Celebrating Local Color: Native Wildflowers at Work!

Tuberous grass pink (Calopogon tuberosus), an orchid found in bogs. This one is open.

Tuberous grass pink (Calopogon tuberosus), an orchid found in bogs. This one is open, ready and waiting to entrap a hungry bee with false promises.

A recent NCF “Mornings for Members” walk at Windswept Bog (free to members of NCF with signup)  highlighted some of our most beautiful native wildflowers. Natives are plants that arrived in a region without human help and in most cases have been in the neighborhood for enough time to become a vital part of the local ecosystem.

They’re not just pretty faces– each native plant is embedded in a complex web of relationships that has evolved over thousands of years. Plants aren’t interchangeable. However beautiful, an imported ornamental garden plant doesn’t share the a co-evolutionary history with local insects and wildlife that a native wildflower does. Take the tuberous grass pink,  for example, (pictured above at left) — an orchid with a twist. The top portion of the flower is not what it appears to be — it looks like an attractive cluster of yellow pollen-bearing anthers, but it’s just a trick to attract a visiting insect, usually a bumblebee or long-tongued bee. As the bee tries to snag a pollen snack, the appendage folds down to temporarily trap the hungry insect, slapping it on the back with pollen that it won’t be able to reach. Rather than getting a pollen takeaway meal, the bee escapes, and if it falls for the trick again, cross-pollinates another grass pink flower. So, basically this flower appears bizarrely upside-down compared to other orchids (lip on top, not bottom). And it’s all a part of the complex ties in our local ecosystem that plants and animals and insects develop over a long timescale — ecological time.

Tuberous grass pink with the top portion closed (temporary trap sprung) to encourage pollination by a visiting insect.

Tuberous grass pink with the top portion closed (temporary trap sprung) to encourage pollination by a visiting insect.

Each region has its own “biodiversity fingerprint” of plant and animal species that have evolved together. Yes, plants and animals do move around without human aid, expanding their ranges as climate changes, or as seeds are carried on wind and waves. But those changes were usually slow and occurred few and far between, until modern times, when people became much more mobile and able to transport plants, animals, and diseases around the globe in great numbers and with great speed.

Nantucket’s “biodiversity fingerprint” is particularly distinctive because of the island’s history–it was once connected to the mainland, but then separated by sea level rise about 7,000 years ago. As a result, we share many of the same native plant communities that are found on the mainland of southern New England. However, our offshore location poised at the edge of two climate regions — combined with a long history of human habitation — have further shaped the island’s flora and fauna. Our island’s unusual biogeography has left us with number of prairie species to complement the more typical forest and shoreline habitats that are found in much of New England.

Blunt leaved milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis) is well adapted to our sandplain grasslands and coastal heathlands. with its waxy leaves and short stature.

Blunt leaved milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis) is well-adapted to our sandplain grasslands and coastal heathlands, with its waxy leaves and short stature. Photo: K.A. Omand.

These prairie species and their relatives flourish in the island’s globally rare early successional habitats: sandplain grasslands and coastal heathlands. Protecting native plants also means protecting the insects that feed on them and are often needed for pollination. These relationships are often unnoticed by humans, but we can understand them better by examining the ecological ties of particular plants, like the grass pink and the milkweeds. While imported honeybees are much in the news these days, our native bees and a host of other amazing insects are also declining due to extreme and rapid alterations that humans have made to the environment. One of those major changes has been filling our yards with non-native ornamentals that insects and wildlife can’t use in the same way.

Introducing this same group of highly competitive plants to new places all over the world actually reduces the uniqueness of “biodiversity fingerprints” between regions. While these species will eventually form new ties and ecological relationships that include some native species, this process can take hundreds or thousands of years; in the meantime there are so many other stresses on our fragile ecosystems that the addition of aggressive new species can be enough to cause some rare and endangered species to decline or become extinct. 

What can you do to help Nantucket’s native species survive and thrive? Be thoughtful in your own yard and retain native plants as landscaping — check out the new Nantucket Native Plant Pamphlet developed by the Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative to learn more. Your landscaper or local nursery can help you select native plants that benefit wildlife and insects, but you have to ask. Also, be sure to support island conservation organizations who work hard to protect native communities from development and slow the tide of introduced plants and animals.

Goat's rue (Tephrosia virginiana) in bloom in sandplain grasslands and coastal heathlands right now.

Goat’s rue (Tephrosia virginiana) blooming in sandplain grasslands and coastal heathlands, and along bike paths right now. Photo: Gwen Kozlowski.

Posted in Botany, Habitat Management, Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative, Native Plants, Natural History, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Meet Our 2016 Seasonal Research Field Assistants

Each year, the NCF Science and Stewardship Department hires a few lucky and talented people to help us through the field season with all of our various research, monitoring and restoration projects. We try to hire individuals with a passion for botany and the natural world and each year we are excited to meet and learn about our new co-workers who can come from close to home or as far as California.

This year we have a really great field crew and they want to introduce themselves over the blog. If you see them out on our properties or around the island this summer – please say hello! Stay tuned over the season as they check in to talk about the work they are doing on Nantucket.

Corrina Marshall and Alex Etkind in Squam Swamp

Corrina Marshall and Alex Etkind in Squam Swamp

 

Corrina Marshall:

I hail from the great state of Michigan where I grew up and gained a B.S. in Environmental Science and Spanish at the University of Michigan. Initially, I studied environmental policy but once I encountered biology it was clear that was the right field for me. At the University’s Biological Station I narrowed my interest to ecology and fell in love with botany and field work. While in school, I worked for U of M’s Arboretum and Botanical Gardens to manage and monitor restoration projects such as prescribed burns, brush cutting, pulling invasive species and native plantings. I have used my botany knowledge working as a surveyor for a Floristic Quality Assessment, measuring foliar mercury in forest stands, and assisting in a research project on Pennsylvania Sedge reproductive characteristics. I also gained botanical experience working for U of M’s Herbarium, mainly focused on fern collections.

Corrina enjoying her field time!

Corrina enjoying her field time!

I am excited about the position with NCF for many reasons, the foremost being that it will expose me to many different types of science projects and ecosystem types that I haven’t encountered yet. I recently visited a salt marsh for the first time in my life and am learning new species that grow in coastal habitats. I am also learning more about wildlife by assisting in bat monitoring and horseshoe crab surveying! This summer will be a great time to learn and explore the many different conserved properties on the island and see how science gets put into action to inform conservation and restoration techniques. I am having a great time getting to know the island and seeing all the happy dogs at Tupancy!

 

Alex Etkind:

Growing up in coastal Massachusetts, I have explored the region’s unique natural communities as long as I can remember. While my involvement in land conservation and stewardship began as a passion for the natural world, several years working with land trusts in southeastern Massachusetts and on Cape Cod enabled me to transform this passion into practical knowledge and experience. Land stewardship is fulfilling work, and I have enjoyed the challenges that come with managing conservation areas with a diverse range of management goals, from forever-wild wilderness and rare species habitat to intensively used public forests and beaches.

Alex exploring rare plants!

Alex exploring rare plants!

In addition to my experience managing conservation lands, I developed botanical field skills working with the Association to Preserve Cape Cod (APCC) to collect ecological data for use in their Critical Habitat Atlas, an online mapping resource for local town planners, land trusts, and conservation organizations. My contribution to this project entailed identifying and mapping uncommon natural communities on Cape Cod, as well as reporting occurrences of rare natural communities and rare plant species to the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP). While mapping the remnants of Cape Cod’s sandplain grassland and heathland communities, I kept hearing the same refrain from the other botanists I was working with: “You haven’t really seen these communities until you’ve seen them on Nantucket!”

Over the past year living in the Boston area, I have continued to build upon my botanical and ecological field work experience as a Biological Science Technician with the National Park Service on the Boston Harbor Islands. One focus of my work on the Boston Harbor Islands was implementing a long-term vegetation monitoring program to evaluate the results of ongoing wetland restoration and re-vegetation projects. I am currently working to expand my background in natural resource management and ecology as I pursue a Master’s Degree in Sustainability and Environmental Management at Harvard University Extension School. I’ve recently moved from the peninsula of Nantasket to the island of Nantucket, and I am very excited to be joining NCF’s Science and Stewardship Department for a season of botany and ecology work!

 

The Nantucket Conservation Foundation is a private, non-profit land trust that depends on contributions from our members to support our science projects, conservation property acquisitions, and land management efforts. If you are not already a member, please join us!

 www.nantucketconservation.org

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The balance between public access and rare resource protection – here’s how we’re doing it at Head of the Plains

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The Foundation has always strived to manage its properties to provide for public access and protect rare ecological resources. These goals can often be at cross purposes, so succeeding at both requires a great deal of strategic planning. Developing property conservation management plans that achieve this balance is one of the primary tasks of the Foundation’s Science and Stewardship Department, and recent management undertaken at Head of the Plains provides a great example of how this process plays out.

In January 2016, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees approved an updated and revised property conservation management plan for our Head of the Plains properties, which includes 414 acres in the southwestern portion of the island between Cisco and Madaket. Management plans are developed to direct and inform our land stewardship activities. They outline three major goals for each property: inventorying species and habitats of special concern, determining the management needs of rare resources, and identifying appropriate public use, passive recreation and educational opportunities. Management plans have been completed for most of our major property holdings, and additional plans are currently under development. Completed plans guide our current research and management planning, and are reviewed and revised every 5-10 years.

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Vehicles parked next to the shoreline at Head of the Plains in 2015.

A high priority identified in the recent plan update for our Head of the Plains management plan was addressing ongoing, severe shoreline retreat. The beach that borders the southern portion of Head of the Plains is a popular destination for visitors, who primarily arrive by vehicle because of the property’s remote location. However, coastal erosion has caused the shoreline to retreat substantially in recent years. Many of the beach access parking areas were very close to the shoreline, infringing into protected coastal wetland resource areas. Parking in these locations was causing destruction to sensitive vegetation that stabilizes dunes and adjacent uplands.

Head of the Plains also contains the largest, contiguous area of sandplain grasslands and heathlands found on Foundation-owned land. These globally significant habitats support some of the highest concentrations of rare and endangered species in Massachusetts. Many of the rare plant populations on this property occur along road and parking area edges because they require full sun and nutrient-poor, sandy soils. Because these sites were minimally designated with fencing prior to the plan update, vehicle use was damaging and destroying these populations.

HofPRoadsAndParkingLocations2016 MAP FOR BLOGHead of the Plains is a very popular site for beach visitors, and continuing to provide access for public use and enjoyment is a high priority for our organization. In order to do this, a number of new management objectives were developed during the update of the management plan. These were recently put into play by our Properties Maintenance staff in time for the 2016 summer season. Several roadways in close proximity to the beach were closed to vehicles in order to protect and prevent damage to coastal dune and rare species habitats. Fencing and signage was installed to designate appropriate areas for visitors to park their vehicles so that they can continue to access the beach. Although these changes will require a little extra walking to get from the car to the shoreline, they are being implemented to protect and provide coastal resiliency to these pristine areas that we all enjoy.

Piping Plover, running, Jun 9

An adult piping plover (photo by Vern Laux)

An additional management priority at this site is protecting rare nesting shorebirds such as the piping plover. This federally-threatened species began nesting at this site in 2014. State and federal rare species protection guidelines stipulate that piping plover nesting areas must be fenced and posted to prevent disturbance to these birds, which lay their well-camouflaged eggs directly on the open beach in a small nest scrape. Although entry into fenced and protected nesting areas is prohibited, pedestrian and beach use are still permitted outside of the fencing. With proper and diligent management, including regular site visits by our Shorebird Monitor and providing an appropriate buffer from people, pets and vehicles, piping plovers can successfully raise their chicks while visitors use and enjoy the beach.

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One of the newly-established parking areas at Head of the Plains.

These management actions provide an example of how the Foundation is continually reviewing and revising its management strategies in order to maintain an appropriate balance between public access and resource protection. Acquiring a piece of property and protecting it from development is only the first step in land conservation. Management plans need to be developed and regularly updated to reflect changes in the environment and the way that the public is accessing and using the site. This process of adaptive management allows the results of research, management, and monitoring to be incorporated into future use of our properties and is a critical component of responsible open space ownership and stewardship.

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The Nantucket Conservation Foundation is a private, non-profit land trust that depends contributions from our members to support our science projects, conservation property acquisitions and land management efforts. If you are not already a member, please join us!  www.nantucketconservation.org

 

Posted in Public Use Management, Sandplain Grasslands, Shorebirds, Strategic planning | Leave a comment

Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative’s Citizen Science Event

Who’s your Scientist?!!

Over the weekend of June 10-12th, the Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative invites you to participate in our Citizen Science Weekend to learn more about the research that is being conducted on Nantucket by local scientists and how you can be involved. All of the weekend’s events are free and open to the public! Come learn about “critter cams” used to study the behavior of snapping turtles, how to use smartphone apps to document new locations of invasive species, hear about the history of the Maria Mitchell scientific collections, learn about the ecology of sandplain grasslands, help preserve Nantucket’s biodiversity by eradicating garlic mustard and MORE!

Detailed event descriptions, registration information, a complete schedule of events can be found on the NBI website.

On Friday, June 10th, at 6:30 pm, please join us in the Great Hall at the Nantucket Atheneum for our keynote speaker, Dr. Tobias Landberg. Dr. Landberg will present on the “Behavioral Ecology and Conservation of Snapping Turtles”. Dr. Landberg is an integrative biologist at Arcadia University in Pennsylvania. Using National Geographic Society’s
“CritterCam”, Dr. Landberg and his colleagues have studied snapping turtles in Connecticut for over 8 years. This remote imaging technology has allowed a unique view into the lives of snapping turtles that had never been seen before. They use the footage that the turtles themselves film to analyze their diving and breathing behaviors as well as their interactions with other creatures in ponds and lakes that were previously inaccessible to researchers.

T Landberg bearded snapper

Dr. Tobias Landberg

schedule of events 2016

Please see our website for a complete listing and description of all the weekend’s events and register soon as most events will have an attendance cap! Hope to see many new faces at NBI Citizen Science Weekend! Who’s Your Scientist?!

 

 

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Garlic Mustard: Friend or Foe in the Battle Against Deer Ticks?

Garlic Mustard CloseupRecently I heard a provocative statement to the effect that “garlic mustard is Mother Nature’s way of getting rid of deer ticks.” Naturally I needed to find out more. Could this actually be true? After spending hundreds of hours working with field crews managing this plant by hand-pulling in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, not to mention here on Nantucket, I wanted to find out more. In a lot of areas, there is no way this plant will be eradicated, since it has a way of spreading in backyard compost piles and getting moved around in soil or mulch. Even though it has been shown to negatively impact native wildflowers and even poison rare native butterflies, I wondered if it could be an ally in our battle against disease spreading ticks? Ecology is certainly full of unpredictable costs and benefits.

Spoiler alert: all research points to garlic mustard actually INCREASING deer tick populations. Not the silver lining I was hoping for, and here’s why:

First, a little background info about this plant. Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a non-native species that was introduced to North America by human settlers as a food plant. It’s in the cabbage family (Brassicaceae) and its original home was Eurasia. Since it was brought to North America, it has spread in 34 states; it’s been classified as a “noxious weed” in 6 states and as an “invasive” species in several others (including Massachusetts, where it is also on the list of MA Prohibited Plants). Garlic mustard has caused the most concern in forests, where it spreads rapidly and can crowd out native wildflowers and tree seedlings, which are already at high risk of over-browsing by burgeoning deer herds. This article from Harvard Forest gives a great overview of research on garlic mustard and how it affects native forest ecosystems.

Now let’s zoom in on Nantucket. Driving or walking around the island, you may have noticed patches of vibrant green plants topped with clusters of white flowers, that spring up seemingly out of nowhere in mid-May. These patches usually appear in shrubby areas, road edges, or neglected corners of yards. A closer look reveals plants that start out as tiny rosettes (seedlings with leaves clustered at the base of each plant) of kidney-shaped leaves; a little later, many of the older plants shoot up flower stalks sporting arrowhead- or heart-shaped leaves with toothed edges.

Garlic mustard rosette (cluster of leaves that forms before the plant flowers).

Garlic mustard rosette (cluster of leaves that forms before the plant flowers).

Take a good sniff of a handful of the crushed foliage to clinch the identification: the garlicky scent gave this plant its common name, garlic mustard. It’s related to the plant that produces the mustard seeds ground to make mustard condiments, and to mustard greens eaten in salads and stir fry.

It’s undeniable that garlic mustard has its uses: the garlicky flavor means it can be used in stir fry dishes or ground up to make pesto. The small first year rosettes are high in cyanide to deter browsers though, so it’s best to harvest the second-year plants, the ones that are just beginning to flower. Check out this website to learn how people cook with garlic mustard. ALWAYS be sure of a plant’s identity before consuming it–check with an expert if you are not completely sure. And avoid picking and eating plants from along roads or pathways where they can be contaminated with dust and oil, or used as sign-posts by passing dogs!

But, back to garlic mustard’s dark side: the garlicky chemicals and cyanide deter deer and other browsers. Instead, the deer prefer to eat native wildflowers, which they have co-evolved to be able to consume without ill effects. The chemicals also leach into the soil and prevent other plants’ seeds from germinating, a neat trick called allelopathy that gives plants and edge over their competition. Researchers have found that garlic mustard’s chemicals seeping into the soil can harm tree seedlings and affect the future of a forest. Even when tree seedlings survive being munched by deer, garlic mustard’s chemical warfare still makes it hard for new trees to get a good start; they really need the soil fungi to help their roots get the proper nutrition.

But what about the ticks??? You’re dying to know about the ticks, right???

It turns out that the same garlicky chemicals that harm the mycorrhizal fungi (needed by plants and trees), also kill fungi that would infect and reduce populations of deer ticks. So, in fact, the spread of garlic mustard in your yard and local natural areas is NOT a way to reduce tick populations…it might be doing the opposite, actually. Scientists arrived at similar conclusions in different studies: Keesing et al. (2011) studied the effects of garlic mustard chemicals on fungi in a laboratory setting and reported the results in the journal Ecoscience, Volume 18(2); Vaicekonyte and Keesing (2012) conducted another experiment by removing garlic mustard in the field and reported their results in the journal Invasive Plant Science and Management Volume 5; finally, Stafford and Allen (2010) at the University of Nebraska applied the fungi (ones that were shown to be inhibited by garlic mustard chemicals) as a method of biocontrol and found that they reduced tick populations, reported in Digital Commons Publication 1064.

Based on this detective work, it still makes sense to keep garlic mustard populations low in order to protect native plant diversity. But it also makes sense in the struggle to lower deer tick populations and tick borne diseases. If you are interested in learning more about invasive plants and helping island conservation groups with invasive plant removal activities (hand-pulling and digging), check out the Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative website invasive species page, where you can find contact info for the Invasive Plant Species Committee co-chairs. We’d be happy to have your help!

And don’t be shy about hand-pulling garlic mustard in your yard. Bag the pulled plants and bring them to the Nantucket Environmental Park (AKA, “the Dump”) where there should be a new container for disposal of invasive weeds. Your home compost pile or the landscape waste pile are not good places to dispose of pulled weeds, since the seeds can mature even after the plants have been pulled up, and regular compost doesn’t usually get hot enough to reliably destroy seeds.

 

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Garlic mustard can grow a few feet tall and each plant can produce hundreds of seeds.

Pulling together on garlic mustard removal at Vesper Lane/Mill Hill Park site.

Pulling together on garlic mustard removal at Vesper Lane/Mill Hill Park site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Nantucket Conservation Foundation is a private, non-profit land trust that depends on contributions from our members to support our science projects, conservation property acquisitions, and land management efforts. If you are not already a member, please join us!

 www.nantucketconservation.org

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Posted in Habitat Management, Invasive Species, Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative, Ticks | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Osprey Nesting at Eel Point

by: Libby Buck, NCF Shorebird Monitor

For the past three seasons, there has been resident pair of Ospreys nesting on the ground at Eel Point. This is a very rare occurrence, since Ospreys typically nest off the ground in an old dead tree, an artificial structure such as utility pole, or a human constructed Osprey platform. For whatever reason, this particular pair decided the ground would be prime real estate for their nest.

Eel Point Oprey chick & Adult in nest

The position of the nest on the beach actually helped the other nesting shorebirds in the area. The Ospreys were usually the first to alert the other nesting birds of threats so everyone knew to be on their guard.

Eel Point Oprey Chick 2014

It was also very fascinating to observe the whole process from nest building to chick development. In the summer of 2014, this pair of Ospreys had one successful fledgling from their nest on the ground. Unfortunately, in the summer of 2015, they didn’t have such good luck in raising chicks due to poor weather conditions.

Ground Nest with eggs

As of right now we are happy to see that they are back again for another season with a new surprise. For reasons unknown to us at NCF, beachgoers decided to put up a random piece of driftwood which was possibly a telephone pole in its previous life. Visiting the beach last week, we observed the Ospreys carrying nesting materials to the pole, attempting to build a nest on the pole’s narrow top. Wanting the birds to be successful, we quickly attached a wooden pallet to the top of the pole to make a makeshift Osprey nesting pole.

Oprey 2016 new pole

The Ospreys quickly took up residence and began building their nest at the pole top in hopes of making 2016 a successful year for a family!

Take advantage of this opportunity and make a trip out to Eel Point, where you will be able to witness these two birds happily constructing their new nest! Keep in mind that even though Ospreys, in general, tend to be tolerant of people, they are still a wild bird species attempting to lay eggs and raise young – please keep a respectful distance while observing these birds!

For more information on the Ospreys please refer to our previous blog post –  What’s New in Nature: Osprey.

The Nantucket Conservation Foundation is a private, non-profit land trust that depends on contributions from our members to support our science projects, conservation property acquisitions, and land management efforts. If you are not already a member, please join us!

 www.nantucketconservation.org

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Broom crowberry – Nantucket’s first native flower of spring

The daffodils and crocuses may already be popping up around town in  sunny spots but most of the native plants in Nantucket’s moors, grasslands and forests are still waiting for warmer and longer days to flower.

Except for one! Hiding in the Middle Moors of Nantucket, in the low and open heathy expanses, the miniscule and diminutive flowers of the rare Broom crowberry (Corema conradii, affectionately referred to as Corema) are opening up!

Corema‘s flowers are fairly nondescript and very small. You will often only realize you are tromping through the midst of flowering Corema by the large clouds of sneeze-inducing pollen rising through the air. Corema plants are dioecious, meaning each plant either carries male flowers (with stamens of pollen) or female flowers (with pistils to capture and deliver the pollen to ovaries, ripening into seed) but not both. Male and female flowers begin opening in late March and into early April with spring winds dispersing pollen.

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Male flowers of Broom crowberry

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Female flowers of Broom crowberry

You have probably seen Corema in the Middle Moors and hadn’t realized you were seeing it. In the Middle Moors, it forms large monocultures, giving an almost moonscape appearance in large patches. This low growing, mounding plant grows best in open areas with sand poor soils and lots of light, spreading across a landscape to create an almost moonscape. Corema is listed as Special Concern in Massachusetts and although abundant in areas where it is present, is fairly rare in most of New England. Where Corema is present, it tends to dominate with a few other plant species able to grown under or up through this dense plant.

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The reddish mounded plants all along this road edge in the Middle Moors are a large population of Broom crowberry plants in early spring.

Corema can often be mistaken for golden-heather (Hudsonia ericoides) when neither are yet in bloom. Looking closely, Hudsonia leaves are often softer, hairier than the small leathery Corema leaves and Hudsonia‘s bright golden yellow spring flowers will set it apart. Because of its small stature and non-showy flowers, Corema has often been dismissed over the years.

See this excerpt from the 1921 book “Nantucket Wildflowers” by Alice O. Albertson, Curator of the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association:

“This plant is included, not because it has aesthetic charm but rather because it is interesting botanically. Its presence on Nantucket, is one of the proofs that, ecologically, Nantucket and the plains and pine-barrens of New Jersey are related.”

The pine-barrens of New Jersey are dominated by fire-adapted plants as is Nantucket – plants that typically require fire or some kind of disturbance as part of their lifecycle. Without disturbance, this plant will grow for many years with some of the populations in the Middle Moors estimated at 100 years old. Corema is a woody plant and new growth is apical – growing outwards from the tips of the plant so the center appears woody, grey and lifeless. Studies of the ecology of Corema have determined that seeds germinate only when disturbance and fire is present. Without fire, plants will continue to grow but no new seedlings will grow up. Fire kills the parent plants but leads to large scale germinations of the huge seed bank in the soil underneath these old plants. Looking at historical photos, and where Corema populations are now in the Middle Moors – these plants likely established as the old main road from Town to Sconset shifted around and became deeply rutted from old wagon wheels!

Historic rutted roads through the Middle Moors, likely close to current Corema populations.

Historic rutted roads through the Middle Moors, likely close to current Corema populations.

Management of Corema needs to be carefully planned out to maintain both older plants and encourage new seedling growth. Today, the Conservation Fuundation manages aging Corema populations through periodic, patchy burns across the landscape – trying to keep mature Corema populations as well as establishing new seedling populations!

Corema seedlings after a burn in the Middle Moors

Corema seedlings after a burn in the Middle Moors

So if you’re feeling like shaking off the cold of this winter and seeing a native plant in flower, take a walk in the Middle Moors this weekend (particularly along Barnard Valley Rd – put it in your Maps app!) and keep an eye out for the rare Corema. Maybe bring a magnifying glass and check out this tiny but beautiful flowers on one of our rare and unique plants!

The Nantucket Conservation Foundation is a private, non-profit land trust that depends on contributions from our members to support our science projects, conservation property acquisitions, and land management efforts. If you are not already a member, please join us!

 www.nantucketconservation.org

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