Wednesday, December 08, 2010

New Invasive Plant in Millstone River?

 A friend sent me a couple photos of a plant she says has spread rapidly in the upper Millstone River (upstream of the bridge at Route 1 and Harrison Street). My guess from the photos would be sweetflag, but there's no evidence of the characteristic spadix (a fruiting body that sticks out the side of the vertical leaf).
The plant's expansion is making it hard to negotiate some parts of the stream. The plant's identity awaits the retrieval of a specimen.

Whether it's sweetflag or not, some interesting info about sweetflag, its history, uses, and association with American Indian settlements can be found here.

Wednesday Workdays On Hold

The 3pm workdays at Mountain Lakes are on hold due to the holiday season and, surprise, cold weather. This fall, we made considerable progress removing multiflora rose, Viburnum dilitatum and Asian photinia, from both the meadow and an adjoining area where azaleas and lilacs (non-invasive exotics) remain from a garden the Clarks planted sixty years ago. Thanks to all who helped out.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Showy Natives that Show Up Late

This time of year, with leaves mostly fallen, the landscape is looking pretty bare. A surprise awaited during a recent walk to Herrontown Woods, though, where a lone native Euonymus (Euonymus americanus) was showing off some improbable fruits. It has apt common names--strawberry bush and hearts 'a bustin'.

This may be the only fruiting specimen in all of Princeton, given how hearts 'a bustin' sets a deer's teeth 'a grindin'. It's at the top of the list on a deer's menu. The only reason this shrub managed to make some fruits is that, at eight feet tall, it had somehow managed to reach safely above the browse line. The fruits bust open to reveal the orange seeds, of which only a couple are left in this photo.

By contrast, Princeton woodlands are chocked full of the exotic "winged euonymus" (Euonymus alatus), which has a competitive advantage because deer and other wildlife haven't developed a liking for it. Though the survival of the native Euonymus and other native plant species at Herrontown Woods has been helped by ten years of deer control by the township, this year marks the first time the township has shifted from professional deer management to volunteer bow hunters.

Another showy native that's an eye catcher in late fall is purple muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris), whose seed structures form clouds of purple. The only place I've ever seen it growing wild was along a stretch of road in Durham, NC, where diabase soil and annual clearance of brush underneath powerlines offered this sun-loving prairie grass a place to survive.

In the background in the photo are pots of big bluestem, a native prairie grass that grows wild in Princeton along the petroleum pipeline right of way. Nice to see these native grasses finding their way into a local garden.