Woods of Wisdom
Winter 2006"All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants and animals, or collectively, the land ... a land ethic changes the role of Homo Sapiens from conqueror of the land – community to plain member and citizen of it ... it implies respect for his fellow members, and so also respect for the community as such."
--- Aldo Leopold, "Sand County Almanac"
With winter on its way, it may seem odd to be thinking about butterflies. Perhaps for some, thinking nostalgically about beautiful Lepidoptera flying gracefully among the wildflowers in green meadows under blue summer skies is enough. But there are other souls who cannot help but think ahead to next spring, and what they might put in their garden to attract butterflies to visit.
The following article from the United States Geographical Survey gives some valuable hints to what strategies might be most successful.
Dr. Ron Royer of Minot is a butterfly expert. His telephone number at Minot State University is 701-858-3209. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
He has developed an internet site entitled, Atlas of North Dakota Butterflies. This site includes pictures and can be found at: www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/dist/lepid/bflynd/bflynd.htm
Ron also has published Butterflies of North Dakota which includes colored plates, range maps and general biological information.
The following is a very brief overview of butterflies by Dr. Royer:
As a general rule, most environmentally sensitive and conservation-important butterflies prefer white and pink/purple/red blooms to yellow ones (e.g., Cirsium, Monarda, and Echinacea are much better than Ratibida and Rudbeckia). My usual advice to butterfly gardening aspirants is to prefer native to exotic or highly bred garden ornamentals (despite the most prolific and more showy nature of the latter), because the adult appearance of many native butterfly species is phenologically coordinated with the rather specific nectar (i.e., "fuel") sources. A good example is the June emergence of the conservation-sensitive grass skippers (Hesperia dacotae and ottoe, Polites origenes, and Atrytone arogos) in time with the seasonal bloom of such species as Echinaces, Lilium, and Zygadenus.
Among traditional garden ornamentals, composites (e.g., marigolds and zinnias) are by far the most productive butterfly attractors in terms of overall species richness of butterfly visitations.
Then there is the issue of larval food plants (actually far more important to the conservation of native butterfly species). Unfortunately, most everything butterflies prefer, gardeners do not (e.g., nettles, thistles, etc.).
Unless one is willing to sustain a one-acre native prairie or native woodlot in the yard (including most of the plant species that the usual lawn-grower 2-4-Ds to death), flowers are likely to attract mostly garden pests (cabbage butterflies, alfalfa butterflies, and so forth). The same unfortunately, is true to CRP land. This, of course, is why butterflies are such good indicators of undisturbed native habitats - they can tell far better than we when a place has been "disturbed". Typically they do so by being absent.
The best butterfly habitat in cities is found in long-vacant lots that most citizens describe as "eyesores". Why? Precisely because they are not "managed," but rather "neglected" for long enough that "weeds" get firmly established.
The Shy, Egg-Stealing Neighbor You Didn't Know You Had
By LAWRENCE DOWNES
New York Times
Published: November 6, 2005
The suburbs, pretty as they may be, are nobody's idea of nature in balance. Sure, they are lush, green places where people and their vehicles get along with flowers, vegetables, songbirds and the littler mammals. But this harmony is enforced with an iron fist. It takes lots of chemicals, artificial irrigation and gas-powered trimming and mowing to keep such an arbitrary ecosystem under control.
Leave it to nature to mount an insurgency against the tranquility of the grass-and-pavement grid. Canada geese and white-tail deer are the most brazen intruders, multiplying beyond all reason and refusing to be subdued. The best-equipped predators, people, sidestepped the job, finding it distasteful. Instead they adjust their garden netting, check for ticks and brood about the tendency of their fallen Eden to keep collapsing into chaos.
But what if that didn't always happen? What if Mother Nature decided not to run amok but to tidy up?
Just such an amazing circumstance appears to be happening on the outskirts of Chicago. Research biologists there announced last month that they had stumbled across a possible answer to the problem of the proliferating suburban goose: the proliferating suburban coyote.
The researchers belong to the Cook County Coyote Project, which has spent nearly six years studying the habits of more than 200 coyotes in the northern and western Chicago suburbs. Among other things, they tried to determine what the growing numbers of these beasts might have had to do with another puzzling development: the sudden end of the goose explosion. The local population of Canada geese had soared in the 1980's and 90's, but by 2000 the increase had slowed to about only 1 percent a year. An unknown predator was assumed to be the reason.
The coyote was not an obvious suspect, being small and skulky and unlikely to stand up to a wrathful Canada goose. Examinations of coyote scat had seldom found damning traces of eggshell. But then infrared cameras exposed the coyote as a nest robber, one that carefully cracks open a goose egg and licks it clean.
Evidence like this bolsters the conclusion that coyotes, in their own wily way, have become keystone predators in a land long emptied of wolves and mountain lions. The Cook County project's principal investigator, Prof. Stanley Gehrt of Ohio State University, speaks admiringly of his subjects, who have withstood more than 200 years of hunting, trapping and poisoning and are more entrenched in North America than ever. Every state but Hawaii has them. They have spread into suburbs and cities, forcing biologists to revise their definition of coyote habitat to this: Basically anywhere.
Here is what is really strange: Humans have barely noticed. Egg-rustling, night-howling varmints are raising litters in storm drains, golf courses, parks and cemeteries. They are sometimes heard but seldom seen. In cities, they keep to themselves and work nights.
There are coyotes, Professor Gehrt says, living in the Chicago Loop.
You could call that sneaky. Or you could call it discreet. Professor Gehrt said that one surprising discovery of the study was how little danger the coyote poses to his unwitting human neighbors. "The risk is quite low, as long as we don't monkey with their behavior," he said. If you assert yourself when you see one - by yelling, cursing and throwing sticks - it will respect your space and lie low. The coyote's tendency to avoid people - and more important, raccoons - has made rabies a no issue, Professor Gehrt said, with only one case of coyote-to-human transmission ever recorded.
Coyotes will behave, he said, as long as people do not feed them. Leave nothing tasty outside in an open trash can or food dish, and definitely nothing small and fluffy at the end of a leash. Professor Gehrt says with confidence that the sensible suburban toddler has little to fear from the suburban coyote, but he will not say the same for the suburban Shih Tzu.
The Cook County Coyote Project is the largest and most comprehensive of its kind, but it is just one study. It is probably not the time to call for coyote subsidies and captive-breeding programs for goose-plagued subdivisions. But any effort to learn more about these creatures - like a four-year coyote study being done in Westchester County by New York State and Cornell University - is highly welcome. It is intriguing to consider the possibility that such a shunned, maligned animal may be a misunderstood hero. The suburbs could use well-mannered, responsible predators, and house cats are clearly not up to the job.
Notes from the Urban ForestThis past growing season has been stressful for trees. We’ve just had one of the worst droughts in the history of the region. When the soil is dry and there is no snow cover for insulation, winter deep freezes go to the roots of trees, freeze-drying the vital absorbing roots. As of this writing, it looks like we’re having another dry fall. So water your trees, even after leaf fall, to prevent winter root damage.
During the later part of the summer many trees of various species were showing signs of scorch. This is a non-infectious disease caused by heat and humidity.
What can we do for our trees? Basic hygiene comes first. The pruning of dead, diseased and storm-damaged limbs improves both the appearance and longevity of trees. To not prune these provides inroads for rotting fungi and wood boring insects. Remember: correct pruning improves tree health; incorrect pruning hastens tree decline. A Certified Arborist is the best person to determine appropriate pruning.
Speaking of pruning, late fall and winter are excellent times to prune. This is especially true of oak trees. Perhaps you have seen articles in the media about a disease called oak wilt. This is becoming more and more of a problem in the Kankakee River Valley. Previously this disease had been confined to the south side of the river, but this year I have seen it in and around Kankakee River State Park on the north side. I have even seen it in Bourbonnais subdivisions.
If you’ve got oak trees you should be concerned about this disease. In red oaks and pin oaks it is usually fatal, often killing the tree within weeks. It is also a problem with white oaks and burr oaks, but usually takes longer to kill the tree. There is a preventative treatment that can be used before signs are showing on red oak but it is not effective once symptoms are present. In white oak or burr oak, however, the same treatment can be effective even after symptoms are showing.
The symptoms of oak wilt include browning along leaf margins, then working inward toward a green center. Also the outer sapwood shows brown streaking when the outer bark is stripped back. The diagnosis should be made by a certified arborist because there are several less serious diseases that may look similar. Or, you may send samples to the plant clinic at the University of Illinois. Your Kankakee county Extension Agent may be able to help determine the best tactic.
Another tree disease on the increase this past season was verticillium wilt. This soil-bourn fungus enters through the roots and clogs the vascular system, reducing the ability of the tree to pull moisture from the roots. This does not usually cause the sudden death of the tree, but usually causes scattered limbs to wilt and die, as well as major sections of the crown. Verticillium wilt is a problem primarily in maples and ash in our area, but dozens of other species of trees and shrubs are also susceptible.
There is a treatment for this disease, but it is only effective if caught early. So check your maples, especially Norway and sugar maples, for wilting in late May/early June of next year.
There is much more that can be said of the plethora of tree diseases, and even more about tree-attacking insects. But I only have time right now to mention one more pest – the Japanese beetle.
Every year they seem to gain in population and this last season was no exceptional The one consolation, however, is that the damage these insects do by skeletonizing the leaves is not nearly as serious to the health of the tree as it may appear. Currently the best control of Japanese beetles is either to pick them off or spray every ten days while they are present (several weeks). A new treatment is being researched that may allow one treatment for season long control.
Well, that’s all for now. I haven’t meant to accentuate the negative with this article, but I felt it important to get the word out. All too often I get calls to look at trees that could have been saved, but by the time I see them the problem is too far progressed.
Rob Frothingham, Certified Arborist & Landscape Architect
A closer look shows state's diversity of ecosystems
September 11, 2005
BY DALE BOWMAN STAFF REPORTER
HOPKINS PARK, Ill. -- Fran Harty spread his arms as if embracing the savanna. "When we flew over this place, we wanted to jump out,'' said Harty, one of the naturalists who catalogued the Illinois Natural Areas Survey in 1978."It's a true savanna here.''
That's one of the oddest things anybody has said about Pembroke Township, a godforsaken, poverty-stricken area in eastern Kankakee County. That may be the reason that Illinois' best savannas are in Pembroke.
Fire is essential to preserving savannas. In the poor, law-unto-itself world of Pembroke, burning trash is how garbage is collected. Unintentionally, small fires regularly break free to maintain savannas.
Last month, I took a tour with Harty, a 55-year-old director of land conservation for The Nature Conservancy. We began in neighboring St. Anne Township at the 640-acre Mskoda Sands Preserve, part of the Kankakee Sands project on both sides of the Illinois/Indiana line.
TNC has been actively building and buying thousands of acres for the Kankakee Sands project, which is named for the "sandy soils, which support globally significant oak barrens, prairies and sedge meadows.''
Mskoda Sands is a recent purchase, very much in the process of being restored as black oak barrens. As we walked around, Harty bent and showed me the one Illinois true cactus, common prickly pear cactus.
For much of my life, staring at black oak barrens, savannas or prairies did nothing for me. But I'm learning the richness, the diversity of these places. Traipsing around with somebody like Harty only enriches that.
Our next stop was a small patch of true savanna to the east in Pembroke. "If we were Potawatomi, we would feel right at home,'' Harty said.
Illinois' highest call counts for bobwhite quail regularly come from the Pembroke savannas. "This is perfect habitat for quail,'' he said."They love legumes.'' With that he bent and pointed out three ideal native legumes: round-headed bush clover, goat's rue and partridge pea.
He showed the mounds of dirt thrown around by plains pocket gophers -- "We consider them an ecosystem engineer.''
Harty launched into a description of Illinois savannas as a kaleidoscope: blue in spring with birdfoot violets, white with flowering spurge, blue with blazing star and yellow in the fall with sunflowers and goldenrod.
"It's no secret why we make our parks look like savannas: we feel safe,'' Harty said.
He's right. But where our parks are far too often simply grass and shade trees, savannas are much more complex, richer and healthier.
Our next stop wasn't a TNC project, but Iroquois County State Wildlife Area, one of my favorite hiking and hunting places. For Harty, it is much more.
"The biodiversity here is unusual,'' he said. There's sedge meadow, wet prairie, savanna and woods. "This is the whole gradient.''
On a mission, he marched us off to a back piece. He wanted to show me a sundew, a rare carnivorous plant tinier than a fingernail. After crawling around on his knees for a while, he found it.
Then we crossed into the Indiana portion of Kankakee Sands, where restoration is much farther along, to the point where some areas are open for hunting. (Hunting is managed by Willow Slough Fish & Wildlife Area.) About 3,700 of the 7,000 acres along Route 41 in Indiana have been retired or restored so far.
TNC Kankakee Sands offices sit on remnants of Bogus Island, once the great hideout for horse thieves and counterfeiters in the 1800s. There's something I enjoy in that connection to the past.
For information on TNC's Illinois projects, go online to:
Bowman may be reached at email@example.com. "Bowman's Outdoor Line'' is heard on "Outdoors with Mike Norris'' (3-4 p.m. Thursdays, 1280-AM).
Fowler’s Toad at Sweet Fern Savanna
Borders of flowers define the street.
By the blue chicory we will meet.
By the burning bush we’ll know it is fall.
And by the ponds Canada geese will call.
White Queen Anne’s lace will spoil the corn
But brown whippoorwills underneath are born.
The cardinals hide in evergreen trees.
Gophers dig holes to escape the freeze.
Goldenrod paints ditches yellow not blue.
Little purple asters much bigger grew.
All the lawns are no longer green.
Lightening sparks so new details are seen.
Thunder follows God’s bursts of light.
Hearing and seeing prove His might.
He came to show us His infinite power.
And gives us fresh talents every hour.
---- Betty Buck Reynolds
Classification of Wetlands and Deepwater Habitats of the United States
Thanks again to the United States Geological Survey for the description that follows, detailing the characteristics of typical North American wetland habitats. Water is one of the most precious of the natural resources, and fresh water is not in unlimited supply. The name for our planet might very well be called Ocean, because 97.2 % of Earth’s water is saltwater oceans and seas. Only 2.8 % is freshwater, of which 2.15 % is bound up in polar ice caps and glaciers. Freshwater lakes hold 0.009% of Earth’s freshwater, saline lakes and inland seas hold 0.0008 %, soil moisture is 0.0005 %, stream channels hold 0.00001% and the atmosphere holds 0.001 %. Groundwater holds 0.62 % of all available fresh water. Until recently, wetlands have been the orphan of our ecosystems, little understood and generally considered to be wasteland. Little was understood about the role of wetland in maintaining water reserves, recharging groundwater levels, providing flood management, and purifying fresh water resources. Today, many scientists and engineers advocate a nonstructural approach to protecting groundwater resources and providing flood control. They suggest that an alternative to artificial levees, dams, and channelization is sound floodplain management. By identifying high risk areas, appropriate zoning regulations can be implemented to minimize development and promote more appropriate land use.
Definition. The Moss-Lichen Wetland Class includes areas where mosses or lichens cover substrates other than rock and where emergents, shrubs, or trees make up less than 30% of the areal cover. The only water regime is saturated.
Description. Mosses and lichens are important components of the flora in many wetlands, especially in the north, but these plants usually form a ground cover under a dominant layer of trees, shrubs, or emergents. In some instances higher plants are uncommon and mosses or lichens dominate the flora. Such Moss-Lichen Wetlands are not common, even in the northern United States where they occur most frequently.
Subclasses and Dominance Types.
Definition. The Class Scrub-Shrub Wetland includes areas dominated by woody vegetation less than 6 m (20 feet) tall. The species include true shrubs, young trees, and trees or shrubs that are small or stunted because of environmental conditions. All water regimes except subtidal are included.
Description. Scrub-Shrub Wetlands may represent a successional stage leading to Forested Wetland, or they may be relatively stable communities. They occur only in the Estuarine and Palustrine Systems, but are one of the most widespread classes in the United States (Shaw and Fredine 1956). Scrub-Shrub Wetlands are known by many names, such as shrub swamp (Shaw and Fredine 1956), shrub carr (Curtis 1959), bog (Heinselman 1970), and pocosin (Kologiski 1977). For practical reasons we have also included forests composed of young trees less than 6 m tall.
Subclasses and Dominance Types.
Definition. The Class Forested Wetland is characterized by woody vegetation that is 6 m tall or taller. All water regimes are included except subtidal.
Description. Forested Wetlands are most common in the eastern United States and in those sections of the West where moisture is relatively abundant, particularly along rivers and in the mountains. They occur only in the Palustrine and Estuarine Systems and normally possess an overstory of trees, an understory of young trees or shrubs, and a herbaceous layer. Forested Wetlands in the Estuarine System, which include the mangrove forests of Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, are known by such names as swamps, hammocks, heads, and bottoms. These names often occur in combination with species names or plant associations such as cedar swamp or bottomland hardwoods.
Subclasses and Dominance Types.
All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. (Ecclesiastes 1:7)
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last updated on August 26, 2013