Monday, October 27, 2014

Plant Management

Our ecosystems are not frozen in time.  Every passing year and each natural or unnatural impact changes the way the land and its tapestry of plants respond. Left unmanaged, plants grow and change by natural succession. Natural or unnatural impacts may include flood, drought or fire. All are powerful forces upon our fields and forests.

Daughmer Prairie, just about to burn. 
Sometimes these forces are unexpected  and unwanted.  Other times, they are a tool for land management.  It is an accepted practise to use fire to maintain open places- like prairies.  This is nothing new, the First Nations of North American used fire as a tool long before white men arrived on the scene.
Cheryl Boyd Harner and John Boyd
Only now have I realized, I have grown up to be just like my father.  Dad has always been a bigger-than-life influence upon me, and he was a Plant Manager.  Now grant you, he is an electrician and mechanical wizard, who happened be be the Plant Engineer at a Goodrich factory.

As a Weedpicker, I am a bit of a plant manager too, albeit a more "hand's on" type.  I have often been involved in managing habitats for invasive species.  From chopping and popping Teasel at Daughmer Prairie to Garlic Mustard control at Magee Marsh, habitats often need a little help from their friends.

Winter creeper, Euonymus fortunei
Many of the plants that become problematic in natural areas were intentionally introduced, for example, Winter Creeper. Planting Winter Creeper must have seemed like a good idea to the past owner of my property and it was probably recommended by a landscaper as "easy to grow."  Unfortunately, just as easily, it gets out-of-control.

Winter Creeper up a tree...
Out it wanders, into native areas, climbing trees and coating the land in a thick matted blanket of green. It seems attractive enough until you notice it has eaten all of your plants, even Hosta does not stand a chance against this thug.

Weedpicker to the rescue.
Fall is a great time to manage invasive plants.  I am dragging the Winter Creeper out manually, as I do not want to kill the plants remaining beneath it.  Chemical sprays may have their place, but mostly I prefer to pull what is accessible and root or stump treat the remainder.  It is more of a surgical removal vs. nuking the whole property with chemicals.

  • Remember those chemicals used to treat unwanted plants are NOT inert.  Milk is inert. When you buy a gallon of milk at the store you do not get a four page booklet warning you to wear gloves while "handling" milk.  Carefully read the booklet that comes with those so-called inert herbicides, as your family's health might be at stake.

Hosta- stressed and unnturally growing out of the ground.
 After the Winter Creeper was removed,  the Hosta is looking much worse for the wear.  The Winter Creeper must force the Hosta to do unnatural things in its search for nutrients.  I'll be treating this Hosta to a nice compost with plenty of pine needles, which  repel slugs and snails.

A chair-sized pile of removed Winter Creeper
 The Winter Creeper has been stacked in a pile and it will be making a trip to the compost pile.  Winter Creeper is pretty hardy stuff, so I recommend a good "hot" compost pile. Hot compost piles do a better job of killing weeds and seeds than a "cold" or passive compost pile.

The best news, my Hosta will be happy to have their competition removed, and the little Winter Creeper that may come up in the spring should be much easier to manage!

Hope you will join me in a little "Plant Management" this fall, or better yet, volunteer your time to a worthy group EVENT to remove invasive plants at the Travertine Fen State Nature Preserve.

To learn more about Winter Creeper- go here: Invasive plants
For management suggestions here is a link to the  National Parks plant invaders

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Modern-day Muir

 "There are few things in life as noble or as satisfying as preserving a bit of the living planet." Paul Knoop. Jr.

Paul Knoop, Jr. 
"At the age of 80, Paul continues to be a champion of the land through his eloquent writings on behalf of meadows and woodlands, parks and forests- his writing speaks directly to people's hearts. Like a modern-day Muir, Paul's sphere of influence is as far-reaching as his countless students and friends across the Midwest. He will long be remembered as the Patriarch of Ohio Naturalists." 
                                       Taken from the George B. Fell Award presentation text.

The National Natural Areas Conference was held in Dayton, Ohio this past week.  Some of the most outstanding minds from across the country gathered in the south-western corner of Ohio, to learn more about natural areas and to laud a few of their own.

No one was more pleased than I, to attend the banquet where Paul Knoop, Jr. received the George B. Fell Award.  This is the highest award given by Natural Areas and Ohio's favorite naturalist son, Paul Knoop, Jr. was an outstanding pick by the committee.

There was much joy in Mud-ville, Rock Hollow, and every other natural habitat found in Ohio!

Cathy and Paul Knoop, Jr. (holding award)
Paul and his bride, Cathy, are a significant force for nature education in Ohio.  His kind and gentle teachings lure students into the light of Natural Areas.  He provokes thought. He encourages, and supposes...  just the thing to warm-up the brain cells of a mind, young or old.

Paul and Cathy are staples at Camp Oty'okwa the Big Brothers and Big Sisters camp situated in the Hocking Hills. I had the good fortune to meet Paul through Flora-Quest.  He has always been one of our key leaders and a vital part of our program.  His main career was spent as an educator at the Aullwood Audubon Center in Dayton, where he started leading Audubon Society field trips when he was just 14 years old.

Dr. Reed Noss, Paul Knoop, Jr and Steve McKee
 This conference brought many luminaries back to Ohio, including Reed Noss (who once worked as a naturalist at Malabar Farm!)  Reed was a panelist for the discussion during the plenary session.  Reed has nearly 300 publications and is widely recognized as one of the 500 most cited authors in all fields.  It was an honor to witness this happy occasion where friends were reunited.

Three Cowboys, the good guys,  Paul Knoop, Jr., Eric Miller and Steve McKee
But this is where Paul is most comfortable- outdoors in the land he loves.  These three men have done much to conserve land in Central Ohio and comprise most of the board of the North Central Ohio Land Conservancy.  The Mohican area in particular has benefited by the land set aside by their efforts and the educational work they provide.

Nature has some excellent friends in Ohio, and one of them, Paul Knoop, Jr. has just been nationally recognized for being the unassuming super-star that we already love and respect.

Congratulations, Paul.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Curious By Nature

Do you slow down in the fall to admire the eddies and pools on calm water? Study the leaf dams created in a meandering river?  All of nature seems to wind-down in the fall.

No more hustle and bustle- gone is that urgency of spring.

Fall water: the river retreats and slows.
 Fall lends itself to reflection and quiet study on a riparian corridor.

Fall is the premiere mushroom viewing season.
Colors sharpen with the cooler weather.  The air is crisp.  It is the perfect time to reflect upon nature and changes.  Long term changes, short term changes and how changes in nature affect us.  We are but a part of nature's tapestry, one of the many threads of life, woven together.

Nelson's Ledges at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
If you too are curious by nature and interested in learning more, I hope you will join us at the inaugural Cuyahoga Valley Institute program November 8th and 9th.  This is an opportunity to attend workshops that examine how current issues impact society and community.

How did the canal ways impact mid-America?
 "Centered on the culture, history, spaces, and natural resources of the Cuyahoga Valley Institute aims to provide you unique opportunities to enjoy your national park, learn more about its rich past, and explore ideas  for the future."  *

Study the story of succession: marshes, woods and grasses.
Do we need prairies?
 "The theme of this fall's inaugural retreat, Curious by Nature, is drawn from a book with the same name, written by retreat facilitator Candace Savage. Savage is a Canadian author whose work has received recognition from the Canadian Science Writers Association, National Magazine Awards, and Saskatchewan Book Awards.

Join Savage and other expert presenters in examining how current issues impact society and community. You will also have plenty of time for relaxing, hiking, enjoying locally-sourced gourmet meals, and connecting with other passionate learners."  *

After reading Candace Savage's book, Prairie: A Natural History, I cannot tell you how excited I am to meet her in person!  It is a compelling story of the land.

You'll want to join us for the Ecology and Succession tract.  I hope to see you there!

Ecology and Succession:
Follow nature's roadmap from the early days of the park, before civilization moved across the fields and streams, to the current and always changing state of the land. Unpack the stories of the Beaver Marsh, the old Coliseum site, and Brecksville Dam, which are some of the many park sites that have been transformed.*

*portions quoted from the Cuyahoga Valley Institute website.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Sense of Place

Travel is the best way to experience the vast wonders of nature, and I have done my share. The verdant forests of West Virginia, the rocky mountains of Colorado, and the breath-taking vistas from Big Sur California, each are special for their own unique flora and fauna. 

Nothing annoys a plant enthusiast more than golf-course grass in the middle of a dessert or palm trees in Nevada! Seriously, we should travel to experience each unique location, not to visit some homogenization of landscape or the floristic counterpart of McDonald's fast food!

This gorgeous model has not been compensated to appear in this picture.
Yes, she is my daughter.
Experience the beauty of each place.  Breath deeply.  Let the colors penetrate your soul, and you will soon know why so many people migrate to the blue of Lake Erie for their vacations and relaxation.  This particular spot in Lakeside, Ohio is very special to my entire family.  One can visit our history and the natural world simultaneously.  View Perry's Monument on Put-in-Bay and scan little known Mouse Island, just off the point of Catawba Island.

No one enjoys horticulture more than I do.  After all, gardening is my primary hobby and it was once my livelihood. But, I have evolved.  Now I want more than ornamental plants such as hosta and day-lilies.  Subtle grasses and delicate flowers have their place too.

Quite possibly America's rarest flower, the Lakeside Daisy.
Too often we overlook the beauty in front of our very eyes. The Lakeside Daisy was considered unremarkable by locals, until visiting botanists recognized it for the rarity we now know it to be.

Consider the delicate flowers desperately clinging for life on an alvar, battered by waves of water and ice in hostile Lake Erie.

Little Blue Stem grasses line the shore.
Shorelines are given to erosion, by the same forces that batter those lakeshore alvars. So we are planting deep-rooted native grasses along the lake front on the west end of Lakeside. Native Ohio plants will do well growing in our climate and may have the fortitude to stand up to the temperament of the lake.
Butterfly-weed, Asclepias tuberosa is a host plant for Monarchs.
Milkweeds are also being added to the landscape in order to provide nectar and nursery space for Monarch butterflies.  Monarchs pass over these shores twice a year, on their way to and from Canada. Much has been written on the plight of our migration Monarchs, and we hope to give them a little assist.

Zebra-mussels may crowd our shore line, but make attractive slug control in flower beds.
Even alien invaders can be put to use.   Zebra-mussels are unwanted nuisances in our lake, clogging our water intakes and littering or shores with their sharp shells.  But, used as a mulching material, they blend in quite nicely with the existing shoreline and make a natural snail barrier for plants.  This is far better than using a poisonous snail bait which can harm pets.

Irish compost?  Sure, lake-weed is a natural for the garden!

The lake is determined to increase our compost piles with heaps of eelgrass, Vallisneria americana.
Farmers in Ireland have used seaweed to supplement their poor soils through-out the ages. Landscapes on Martha's Vineyard often utilize this bounty from the sea.  Why not? Eelgrass is filed with nutrients, readily adaptable to being used as a mulch and dries to a clean straw-like substance.

Piles of eelgrass on the shoreline.
When left to rot along the shoreline, eelgrass becomes rather rancid and fishy smelling. Pulled from the water and spread out to dry on the shore, it is odor-free and beneficial to shoreline stabilization. So we can clean up our lakeshore and put the material to good use at the same time.  This is just good old Yankee-engineering and common-sense gardening practices.

Planting Hibiscus moscheutos, our native marsh or rose mallows.
So join us where the sky meets the lake and the views of the Lake Erie Islands are unhampered! Lakeside is transforming the shoreline with a tidy little clean up along the lake. Plantings will re-introduce localized native plants and utilize some further afield Ohio natives that will thrive in this location.

We think it is a very progressive way to take a step back in time and witness our lakeshore au natural.