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vandaliatraveler · 4 days ago
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Donor Impact: West Virginia University Core Arboretum
Important message here on public involvement in supporting and growing community greenspace. Over the years, Core Arboretum has evolved from a learning space for WVU students to a community hub and resource for nature programming and outdoor activities, connecting residents to the value of urban greenspace for everything from habitat conservation to personal health and well-being. As the existential threats to our last remaining urban greenspaces from irresponsible development and climate change continue to mount, greater community involvement and planning is needed to protect these precious places. The current battle to preserve greenspace in Atlanta from “cop city” is a prime example of what happens when city planning fails to involve local communities in addressing competing priorities for development and conservation.
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vandaliatraveler · 4 days ago
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Late afternoon shadows fall across the Cheat River Canyon at Snake Hill Wildlife Management Area.
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vandaliatraveler · 5 days ago
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Early fall stroll through an upland meadow at Snake Hill Wildlife Management Area. The Solidago was just divine.
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vandaliatraveler · 9 days ago
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Liverworts (Marchantiophyta) are small, non-vascular plants with a fascinating lifecycle typical of the bryophytes, which include mosses and hornworts. Due to their small size and growth habit, these primitive beauties are often overlooked, but they’re actually quite common. I often find them growing in the “splash” zone of shady seeps and brooks, typically clinging to rock surfaces. There are two types of liverworts: thallose liverworts, whose scaly, flat surfaces branch out in a “Y” pattern; and leafy liverworts, which have overlapping, leaf-like scales arranged in at least two rows. The photo above is of snakeskin liverwort (Conocephalum salebrosum), a thallose liverwort I found growing in a seep along the Mon River Trail. As you might surmise, liverworts make dramatic show plants in terrariums, especially if you can get them to sprawl over a rock surface.
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vandaliatraveler · 11 days ago
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A few late summer odds and ends from a bike ride on the Mon River Trail yesterday. The asters are really starting to pop now as the days grow noticeably shorter and autumn closes in. A number of interesting vines are also in bloom and producing fruit for wildlife before the first frost. Climbing false buckwheat (Fallopia scandens) and oneseed bur cucumber (Sicyos angulatus), a member of the gourd family, are both aggressive twining vines with distinctive foliage, flowers, and fruits. 
From top: a goldenrod soldier beetle strikes nectar gold on a wingstem flower (Verbesina alternifolia); Short’s aster (Symphyotrichum shortii), a really beautiful perennial often found growing in dry to mesic oak-hickory woods with limestone near the surface; climbing false buckwheat, a delicate twiner whose pendulous fruit has three ruffled sides, like pantaloons; oneseed bur cucumber, whose bristly fruit can cause painful stings; crooked-stemmed aster (Symphyotrichum prenanthoides), also known as zag-zag aster, whose stems often zig-zag between the nodes of its spatula-shaped leaves; and the glorious New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), one of the most important pollinator plants of late summer and early autumn.
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vandaliatraveler · 11 days ago
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“Woodlot vagrant and trashy saint,
my love for you through decades grows,
Mortal skin rubbed with voodoo juice
Wards off ivy poison and chigger foes.
And from those fragile pods I pinch
a coiled-up confetti erupts,
Ah, those mundane seconds 
of summer snooze
your joyful trick disrupts!
With fiery orange and yellow lips
Thirsty fliers you long seduce.
Delivered on frantic wings,
They burrow fast and draw deep sips.
Such a divine delirium
Your subtle perfume and nectar sow,
A succulent secret
Only you, me, and the bumblebee know."
Thus concludes another edition of my bad nature poetry, this time in honor of two of Appalachia’s most-beloved summer jewels (Impatiens pallida and I. capensis).
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vandaliatraveler · 18 days ago
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A gorgeous yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia) has made her home in one of my beds. I know many people fear spiders, but I think the orb-weavers are some of the most beautiful and amazing creatures on earth.
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vandaliatraveler · 18 days ago
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Photos from a walk in Appalachia’s late summer woods. The flowers of spring have now borne their late summer fruit, fungi rule the forest floor, and the intoxicating perfume of dying ferns fills the air.
From top: the incandescent red berries of partridgeberry (Mitchella repens), which illuminate the forest understory wherever its creeping foliage grows; a gorgeous Pholiota cluster, possibly golden pholiota (Pholiota aurivella); the ripening, spotted berries of false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum), which will turn bright red by October; the luminous orange-red berries of yellow mandarin (Prosartes lanuginosa), also known as yellow fairybells; the deep purple-blue fruit of Indian cucumber-root (Medeola virginiana); common puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum), just now fruiting in the local woods; white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima), a deadly beauty infamous for diary poisonings in the 1800′s; and bluestem goldenrod (Solidago caesia), also known as wreath goldenrod, an elegant, shade-tolerant perennial unusual among goldenrods in that its flowers grow from the leaf axils rather than from long panicles at the ends of the stems.
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vandaliatraveler · 19 days ago
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Species at risk: Canaan fir (Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis). Canaan fir is a recognized subspecies of Balsam fir with cone scales extending from the bracts, which differentiates it from Abies balsamea. This gorgeous, medium-sized tree grows up to fifty feet tall and is known to occur naturally in only a few locations of the higher elevations of West Virginia and Virginia. Because it tolerates high moisture and early frosts better than balsam and Fraser fir and holds its deep green needles for a very long time, this tree has become increasingly popular with the Christmas tree and landscaping trades. Sadly, Canaan fir in its native habitat faces three existential threats: over-browsing by deer; infestation by balsam woolly adelgid (Adelges piceae), an introduced pest; and climate change. With the loss of native predators and the expansion of favorable habitat, white-tailed deer have proliferated throughout Central Appalachia and are literally chomping away at the rich diversity of Appalachia’s forests, including young fir trees. If fir saplings are fortunate enough to survive deer browsing, they will almost certainly succumb to infestation by balsam woolly adelgid as they reach maturity and start to produce cones. In Canaan Valley, one of the tree’s few strongholds, efforts are underway to plant seedlings and secure stands of young fir with deer fencing (above) in hope of keeping the trees alive long enough to produce seed-bearing cones before they are killed off by the adelgid. The hope is to maintain a sustainable population of trees until an effective treatment is found for adelgid infestation. As an aside, this awful imported pest has taken a terrible toll on Fraser fir stands in the Southern Appalachians and is steadily working its way through native fir stands throughout North America. However, even if an effective adelgid treatment is found, stressors from climate change may well kill off these magnificent trees anyway.
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vandaliatraveler · 22 days ago
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View north into Canaan Valley from the Gravity ski trail at Canaan Valley Resort State Park.
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vandaliatraveler · 24 days ago
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More late summer treasure from a short hike around Messinger Lake (a.k.a., trout pond) at Coopers Rock State Forest.
From top: the nearly ripe berries of frost grape (Vitis vulpina)*, whose fruit reaches full maturity just before the first frost of October; sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale), whose dried leaves were once used as an ingredient in snuff; Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora), also known as ghost plant and corpse plant, a parasitic plant that derives nutrients from trees via a mycorrhizal relationship with fungi; Appalachian ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes arcisepala), a late summer orchid found growing at the moist edges of wetlands; white wood aster (Eurybia divaricata), a late-summer perennial of Appalachia’s rich woods and clearings; a pair of eastern destroying angels (Amanita bisporigera) hiding in the ferns, an idyllic spot for these deadly beauties; a young sulphur shelf fungus (Laetiporus sulphureus), also known as chicken-of-the-woods, at prime edibility; and Appalachian oak-leech (Aureolaria laevigata), also known as entireleaf yellow false foxglove and smooth false foxglove, a partially-parasitic plant that attaches to and derives nutrients from oak tree roots while also creating energy from photosynthesis.
* Corrected the scientific name from an earlier post.
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vandaliatraveler · 24 days ago
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American hog peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata), a shade-tolerant annual vine in the pea family (Fabaceae), is one of Nature’s great “nitrogen-fixers” - plants that store nitrogen in their roots with the help of symbiotic bacteria and then release it into the soil when they die, thus enriching the earth for other plants. In addition to its nitrogen-fixing qualities, American hog peanut produces an edible ground nut, along with non-edible seed pods that resemble typical pea pods. This lovely twiner blooms in mid to late summer in Central Appalachia and serves as a valuable food source to game birds, such as bobwhite quail, and rodents, such as the white-footed mouse and meadow vole
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vandaliatraveler · 25 days ago
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Photos from a late summer bike ride on the Mon River Trail. With autumn just around the corner, the climatic, life-sustaining ceremonies of the season have taken on a frantic, bittersweet urgency, from the proliferation of late summer blooms to the frantic chirrups of insects in search of mates before they succumb to the first frost of October. As the deep greens of summer fade and begin to sacrifice themselves to a fiery self-immolation, I salute Nature’s relentless push to plant the seeds of next year’s renewal.
From top: broadleaf arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia), also known as duck-potato and wapato, an attractive aquatic plant whose edible tuber was an important source of starch for Native Americans; great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica); a showy relative of cardinal flower with blue, split-lip flowers; blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum), also known as wild ageratum and blue boneset, an unusual late summer aster with disc flowers only; tall coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris), also known as tall tickseed, a grand, stately perennial up to 8 feet tall  with distinctive tripartite leaves; a goldenrod soldier beetle (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus) navigating a wingstem flower (Verbesina alternifolia); northern spicebush (Lindera benzoin), a colonizing shrub whose luminous yellow leaves in fall contrast with its brilliant-red, aromatic berries; and pale-leaved sunflower ( Helianthus strumosus), a perennial sunflower whose leaves are mostly opposite in arrangement with long petioles and pale undersides.
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vandaliatraveler · 26 days ago
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The secret life of ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis).
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vandaliatraveler · 27 days ago
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Northern green frog (Lithobates clamitans) tries to hide from me at the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
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vandaliatraveler · 28 days ago
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Northern willowherb (Epilobium ciliatum), also known as fringed willowherb, is a dainty perennial relative of fireweed and is often found growing in the same habitats. The four deeply-notched petals with dark venation sometimes give the impression of eight petals. Willowherbs are pioneer plants and some species are considered to be weedy, but northern willowherb is actually quite attractive. 
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vandaliatraveler · a month ago
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Virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana), also referred to as devil’s darning needle, is a native Clematis that just loves to climb and climb and climb. In fact, this woody perennial vine will climb over and through just about any damn thing fixed to the earth. But I absolutely adore it. And those spindly seed heads? They speak “summer” to me. 
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