A caterpillar in danger.

This morning I took a walk with my dogs through Hart’s Woods, and then down the electricity pylons pathway.  There are some phenomenal grasses growing there now, some are more than six feet tall and are in full flower.

Timothy grass is prolific in certain areas here and is easily recognisable by it’s cats-tail flower.

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My best find this morning was this caterpillar, busy feeding on a milkweed plant.fullsizeoutput_74a

In due course, this little guy will turn into this butterfly, the Monarch,

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which should not be confused with the much smaller  Viceroy Butterfly

However, right next to the plant the caterpillar was munching, was a huge stand of Dog-Strangling Vines (DSV).  Two weeks ago, I hadn’t noticed these awful plants but thanks to the amount of rain we’ve had recently, they’ve sprouted  and are swamping the strip of land on the Oxbow Woods. Some of it has crossed the path and is growing right up to Old Post Rd properties.

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Dog Strangling Vine growing from path to woods.

I’ve been walking this line for almost eight years and I’ve never noticed these vines before, or the tall grasses, but maybe I just wasn’t looking or so aware. The National Grid own this land and they only mow every five or six years, which will do absolutely nothing to curtail the vines. That’s all bad news for the Monarch Butterfly, because it is ‘conned’ by the DSV into laying its eggs on it, thinking it’s milkweed, the caterpillar’s favorite food.   DSV is a member of the Milkweed family, but Monarch eggs cannot survive on this vine.

Here’s an article from Canada, where they also have a problem with the decline of their butterflies.

If taking a manual option, the entire plant – including the root – must be removed within the plant’s first year. After the first year, the roots become more established, stronger and longer, and new plants can grow from root fragments. Herbicides are the more effective, long-lasting solution.

“The only way to treat an invasive species like dog-strangling vine is with an herbicide application,” Petelle points out.

“Spraying while the dog-strangling vine is in flower and then again a month later has proven to be a safe, long-lasting option for controlling the problem. Herbicides kill the entire plant including the roots, allowing native plants to re-establish themselves.”

 

 

There’s a dog strangler lurking!

There’s a dog-strangler in our woods. Yes folks, beware! Your dog could be next.
We haven’t found any dead dogs yet, but it could happen anytime.

The Oxbow Wood, next to the Menirva Deland playing field is the haunting ground, and no one is doing anything about it.

The Strangler can attack at anytime, but later in the year the risk is much greater, because Cynanchum rossicum‘s reach is longer.

You’d think they’re called Dog-Strangling Vines because they are so prolific that a dog would have a job to force their way through them and is likely to get tangled up. But the common name ‘dog-strangling vine’ actually comes from the initial ‘Cynanchum’ genus, which in Greek, is translated to “kynos” and “anchein” kynos meaning “dog” and anchein, meaning “to choke”.  (Hopefully, you’ve guessed by now I jest about your dog being in danger)

Dog-strangler vines abound in the Oxbow Woods; they’re everywhere, choking the life out of the woods with their long tendrils, forming dense stands that overwhelm and crowd out native plants and young trees, preventing forest regeneration.

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A typical woodlot infested with Dog Strangling VIne

The plant can produce up to 28,000 seeds per square metre. The seeds are easily spread by the wind, and new plants can grow from root fragments, making it difficult to destroy.

The total lack of management in these woods has allowed this controlled invasive species to completely take over the ground. Compare this to Harts Woods where there is no evidence of this nasty weed, thanks to better management over the years.

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Harts Woods

Dog-strangling Vine forms dense stands that overwhelm and crowd out native plants and young trees, preventing forest regeneration. The plant is also toxic to most animals, so few eat it.

The vine threatens the Monarch Butterfly who lay their eggs on the plant, but the larvae are unable to complete their life cycle and do not survive.

Some text has been used from here, where a more in depth study has been described.

While dog-strangling vine generally has reduced vigor and reproductive potential in forests, it can invade closed-canopy forests and it may dominate ground cover,
particularly where there are gaps in the canopy.

This plant is a real disaster for our Oxbow Trail, and we must get rid of it as soon as possible. It doesn’t actually exist much on the Canal Authority property, but it is pervasive in the woods nearby.

I’m proposing that a program of removing this weed is started this year, so that hopefully the woodland can be brought up to the standard of Harts Woods.

There are a few (very few) people who oppose cutting down weeds and invasive species, but they obviously haven’t studied these plants and have no knowledge of the damage they are causing. Mowing is a good way of dealing with the problems of Japanese Knotweed, Garlic Mustard, Dog Strangling Vines, Black Locust, Bittersweet Vine and the scourge of woodlots – Amur Honeysuckle.
If only they would actually take the time to read up on these weeds, I think they’d jump on board and actually help us solve these environmental problems.

Another Load of Rubbish!

Yesterday, the Scout team put in a full day to bring their project to a stage nearer completion. I called in during the afternoon and was astonished as to the amount of rubbish they’d pulled out of the shoreline and along the trail.

Since the last cleanup, several old squatter cottages metal chain link fences had been pulled up and laid along the trail ready for collection.  Dead branches, logs and vines have all been cleaned out, more mowing to gain access to the water’s edge,  and at last the trail has a serene park-like look to it.

Our dynamic team take a break and get inspected by Barkley (the best dog in the World)

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Cooling off with drinks, and sorting our their merit points. Scouts get extra points for carrying out conservation projects like this. Barkley (the best dog in the world) and his pal Morgan are looking for some crumbs.

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It’s so serene now, Morgan senses rabbits appearing any second. I’m looking forward to seeing families here having a picnic or a barbecue.

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The Catalpa tree is in full bloom today. The trail is covered in the flower petals so the tree is pretty easy to find. If you’re downwind of it, you’ll get the heavy scent which reminds me of honey.

Some mulch from the previous cleanup has been spread along a new (old deer) trail, making a new entrance into the woods from the Oxbow trail.

There are now three points along the shoreline where boats can moor up. I particularly like to bring my dogs here in the boat, they think its great fun to go ‘walkies’ and get a boat ride thrown in!

During the past week or so, I’ve noticed youths fishing almost every day now the dead wood and weeds have been removed. Overhanging honeysuckle weeds are a real nuisance when trying to cast out, so most of them have been removed and disposed of.

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If you decide to visit the Oxbow in the near future, please remember this plant – Garlic Mustard  – and pull it up because it’s very invasive and alien  see more info here   Garlic mustard is allelopathic (it releases chemicals that hinder the growth of other plant species) and has inhibited growth of both grasses and herbs in laboratory settings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Splashing the Shoreline

It’s that time of year again, when the carp fish are reproducing, and The Oxbow is an ideal place to see them now most of the vegetation has been removed from the water’s edge.

Breeding carp are using the shallow water between the islands and the trail to mate and lay their eggs. If you’ve not seen this phenomenon before, it’s worth a walk down the Oxbow during the next few days. But be careful, these fish are noisy love makers and their sudden splashing close to the water’s edge can be quite startling. My dogs were scared and ran away at their first encounter.  Several males may spawn with a single female at a time. Spawning areas are typically shallow, weedy bays (water depths of one to four feet).  

Carp must have water temperatures between 18 and 24° C (just about 73 degrees Fahrenheit)  before they start breeding. They like daylight too.  A slight increase in water level,  daylight and optimal temperature, will  activate spawning. They lay up to one third of a million eggs, and if conditions are right, they can repeat the process more than once a year, often in the fall.

Carp were introduced into the USA from Asia in the 1830s as another food source. More human interference! It makes one wonder, what with all the Asian imported vegetation growing along the shore and in the woods, if there are any indigenous species of flora and fauna left here at all!

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Many people consider carp to be an awful food source, and I was one until I started reading up on it and realised there were many recipes  indicating this fish was a treat to eat. So rather than kill a fish just to find out, I bought a fillet of carp from a local Asian Market where they have no inhibitions regarding eating carp.

Bread crumbed and shallow pan fried was my choice for cooking, and I wasn’t disappointed.  Carp is delicious, and as the canal has some of the cleanest water in the state, I’d have no qualms in recommending eating this fish.

Video of spawning Carp

Carp are another destructive, invasive species, and many methods are used worldwide to remove them from waters. In New York, bow hunting is permitted in certain waters, with no limits on quantities taken. In Australia, genetic engineering to make females sterile has been introduced. Some states have tried netting with limited success.

The invasive Snakehead fish in the Midwest is being served up in many top restaurants, so perhaps Carp needs to become a local staple in our supermarkets?

On the plus side, carp fishing is a great pastime. and these heavy hitters can give an angler  a really good fight, especially if you use light tackle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Velcro Plant?

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At first, I thought this plant might be the infamous Giant Hogweed Plant, and I was very wary of getting even close to it. Being an ‘apprentice botanist’, I just wasn’t sure about this plant. When I pointed it out to my wife, she thought it might have been a rhubarb, so I took this photo and emailed it to the expert Ellen Folts, Senior CNLP at Amanda’s Garden in Dansville. These folks specialise in NYS indigenous plants and are well worth a visit if you are looking to plant a natural NY garden.

She kindly replied within a few hours and, thankfully, it wasn’t the Hogweed plant. I was concerned that the school kids might touch it and incur some awful blisters and rashes that could remain with them for a lifetime.

Just so you know what Giant Hogweed looks like, here’s a link to a NY DEC indentification page.  The page even has a ‘look-alike’ section which was consoling, as I’m sure many folks would have difficulty, like me, in diagnosing and consequently recognising this lethal plant.

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OK! So, now we’ve determined our budding plant ISN’T Giant Hogweed. What is it?

It’s Burdock (Arctium), a type of Velcro producing plant (well the pods are)!  The same stuff that holds clothes on, or replaces laces in Sneakers!

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The teazels or hooking burrs of Burdock are the type of burr that inspired the Velcro Creator  George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer. The idea came to him after he took a close look at the burrs which kept sticking to his clothes and his dog’s fur when walking in the Alps.

Unlike Hogweed, Burdock is quite edible and has many medicinal properties.  Here are seven reasons why Burdock can be good for you.

Teazels have been used since the 14th century to ‘raise the nap‘ in woolen cloth.  The British Coldstream Guards red tunic’s are, I believe, still treated with these pods to give a felt like appearance to the material.

For all the good in Burdock, it’s still an invasive alien species and needs to be monitored.  This particular plant is next to the stream flowing under the trail near the gate. (Unless some hungry soul has already dug it up!)

 

 

 

 

A Walk in the Park!

Shrubs, flowers, trees!  Yes, aren’t they all lovely! It’s a delight to walk among them, with the birds and bees, and savor nature!

But wait!  Take off those rose colored glasses, and take another look at The Oxbow, because we have a serious problem, thanks to almost one hundred years of human interference, and subsequent neglect,  plantings of imported species have completely taken over, are seriously damaging the local environment and they are spreading unchecked.

I’ve already posted here regarding Japanese Knotweed  It’s a problem that is already spreading into back yards in Erie Crescent. This stuff is a nightmare  because the roots can go ten feet deep and rapidly spread laterally. The plant can reach heights of  fifteen feet, choking out all other plants. It sucks the life out of everything around it.  It is listed by NY DEC as an illegal invasive species.  Now, some beekeepers actually like the stuff,  because it flowers late in the year and produces an extra batch of honey. But do a few pots of honey warrant this menace in our back yards? In five to ten years The Oxbow could easily look like this, if left unchecked.

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One way you can help is to eat the stuff. Picking the shoots, usually the first six inches, and cooking them, is all the rage in some top restaurants. They can be seasoned as a savory like spinach, or as a sweet like rhubarb.  See some recipes here.

See New York’s Invasive Species from The Nature Conservancy

The least invasive way to rid The Oxbow of the pest is to cut it down, frequently.

Our next big problem we have here is Honeysuckle.  It’s everywhere – in the woods, and along the trails. Some neighbors even have it in their yards as a decorative bush.honeysucklehoneysuckle curseHere’s a link to a Wiki report where it states –

This species poses a serious threat not only to the diversity of the ecosystems which they invade but also to forest regeneration itself, as the plant is known for reducing the growth and diversity of native seedlings. However, studies have shown that the plant is responsible for having a negative impact on birds, and tadpoles. Even if the bush honeysuckles are removed, the habitat may never be restored without significant support.

Honeysuckle is also responsible for attracting deer and their ticks.  We certainly do have plenty of deer in these woods, and perhaps that’s why a hunter’s tree stand was found here recently?

Honeysuckle increases the risk of tick-borne diseases such as Erlichiosis and Lyme disease in suburban natural areas, by attracting deer activity and increasing the number of infected ticks. Furthermore, experimental removal of the plant was shown to reduce deer activity and number of infected ticks, through the shifting of ticks’ blood meals away from deer.

Our  local Boy Scout team has recently cut down much of the Honeysuckle along the canal shoreline, but there is much more to do in the woodland, where it has totally overtaken everything in places.

Prevent the Spread of Invasive Species in New York

There are many more illegal and prohibited plants lurking in these woods, and we owe it to ourselves and the environment generally to get rid of them. But how?

Education is the first step and to do that we have to  look at the problems objectively. It’s no good having a defeatist attitude either.  I’ve heard some say, “Once you’ve got Knotweed, you can’t get rid of it, so why bother!”  Well! We’ll bother because we will become educated, informed and we care.

Here’s a really good article on New York State DEC prohibited and illegal plants.

Please spend a little time and read up on these weeds, and next time you’re outdoors, see if you can find any.  Perhaps the best place to look first is your own back yard. Is that a Honeysuckle you though was a nice ornamental bush?  Do you have a Sycamore Maple tree?

So you like blackberries and raspberries?

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Yes, picking raspberries down The Oxbow is a pleasant pastime, but are they actually raspberries or are they an invasive import called Japanese Wineberry

Raspberry, Blackberry and Wineberry bushes are very invasive and spread rapidly, displacing other native plants. They are fine in a controlled garden, but left unchecked can totally smother an area.

Black Locust A large tree with long flowers and a wonderful perfume this time of year. I have loved this tree ever since I moved to New York, but it’s an invasive species here. black locustI’ve seen plenty of saplings growing along the Oxbow Road, and the Scouts have removed a few I believe.

Yellow Iris

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It’s hard to believe this pretty flower is listed by NY DEC as invasive. I have some in my back yard along the shoreline of the canal.  They’re toast  – soon!

Lily of the Valley

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The perfume from our main stand of these flowers can be savored all along the trail when the wind is in the right direction. They were probably planted in a cottagers garden patch and were carefully managed and controlled, but since the inhabitants have been long gone, no one has been interested or cared to want to keep an eye on the spread of these very dangerous plants. I quote from this article

Warnings About Growing Lily of the Valley. There are two reasons not to grow Convallaria majalis plants:
  1. They are invasive plants in parts of North America (they are reputedly more aggressive in the northern section of their range than in the southern section.
  2. They are poisonous plants — a concern if you have children or pets in the yard.
Concerning the toxicity of lily of the valley plants, experts advise wearing gloves when handling them, lest any residue be transmitted to your food (should you forget to wash your hands before dining). All parts of the plant are considered poisonous if ingested. Symptoms of poisoning include stomach ache and blurred vision

Garlic Mustard

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This plant is fairly easily recognizable, and, thankfully, easy to pull up. If you see it on your walks, just pull it out.  NY DEC reckon its really bad news,  and it could take up to five years to eradicate this weed. So, get pullin’ folks.

What does the DEC say about invasive species?

Prohibited invasive species cannot be knowingly possessed with the intent to sell, import, purchase, transport or introduce. In addition, no person shall sell, import, purchase, transport, introduce or propagate prohibited invasive species.

Here’s the link again to the NY DEC’s Invasive plants pamphlet on invasive and controlled plant species. Have some fun and take it with you when you’re out and about.

I hope this blog will give you an insight into the problems faced by this little part of Fairport, and that you’ll help the Scouts in their Eagle Scout project by walking The Oxbow trails, pulling a few weeds, eating the Knotweed, fishing (now the banks are cleared) and just enjoying the new  views of the canal.