A dozen community members assisted in native plant restoration at Halle Ravine at our most recent Volunteer Work Session on October 1. A lively group of students, neighbors, town officials, and PRLC board members spent the morning working on and off trails in the north end of the Preserve and along the steep bank of the eastern side of the ravine. They cleared invasive weeds, planted a variety of native plants that will better support wildlife, and fenced valuable trees and shrubs from deer browse. Our aim is to encourage more shade cover in the Preserve to protect soils from erosion and drought and to provide for the needs of animals. Come out for a tour with us next summer and see the results!
We also completed the installation of a new staircase along the steepest section of trail in the Preserve. Help is still needed to carry out construction materials and begin bridge repairs, so please join us on Saturday November 5, 10am-noon to lend a hand.
These projects were supported by funding from the Land Trust Alliance Conservation Partnership Program and by private donors.
We had a great turnout for the mushroom hike at Armstrong Preserve on October 23, 2016 and turned up some interesting finds. The most distinctive was a single specimen of the Dog stinkhorn, Mutinus ravenii, so-named for its shape and strong odor. We also found a few edibles, noted in the captions below. Please use caution when foraging for wild mushrooms and refrain from eating any that are not verified by an expert. Please also note that collection of mushrooms, along with plants and animals, is not permitted on Pound Ridge Land Conservancy preserves except during our guided hikes. If you would like to join our email list to be notified of future mushroom forays, email PRLC’s land steward or call our office at 914-205-3533.
Thank you to our event participants for the photographs, and happy hunting!
Mycophile or mycophobe? Most people fall into one of these two categories, being either mushroom-loving or mushroom-fearing. European and Asian cultures are generally mycophilic, passing on knowledge of favorite edibles and medicinals, along with hunting grounds for finding them, from generation to generation. Americans tend to mushroom-phobic, being more concerned with the potential for toxicity, or perhaps simply lacking in knowledge due to the shorter history of our culture.
In this installment of the Living Lighter on the Land blog, I will provide a brief overview of fungal life forms in hopes of inspiring you to take another look, for this is the time of year to find them. I also encourage you to join our Guided Walk and Talk in search of mushrooms, scheduled for September 21st. Please email me to register for this free and family-friendly event.
Mushrooms, or fungi, are an exceedingly diverse group of organisms whose taxonomy and biology are bound by certain genetic contraints, which is why they can be described as comprising a kingdom of life. They are known as the decomposers and are vital to ecological processes such as nutrient cycling. By transforming matter on the molecular level, making it available for trees and plants for example, mushrooms support all life on this planet.
Fungi come in forms both familiar and not, from the molds on our food to the classic polka-dotted parasol to vast networks of underground hyphae or mycelium. They generally reside in the substrate upon which they eventually “flower,” or more accurately, fruit. What we see are highly modified extensions of the hyphae which are formed in order to disperse spores, or reproductive cells, into the environment. In this way, harvesting mushrooms is akin to picking berries from a bush.
Mushrooms can be divided into categories based upon their growth forms, and knowing these groupings is a first step for any budding mycologist:
Slime molds Sac Fungi Puffballs Jelly fungi Corals Bracket Fungi Boletes Gilled
Like plants and animals, fungal species have specific habitats and substrates that they are best adapted to and which provide clues to the kinds of fungi we can expect to find. Most mushroom identification guides include keys to identifying species, and these will include details on growth form and environment, in addition to physical characteristics of the mushroom itself.
When I find a mushroom that I would like to identify, I take immediate note of the following: the substrate upon which it grows, surrounding trees, fruiting habit (single, scattered, or clumped), and color, odor, and moisture level of the mushroom itself. At home, the first thing I do is make a spore print: break the cap off (if there is one) and lay it gill- or pore-side down on a sheet of paper. It works best to use a half black/half white sheet of paper, laying the mushroom down in the center, so that white or black spores show up against the contrasting color of the paper. It might take a day or more for the spores to drop out.
While I wait, I make note of the following characteristics of the mushroom’s form (a good field guide can help to familiarize you with descriptive terms used for each factor):
cap diameter, shape, edge, surface texture and color
gill attachment, spacing, color, thickness, depth, and margin
stalk size, shape, texture, color, hollowness, ring structure, cup structure
There is quite a lot of information that goes in to identifying a mushroom to species, and sometimes the differences between them are so subtle that genetic analysis is necessary. Don’t be discouraged! The joy of mushrooming is in experiencing the wonder of their ephemeral form and their place in nature. With practice and the help of other mushroomers, you might one day enter the world of foraging fungi for food and medecine. I recommend joining on-line groups such as Facebook’s Mushroom Identification Forum, as well as groups that meet in-person for forays, such as the Connecticut Westchester Mycological Assocation (COMA).
All photographs courtesy of the author.
The Pound Ridge Land Conservancy is committed to allowing dogs on our preserves, but we need you to keep your dog on a leash.
We have had some incidents that could have been prevented if the dogs had been leashed. In addition, dogs going off trails because they are not leashed can cause significant unintentional damage to the plant growth we are trying to protect. During hunting season (October 1 – December 31), roaming dogs can interfere with deer control efforts as well.
Your cooperation will enable us to keep our preserves dog-friendly.
Volunteers continued to make trail improvements at Halle Ravine this summer and are about halfway done with the staircase project on the eastern side of the ravine. At our next work session on October 1, hands are needed to carry materials to/from the worksite, including plants that will be used to remediate the steep and easily eroded banks. We have made great progress in the conservation of Halle’s ecosystem through control of invasive species, particularly Wineberry, Asiatic bittersweet vines, and Japanese barberry, and now we turn our attention once again to Burning bush, aka Winged euonymus. These troublesome woody plants outcompete our native flora, taking up valuable space, light, and nutrients, but don’t provide the same level of ecosystem services as our native plants do. Controlling invasive plants requires diligence and we are grateful to our volunteers for their assistance. Please join one of our upcoming work sessions, October 1 and November 5, to learn more about what you can do on your own property, including what plants you can foster to support native biodiversity and protect water quality.
PRLC concluded another successful intern season this year with an evening presentation on August 17th at the Armstrong Preserve and Education Center on Route 121 in Pound Ridge. Snowden and Olivia each presented a slideshow of photographs, maps, and charts documenting their work in our preserves this Summer, garnering much praise from event attendees. Our audience included parents, community members, PRLC board members, and staff and leaders from local partners, the Pound Ridge Conservation Board, Westchester Land Trust, and the Rusticus Garden Club. You might have seen this article in the Record Review! Check back to see their work on our updated web page this fall, or better yet, take an easy hike on the trails at Armstrong, Bye, Carolin’s Grove, Clark, Halle Ravine, Richards, or Russell Preserve. What you won’t see are the invasive species that they cleared this summer!
Members of the Pound Ridge Garden Club toured the Armstrong Preserve and Education Center’s native plant gardens and outdoor classrooms this month with PRLC’s Land Steward and Educator, Krista Munger. Krista manages a native plant propagation project and nurseries in the “working backyard” outdoor classroom at Armstrong and grows many locally adapted species for our restoration areas in our preserves.
Our visiting gardeners were excited by the prospect of seed collection from our “mother” plants and are welcomed back for seed collection in September (date to be determined). If you would like to sign up to be on the alert for seed saving events, please contact Krista at firstname.lastname@example.org. Special thanks go to partner groups for sharing seed, space, and expertise, including Scalzi Riverwalk Nature Preserve, Bartlett Arboretum, Earthplace, Greenwich Audubon, Greenwich Land Trust, Westchester Land Trust, and private donors.
Celebrate PRLC’s 2016 Summer Interns at our Annual Presentation on Wednesday August 17, 7pm, at the Armstrong Preserve and Education Center.
Snowden J. (Bedford Hills, NY).
PRLC’s Restoration Gardener Intern, Snowden, is a rising junior at Hobart William Smith Colleges where he majors in Geoscience and Environmental Studies. He spent his first few weeks with us planting in the restoration areas within Clark, Carolin’s Grove, Russell, and Halle Ravine Preserves. He has weeded out garlic mustard, barberry, euonymus, wineberry, Phragmites, mile-a-minute, winter creeper, knotweed, and multiflora rose, and has successfully managed and maintained the stilt grass at Carolin’s Grove. In addition to controlling invasives, Snowden has been busy building and repairing the deer fences used to protect against rampant browse in our restoration areas. The remainder of his summer will be spent maintaining our native plant nurseries and assisting in long-term restoration projects at Halle Ravine, Clark, and Armstrong Preserves.
Olivia P. (Waccabuc, NY).
Returning to us for a second summer, Olivia is a recent graduate of Marist College with a B.S. in Environmental Science. She has mapped the restoration areas at Clark, Carolin’s Grove, and Russell Preserves, and is working on a draft of our recent work at Halle Ravine. Olivia assists in the collection and reporting of data for such projects as IMap Invasives and Phragmites monitoring at the Isaacson Preserve. She was instrumental in establishing deer browse survey plots on PRLC preserves this year. Olivia also aid’s Snowden and other volunteers in controlling invasive species on our preserves.
Our recent clearing and planting at the entrance to Halle Ravine has drawn praise from passers-by, who seem to enjoy seeing our young volunteers at work in nature as much as they do the improved views of the Preserve. We have worked hard to control invasive species here and along trail, generating many brush piles in the process, and now those efforts are paying off: Native plants are quickly spreading to take advantage of the increased light and space in the forest understory. Keep an eye out next year for the blooms of newly established plants like aster, cardinal flower, goldenrods and hyssop, and soon, for native shrubs to fill in the too-sparse understory here.
Hikers will be happy to hear that more trail and bridge improvements are in store for Halle Ravine this summer and fall. Our ad-hoc volunteer team kicked off a major trail re-building project on a steep stretch along the eastern side of the Ravine this month, on July 9, and we plan to meet once per month for four more sessions to get the job done. We welcome new volunteers to join us to assist in tasks ranging from carrying building materials into the site to restoration of surrounding habitats and adjacent trails. For more information on volunteering on this or other PRLC preserves, please email Krista at email@example.com or call our office at 914-205-3533.
Kudos to the team for a fantastic start to this challenging trail project. They installed 8 longer, safer, more comfortable steps over a distance of twenty feet, maintaining an average rise of about 7 inches. With about fifty more feet to go, and as many as 22 more steps, they are committed trail heroes and we thank them.
Event for the Whole Family from Toddlers to Mobile Seniors
Date: Saturday, June 25th, 2016
Location: Armstrong Preserve and Education Center off Rt 121.
Our volunteers and funders have supported the development of an incredible educational resource at the Armstrong Preserve, home to valuable natural habitats such as our woodland meadow, vernal pool, and forest restoration area, and the working backyard of our resident Land Steward & Educator.
Join us for a guided tour and learn what makes this such a diverse and productive landscape and a model of habitat management. Starting from the kiosk, we will walk at a slow pace, stopping often to discuss the benefits of sustainable landscape management. Be prepared to see what organic methods can do to bring beauty, and wildlife, to your property.
The newly upgraded off-the-grid energy systems will also be showcased at this event along with newly installed monitoring, control and automation systems which facilitate advanced functionality- making the Armstrong House truly ‘smart’. The prototype has begun its second act as a flexible, optimized and tangible producer and consumer of residential domestic energy.
Parking for this event is available at the top of the driveway and along Rt 121. RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling Krista at the Armstrong Education Center’s office 914-205-3533. 1361 Old Post Rd. Pound Ridge.