Feed aggregator

Hand to Hand

Garden Blog - Tue, 04/21/2015 - 12:30pm

Long-ago legend says that cranes can live for 1,000 years…and that folding 1,000 paper cranes, one for each year, can make a wish come true. 

So it is that the crane is the symbol of longevity and good fortune.

22 Folds
From the first corner-to-corner fold to the last crook of beak and tail, it takes 22 folds to make this style of origami crane. Because pictures are worth 1,000 words, we offer this visual guide to crane-making.

Download these instructions to create an origami crane.

Click on the image above for a larger version to print and save. Wishing you longevity and good fortune!

Fast forward to the turn of the twenty-first century, when Ray Wilke, a devoted volunteer in the Elizabeth Malott Japanese Garden, decided to make origami cranes as a take-away gift for children who visited the garden’s Shoin House. Each winter, Ray and wife Ginny folded cranes…and each spring/summer Ray handed them out, one by one, to the curious children.

Over the years, Ray and Ginny made 40,000 cranes.

When Ray “retired” from volunteering, fellow-volunteer Edie Rowell decided to keep the hand-to-hand tradition alive. She taught Interpretive Programs manager Mary Plunkett how to fold. Mary found more volunteers to train other volunteers, and set out stacks of paper for them to take at will.

Now there are 10 people who fold, bringing in bags of 20, 60, or 100 origami cranes throughout the winter.

And 3,000-plus cranes are ready to hand out for the 2015 season.

 Volunteers Susan and Edie with their stash of origami cranes.

Happiness is 1,000 paper cranes…and volunteers like Susan and Edie.

This just in from California…

Just 24 hours after our interview, Mary Plunkett called to say that a box had just arrived in the mail from volunteer Meline Pickus. She’d sent 50 cranes from California, where she was staying for the winter. In her spare time, she folded cranes…and she wanted them to arrive in Chicago before the Shoin House opened. Our volunteers are awesome.

 Origami paper cranes.

Origami paper cranes

From Ray’s original intent comes great good fortune: a community has sprung. “It goes beyond the normal notion of volunteering,” Mary explains. “You get into a Zen state when folding…it’s very relaxing…and you’re contributing to something that’s bigger than you. It’s social, too—a group of three or four might have dinner together, then fold cranes together.”

And what do the kids think when they’re offered a crane? “They’re over the moon, they’re very gentle with them,” Mary says. “We say, ‘We’d like you to have one,’ and you’d think you were giving them gold when you explain why. It opens the door for conversations, especially with 7-, 8-, 9-year-olds.”

Cranes are offered, hand to hand, at the Shoin House whenever volunteers are present…for as long as the handmade supply lasts. (Although adults make wishes, too, cranes are for kids only.)

Volunteer season at the Shoin House begins May 13. Bring the kids—and tell them to think about their wish!

©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

The Last Vestiges of Winter

CLM Internship Blog - Mon, 04/20/2015 - 3:24pm

Greetings from Fairbanks, AK!  The weather has turned on a dime and most of our snow blanket has melted away.  The willows are starting to bud and newly bare lawns reveal surprises for homeowners—many household items lost long ago under layers of winter snow.  I am happy to report that I was able to bike in just a light sweater the other day, with no concerns about frostbite.

Harkening back, however, to when it was quite chilly… moose surveys over Gates of the Arctic National Park (GAAR).

Gates of the Arctic National Park is a mind boggling expanse of 8.5 million acres of wilderness—larger than the country of Belgium—that straddles the Brooks Range in the far north of Alaska.  The park is completely devoid of trails—a beautifully untrammeled natural area.  In a land where human development has touched nearly every corner of the nation, Gates of the Arctic is a rare glimpse into an intact ecosystem that has remained unchanged for thousands of years.  The park is a mosaic of winding rivers, dramatic valleys, glaciers, mountain peaks, spruce and tundra carpet of moss, lichen, the white blooms of Labrador tea, the beautiful purple and yellow of pasqueflowers, the variegated green leaves of bearberry and many, many others.  Caribou, moose, brown and black bears, lynx, dall sheep, ptarmagin, wolverines, wolves and foxes beat tracks into fresh snow under the glow of the aurora borealis or bend brush under the light of the midnight sun.  Driving up to the Gates is not an option and the thus the park remains pristine, attracting only the most experienced outdoorspeople.

I participated in this project as a BLM collaborator for a National Park Service survey.  The object was to get an estimate of GAAR’s moose population using a Geospatial Population Estimator (GSPE) method.  To accomplish this, six pilots (with six planes) and eight observers met in Bettles and took over the NPS bunkhouse, plastering the walls and floors with all manner of topographic maps.  I was part of the stratification plane crew.  This plane flies first, conducting less intense surveys to identify areas of high and low potential moose density.  It surveys every sample unit from the study area.  For us this meant that we spent an absolutely amazing several days flying over pretty much all of Gates of the Arctic.  After stratification has been done for a sample unit, a survey plane flies tighter transects over it, obtaining an exact count of moose present at the time.  These numbers are summarized for each sampled unit and used to estimate moose density in un-sampled units.  Then, of course, total GAAR moose population can be estimated.

Tucked into the Super Cub

Tucked into the Super Cub

Our stratifications took us up and down the Wild River, the North Fork of the Koyukuk River, the Alatna River and the Kobuk river; over the Alatna Hills near Bettles; and most spectacularly, in and out of the breathtaking Arrigetch Peaks.

Arrigetch being beautiful

Arrigetch being beautiful

From the air we kept our eyes peeled for moose tracks and moose themselves.  These number of these signs spotted in each sample unit allowed us to assign it a ‘high’ or ‘low’ designation.

Of course, we saw many other animal tracks as well—each with its own character as seen from the sky.  These animal tracks dissect the plains of snow into geometric shapes.  The trails created tell the stories of each critter’s life like lines from an autobiography.  Moose plunge through the snow dragging their feet and creating two distinct lines as seen from an airplane.  Caribou pick through the snow more delicately than moose—their tracks appear as single lines with frequent craters where the ungulates have stopped to paw the ground in search of tasty lichen morsels. Ptarmagin trace chaotic scribbles through space as they dash from bush to bush.  Wolverines shuffle low to the ground, dragging their bellies and creating small valleys in which their paw prints fall.  Wolves leave alarmingly large circular tracks as they prowl in search of a meal.

On one of the most exciting passes of the trip we experienced first-hand the efficacy of wolf hunting methods.  As we flew over a river corridor several lines of wolf tracks converged on a single point.  At that point lie a moose carcass, an awful lot of blood, and the hunters themselves enjoying a filling meal.  We circled a few times to observe the spectacle and the wolves, hearing the drone of our engine, attempted to flee the scene, encumbered by distended stomachs dragging in fresh snow.

Wolf kill of moose on the frozen river

Wolf kill of moose on the frozen river

All in all, the weather was gorgeous and the surveys were completed in no time at all.

Bonus Aurora!  (Bettles)

Bonus Aurora! (Bettles)

The information we gathered will be used by NPS to make important management decisions.  One of the main aspects of this management is subsistence hunting.  Native Alaskans of three main cultures (Koyukon Athapaskan Indians, Kuuvanmiit Eskimos, and Nunamiut Eskimos) have inhabited Gates of the Arctic for nearly 13,000 years, subsisting on caribou, moose and other game animals.

Across the years other non-native rural Alaskans have established homesteads in the park and also depend on caribou and moose for food.  In Alaska, these types of situation are unique in that there are often no other food options for people living this far out in the wilderness—the nearest grocery store is many, many miles away.  With this in mind the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) was passed in 1980 to preserve wilderness, protect subsistence hunting, and honor the intimate man-land relationship formed by years of peaceful coexistence. It set aside many acres of national parks and preserves for these purposes. Now, NPS biologists collect data in the hopes of making informed wildlife management decisions that balance these subsistence uses with myriad other considerations.

The other field outing I have participated in recently was snow surveys along the Dalton Highway.  The Dalton runs straight north, linking Fairbanks to Deadhorse, a small town (with a lot of oil) perched right on the Arctic Ocean.  Snow surveys entailed us snow shoeing to our sites, measuring depth of snow, taking snow cores with a metal tube, measuring height of settled snow cores, weighing snow cores, and using formulas to determine water content of snow.  Our hydrologists keep track of this snow data which allows them to predict how much snow melt will feed nearby rivers.  We measured snow in the Yukon River and Koyukuk River drainages.

Measuring snow depth

Measuring snow depth

Trips up the Dalton are never a dull moment—in addition to the scheduled field work we investigated two oil tanker turn-over sights (yikes!), one Bettles “ice” road in poor shape, a frozen debris lobe (slow moving landslides that occur in permafrost and carry rocks, sediment, trees and ice downslope) threatening to wipe out a section of the highway, and masses of truckers stuck in Coldfoot due to road closure further north.

Tanker roll-over scar

Tanker roll-over scar

Through Atigun Pass, Dalton Highway

Through Atigun Pass, Dalton Highway

Sukakpak Mountain, Dalton  Highway

Sukakpak Mountain, Dalton Highway

Fox visitor, Dalton Highway

Fox visitor, Dalton Highway

Back in the office, I have been continuing to work on our little brown bat monitoring project and I am creating a first draft of an invasive species management strategic plan for our field office.

Happy spring everyone!

Katie

Fairbanks, AK

 

Signs and Symptoms of Spring

CLM Internship Blog - Mon, 04/20/2015 - 3:19pm

With a sigh of relief, Spring has arrived in Carson City. Along with the warmer and longer days (but still the occasional dusting of snow), arrive leaves, flowers, and seasonal allergies. And thus begin the Seeds of Success (SOS) collections, or at least the collection and pressing of flowering plants which will later be used for SOS identification confirmation. You see, the plants are typically at their most identifiable stage when flowering, so first we must scout the plant populations and collect specimens before the time comes to collect thousands, dare I say millions, of seeds.

As we step lightly through the desert, carrying our pick-hammers and plant presses, we look for flowering native plants with a population hardy enough to withstand a collection (>50 individuals). When sufficient in number, we dig up a plant, sandwich it between newspaper and cardboard, and then tighten the stack of plant sandwiches using straps and burly intern muscles.

Here, thoroughly flattened and surrounded by this dry, dry climate, the plants desiccate and become well preserved, easily storable reference sheets. This process is always (ALWAYS) accompanied by plenty of detailed notes and several photographs. Once compiled, we turn all of these into herbarium specimens for our BLM office, UNR and the Smithsonian.

Here are a few of my favorite things (plants)…lupinecloverbitterbrushdesert peach

While out collecting specimens for SOS, we have also been surveying for the threatened species Ivesia webberi (Webber’s Ivesia or wire mousetail) in various allotments in the area. Though it’s not in bloom in the following photo, around this time it displays clusters of yellow flowers that will brighten your day.Ivesia

Spring cheers from Carson City.

Over the Mountains and Through the Vernal Pools

CLM Internship Blog - Mon, 04/20/2015 - 3:17pm

This past week, another intern with the Carson City Botany Team and myself, traveled west over the Sierra Mountains to attend the Basic Wetland Delineation certification course in Sacramento, California as our alternative training to the Chicago training in June. The class was taught by two instructors with the Wetland Training Institute based out of Wisconsin. The curriculum was centered around the 1987 US Army Corps of Engineers Wetland Delineation Manual. While there were several hours of lecture on various aspects of wetland delineation, we also spent three full afternoons practicing delineations in the field. We frequented vernal pools that were in full bloom, as well as a riverine site and a disturbed site.

For those unfamiliar with wetland delineation, the Corps Manual provides guidance for professionals on how to decide what is a wetland and where to map the boundary. There are three criteria used to evaluate a site: vegetation, hydrology, and soil. If these three parameters reflect wetland features, then an area can be designated as a wetland and falls under the jurisdiction of the Corps of Engineers (with expanding buffer habitats surrounding the wetland usually falling under state or other federal agency jurisdiction). The purpose of wetland delineation is to map the wetland and use the information for protection or development purposes.

While I do not have any pictures to post from the trip, I can mention some of the plants we saw in the vernal pools and the other sites. In the pools, we found woolly marbles (Psilocarphus brevissimus), tidy tips (Layia fremontii), frying pan poppy (Eschscholzia lobbii), goldfields (Lasthenia fremontii), and field cluster lily (Dichelostemma capitatum). I also saw a familiar friend from the Midwest while I was out surveying in one of the riverine areas: water smartweed (Persicaria amphibia). This plant is recognizable in the early vegetative stages by the black chevron on its leaves. I was elated to find such a familiar face amid all of the new friends I was meeting (I suppose I just accumulated major nerdy botanist points for this statement…hahaha!). The vernal pools of California are quite a sight when in bloom; the overwhelmingly bright yellow flowers are seen from afar, while the purple gems are hidden until one comes closer. I was blown away by how beautiful all of the pools were this past week.

Overall, I had a wonderful time learning about wetland delineation this week. Both instructors were incredibly knowledgeable and had worked together for so long they were comfortable teasing one another in class. They were full of great stories that illustrated the concepts they were trying to teach. I met several people within the environmental science field who came from all sorts of backgrounds and professional settings. Best of all, I learned several new plant names and reconnected with an old plant friend! Traveling over the mountains and through the vernal pools was quite the adventure this week and I am grateful for the opportunity to gain such valuable skills in wetland delineation!

Until next time,

Maggie Gray, Carson City BLM District Office, Nevada

Over the Hills and Far Away (in Escalante)

CLM Internship Blog - Mon, 04/20/2015 - 3:15pm

The journey from my sunny San Diego suburb to my tiny Utah town took me much farther than the 637 miles by car and has shattered my preconceived notions about what a desert is and how one lives without the Pacific Ocean close at hand.

These boots were made for techin', and that's just what we'll do.

These boots were made for techin’, and that’s just what we’ll do.

For one thing, the journey took me from the endangered Coastal Sage Scrub ecosystem of Southern California to the underappreciated desert scrubland of the southwestern Colorado Plateau ecosystem. Though these landscapes superficially share some similarities, their differences are achingly palatable to my homesick eyes. ‘Wait, it snows here? And in mid-April?’ ‘Monsoons? That can’t be right…I thought that this was a desert.’ ‘But where’s the igneous rock? All I see is sedimentary. There’s no granite anywhere.’ ‘Lake Powell has a “beach”?’ Ah, the naiveté of a bewildered transplant!

The next stage of my journey has involved trying to wrap my mind around the magnitude of my surroundings. Everything about the landscape of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (hereafter: GSENM, as we in the know refer to it) is simply and complexly grand. That’s always the first word that springs to mind when trying to describe the vast array of canyons, cliffs, ancient dunes, fossilized dinosaur tracks, shifting hills, slickrock faces, riparian oases, and fractured crust that compose the indomitable monument. Grand and virtually indescribable.

The view from my tent door.

The view from my tent door.

How does one convey the variety of natural wonders to an unknowing audience? How does one capture the subtle hues of red on a rock when the ever shifting clouds overhead affect the shades on the ground from moment to moment? How, oh how dear reader, am I to brag about this on Facebook when words and pictures fall desperately short of the mark?

The last, and probably most important leg of my journey has been understanding that the answers to my questions are all: I can’t and I shouldn’t really even try. This place is meant to be experienced with all of one’s senses working together to create an honest portrait of what living beauty is. Perhaps the monument is like a reverse of Dorian Grey’s picture – as the world becomes more impoverished of species diversity, wild places, and harmony with nature, locations like Escalante will become lovelier because they will become only rarer in the future – they will be a snapshot of bygone histories that we should always cherish.

Hiking in the Zebra Slot Canyon

Hiking in the Zebra Slot Canyon

With 1/5th of my time in Escalante behind me, I have much to look forward to: a community of like-minded office mates; a brilliant, optimistic, plant-loving co-intern; endless opportunities for exploration on the monument and beyond; a whole new ecosystem and a huge array of native flora to learn and to love; knowledge that working for the Seeds of Success program will have real world conservation implications in the uncertain future; assisting in  early morning hummingbird studies; lending help in late night bat surveys; planting willows for bank stabilization; working for the BLM; collaborating with rangers, scientists, and citizens for a brighter future; and heaps more.

With all these thoughts buzzing around in my head, I can’t help but ponder: what is it that Bilbo used to sing about the Road? Something about where it was going…? Ah well, it will come to me eventually! Until it does, may your paths lead you to new wonders around you and new discoveries within you.

In the spirit of adventure,

Elise

Escalante Field Office, BLM

Getting my bearings

CLM Internship Blog - Mon, 04/20/2015 - 3:13pm

My first two weeks working for the Vale District BLM have been pretty atypical. The first three days of my internship were filled with some GIS based workshops; ArcPad and GeoBOB. During these workshops, I got to brush up on my GIS skills and learn the basics of GeoBOB, a biological database used by the Washington/Oregon BLM. I also got to meet my co-intern, Amanda, and two other CLM interns from the Wenatchee field office, Jenny and Justin. I apologize for not taking a picture of all of us using our GPS units to make point data of garbage cans in the parking lot (the closest we could get to recreating real field observations).

This week, my mentor, Susan Fritts, was away at a seed conference in Sante Fe, so Amanda and I didn’t get a chance to go out into the field for botany. We did, however, get to spend a day rearranging our herbarium (it was previously being digitized out of office), and practicing our skills keying dried specimen!

Our beautifully arranged herbarium!

Our beautifully arranged herbarium!

We made the mistake of trying to key out a species of Astragalus for practice. They are notoriously tricky to key out in this area.

We made the mistake of trying to key out a species of  Astragalus for practice. They are notoriously tricky to key out in this area because there are so many species here.

The rest of this week was spent in the field with other technicians in the office. On Wednesday, I went into the field with a range technician, Bob, to check on the quality of a nearby road. I learned a lot! Bob grew up in rangeland on a ranch. He was able to provide me with a lot of perspective on grazing and ranching, things I am not very familiar with since I grew up in the suburbs of Minnesota and went to college on the west side of the Cascades. I realized that not only in this area is there a lot of conflict in belief between conservation and land utilization (be it grazing, hunting, or mining), but even in this agency, particularly this office, there is quite a spectrum of beliefs. Bob and I continued to discuss the history of this rangeland while we lunched on the banks of the Owyhee River.

A typical view of the range around Vale.

A typical view of the range around Vale.

Not a bad lunchroom!

The Owyhee River. Not a bad lunchroom!

On Thursday, Amanda and I went out with two wildlife technicians. Our day started at 4 am, when we left the office in the hopes of spotting a sage grouse lek. Unfortunately, after driving for an hour and standing in the cold for another two hours (a brisk 20 degrees, with wind), we didn’t see a single sage grouse. We drove to a different location to check another lek site, but still no sage grouse. By this time in April, the mating season is coming to an end, so it is not unusual that we didn’t spot any sage grouse, but I was still pretty bummed since I’ve never seen one before.

At 9 am, it was time to start our Columbia spotted frog (soon to be listed) and egg mass count at Dry Creek. Trying to find egg masses along the edges of the creek turned out to be pretty hard. With so much algae growing in the creek, almost everything looked like an egg mass.

An actual egg mass!

An actual egg mass!

Once it started to warm up, we spotted more and more frogs (no pun intended). At some points it became difficult to count because there were so many frogs out in the sun!

A female Columbia spotted frog. In this species, adult females are often much larger than adult males. This lady was pretty little at only about 4 inches long.

A female Columbia spotted frog. In this species, adult females are often much larger than adult males. This lady was pretty little at only about 4 inches long from nose to tail.

Amanda and I finished our week by learning to change the wheels on our giant 4×4. Again, I apologize for the lack of pictures. If any photo documentation of this event existed, it likely would have involved two very sweaty CLM interns each with a grimace that rivals that of Grumpy Cat. After spending a lot of time practicing tire changing, we ended our day with a drive with the district’s range specialist, Bill, learning about Vale’s ecological and cultural history.

Over all, it was a pretty fun two weeks! After spending many hours in a truck, my biggest takeaway lesson is that people use the term “road” very generously here. A freshly graded gravel road is practically a highway!

I am looking forward to getting out in the field to learn more about the local flora, start surveying sensitive species, and collect seed!

 

 

Find style by the decades this weekend!

Garden Blog - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 9:24am

Find the best of your favorite era available at the Antiques, Garden & Design Show, April 17-19, 2015.

 Antiques, Garden & Design Show Design by the Decades

©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Hola from Utah!

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 10:55am

Hey everyone,

This is Ellie, one of the new interns at the Richfield, Utah office working with Dustin Rooks. Sam and I have had an awesome and busy first month! For the first half of our season we will be monitoring (mainly) two T&E cacti species, Pediocactus winkleri and Sclerocactus wrightiae. They are two amazingly small cacti (some just 1cm in diameter) that blend in perfectly with the soil’s texture, making them difficult to find. They’re rather finicky, only emerging on years with good rain and barely breaking the surface. This year was a bit dry and we’ve had sites with hundreds and sites with less than ten. However, this week they’ve started to “pop” with delicate flowers, making them easier to spot.

Much of our work is near Capitol Reef National Park; the geology of the area is so interesting and unique. For example, many of our sampling plots are in the Brushy Basin Member of the Morrison Formation, which resembles a “moonscape” of hills of clay that are striped white, pink, red, and purple. There’s actually a “Mars station” nearby, where people go and experiment like they’re living on Mars. I’ve found Utah is full of cool and weird things like this, making this experience all the more exciting.

I’ve already learned an immense amount about the geology of Utah and plants of salt desert shrub, and am looking forward to continuing.

As for living in Richfield, it’s definitely different compared to Tucson (my hometown), but I like living in the country. The Sevier Valley is beautiful and green, surrounded by tall snow-capped mountains. A 20-minute drive outside of town takes you to a reservoir with wildlife and recreation opportunities, perfect for birding, boating, and fishing. Everyone is extremely nice and neighborly, making me feel right at home. I’m happy to be a part of the CLM program in Richfield and am excited for the rest of the summer!

A few memorable experiences so far:

  • Going to the Hanksville field office and working with Dave Cook, the wildlife biologist, who aids in the quest for cacti.
  • On the way to one of our sites, we stopped in a canyon and saw a still-standing petrified tree. The fossils here are awesome.
  • Our first day was checking a dinosaur dig site for cacti. An awesome start to the field season.

Ellie

 

Cactus Monitoring with the BLM

CLM Internship Blog - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 10:43am

Hello fellow interns!

My first month in Richfield, UT has been great so far! As a Minnesota native living my whole life in the Midwest, the West has been more beautiful than I could imagine. And I have surprised myself with how fast I have been able to pick up a new flora. The desert is desolate but there is still so much beauty to be found!

Evening primrose

Evening primrose

 

Our average day so far has consisted of a drive over to Hanksville, UT through Capital Reef National Park and then going to different macroplots to monitor either Sclerocactus or Pediocactus. My mentor jokes with us about how sick we are going to get of these cacti, but they still have not bothered me yet. So for our first few months, most of the work is going to center around these two genuses, and then we will start working more with seed collecting for Seeds of Success, which will involve going to a lot more different areas and some overnight camping. Outside of work, Utah has been a great place for exploration. Just this past weekend, the other CLM intern and I drove down to Zion National Park. So much beautiful scenery and great hikes! We will definitely be going back again! I am also looking forward to improving my skills with fishing and hopefully catching some trout. That is all I have to say for now, until next time!

Capital Reef National Park

Capital Reef National Park

Sclerocactus wrightiae

Sclerocactus wrightiae

Zion - Angel's Landing

Zion – Angel’s Landing

 

Sam

Richfield, UT

Road Less Traveled: Across The Dunes and Over the Mountains!

CLM Internship Blog - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 10:41am

Hello! I am your guide, Justin Chappelle! I am a CLM intern with the Wenatchee Field Office in Washington. Today, we are going on a rugged journey through the western portion of the Saddle Mountains in search of rare plants, cool animals, and interesting rock formations!!

Welcome! I am glad you could make it on this awesome tour! We will start with the dune community of the Saddle Mountains. The western portion of the mountains along the Columbia River is known for its windy conditions. A lot of the eroded sediment from various scabland features in the valley collect in this region. The sediment is blown here and deposited along the talus slopes!! Some of these dune features host an assortment of rare plants and animals. Many scientists travel to the Saddle Mountains to study and monitor the various plants and animals of this region. Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) nests are commonly monitored, various bioblitzs are performed to develop species lists, and lichens are studied to help understand the surrounding ecosystems in this region. Hopefully, we will get to see some interesting flora and fauna!! Oh…. I forgot to mention, we might encounter a few ATV people! So be on the lookout and wear bright colors!
Road Less Traveled

The sand here is very soft and weathered! Due to the amount of traveling each of the sediment particles undergo, they form into a smaller, spherical shape. Many wind patterns and tracks could be found within the sandy, open areas.

IMG_4476

As we travel up the dunes, we tend to see many native plants starting to colonize the dunes. Plants in the Polygonaceae family (Knotweed Family) could be found along the ephemeral stream areas. Other plants in the Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family), Asteraceae (Composite Family), Hydrophyallceae (Waterleaf Family), Brassicaceae (Mustard Family), and Rosaceae (Rose Family) family could be found along the talus slopes next to the dunes.

Rumex crispus and Phlox speciosa

Rumex crispus and Phlox speciosa

((Wow!!! Good eye! I forgot to mention that there are many interesting and rare Lomatium species that could be found in the area. Many plants in the Apiaceae Family could be found growing in mid spring in this area!  This is Lomatium columbianum, also known as Columbia Desert Parsley. They grow in the Northern section of the mountains, this is a new sighting for this area!! Cool!! Let us take a GPS point and write some notes down before we move on.))

((Wow!!! Good eye! I forgot to mention that there are many interesting and rare Lomatium species that could be found in the area. Many plants in the Apiaceae Family could be found growing in mid spring! This is Lomatium columbianum, also known as Columbia Desert Parsley. They grow in the Northern section of the mountains, this is a new sighting for this area!! Cool!! Let us take a GPS point and write some notes down before we move on.))

During the afternoon, the dunes warm up and we get to see a lot of unusual wildlife. Insects in the Scarabaeidae family and various lizards bask in the sun. The insects love the flowering plants around here. Lupinus, Delphinium, Erysimum, Astragalus, Crepis, and Phlox species, along with Purshia tridentata (bitterbrush), seem to be a favorite for many beetle species right now!

 Wow!! This is amazing! I have no clue what this insect is, but it likes to roll up in a ball and roll down the dunes. Probably it does this to escape predators.

Wow!! This is amazing! I have no clue what this insect is, but it likes to roll like a ball  down the dunes. Probably it does this to escape predators.

This beetle is found all over the bitterbrush! Looks like a hairy Japanese beetle! Unfortunately, I am not an entomologist, but I think this is a hairy flower beetle of some kind.

This beetle is found all over the bitterbrush! Looks like a hairy Japanese beetle! Unfortunately, I am not an entomologist, but I think this is a hairy flower beetle of some kind.

As we move through the transition zone between the dunes and talus, we get to see a variety of bird species! It is common to see Rock wrens (Salpinctes obsoletus) and Canyon Wrens (Catherpes mexicanus) in this area. Golden Eagles love to make nests on the steep cliffs, above the talus slopes, along the Columbia River. They prefer an open area where they can easily access the nest. Right now, the Golden Eagles are preparing their nests. If a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) or Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) flies into the area, the Golden Eagles would actually attack those birds. Golden Eagles usually do not like to share their territory or possible nesting sites with other birds of prey. Even a red tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is looked down upon by the eagles. The American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) use this time to pester the eagles, because that is one of their favorite past times.

Different species of birds love to build nests in these basaltic outcrops!

Different species of birds love to build nests in these basaltic outcrops!

  Oh?? Oh hey! Good eye! You have found a White Throated Swift (Aeronautes saxatalis). These birds migrate over long distances and love to build nests in basalt cliffs. There are many nests that could be seen in the holes of the basalt. They are very vocal and don’t mind building nests near large birds of prey or Rock doves (Columba livia)…but they do dislike Merlin (Falco columbarius), which is a common bird of prey that loves to go after the swift species!

Oh?? Oh hey! Good eye! You have found  White Throated Swifts (Aeronautes saxatalis)! These birds migrate over long distances and love to build nests in basalt cliffs. There are many nests that could be seen in the holes of the basalt. They are very vocal and don’t mind building nests near large birds of prey or Rock doves (Columba livia)…but they do dislike Merlin (Falco columbarius), which is a common bird of prey that loves to go after the swift species!

As we climb up the side of the mountain, we get to see more beautiful flowers and grasses! Different sagebrush and rabbitbrush species. These brush along with many different bunch grasses are growing on talus slopes. Many wildflowers are growing right now thanks to the warm temperatures and rain we had recently in the area.

As we climb up the side of the mountain, we get to see more beautiful flowers, grasses and different sagebrush and rabbitbrush species. These plants are growing on old talus slopes! Many wildflowers are growing right now thanks to the warm temperatures and rain we had recently in the area.

On the top of the mountains, we could see much of the Columbia River, some newly planted orchards, and power lines that were built by the power company!

hey

Part of the Columbia River Basin.

VVVVVVVVVVAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRBBBBBBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM Yay!!! This is a cool opportunity!! The U.S. Airforce uses these mountains and coulees for their training. They like to fly around and adapt to different wind patterns. Almost every other day, we would see them training out in the surrounding area. I don’t know how the wildlife responds to these jets, but they still build their nests here….alright hopefully they leave. I don’t want to have tinnitus. >_>

VVVVVVVVVVAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRBBBBBBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMM
Yay!!! This is a cool opportunity!! The U.S. Airforce uses these mountains and coulees for their training. They like to fly around and adapt to different wind patterns. Almost every other day, we would see them training out in the surrounding area. I don’t know how the wildlife responds to these jets, but they still build their nests here…alright hopefully the jets leave soon. I don’t want to get tinnitus. >_>

The top of the Saddle Mountains were carved by the massive Missoula floods that occurred in the area ~13,000-15,000 years ago. If you are lucky, you could find petrified wood from ginkgo trees deposited here! Various silica rock made from diatoms a long time ago could be found commonly between basaltic deposits.

Silica deposits that contain silica minerals and petrified wood!

Silica deposits that contain silica minerals and petrified wood!

There are various trails on the tops of these mountains for rock hounders and people who ride ATVs in the area. Despite the road traffic, the flowers are thriving! There are so many phlox and balsamroot (Balsamorhiza species), you could actually smell them!!

ATV trails weaving up the side of the mountain.

ATV trails weaving up the side of the mountain.

I want to thank you again for your participation in the Saddle Mountains Tours. I hope you learned a little about the area. See you on our next travel adventure!

Justin Chappelle

And now….Your Moment of Zen

Cool looking Diptera on a Balsamorhiza sagittata.

A cool looking Diptera on a Balsamorhiza sagittata.

Oooooh SUNSHINE!

CLM Internship Blog - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 10:32am

Well, I’ve been unchained from my desk on trial basis, and was able to get outside and play this week. There was a cadre of congressional staffers touring the Monument this week, and I was ask to speak on the Assessment, Inventory and Monitoring (AIM) Program and how we are using it to characterize the landscape within the Monument. I got my 10 minutes of fame (as I was the only speaker between them and cold beer), then got to do a seed tour in southern Colorado. Good day. VERY windy. But it was good to enjoy the sunshine.

Unexpected Signs of Spring

Garden Blog - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 9:10am

Sometimes spring just doesn’t want to arrive. Sometimes it can’t wait to burst forth with flowers and foliage and make everything look fresh and new. This year definitely falls into the first category, but this isn’t a bad thing. It gives us time  to appreciate some things that might otherwise be overlooked by the flashier signs of spring.

 Red Charm Peony buds push out of the ground.

Red Charm peony buds (Paeonia ‘Red Charm’) look like alien asparagus pushing their way out of the ground in the Farwell Landscape Garden.

The cooler temperatures are slowing growth for most plants but also allowing for richer colors to develop. These peony stems have a rich burgundy color that is highly ornamental in an otherwise empty bed. Eventually these will grow out into large bushy plants with showy red flowers, but for now we can enjoy the unique form of the new growth.

Many geranium varieties also feature beautiful new growth in the spring. Geranium ‘Blue Sunrise’ in the Dwarf Conifer Garden has gorgeous bright green foliage in the summer, but in the spring it has stunning orange and red new growth that almost looks like flames coming out of the ground. Having plants with vibrant new growth can give your garden a whole new dimension. Imagine how bright blue Scilla siberica would stand out against the geranium, or how lush a planting of soft pink Chionodoxa lucillae ‘Pink Giant’ would look among the hellebores. It’s almost as though you’re getting two different plants for the price of one when you have such distinctive spring growth.

 New shoots of Geranium 'Blue Sunrise'.

New growth doesn’t have to be dull! These Geranium ‘Blue Sunrise’ have new growth that looks like flames coming out of the ground.

 New spring growth on Helleborus x hybridus 'Blue Metallic Lady'.

A Helleborus x hybridus ‘Blue Metallic Lady’ in the English Walled Garden sports new growth that is almost showier than its flowers.

Of course, since it is spring, there are plenty of flowers to see. Many people associate spring with bulbs, but there are some other unusual plants blooming now too. Petasites japonicus spends the summer looking like a rhubarb that has aspirations to take over the world. However, in the spring it graces us with patches of inflorescences that look like bright green cabbages. Nestled inside of the “cabbages” are clusters of lime green flowers that will gradually elongate into a short spike of tufty white flowers. They’re not the showiest flowers ever, but they have a clean, bright color that really makes them pop against the dark soil of the hillside in the Waterfall Garden.

 Petasites japonicus has rather unusual spring blooms.

Petasites japonicus has rather unusual spring blooms.

 Buds opening on Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas).

Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) provides a gentle pop of spring color during a sometimes dreary time of the year.

And finally, the cornelian cherry trees (Cornus mas) in the Heritage Garden provide a soft glowing yellow that is a much gentler burst of color than the more common forsythia that can sometimes be almost gaudy with the intensity of its colors. During a time of year when so much is happening, it’s sometimes nice to have plants that allow your eyes to rest and regroup before moving on to the next batch of vibrant, eye-catching color.

©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

The Hidden Wonders of the Mojave!

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 4:58pm

The Mojave Desert continues to surprise me every day! Around every creosote shrub or Ambrosia dumosa bush there is a new wonder to behold: a wild desert tortoise slowly reaching for a bite of bright orange Spheralcea ambigua flower with its beak, a graceful Calochortus flexuosus mariposa lily purple-hued and magnificent waving in the wind, the desert pavement varnished dark rusty black crackling underfoot. A cobble lined wash no longer full of flowing winter rain but a symphony of perennial golden asters, blossoming buckwheat, and fragrant Phacelia.

Blooming Yucca!

Blooming Yucca

For the last few weeks, I have been working with USGS in Henderson, NV collecting data on annual plant species in juvenile desert tortoise habitat. What do the juveniles eat, where, and when? Based on forage availability, where are suitable locations for desert tortoise to be translocated? Translocation often occurs when someone constructs a building or otherwise disturbs an area where the endangered desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii, lives. This project represents a component of the ongoing research of the USGS Western Ecological Research Center related to the desert tortoise (See http://www.werc.usgs.gov/Project.aspx?ProjectID=110).

Desert Tortoise!

Desert Tortoise!

I have been enjoying getting to know my new business partners: the cryptic Cryptanthas, the peculiar Pectocaryas, and the always exciting Eriogonum. The plants here truly amaze me with their abilities to survive in this extreme environment. For example, the retractable Pediocactus bradyi, a small cactus which retracts into the earth when stressed by dry and cold conditions! 

My new winged neighbors: Say’s Pheobe, Costa’s Hummingbird, Verdin, Black-throated Sparrow, Rock Wren, and yes, The Greater Roadrunner. Nothing is as thrilling as hearing a female roadrunner’s coo-cooing bark ringing out through a Joshua Tree and Yucca woodland and reverberate against fossil-laden cliffs. Though the area is pretty parched now, about 660 million years ago a sea existed here leaving behind layers of shells and other remnants of marine life!

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree

That’s all for now – we are about to help another team studying Joshua Tree pollination!

-Amanda

 

Bonsai in the Semitropical Greenhouse

Garden Blog - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 9:12am

I am happy to announce the addition of four bonsai trees on display in the Semitropical Greenhouse in the Regenstein Center.

 Bonsai on display in the Semi-tropical Greenhouse.

Bonsai on display in the Semitropical Greenhouse

The crape myrtle, two ficus species, and natal plum trees were placed on display on March 28. The display will be up through the end of May with a change of tree species the last week of April. It’s the first time these trees are being displayed in this fashion here at the Garden, giving visitors the opportunity to see tropical and subtropical trees that otherwise would not be able to be shown in our courtyards until late May, due to temperature requirements.

The courtyards will open on Tuesday April 21, 2015, with our cold-hardy evergreen and deciduous trees.

 Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia) bonsai.

This crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia) is continuing to respond very favorably to the root work we did.

This crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia) was the focus of my previous post on repotting. It is continuing to respond very favorably to the root work we did.

Crape myrtles are a genus of about fifty species of trees and shrubs native to South Asia, Northern Australia, and some Pacific islands. Some varieties can grow as tall as 100 feet, but most species grow as either small trees or large shrubs. Some varieties are deciduous, and some are broadleaf evergreens—this is a deciduous variety.

Crape myrtles are most famous for their flowers, which grow as clusters of small blooms. Flowering typically takes place between June and August. This tree has never flowered while here at the Garden. I am hoping that with the addition of a more appropriate soil mix, fertilizer changes, and a longer growing season we can can encourage this tree to bloom in the years to come.

The natal plum (Carissa grandiflora) is a dense evergreen tree with sharp spines. It’s native to tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Australia, and Asia.

 Natal plum bonsai in fruit and flower.

Our natal plum in fruit and flower at the same time!

Our natal plum produces beautiful flowers throughout the year. These can occur either as individual blooms or in clusters. The flowers have a powerful fragrance reminiscent of gardenia. The fruit is plum-shaped and can be red to dark purple-black in color. The fruit of the natal plum is edible and tastes like a giant cranberry—but please don’t eat ours! :)

 Willow-leaf fig (Ficus salicifolia) bonsai.

Willow-leaf fig (Ficus salicifolia)

 Chinese banyan (Ficus microcarpa) bonsai.

Chinese banyan (Ficus microcarpa)

Our two ficus trees on display are monsters! The Nabari (base of the tree) on these trees are huge, and they have a great presence. Ficus are tropical and subtropical trees native to southern Asia and India. However, they are also commonly found in South American countries and the southern United States. There are hundreds of species in the ficus genus in the world, but there are only about a half dozen that are commonly used for bonsai. Ficus benjamina, Ficus microcarpa, Ficus retusa (or Green Island fig), and Ficus salicifolia are among the most frequently used. These are great examples of tropical bonsai that will love their new temporary home in the Greenhouse.

Be sure to come down and see these amazing trees while they are on display! And keep a lookout for the new additions coming later this month. Here is a sneak peek at one of the trees you might see…can you tell what species it is?

 Bonsai in bloom.

This mystery tree might be blooming soon in the Regenstein Center—can you guess what it is?

Thanks for reading, and be sure to follow me on instagram @Windy_City_Bonsai for updates and pictures of the collection!

©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Step into a Designer’s Dream

Garden Blog - Tue, 04/07/2015 - 1:15pm

The Antiques, Garden & Design Show is a dream for designers, who prize the annual event for its knowledgeable vendors and highly curated antiques. It’s a great place to bring clients searching for one-of-a-kind pieces and recommended for anyone trying to create a space that expresses his or her personality, values, and interests.

 Chandelier from Jessica LaGrange Interiors.

Chandelier from Jessica LaGrange Interiors

“The event is like a to-the-trade-only show with civilian access,” said Cindy Galvin, of Bardes Interiors and Maze Home Store in Winnetka.

A classical stone torso, a collection of fantastic black cast iron urns, a big gold peer mirror, a funky ′60s tabouret, a brown alligator handbag, and the perfect French farmhouse table and chairs are among the memorable pieces designers have found for clients—and themselves—in the past.

“Any collector, designer knows there’s always more out there, something you have never seen, and that’s the thrill that brings us back to a show like this year after year,” says Myla Frohman, owner of Glencoe-based Myla Frohman Designs.

 Lee Thinnes.

Lee Thinnes (Lee’s Antiques, Winnetka, IL) will be showcasing bold, modern paintings this year.

Now in its 15th season, the reinvented event has developed a reputation for the consistent high quality of its offerings. In social circles, the kickoff Preview Night is called the ribbon cutting for the spring season. Exhibitors, many of them designers themselves, present antiques, midcentury modern pieces, and outdoor furnishings in sophisticated displays that inspire and educate. Often arranged around a theme, booths can transport guests to a different time and place. The Golden Triangle, a Chicago-based exhibitor, plans to make an enchanting booth this year, drawing inspiration from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The designers will mix ancient and modern garden furnishings to create an imaginative scene. Lee Thinnes, owner of Lee’s Antiques in Winnetka, will feature bold modern paintings and a molded Lucite coffee table by Karl Springer.

“The exhibitors are incredibly knowledgeable and truly enjoy sharing the provenance of their wares,” said Galvin. Listen as you look, she advises, because much of the fun of owning antiques is knowing the story behind the piece.

 Exterior display by Suzanne Lovell, of Suzanne Lovell Inc., Chicago, IL.

Exterior display by Suzanne Lovell, of Suzanne Lovell Inc., Chicago, IL

With its strong emphasis on garden antiques, the Show provides clients one of the best venues for realizing the potential of an often overlooked space—the garden room. “Chicago has a secret—our beautiful garden summers. One can imagine outside rooms that make a garden another important room in any home,” said Suzanne Lovell, of Suzanne Lovell Inc., in Chicago. “The outdoor garden room is just as important as the living room!”                 

Designers typically come prepared with a punch list of their clients’ needs and a planned route. (The Show map can help with navigation). Many make a beeline for favorite exhibitors, then methodically visit the rest. Whatever strategy you choose, be prepared to deviate from your plan if you spot something you love and can’t live without. The good stuff goes fast!

“One year I found a set of Gracie panels, instantly adored them, and bought them on the spot,” Galvin said. “When I went back later to pick them up, the vendor said he could have sold them six times over!”

 The Gracie Panels found by Cindy Galvin (of Bardes Interiors and Maze Home Store, Winnetka, IL).

The Gracie Panels found by Cindy Galvin— now her dressing room closet doors!

While acknowledging trends, designers tend to look for pieces that express the individuality of their clients. “You need unique and singular things to make your home feel personal. Vintage works as well as bona fide antiques,” said Jessica Lagrange, of Jessica Lagrange Interiors, LLL in Chicago.

Younger clients may not be keen on antiques, but they are sophisticated shoppers who learn from blogs, Pinterest, and Instagram. “Millennials are striving to make their homes one-of-a-kind, unique to their families’ personalities. They know design and value it. They want to design their homes with intent,” Galvin said.

The Show’s lectures offer guests an expanded vision of what’s possible for the home and garden. Designers appreciate meeting the likes of this year’s keynote speaker, the legendary Mario Buatta, known as the “Prince of Chintz,” and other nationally and internationally recognized experts.

 Kristen Koepfgen and Cindy Galvin.

Cindy Galvin and Kristen Koepfgen enjoy a past Preview Evening.

Can’t wait? Guests attending the Preview Evening enjoy early shopping privileges, a boon for serious buyers. “The Preview Evening is great fun, and it gives you first crack at the goods,” Lagrange said, “which is really important because of the caliber of the stock.”

©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

The Next Generation Starts Now

Garden Blog - Mon, 04/06/2015 - 9:10am

When you dream of saving plants for a living, you don’t expect to wait for tribal elders to rule on whether you can get started…or to sleep in the sage-scented high desert on your first camping trip ever…or to walk through the woods to spray your hand-raised seedlings with a deer repellent that smells likes rotten eggs and garlic.

But when you are driven by a passion for plants, you do whatever it takes to move forward, said three alumni of a graduate program offered by the Chicago Botanic Garden and Northwestern University. The two institutions combined their resources in 2005 to offer a unique program in plant biology and conservation; the program marks its tenth anniversary this year.

 Tracy Misiewicz climbs into the canopy of a tropical rainforest to collect data on pollination.

Tracy Misiewicz climbs into the canopy of a tropical rainforest to collect data on pollination.

Students take courses at both the Chicago Botanic Garden and Northwestern University and work with researchers and faculty from both institutions. Alumni of the graduate program—which includes a doctoral track—are working for nonprofits and agencies including the Field Museum, the Morton Arboretum, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and participating in research projects in places including India, China, and Malaysia.

Here are the stories of these three graduates from the master’s program: 

Tracy Misiewicz

 Masters graduate Tracy Misiewicz in the field.

Program graduate Tracy Misiewicz in the field.

Tracy Misiewicz’s research project was on hold, while the village elders poured fermented rice wine into the ground. During the ceremony, in the western mountains of Cameroon, the elders chanted in Bakossi, a Bantu language, asking their ancestors if Misiewicz—a native of Maryland who decided to become a scientist in the seventh grade—could enter the rainforest. Then the elders threw down a handful of cacao nuts to see if they would land in a certain order. They did; the ancestor had granted permission.

And that, recalled Misiewicz with a delighted laugh, is how she began her fieldwork in Cameroon. With her sister as a research assistant and their Ngomboku neighbor—a basket weaver—as a guide, Misiewicz trudged through the forest to look for Dorstenia, the second largest genus in the moraceae (mulberry) family. Dorstenia species—some of which are considered threatened or are already extinct—are used by indigenous people for medicinal purposes and show promise in their use in modern medicine. As part of her master’s thesis, Misiewicz looked at the family tree and evolutionary history of some species within the genus.

In Cameroon, Misiewicz and her sister learned how to cook local dishes and dance to local music. “You really get to know the people and the culture,” said Misiewicz. “When we left, we were crying, and the ladies in the village were crying.”

For her master’s research at the Garden, Misiewicz worked with adviser and Garden scientist Nyree Zerega, Ph.D., and Garden conservation scientist Jeremie Fant, Ph.D. “They are two of the smartest and nicest and most supportive mentors I could have had,” said Misiewicz, who went on to get her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. “They made science fun. They made me understand that when your experiment didn’t work out or things are going wrong, it’s OK. I learned to overcome and move forward and still love science…at Berkeley, my experience was wonderful, but there were times where I was like, ‘What am I doing? I’m not having fun. Nothing is working.’ Always, I would think back to my experience at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and think, ‘I love science.’”

Misiewicz now works as a science project specialist for the Organic Center, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., that focuses on research and education projects related to organic food and farming. The job is a good fit—she loves policy, science, and thinking through problems. “I think science is sort of like cooking in that you can follow a ‘recipe’ and learn to extract DNA,” Misiewicz said. “That’s not the hard part. It’s the thinking critically and creatively and problem solving, and understanding what’s going on. That’s what I really took away from the Garden…I learned how to think.”

Alicia Foxx

 Masters program graduate Alicia Foxx with Northwestern University Provost Daniel Linzer, and Chicago Botanic Garden President and CEO Sophia Shaw.

Program graduate Alicia Foxx with Northwestern University Provost Daniel Linzer, and Chicago Botanic Garden President and CEO Sophia Shaw.

Alicia Foxx hit the ground running when she started her master’s degree program, under the supervision of Andrea Kramer, Ph.D., a conservation scientist at the Garden. “The second time I met her,” recalled Foxx, “we were getting on a plane” to work on a research project in the Southwest.

The two of them drove and camped in the high desert of the Colorado Plateau, which covers parts of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, including the Grand Canyon. Foxx, a native of Chicago, had never slept outside or seen mountains before. And she had never seen the way that invasive species could choke out native plants, including bunch grasses and wildflowers.

“On paper, it was a very interesting subject,” Foxx said. “You’ve got invasive plants that are taking over the West. But I think seeing how there were pretty much one or two [native plants left] in a very large landscape and how we’re losing the plant diversity that we really need to gain back was very different than just learning about it. It made me think, ‘This work is really important.’”

Originally, as an undergraduate at Elmhurst College, Foxx had planned to become a veterinarian—until she worked with her advisor, a botanist, on an invasive species project. “I just loved it,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is really interesting, and plants are really cool.’” One day, while looking up a list of invasive plants on the Garden’s website, something else caught her eye. “I thought, ‘Oh, there’s a graduate program there?’ So I clicked on the link.”

Foxx was accepted into the Garden’s master’s program and, in June 2012, made the weeklong trip with Dr. Kramer to the Colorado Plateau. With a team of researchers, they gathered the seeds of promising native plants—those tough enough to thrive in harsh conditions—as part of the national Seeds of Success collection program.

For her master’s thesis, Foxx studied native species that may be able to compete with cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), an invasive species in the Plateau. Now, she is a doctoral candidate in the plant biology and conservation program. “I am so excited about working at the Garden for another five or six years,” she said. On some days, especially in the summer, she gets to the Garden an hour early to visit favorite spots, including the English Walled Garden.

Someday, Foxx hopes to have a role similar to Kramer’s, as both a researcher and an advisor. “Andrea is a very intelligent researcher who thinks of rather elegant research questions,” Foxx said. “On the advising side, she is very kind, understanding, and patient, and this has helped me to grow as a scientist.”

Byron Tsang

 Masters graduate Byron Tsang working in the field.

Program graduate Byron Tsang working in the field.

As an undergraduate at Northwestern University, Byron Tsang—now a project manager and ecologist with the Chicago Park District—was a chemistry and biology major. Tsang, who grew up in Atlanta, thought he might go into some sort of disease research, specializing in immunology and diagnostics. But something else tugged at him.

With a passing interest in ecology, Tsang took some field ecology classes and volunteered to work on the North Branch Restoration Project. (The organization helps protect and restore native Illinois ecosystems along the North Branch of the Chicago River.) And on vacation in New Zealand, he happened to learn about a challenging ecological problem—a common weed was taking over pastureland needed for sheep. When he finished his undergraduate studies and decided to pursue a master’s degree, Tsang had settled on a new field: plant biology. “I thought, ‘Hey, I could actually do this for a living,’” Tsang recalled.

Tsang wasn’t sure what his master’s thesis would be about, but he knew that he wanted to focus on a local problem. “I ended up falling in love with midwestern ecology,” he said. His adviser, associate conservation scientist Daniel Larkin, Ph.D., steered him to the Garden’s Jim Steffen, a senior ecologist. Steffen, who is leading restoration efforts in the Garden’s McDonald Woods, mentioned an intriguing question: why had two native wildflowers—pointed-leaf tick trefoil and violet lespedeza—failed to take off in the Woods? (The two legume species had been able to grow in other area oak woodlands; both are indicator species that appear in healthy woodlands.) Tsang took on the question as his master’s thesis; as part of his research, he sprayed young seedlings in the woods with a smelly deer repellent.

Tsang’s connection to the Garden has continued in his work for the Park District’s Department of Natural Resources. When he heard about a Garden project to evaluate urban nature pockets—as part of its Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program—he realized that the Park District had a similar goal. This summer, he hopes to work with an REU intern in the Park District’s natural areas.

“My experience studying at the Garden really set the stage for my career as an ecologist,” Tsang said. “I learned a great deal about the intricate and often delicate ecological relationships that tie Chicago’s natural areas together, but equally important, I built invaluable personal relationships with academics, scientists, and restoration specialists in the Chicago area, all of whom I consider my colleagues and co-conspirators in my ongoing work at the Park District.”

©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

The Next Generation Starts Now

Plant Science and Conservation - Mon, 04/06/2015 - 9:10am

When you dream of saving plants for a living, you don’t expect to wait for tribal elders to rule on whether you can get started…or to sleep in the sage-scented high desert on your first camping trip ever…or to walk through the woods to spray your hand-raised seedlings with a deer repellent that smells likes rotten eggs and garlic.

But when you are driven by a passion for plants, you do whatever it takes to move forward, said three alumni of a graduate program offered by the Chicago Botanic Garden and Northwestern University. The two institutions combined their resources in 2005 to offer a unique program in plant biology and conservation; the program marks its tenth anniversary this year.

 Tracy Misiewicz climbs into the canopy of a tropical rainforest to collect data on pollination.

Tracy Misiewicz climbs into the canopy of a tropical rainforest to collect data on pollination.

Students take courses at both the Chicago Botanic Garden and Northwestern University and work with researchers and faculty from both institutions. Alumni of the graduate program—which includes a doctoral track—are working for nonprofits and agencies including the Field Museum, the Morton Arboretum, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and participating in research projects in places including India, China, and Malaysia.

Here are the stories of these three graduates from the master’s program: 

Tracy Misiewicz

 Masters graduate Tracy Misiewicz in the field.

Program graduate Tracy Misiewicz in the field.

Tracy Misiewicz’s research project was on hold, while the village elders poured fermented rice wine into the ground. During the ceremony, in the western mountains of Cameroon, the elders chanted in Bakossi, a Bantu language, asking their ancestors if Misiewicz—a native of Maryland who decided to become a scientist in the seventh grade—could enter the rainforest. Then the elders threw down a handful of cacao nuts to see if they would land in a certain order. They did; the ancestor had granted permission.

And that, recalled Misiewicz with a delighted laugh, is how she began her fieldwork in Cameroon. With her sister as a research assistant and their Ngomboku neighbor—a basket weaver—as a guide, Misiewicz trudged through the forest to look for Dorstenia, the second largest genus in the moraceae (mulberry) family. Dorstenia species—some of which are considered threatened or are already extinct—are used by indigenous people for medicinal purposes and show promise in their use in modern medicine. As part of her master’s thesis, Misiewicz looked at the family tree and evolutionary history of some species within the genus.

In Cameroon, Misiewicz and her sister learned how to cook local dishes and dance to local music. “You really get to know the people and the culture,” said Misiewicz. “When we left, we were crying, and the ladies in the village were crying.”

For her master’s research at the Garden, Misiewicz worked with adviser and Garden scientist Nyree Zerega, Ph.D., and Garden conservation scientist Jeremie Fant, Ph.D. “They are two of the smartest and nicest and most supportive mentors I could have had,” said Misiewicz, who went on to get her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. “They made science fun. They made me understand that when your experiment didn’t work out or things are going wrong, it’s OK. I learned to overcome and move forward and still love science…at Berkeley, my experience was wonderful, but there were times where I was like, ‘What am I doing? I’m not having fun. Nothing is working.’ Always, I would think back to my experience at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and think, ‘I love science.’”

Misiewicz now works as a science project specialist for the Organic Center, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., that focuses on research and education projects related to organic food and farming. The job is a good fit—she loves policy, science, and thinking through problems. “I think science is sort of like cooking in that you can follow a ‘recipe’ and learn to extract DNA,” Misiewicz said. “That’s not the hard part. It’s the thinking critically and creatively and problem solving, and understanding what’s going on. That’s what I really took away from the Garden…I learned how to think.”

Alicia Foxx

 Masters program graduate Alicia Foxx with Northwestern University Provost Daniel Linzer, and Chicago Botanic Garden President and CEO Sophia Shaw.

Program graduate Alicia Foxx with Northwestern University Provost Daniel Linzer, and Chicago Botanic Garden President and CEO Sophia Shaw.

Alicia Foxx hit the ground running when she started her master’s degree program, under the supervision of Andrea Kramer, Ph.D., a conservation scientist at the Garden. “The second time I met her,” recalled Foxx, “we were getting on a plane” to work on a research project in the Southwest.

The two of them drove and camped in the high desert of the Colorado Plateau, which covers parts of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, including the Grand Canyon. Foxx, a native of Chicago, had never slept outside or seen mountains before. And she had never seen the way that invasive species could choke out native plants, including bunch grasses and wildflowers.

“On paper, it was a very interesting subject,” Foxx said. “You’ve got invasive plants that are taking over the West. But I think seeing how there were pretty much one or two [native plants left] in a very large landscape and how we’re losing the plant diversity that we really need to gain back was very different than just learning about it. It made me think, ‘This work is really important.’”

Originally, as an undergraduate at Elmhurst College, Foxx had planned to become a veterinarian—until she worked with her advisor, a botanist, on an invasive species project. “I just loved it,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is really interesting, and plants are really cool.’” One day, while looking up a list of invasive plants on the Garden’s website, something else caught her eye. “I thought, ‘Oh, there’s a graduate program there?’ So I clicked on the link.”

Foxx was accepted into the Garden’s master’s program and, in June 2012, made the weeklong trip with Dr. Kramer to the Colorado Plateau. With a team of researchers, they gathered the seeds of promising native plants—those tough enough to thrive in harsh conditions—as part of the national Seeds of Success collection program.

For her master’s thesis, Foxx studied native species that may be able to compete with cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), an invasive species in the Plateau. Now, she is a doctoral candidate in the plant biology and conservation program. “I am so excited about working at the Garden for another five or six years,” she said. On some days, especially in the summer, she gets to the Garden an hour early to visit favorite spots, including the English Walled Garden.

Someday, Foxx hopes to have a role similar to Kramer’s, as both a researcher and an advisor. “Andrea is a very intelligent researcher who thinks of rather elegant research questions,” Foxx said. “On the advising side, she is very kind, understanding, and patient, and this has helped me to grow as a scientist.”

Byron Tsang

 Masters graduate Byron Tsang working in the field.

Program graduate Byron Tsang working in the field.

As an undergraduate at Northwestern University, Byron Tsang—now a project manager and ecologist with the Chicago Park District—was a chemistry and biology major. Tsang, who grew up in Atlanta, thought he might go into some sort of disease research, specializing in immunology and diagnostics. But something else tugged at him.

With a passing interest in ecology, Tsang took some field ecology classes and volunteered to work on the North Branch Restoration Project. (The organization helps protect and restore native Illinois ecosystems along the North Branch of the Chicago River.) And on vacation in New Zealand, he happened to learn about a challenging ecological problem—a common weed was taking over pastureland needed for sheep. When he finished his undergraduate studies and decided to pursue a master’s degree, Tsang had settled on a new field: plant biology. “I thought, ‘Hey, I could actually do this for a living,’” Tsang recalled.

Tsang wasn’t sure what his master’s thesis would be about, but he knew that he wanted to focus on a local problem. “I ended up falling in love with midwestern ecology,” he said. His adviser, associate conservation scientist Daniel Larkin, Ph.D., steered him to the Garden’s Jim Steffen, a senior ecologist. Steffen, who is leading restoration efforts in the Garden’s McDonald Woods, mentioned an intriguing question: why had two native wildflowers—pointed-leaf tick trefoil and violet lespedeza—failed to take off in the Woods? (The two legume species had been able to grow in other area oak woodlands; both are indicator species that appear in healthy woodlands.) Tsang took on the question as his master’s thesis; as part of his research, he sprayed young seedlings in the woods with a smelly deer repellent.

Tsang’s connection to the Garden has continued in his work for the Park District’s Department of Natural Resources. When he heard about a Garden project to evaluate urban nature pockets—as part of its Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program—he realized that the Park District had a similar goal. This summer, he hopes to work with an REU intern in the Park District’s natural areas.

“My experience studying at the Garden really set the stage for my career as an ecologist,” Tsang said. “I learned a great deal about the intricate and often delicate ecological relationships that tie Chicago’s natural areas together, but equally important, I built invaluable personal relationships with academics, scientists, and restoration specialists in the Chicago area, all of whom I consider my colleagues and co-conspirators in my ongoing work at the Park District.”

©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

A Glimpse into the Carefully Guarded World of Bunny Mellon

Garden Blog - Fri, 04/03/2015 - 9:00am

The New York Times described Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon as an amateur collector with a sure eye, great taste, and upper-class refinement. Architectural Digest called her self-assured in the way that often comes with enormous wealth. Labeled a connoisseur, philanthropist, gardener, and horticulturist by flower magazine, Bunny Mellon was crowned the true queen of green, and the high priestess of pruning and pleaching by Vanity Fair.

 Looking through espaliered crabapple trees to the potting shed at the Mellons’ Oak Spring Farm in Virginia.

Looking through espaliered crabapple trees to the potting shed at the Mellons’ Oak Spring Farm in Virginia
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

Such is the mystique surrounding Bunny Mellon, an heiress who considered privacy her greatest luxury; an influential American landscape designer who rarely showcased her work; and a collector who could afford anything, but was known for acquiring only the things she loved.  

Historian and garden writer Mac Griswold will share her unique perspective on the carefully guarded world of Bunny Mellon during the upcoming Antiques, Garden & Design Show. Griswold forged a bond with Mellon, the mother of her close friend, Eliza, through their mutual love of gardening. Griswold’s lecture, “Green Grandeur: The Rarefied Simplicity of Bunny Mellon’s Garden Style,” will document the contributions the influential tastemaker made to home and garden design. Mellon is perhaps best known for designing the White House Rose Garden during the Kennedy administration, as well as the White House East Garden, and landscape features at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. Renowned architect I.M. Pei called her the most gifted landscape architect of her time.

Join us for Mac Griswold’s lecture on Saturday, April 18, at 11 a.m. Click here for tickets.

 Mac Griswold

Mac Griswold
Photo © Sigrid Estrada

Mellon applied the same sense of scale and balance to her own properties, but these glories were rarely seen by outsiders. “Her gardens were like private kingdoms,” Griswold said. Griswold’s talk will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 18, in Alsdorf Auditorium. Following the lecture, Griswold will sign copies of her latest book, The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island, a saga about slavery, emancipation, and racism in New England told through the history of a single piece of land and a grand old house. She is currently working on Nothing Should Be Noticed: The Life and Gardens of Bunny Mellon 1910–2014. The book’s title refers to one of the Mellon’s maxims. “She was all about ensemble,” Griswold said. “She believed everything should work together. She didn’t want anything to be a gob smacker, indoors or out.”

Griswold was fortunate to see the simple and harmonious execution of this vision during visits to the houses and gardens Mellon maintained in New York, Cape Cod, Antigua, and the 4,000-acre Oak Spring Farm in Virginia. The estate is home to Mellon’s life work, the Oak Spring Garden Library, which contains one of the world’s largest private collections of works on horticulture, botany, natural history, and travel. The 12,000-volume facility will now serve as headquarters for a library and learning center supported by the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation, named by Mellon after her father, a pharmaceutical baron.

Known for her statement, “Nothing should be noticed,” Bunny Mellon “had a highly developed sense of imperfect perfection.”

 Inside the walled garden at Oak Spring Farm.

Inside the walled garden at Oak Spring Farm
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

Mellon developed her love of gardening early. She started her first garden plot at the age of 7 and acquired her first gardening book at age 12. In 1948 she married Paul Mellon, the son of financier Andrew Mellon, and the two lived a life of art collecting, philanthropy, horse breeding and racing, and entertaining. According to press reports, dinner guests included such luminaries as Queen Elizabeth and Truman Capote.

Griswold’s window into Mellon’s world looks out onto her gardens, which she designed according to three overarching rules: always use a horizon line, always make sure there is a formal feature, and always make sure there is a place to sit down.

 

Learn more about a fascinating, accomplished, and understated figure in American gardening and society, at Griswold’s April 18 lecture during the Antiques, Garden & Design Show, April 17–19, 2015.

©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Pages

Subscribe to Chicago Botanic Garden aggregator