wildflowers

June Volunteer Work Session at Halle Ravine

carson-p-at-halle-ravineDate: Saturday June 3, 2017

Time: 10am to noon

Location: Halle Ravine, on Trinity Pass Road close to the intersection with Donbrook Road.

Wildflowers are under siege from deer browse, affecting pollinators across the region.  You can help by joining our team effort to plant and find valuable native flowers and fence them.  Learn how to identify both plants and mushrooms at this volunteer work session open to all ages.

Please pre-register for parking tips and weather-related information by emailing landsteward.educator@prlc.net, or call (914) 205-3533.  

 

Spring Calendar of Guided Hikes at PRLC Preserves

Russell hikersWelcome and Happy New Year!  We are looking forward to this year’s suite of guided hikes with PRLC’s Land Steward & Educator, Krista Munger.  First we will go to the Clark Preserve for a winter wildlife identification walk on January 28 (See Link).  Conditions may be right for snowshoeing, but don’t be concerned if you don’t have them – several of us will walk ahead and pack down the trail for you.  On March 26, we will search for early signs of spring at Halle Ravine Preserve and hope to see frogs, toads, and salamanders emerging under the green ferns and mosses.  Practice identification of trees by their bark, buds, and branching on both excursions.  Our focus on May 21 is wildflower identification in the Armstrong Preserve’s outdoor classrooms, including the Working Backyard where we grow native trees, shrubs, and plants for use in restoration projects in our preserves.  Bird migration will be in full swing and the vernal pool should be full of frogs, so bring binoculars and plan to spend the afternoon exploring whatever interests you most in nature.  There may even be morel mushrooms!

To receive a reminder ahead of each of these events, please join our mailing list.  We will send you an email about once per month.  We also have a series of volunteer work dates scheduled for the Spring beginning on March 4 at Clark Preserve.  Please see our events calendar for other dates, and email Krista at landsteward.educator@prlc.net for more information and to sign up for email reminders on volunteering opportunities.  You can like us on Facebook too!

Native Plant Propagation at Pound Ridge Land Conservancy Preserves, Westchester County NY

Richard Chianella

Nature lovers who garden are almost as numerous as gardeners who love nature, and they are teaming up for a great cause in our Native Plant Propagation Lab at PRLC’s Armstrong Preserve and Education Center.  With all the buzz about declines in wildflowers and their insect pollinators, now is the perfect time to share what we have learned over the last three growing seasons.   Join me for a tour of the Prop Lab and Armstrong’s native plant restoration areas and outdoor classrooms this Saturday, June 25, and read on for details on how to volunteer to raise plants for our other nature preserves as well as your home.

Cardinal flowerThis year, our volunteer team of land stewards, master gardeners, and students raised more than 500 plants from seed and another 20 from cuttings.  We start by collecting seed from plants of known local origin in the summer and fall.  If we can avoid cultivars and garden escapes, we are more assured of the hardiness and overall suitability of the plant for restoration areas, which are tended and watered far less often than a typical garden.  We also know that local insects and birds will have evolved in concert with these plants and are best adapted to make use of them.  The seed collector may have to find and mark the location of a desired plant during its flowering time, and return later when the seeds have matured.  He or she carries a stash of paper bags and a marker to label each with the species name, location, and date.  Seeds are shaken into the bag, or entire flower heads thrown in and dealt with later.  Ethics dictate that only 5-10% of seed be collected from any one plant, and that harvesting be dispersed over a large and healthy population.

At home, the chaff is separated from the seeds to prevent molding.  All material excepting the seed should be removed.  I use a paper plate for this task, brushing and blowing the chaff to one side. Store the cleaned seeds in their paper bag until late fall, when we will attempt to mimic the conditions of nature by putting them into cold storage.  Consider the life cycle of the seed:  it will likely drop from the plant to the ground during fall rains, or pass through the intestinal tract of an animal, and then to the ground.  If it is lucky, it will land in soil and be covered by organic debris over the winter.  We bank the seed over winter in shallow trays of soil that are covered to protect from animals and stored outside.  Plastic take-out containers work well for this as they are sturdy and stackable;   just be sure to poke holes in the bottom for drainage.IMG_20160321_122115533

In mid-February, we bring the seed trays in to a heated space and watch for germination. At this point, we are artificially hastening their development so that theplants can grow large enough to be transplanted into the great outdoors in May, before hot weather sets in.   When the tiny seedlings break through the surface, they must be moved into the light.  I keep florescent grow lights on them for 16 hours per day and water them gently, every day.  Young seedlings thrive on consistent heat, light, and moisture.

IMG_20160411_115634987Our first major task is to transplant each individual seedlings into its own pot.  This is delicate work, best done with latex gloves or none at all.  A chopstick or knitting needle makes a useful tool for easing each tender stalk out of the cluster of young seedlings.  Use recycled plastic containers of any kind for pots (remember the drainage holes).  Fill them to the top with a light mixture of mainly leaf litter, with some compost and sand.  Carefully label at least one of the batch for reference (and old window blinds make great labels).  Water well, and keep the transplants under light and warm conditions for a minimum of two days.

hoop houseI do not have much heated space and so move the plants out early into makeshift green houses, where they at least have abundant sun and protection from wind and rain.  Conditions can be harsh however, ranging from freezing to 90 degrees on some days.  Daily watering is essential.  Growers with heated greenhouse space will grow plants at more than twice the rate that I can, or more, but a simple plastic covering is enough to keep them alive.  By last frost date, all plants can be moved outside of covered areas, although they will need to be dampened off (transitioned slowly) to full sun, wind, and rain.

IMG_20160619_164701432By June 1, our plants were ready to be moved out to fenced restoration areas in PRLC’s nature preserves.  One of our local partners, the Rusticus Garden Club, generously sponsored the hiring of a local college student intern to aid us in getting all 500+ wildflowers into the ground this month, and he will continue to water and weed planting areas through the summer.  Volunteers are needed at a number of our preserves to provide supplemental water and to assist with weeding until these plants become established.  We also welcome the donation of native plants, either from nurseries or areas that are slated for disturbance.  Please contact me at 914-205-3533 or by email at landsteward.educator@prlc.net for details on how you can help out at your favorite preserve.

Endnote:  Our efforts to restore native trees, shrubs, and pollinator plants to our nature preserves is a direct response to the incursion of overabundant deer and alien invasive plant species in Pound Ridge.  It is our hope that by creating reservoirs of protected plants, we can preserve current levels of biodiversity and provide continued seed stock for colonization of unprotected areas.  Deer management is therefore an integral aspect to our program.

Restoration area at Armstrong Preserve, before and after:


2 2014 (2)3 Sunny side June 2016 2

 

PRLC Native Plant Propagation Lab 2016
Total Count and Distribution
Common name 5/21/2016 Armstrong Grove Clark Russell Halle
Count
Giant hyssop 8 2 2 2 3
Aster, heart leaved 20 4 8 3 5
Tick trefoil 10 6 4
Wild yam 5 2
Woodland sunflower 2 2
Tall Sunflower 3 3
Meadow rue 44 8 16 20
Evening primrose 27 8 6 3 10
Pokeweed 5 3 2
Scarlet smartweed 4 3 1
Bluestem goldenrod 7 3 4
Canada goldenrod ? 28 3 12 3 10
Meadow goldenrod ? 30 6 12 12
Gray goldenrod 36 6 12 3 3 12
Goldenrod Bridge St 10 3 4 3
Joe Pye weed 8 8
Common boneset 42 22 20
Dogbane 27 16 2 6
Swamp milkweed 1 1
Cardinal flower 36 10 6 6 6 8
Great blue lobelia 30 7 8 2 3 10
New York Ironweed 18 8 10
Monkeyflower 34 14 20
Baptisia 3 held over
Buttonbush 19 held over
Swamp rose 11 held over
468