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By Dr. Rachel Schultz, Assistant Professor, Environmental Science, SUNY Plattsburgh
On June 18th, 2015, a group of Adirondack Botanical Society members along with a student from SUNY Plattsburgh accompanied Steve Young, the chief botanist of the NY Natural Heritage program, to Whiteface Mountain. Our purpose was to assess the condition of the area of alpine vegetation that had been affected by the recently completed road maintenance on the Veteran’s Memorial Highway as well as outplanting plants that had been temporarily removed the previous year prior to construction. We would like to thank the NYS DOT for their support and access during this project.
New York State has less than 200 acres of alpine habitat total, including the summit of Whiteface Mountain, which is home to a number of threatened and endangered plant species. Whiteface Mountain has one of the two documented populations of snowline wintergreen (Pyrola minor) (Figure 1), a state endangered species (1, 2). Alpine goldenrod (Solidago leiocarpa) and bearberry willow (Salix uvi ursi) are two state threatened species that are also found in the Whiteface Mountain alpine area along the roadside.
Due to the proximity of these alpine species of concern to the road construction, we enacted a plan to restore part of the affected area. This plan included collecting seed from snowline wintergreen and attempting to propogate it in the SUNY Plattsburgh greenhouse (see blog post here). We also transplanted alpine goldenrod and bearberry willow to locations on site in 2014 that would be less impacted. The transplanted alpine goldenrod appears to be thriving in its new spot (Figure 2).
Lastly, we dug out several goldenrod and willow plants that would have been destroyed in the road construction and tended them in the SUNY Plattsburgh greenhouse until they were planted back onto the site this June (Figures 3 and 4).
Overall, the assessment of the site was positive. The snowline wintergreen population did not appear to have changed from 2014, and the alpine goldenrod transplants appeared to have taken hold thanks to the herculean volunteer effort by Emily Tyner to haul water from the base of the mountain to water them during the summer of 2014. Many of the bearberry willow transplants were also still alive and will hopefully serve along with the recently planted shrubs to stabilize the rocky bank adjacent to the road (Figure 5). Future restoration efforts may include an attempt to expand the snowline wintergreen population through the outplanting of propagated seedlings. This depends on the success of the seeds that were planted last year, which may not be apparent for another year or so (3). Furthermore, erosion control may need to be put into place to stabilize some areas to establish plants, according to a plan written by my Restoration Ecology students this past spring.
Well – we are about halfway through our field trips this season! Plenty more great opportunities left to get out there! Next field trip coming up is July 25th at Massawepie Mire. (Check out the list on our field trips page.)
Join us for a leisurely walk through varied boreal habitats along the trails at and around Massawepie Lake. We will explore the fringes of the largest peatland in the state along with its bordering black spruce tamarack habitat and its shorelines as we walk to an arm of the South Branch of the Grasse River. This area contains good examples of relatively pristine boreal habitats and their co-occurring bird populations, so is of interest to birders as well as botanizers.
to sign up and for details on where to meet, email Anne at firstname.lastname@example.org
The ABS had their winter meeting on January 11 at Larry Master’s house in Lake Placid. Attending were Ray Curran, Stephanie Sears, Larry Master, Steve Langdon, Emily Tyner, Rachel Schwartz, Lem Hegwood and Dan Spada who ran the meeting and took the minutes. Workshops and field trips were planned which will be posted on this website as they become finalized. There are some good trips planned so stay tuned. Members will be writing more articles for this website and a new Facebook page was developed for the Society to be sure to find it and like it. Thanks everyone for all you interest and work in making the society a success. The Adirondack flora needs you!
By Dr. Rachel Schultz, Assistant Professor, Environmental Science, SUNY Plattsburgh
Pyrola minor, lesser wintergreen, is one of New York’s rarest plant species and is considered critically imperiled. Globally, this circumboreal species is considered stable and is found in many European countries in addition to the U.S. and Canada. Pyrola minor exists at the southern-most point of its northeastern North American range in northern NY (1).
Botanists have documented two populations in New York State, one near Wilmington Notch, and the other on Whiteface Mountain (2). Stanley J. Smith, a botany curator at the New York State Museum, recorded the Whiteface population in 1961 (3). In 1997, Steve Young of the New York Natural Heritage Program (NYNHP) relocated the population at a slightly higher elevation closer to the summit than the original location documented for the species (2, 3). This population was presumably stable (in the “hundreds”) through the early 2000s according to records in the Biotics database kept by the NYNHP (4). However, the location of the population was in the ditches alongside of the Whiteface Veterans’ Memorial Highway and following maintenance on the road, only 19 individuals were found in 2006 (4). The population rebounded in 2007; however, in July 2014, the number of basal rosettes decreased to approximately 70 and there were only about 9 inflorescences (personal observation).
Due to the decreased population, Steve Young asked me to attempt to propagate the species from seed to eventually plant back out on Whiteface Mountain. Through the pouring rain on 8/13, EmilyTyner, Kelly Archbold (a SUNY Plattsburgh student), and I went up Whiteface to collect Pyrola seeds and nearby native soil. Our aim was to collect the mycorrhizae along with the soil that enable the plants to germinate and get nutrients from the soil (5). One patch of P. minor is partially hidden back along a rock face and had ~ 7 fruiting stems, and the other patch by the culvert site had 2 fruiting stems. Most of the seed pods were unripe, so we only took a fraction of those which were brown or were starting to turn brown. I estimate that we took ~10% of the seed pods at the 2 sites. We then took about a half 5 gallon bucket’s worth of soil from nearby the Pyrola plants without disturbing them. Finally we filled in the areas where we took soil with native soil.
Back in Plattsburgh, we placed the seed pods on a moist paper towel over night, and Kelly worked on extracting the seeds the next morning using a razor blade to open up each of the 5 chambers of the capsule. In all we planted 94 seeds in a flat filled with native soil and watered in the seeds. We will keep the seed flat moist, fairly cool, and shaded in the SUNY Plattsburgh greenhouse (5).
One source on propagating P. minor stated that regardless of when the seeds were sown, they tend to germinate in the spring (6). However, another source stated that germination can involve growing an underground modified stem that can survive for years before sending up a shoot (7). The most relevant advice was to “be very patient!” (6) Our hope is to plant out any seedlings in the next few years. In the best case scenario, these seedlings will help promote genetic diversity in a rebounding population following road maintenance. In any case this process will be a learning experience in attempting to propagate this species.
(1) NatureServe. 2014. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available http://explorer.natureserve.org. (Accessed: August 21, 2014).
(2) Young, S. 1998. Significant botanical discoveries of 1997 – compiled from information received at the New York Natural Heritage Program. NYFA Newsletter 9(1) 4-6.
(3) Miller, N. 1998. More on Pyrola minor (Pyrolaceae). NYFA Newsletter 9(3) 2-4.
(4) New York Natural Heritage Program. 2010. Biotics database. New York Natural Heritage Program. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.
Thanks to Jackie Donnelly for leading a great field trip on Sunday August 24th. Below is a bit from her post about the trip on her own blog, Saratoga Woods and Waterways. (photo above courtesy of Jackie Donnelly)
For being so close to a busy urban area, this stretch of the Hudson offers quite a surprising abundance of rare and unusual plants, most of which come into bloom in late August and early September. Two distinct areas within this catchment provide particularly good habitat for unusual plants. One area consists of several shallow quiet backwaters created during the historic lumbering era as basins for sorting river-driven logs. A second area consists of steep shale cliffs that are constantly watered by mineral springs, providing a cool rich habitat for many calciphile plants.
To read the rest of Jackie’s post about the trip, and see all her amazing photos – click here to go to her blog.
Here is an update from trip leader Jackie Donnelly of the field trip this past weekend on May 18th at Skidmore Woods in Saratoga. If you couldn’t make it this past weekend – there are still lots of great trips coming up!
We had a fine turnout of 10 folks on this perfect spring morning, including two who had come from as far away as Rhode Island and Connecticut . This speaks to the remarkable quality of the Skidmore Woods habitat, located on a geological fault that not only created the springs for which Saratoga Springs is famous, but also contributed the limestone substrate that underlies this rich woods. We explored some of the fault-line boulders to search for such unusual plants as Walking Fern and Maidenhair Spleenwort, before undertaking a loop trail that led us past such rarities as Goldenseal and Green Violet.
Although the first flush of spring ephemerals had faded, we could still examine the interesting fruits of such plants as Bloodroot and Large-flowered Bellwort, and witness the changing color of Large-flowered White Trillium from snowy white to pretty pink. Probably the stars of our walk were the beautiful single specimen of Yellow Lady’s Slipper that shone like a beacon from the base of a tree, and a bright wash of dozens of scarlet Wild Columbines sharing their site with a mass of dainty spikes of Miterwort.
Regretfully, when I lead a walk, I usually neglect to take photographs. That’s why I’m glad I posted a preview of this Skidmore walk on my blog Saratoga Woods and Waterways, a post that features many of the beautiful flowers we found on our tour. This post can be seen by clicking HERE.