for this year’s great trips and workshops.

Field Trips and Workshops for 2016

7 May (Saturday).  9 am to 1 pm.  FIELD TRIP: Spring Wild Flowers of Poke-O-Moonshine (Essex County).  Leader: Michael B. Burgess.   Joint with Friends of Poke-O-Moonshine and Adirondack Botanical Society.

15 May (Sunday).  9 am to 4 pm. FIELD TRIP:  Chemung River Valley (Chemung County). Leader: David Werier.  Co-sponsored with Finger Lakes Native Plant Society.

21 -22  May (Saturday and Sunday).  FIELD TRIP: West Point Botany Weekend (Orange County).  Leader: David Werier.

28 May (Sunday).  10 am to 3 pm.  FIELD TRIP: Petal Pedal from Round Lake along the Zim Smith Bikeway (Saratoga County).  Leader: Steve Young.   Joint with Adirondack Botanical Society.

4 – 5  June (Saturday and Sunday).  NYFA Annual Meeting and Field Trips.   Weekend Joint with New England Botanical Club.

5 June (Sunday). 1 to 4 pm. WORKSHOP: Learn 10…Wildflowers (Albany County). Instructor: Jesse Hoffman.  Joint with Albany Pine Bush Center. 

12 June (Sunday).  1:30 pm to 3:30 pm. WORKSHOP: Learn 10…TREES (Clinton County).  Instructor: Michael B. Burgess.  Joint with Peru Free Library. 

18 June (Saturday). 10 am.  FIELD TRIP:  Sugarloaf Mountain in Hudson Highlands State Park (Dutchess County).  Leader: Rich Ring.

28 – 30 June (Tuesday  – Thursday).  WORKSHOP: Sedges (Clinton County). Instructor:  Tony Reznicek.  Co-sponsored with SUNY Plattsburgh.

9 July (Saturday). 9:45 am.  FIELD TRIP: Catskill Forest History: A First Growth Forest and Fen Walk (Delaware County).  Leader: Dr. Mike Kudish.

30 and 31 July (Saturday and Sunday).  FIELD TRIP: Altona Flat Rock State Forest (Clinton County).  Leaders: Anne Johnson and friends.

6 August (Saturday). 10 am to 1 pm.  FIELD TRIP:  Whiteface Mountain (Essex County).  Leader: Steve Young.  Joint with Adirondack Botanical Society.

6 August (Saturday). 10:30 am to 2:30 pm.  WORKSHOP: LEARN 10…ERICACEAE (Ulster County).  Instructor: Molly Marquand.  Joint with Catskill Native Plant Society.

12 – 14 August  (Friday evening to Sunday).  WORKSHOP: Aquatic Plants  (Tompkins County). Instructor: David Werier.  Co-sponsored with Bailey Hortorium, Cornell University.

13 August (Saturday).1 pm to 5 pm. WORKSHOP: LEARN 10…TREES (Franklin County).  Instructor: Dan Spada.  Joint with Wild Center. 

23 – 25 September (Friday evening to Sunday).  WORKSHOP: Sphagnum Moss  (Franklin County). Instructor: Sean Robinson.  Co-sponsored with Paul Smith’s College.

Hope to see you there!

Check Out the NYFA Calendar of Events

February 1, 2015

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 in 2016.  To access the calendar CLICK HERE.

The Big Bad Book of Botany: a Review

November 23, 2014

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.


New Plant Lists Posted for St. Lawrence County

November 18, 2014

Three new plant lists from Anne Johnson were posted at the NYFA plant list Google Map at 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  Have fun!

Invasive Species Conference Happens This Week at Cornell

November 17, 2014

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 or the coordinator of your local PRISM.

Context Camera App a Great Tool for Botanists

October 27, 2014

grapes Albany

Where are these grapevines?

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!
Steve Young

Binoculars Aren’t Just For Birders

October 19, 2014

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