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Skokie Lagoons Birding Trip

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Fri, 05/06/2016 - 7:30am

These Friday trips with the Evanston North Shore Bird Club pack a great list of warbler species. Visit ensbc.org for updates and contact information.

The post Skokie Lagoons Birding Trip appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Big Year Birding at Paul Douglas

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Fri, 05/06/2016 - 7:30am

Enjoy waterfowl, herons, and grassland birds as we explore this large preserve. Walk leader and contact: Judy Pollock, jpbobolink@gmail.com.

Learn more about the 2016 Big Year.

The post Big Year Birding at Paul Douglas appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Perkins Woods Birding Trip

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Thu, 05/05/2016 - 7:30am

Look for warblers and other migrants (also spring wildflowers) with the Evanston North Shore Bird Club. Street Parking. Meet at the corner of Ewing Ave and Grant St. Visit ensbc.org for updates and contact information.

Learn more about the 2016 Big Year.

The post Perkins Woods Birding Trip appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Spring It On—Spring Annuals for 2016

Garden Blog - Mon, 05/02/2016 - 3:18pm

Did the striking Silver Fox foxglove make it into “the show” this spring? Who decides which flowers make the cut anyway for the unfurling of 75,000 annuals at the Chicago Botanic Garden?

We’ll show you a few of our spring favorites that made it through the multi-level review process.

Digitalis purpurea ssp. heywoodii ‘Silver Fox’

Digitalis purpurea ssp. heywoodii ‘Silver Fox’ (Sensory Garden)

“Behind all of these beautiful displays, there is a lot more happening than what you may think,” said Tim Johnson, the Garden’s senior director of horticulture. “It can be very complex—different plants have different production times.” Besides considering how long it takes for a plant to grow in our greenhouses, the Garden’s experts also consider the desired size and bloom time.

Every season, each horticulturist proposes a color scheme and submits plans to Johnson. About ten months before spring or the start of the other seasons, the proposals are reviewed by experts, including Kris Jarantoski, executive vice president and director; Tim Pollak, outdoor floriculturist; Brian Clark, manager of plant production; Andrew Bunting, assistant director of the Garden and director of plant collections, and Johnson. The team also considers how each proposed plant fits into a garden’s design and color scheme, along with its habit, culture, and cost. “They all need to be looked at globally to make sure there are different plants, varieties, and color schemes throughout the entire Garden,” Johnson said. “Each garden should have a unique look to it.”

Viola 'Fizzy Grape' by Ball Seed

Viola × wittrockiana ‘Fizzy Grape’ (Lake Cook Road entrance and gatehouse)

Primula vulgaris ‘Primlet Golden Shade' by Panam Seed

Primula vulgaris ‘Primlet Golden Shade’ (Heritage Garden troughs)

Hyacinthoides hispanica 'Excelsior' by Brent & Becky's Bulbs

Hyacinthoides hispanica ‘Excelsior’ (Heritage Garden troughs)

Ranunculus asiaticus Maché 'Purple' by Ball Seed

Ranunculus asiaticus ‘Maché Purple’ (Green Roof)

Linaria maroccana 'Licilia Peach'

Linaria maroccana ‘Licilia Peach’ (Circle Garden)

Calendula officinalis 'Neon'

Calendula officinalis ‘Neon’ (Sensory Garden)

Dianthus barbatus ‘Sweet Purple’ by Panam Seed

Dianthus barbatus ‘Sweet Purple’ (Sensory Garden)

Tulipa 'Amazone'

Tulipa ‘Amazone’ (Crescent Garden)

Before spring slips away, come see what’s in bloom at the Garden and look for the annuals that made the final cut, including—you guessed it—an unusual foxglove known as ‘Silver Fox’. Before you visit, download our free GardenGuide app to help you find plants.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

So Classy: Spring Wreaths Made from Flowering Branches

Garden Blog - Thu, 04/28/2016 - 9:34am

Budding and flowering trees and shrubs—redbud, plum, spirea, almond—are among the great joys of spring. Under the calm and creative eye of Field & Florist’s Heidi Joynt, we learned to turn those branches into lovely, living wreaths in a perfectly timed class at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Heidi Joynt demonstrated how to layer in curly willow cuttings and delicate flowering branches like bridal veil and bridal wreath spirea.

Sterling Range heather (Ciliatum 'Sterling Range') Flowering plum (Prunus cerasifera) Redbud (Cercis canadensis) Pussy willow varieties Flowering almond (Prunus triloba)

Spring blooming wreaths included “delicate” branches like those shown here.

A finished wreath incorporates many of the more delicate flowering shrubs with a central focal point of redbud and plum branches.

The finished wreath is an exuberant combination of the more delicate flowering shrubs with a dramatic central focal point of redbud and plum branches.

Most Chicago-area yards have a flowering shrub or tree, much admired when it bursts into bloom in spring. While some intrepid gardeners know to cut early branches to force bloom indoors, Joynt takes the idea in a different direction—in a circle, with living branches forming a perfect-for-the-front-door wreath.

Imagine walking out into your yard, pruning a cluster of branch tips—plus a large branch or two—then starting to fill in an 8- to 12-inch grapevine or curly willow wreath (purchased or handmade). That’s how surprisingly simple the process is.

As everyone clipped and pondered and designed, Joynt offered helpful wreath-making and wreath-tending tips:

  • Larger branches of redbud, crabapple, forsythia, double almond, or plum can be strategically wired onto the wreath to create a focal point. 
  • Add delicate curly willow or birch catkins at the center and the outer edges of your wreath. Bouncing and waving in the breeze, they add movement and interest to your design.
  • Hung on your front door, the living wreath can be spritzed with water once or twice a day to keep flowers fresh. 
  • As flowers drop off or brown, pull the branches out of your wreath and replace them with the next blooming items in your yard. Fresh flowers like tulips and roses can also be inserted by placing them in flower tubes (available at florists and craft shops) and tucking them into the wreath. 
  • Yes, silk flowers are an option. Joynt recommends www.shopterrain.com for extremely realistic flowering branches. 

Field & Florist’s Spring Arrangements from Rabbit Hole Magazine on Vimeo.

Classmates begin framing their wreaths with pussy willow tips.

Joynt’s next class, Spring Centerpiece Workshop, is just before Mother’s Day, on Thursday, May 5—create the perfect gift for mom. Can’t make it? Try Floral Techniques on June 21.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

This Amazing Plant Changes Gender from Year to Year

Garden Blog - Wed, 04/27/2016 - 3:06pm

Amorphophallus remains a unique occupant in the world of plants, and visitors to the Chicago Botanic Garden recently experienced the fascinating bloom cycle with the titan arum Sprout. However, there is an additional denizen of the Araceae (a.k.a. Aroid, a.k.a. Arum) family with rare and exceptional attributes, which can be seen blooming this very moment at the Garden.

Japanese cobra lily (Arisaema ringens) has an uncanny, serpent-shaped, flower and possesses a remarkable ability to do something which few other plants can do: change its gender from year to year.

 Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum).

Almost anyone who grew up in an Eastern or Central time zone will recognize our native jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum).

Arisaema species (jacks), are paradioecious, meaning the blooms of an individual plant can be male one year and female the next. Young plants will produce male flowers with pollen until they are mature enough to produce fruit. When they have accumulated enough energy to fruit, they will produce a female flower that will hopefully become pollinated.

However, after an exhausting round of fruit set, the plant may take a break and produce male flowers the next year. Producing pollen, rather than fruit, saves energy. Unhealthy conditions or damage to a female flowering plant can also cause it to produce male flowers the next time around.

Basically, Japanese cobra lilies change sex for a period of time to save energy and allow themselves time to recover. 

Like all species of Arisaema, the flowers of Japanese cobra lily have a spathe (pulpit) with a spadix (jack) inside. The pulpit is striped purple with white on the outside while the interior is a dark, shiny chocolate color. What is different about the blossom of Japanese cobra lily is that the hood of the spathe is curved and helmet-like, with the tip covering the front of the opening where which jack resides. This formation produces the startling look of snake eyes.

One of the first jacks to emerge in spring, cobra lily flowers can last eons in the cool spring weather.

 Japanese cobra lily (Arisaema ringens).

Japanese cobra lily (Arisaema ringens) appears early in the spring each year; the flowers will remain until the large leaves have fully extended, shading the bloom.

Fortunately, the blossom does not have the noticeable unpleasant odor that a corpse flower has, but it still manages to attract the flies and beetles that do their bidding. In physical appearance, Arisaema ringens is similar to our native jack-in-the-pulpit; however, the entire plant is more robust with a pair of giant, polished trifoliate leaves, creating an almost tropical appearance for a Midwest garden. The overall height is two feet tall. Female plants can produce bright reddish-orange berries in late summer and early fall, extending the show. 

As with most Arisaema species, Japanese cobra lily hails from China, Japan, and Korea. It is one of the easiest to grow, and perhaps the best garden subject for the Chicago area. They are pricey to buy; however, the flying saucer-shaped tubers will bulk up quickly in a rich woodsy soil.

There are warnings against growing them in heavy clay, but the Garden has terribly dense soils and our planting has performed nicely. Keeping conditions moist and shady in the summer will prevent an early dormancy. Another bonus is that Arisaema ringens are deer resistant because the leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals, which make them smelly, poisonous, and irritating to chew.

If you would like to see Japanese cobra lilies during your visit, just head down the lower woodland path of the Sensory Garden. You can also search for them via the Garden’s Plant Finder.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Back at it Again

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 2:27pm

Hello everyone,

Since my last CLM blog this past October, the site’s traffic has plummeted and the servers have been gathering dust. I have decided to take on the CLM Internship once again so that I may blog about my experiences and appease my horde of botanically-inclined fans. In short, I am back by popular demand.

This year, I have decided to take my talents to the Prineville BLM in Central Oregon. The drive out from Chicago was tiring, as usual. I brought my dad (who hasn’t been on vacation for nearly 10 years) with me to witness the beauty of the West again. During each tank-up, he windexed bug splatter off my windshield so that he could take clear pictures of the land along the way. Fortunately for us, we got to stop and explore too. After unpacking my belongings in Prineville, we visited Crater Lake National Park, drove down to California and saw the redwoods, then took the 101 all the way up the coast
to Cannon Beach before going to Portland. I explained to my dad, who is very much still a Polish immigrant, what a hipster is. It was such a culture shock for him to see skinny, bearded, flannel-shirted, beanie-donning guys riding around on unicycles, double-decker bikes, or using an antique typewriter at a cafe – although I’ll admit that last one was a shock for me too. He called them “hippos”.

The views were beautiful, the beer was good, and the Subarus were plenty, but now it was time to drop dad off at the airport and head back to Prineville to get some work done. I’ve been working for about two weeks now. There were a lot of formalities during the first few days: paperwork, necessary vehicle training, getting my workstation set up, and meeting many of the fine folks that I’ll share this space with. I am helping my mentor, Anna, prepare for our monitoring plan this season. To do this, I have been ordering equipment, testing sensors to make sure they are calibrated correctly, and using GIS to identify candidate sites for field visits and ultimately selection as part of a permanent monitoring program. The protocols we’ll be employing are called AIM (Assessment Inventory and Monitoring) and MIM (Multiple Indicator Monitoring) of streamside channels and streamside vegetation. They are used to collect data to determine ecosystem health. From there, the BLM adjusts its land management and resource allocation to make sure short- and long-term objectives are being met.

We’ll be in Utah for two weeks in mid-May for AIM training and then for one week in Prineville for MIM. That’s a lot of learning right there – but I’m excited for it. So far I haven’t had the chance to actually get out into the field. I’m at a standing desk in front of dual computer monitors in a cubicle right now :( And I’m tall so I see a sea of cubicles just like it :( :( :( but when Jessica (my fellow CLM-er and roomie) gets here next Monday, things will pick up and we’ll actually be outside so much that I hope we get sick of it. And I’ll be identifying everything as I usually do. And I’ll have beeee-autiful pictures to share with all of you, my devoted fans.

Thank you CLM for another awesome opportunity to learn and grow. I’m excited to work hard this summer and hopefully make some friends along the way!

Best identifications,

Michal

Recreation Training Opportunity

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 2:24pm

This past week I had the opportunity to attend a Recreation Management Conference for the state of Wyoming Outdoor Rec Planners. I attended this instead of the training at Chicago Botanic Garden, as I had previously attended it. Also, since my internship is not botany based, this gave me an opportunity to attend a related training.

The conference had speakers from within the BLM as well as outside speakers. The BLM speakers talked about a variety of subjects including cave management, wilderness study areas (WSAs), law enforcement, recreation management information system (RMIS), and other recreation practices. The outside speakers spoke about subjects such as the Tread Lightly program, off-highway vehicle use and trail design, as well as the socioeconomic effect recreation has on the surrounding community. It was great to see how people from within the government as well as outside sources come together to improve recreation for everyone.

Another part of the conference that was beneficial was when all of the field offices had a chance to share some of their accomplishments as well as some of their challenges. This gave me an opportunity to see some of the real-life things affecting rec planners. As a person not having a lot of recreation experience, this was a way for me to understand more of what a rec planner does. Many of the rec planners in the state of Wyoming are fairly new at their position, so many of their questions were the same questions that I had and it was a great way to learn from the rec planners who have been in their position a lot longer.

Overall, this was also a great way to get a crash-course education in many of the tools I will be working with this coming summer. It will help me be able to do my job more efficiently as I will not have to have so much time training. It also gave me a great way to network with other rec planners that I can connect with if I have questions or need help with anything. I also got to explore a part of the state that I had never been to before, which is a neat experience.

That’s all for now, hoping to get out and do some field work soon, but that might be difficult as they are forecasting 7 inches of snow for today!

AZ

BLM Rawlins Field Office

 

Learning the Recreation Way

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 2:22pm

I had the opportunity to visit a new part of Wyoming last week. It is with great honor to present to you one the most cherished recreational spots in Lander.

johnny behind the rocks

Johnny Behind the Rocks (area view)

johnny behind the rocks

Johnny Behind the Rocks (trail view)

Johnny Behind the Rocks is a mountain bike trail system on BLM land that finally got well established about 3 years ago. Last week I had the pleasure of running on this trail with recreation planners around the state. This was after a full day of learning the hardships and struggles that come with being a recreation planner at the Recreation/NLCS workshop.

Recreation planners have several different jobs to take on including outreach, inventories, permits, as well as maintaining recreational sites just to name a few. It can be a heavy load for one person. That’s were my co-intern and I come in. We are supposed to help relieve some of the work load by doing some WSA (wilderness study area) assessments. Only thing holding us back is the weather.

Since I’ve been here (Rawlins, WY) it has snowed more than it has been sunny. Every weekend has not had even the slightest amount of sun. I dream of sun when I go to bed. I long for the days in the office to grow smaller just to be able to go into the field and learn new areas, wildlife, plants, and hike on some trails. The season is a slow start, but my hopes run high that the weather will give us a break and we can go out, show our potential and make an impression on the BLM we work for.

Sunny days

Hoping for sunny days

RR
BLM (Rawlins Field Office)

A Break in the Clouds: Striding the North Coast

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 12:05pm

A month gone — and I am gratefully sunburned and flower saturated, as any naturalist living another unfolding California Spring hopes to be! My internship, at the BLM Field Office in Arcata, CA is off to a diverse and rolling start! The rain fell strong and the sun shone bright during these past weeks, taking me from the coast to the upland oak woodlands — from North Spit to South Spit, around Humboldt Bay and back again!

As I outlined in my last blog post, a recurrent and rather large project we have going here is vegetation monitoring, at five different sites across BLM properties on dune habitats in Humboldt County. I have completed 12/14 30.5-meter transects, each with approximately 200 individual quadrats aligned along 20 benchmarks. Within each quadrat, I quantify the amount of vegetation, identify and record the occurrence of every species, and count the number of Layia carnosa, a federally endangered annual dune plant. This week I will finish dune monitoring!

This all said, one of the most exciting logistical things about my position (many reading this know how and what truly excites me — those living/flying/blooming multitudes!) has been the diversity of my work. A whirling selection to prove it:

I have visited many of the prominent Arcata BLM lands. This is a remarkable task because one unique aspect of the BLM in Humboldt County as compared to other BLM offices in the nation is that our office has very few large tracts of land, and hundreds of smaller parcels. In these visits I am swept by the magic of blooming coastal dunes, struck by sun shining on wide rivers, listening for sparrow songs or watching the Norther Harrier glide low, pulling non-native pines high above the roiling northern oceans on coastal prairie, or lost in a wind-waving sea of European beach grass!

I am working on a project to teach 7th graders from Freshwater Charter School about the epic adaptations of the dune-forest plants, while they film me and create public service announcements on Ipads! I had my first scoping meeting at the site with local filmmaker Barbara Domanchuk and in the next month will lead the field trip and make a classroom visit! Gulp!

I also had the opportunity to attend the National Association of Interpretation Regional Conference! This weekend I will help lead two field trips for the Arcata’s Godwit Days Birding Festival!

The next large project at the office is our contribution to Seeds of Success, a national native wild seed collection program. Our office intends to contribute collections from 7-9 species, which is quite involved! First, we scout out locations and possible target species and in my office, where the program has been running for several years, it takes some creativity and work to keep it fresh! For each species, we collect, press, mount and accession 2-3 voucher specimens in Spring. In summer, we generally begin collecting seed, making sure to collect AT LEAST 10,000-20,000 seeds from 50 or more individuals. In Fall, we groom the data collection and send our seed collections to be processed and cleaned in Bend, Oregon. For now, I am happily emulating Willis Lynn Jepson and easily fantasizing that I am an important rare plant explorer! Too much fun!

Throughout all of this, the plants have led the way, and I have expanded my botanical knowledge widely — I won’t bore you with the big list of new plants I have seen recently, but see below for several lovely pictures of my favorite recent sightings. I am also adding several of my new sightings to: my inaturalist account!. This is the gracious and heartful ground of our naturalist path, the pure enchantment of coming to know parts of our world, beautiful parts, that we never knew were in existence prior to that moment of revelatory discovery.

Beyond the work frame, I have been spending every possible moment in the field, exploring and delighting on a fresh and personally unexplored region of California. I made a quick backpacking trip to the King Range, remembering the value of even the shortest backpacking trips and delighting in the thickest Iris douglasiana blooms I have ever seen. The most notable creature was a moth…a very, very notable moth, Saturnia mendocino, (get the close up) which I took a very sloppy and overly excited photo of:

Saturnia mendocino -- note that it had landed (incredibly breifly, let me assure you) on a burned and recently resprouting Manzanita burl.

Saturnia mendocino — note that it had landed (incredibly briefly, let me assure you) on a burned and recently re-sprouting Manzanita burl.

This moth, part of the impressive silk moth family, is an elusive creature, flies in the day on the edge of chaparral and madrone/mixed forests. Some professional lepidopterists in California have never even seen it! In addition this this little trek, I also made my way north to see the serpentine bogs home to the California Pitcherplant, Darlingtonia californica! What a world!

That’s all for now! Enjoy every second of Spring from where ever you are reading this from!

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Dune monitoring, Mattole Beach, Humboldt County, CA.

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My first Calochortus of Spring! Calochortus tolmiei.

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Calypso bulbosa!

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Freaking out about my flower find

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Erythronium oregonum

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One of our field sites in classic form — South Spit, Humboldt Bay.

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A field site, Ma-le’l Dunes, another wonderful day at the office!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kaleb A. Goff

Arcata, CA BLM Field Office

 

First collection – blues and snafus

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 11:59am

The last two days were a double-feature in the John Day Fossil Beds. First, it was finally time for our first SOS collection of the year! We set off to collect Lithophragma glabrum (bulbous woodland star), a little annual that had shot from flower to seed with the help of two hot weeks. Secondly, we were to pull 3-7 ft tall sweet clover carcasses (Melilotus I think officinalis) from a BLM enclosure surrounding a Prineville district sensitive species (Thelypodium eucosmum; not pictured here as they weren’t yet in flower, but imagine little basal leaves with a tint of red down their midribs in the Brassicaceae family).

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The view from our L. glabrum site.

20160421_0920452I knew coming in that our L. glabrum site was also populated by L. parviflora (smallflower woodland star), but I was pretty confident about telling them apart – the bulbous woodland star, after all, has bulbs stuffed into the nooks of its inflated petioles and just below the flowers (pictured to the left). I also remembered that our site, when we made our pre-collection visit two weeks ago, was by far more populated by L. glabrum. So come collection day, when I looked at little stems that had blown petioles that looked large enough to have once held little bulbets, I thought winner winner chicken dinner. They probably had just fallen off, my addled field-brain rationalized. But then I came across many, many fried plants that were all stalk and bulbs and realized that L. glabrum loses its flowers and fruit capsules before it loses its bulbs… which meant the first 300 capsules I collected were irrevocably contaminated with L. parviflora. L. parviflora‘s life cycle was apparently just a week behind L. glabrum‘s, meaning it was now the more populous and visible of the two.

Oh well, 300 down. Starting again.

Just around then the blue-gray skies cracked open and let down sparse but fat rain drops, a mollifying gesture of amnesty for my trespasses. My SOS partner and I sat in the rain for a while, enjoying the reprieve from the heat while looking to the skies to see if the rain would let up. When it did, we got back to work. (A nice thing about the high desert is that things dry up almost alarmingly fast.)

On the second day of collection, after I had squatted up and down our north-facing hills to tease off the little capsules off these 5 inch stalks, my partner reminded me (with a cocked brow, or so I imagine, though she was across a hill so I can’t be sure) that our mentor had told us that we could pull the entire plant since they were annuals and the Bend Seed Extractory would do the rest. I vaguely, vaguely remembered the part of that AM conversation the day before but it hadn’t stuck. Whoops.

3570 capsules later between the two of us and we called it a collection. It feels great to finally have one of 40 down. My glutes are going to be rock hard after this summer.

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Beautiful Lewisia

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My SOS pard’na showing that clover the business.

– Vi Nguyen, Prineville BLM

Treasure Hunts and Plant Safaris

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 11:49am
Early morning sun illuminating the Eastern Sierra Nevadas

Early morning sun illuminating the Eastern Sierra Nevadas

Nearly a month and a half into my internship at the Ridgecrest Field Office and I am beginning to settle in. I still marvel at the view of the Argus Range whenever I step out my front door and pause in admiration of the sun setting over eastern Sierra Nevada’s to the west. By no means has day to day life become ordinary – each day in the field has its own surprises. So far, we have suffered a flat tire at the hands of a rough route (nothing like that foreboding hissing sound of all the air leaving your tire at once) and made acquaintances on two occasions with desert tortoises bravely journeying across the perilous road. We also saw our first adorable wild burros and experienced a brief sprinkling of rain. I had previously written off rain as a myth belonging to distant, non-desert lands, but discovered that it does indeed rain here!

A desert tortoise poses with my "tortoise awareness" sticker.

A desert tortoise poses with my “tortoise awareness” sticker.

Our seed collections are up and running, as we have completed two collections and are working on the third. Our first collection was of Plantago ovata. At first glance, desert indianwheat reminds me of its rather weedy plantain relatives abundant in un-mowed Midwestern lawns. Looking more closely reveals delicate and nearly translucent flowers set against deep purple seed cases, actually quite beautiful! This observation led me to wonder how often I have overlooked simple beauty, even in urban settings. The seeds themselves are tiny and the collection took several days to complete. Our second collection was of Descurainia pinnata, a tansy mustard with the habit of growing around the base of large shrubs, particularly Lycium cooperi, a very thorny fellow. Our latest collection endeavor has been Stipa hymenoides, an interesting plant historically because the Indian rice grass was a main food staple for indigenous tribes living in the area.

Plantago ovata

Plantago ovata, Desert Indianwheat

In addition to seed collections, we have also been conducting rare plant species monitoring. This involves visiting locations of known rare plant populations and recording damage or threats to its habitat. Our first plant safari, as we have deemed them, had us on the hunt for a tiny flower endemic to Kelso Valley in the Bright Star Wilderness of the Eastern Sierra Nevada’s. There are only nine known populations of the Kelso Valley Monkey Flower (Mimulus shevoccki), all in and around Kelso Valley. The flower itself is miniscule, often less than an inch tall, and proved challenging to find. Our first day, we spent several hours searching unsuccessfully. Just as we were about to try another site, we finally found the population. As I approached the population, at first I saw just one, then two, then they seemed to materialize out of nowhere in front of me. It was a fulfilling end to our day!

Mimulus shevoccki, the elusive Kelso Valley Monkey Flower

Mimulus shevocckii, the elusive Kelso Valley Monkey Flower

We also surveyed for Phacelia nashiana, a brilliant blue phacelia. Charlotte’s phacelia certainly has a knack for finding hard to reach places. Its preferred habit is impossibly course granite soil on rocky outcroppings, often near the top of steep slopes. Thus our search in each valley began with looking up and locating the nearest high rocky outcropping. Unfortunately, we were monitoring at the end of its bloom period. Summer is rushing in quickly here and the landscape has already begun to turn crispy and brown. After scaling several phacelia-less, dried-up slopes, we came upon a slope alive with flowers. The geography of the slope had kept it shaded from the relentless sun and it was as though we stepped back in time to the height of spring. Sure enough, over two hundred Charlotte’s phacelia were in full bloom at the top!

Phacelia nashiana, Charlotte's phacelia

Phacelia nashiana, Charlotte’s Phacelia

Sometime finding these plant populations is a bit like going on a treasure hunt. We head off into an unfamiliar maze of roads and routes armed with a GPS “X” marking the spot where the population was previously recorded. A successful search yields a view of a rare species or a seed collection, treasures invaluable to plant conservation and research.

E. O’Connell

Ridgecrest BLM Office

Bottomlands and bluffs on the Potomac

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 11:46am

I’ve almost completed the first week of my internship with the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park.  As a botany intern I am responsible for updating plant records for all the rare and threatened flora within the parks borders.  The park runs approximately 130 miles along a narrow corridor from the mountains of western Maryland to Washington, D.C.  I’ve spent most of my time here so far getting acquainted with the rich cultural history of the canal and the friendly staff at the park.  I’m immersing myself in the many publications on the natural resources of the area that sits on four massive shelves at the park headquarters.  In particular one publication has caught my fancy and I can’t put it down.  Some of the taxonomic names are out of date but the information it holds on the specialized habitats of the state and the plants within them is invaluable.  Shale barrens and limestone bluffs are especially interesting because this is where many of the plants I’m tasked with surveying for are located.

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The first few days here involved various orientation tasks and I’ve only been in the field for a couple hours.  However, in that short time I got to see an impressive display of spring ephemerals and two state listed plants.

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Delphinium tricorne, Dwarf Larkspur

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Dodecatheon meadia, Shooting Star

 

I look forward to getting into the field more and more in the coming weeks.  The towpath that runs alongside the entirety of the canal offers great access to the entire park.

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Moving forward I plan to schedule my surveying with the goal of focusing on the plants that are flowering currently or will be soon.  I also am tasked with getting the parks “Weed Warrior” program up and running. While the canal has its share of rarities and beautiful habitat, it also faces challenges including a fairly healthy crop of invasive plant species.

“Death is one thing…  an end to birth is something else…”

-M.E. Soule and B.A. Wilcox

Protecting rare and threatened plants has been a passion of mine for a while but the quotation above made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.  After reading it I felt a renewed sense of urgency for the protection of our nations endangered species. It feels good to be in a position to make a positive contribution towards that end.

 

Coleman Minney
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park
Hagerstown, Maryland

 

Time loop

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 11:30am

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In August of 2011 I moved to Eugene, Oregon. In August of 2012 I left Eugene on a bright orange 1977 Honda Hawk for the east coast with the unknown destination of upstate New York. My best friend, Luke, rode by my side on a Honda of his own.  I was not in search of a career or financial opportunity, but a livelihood (that would also- hopefully- involve some sort of income). When I left Oregon for my two month long motorcycle trip out east I was leaving behind a place I called home- a place I loved dearly and never thought I would leave. But adventure was seeking me out and I could hide no longer. Plus, it’s good to leave what you love- and to return to it later as a more directional and non-self centered being, with the ability to give back all that it has given you.

The experience was awesome and awful.  A lot of misfortune, but a lot of grand fortune, too- helpful people, kind souls, stunning land, horrific storms (yes, I count that as fortunate), the desert which brewed within myself a state of mindfulness and self awareness, the mountains and canyons that echoed my insignificance and initiated a connection between myself and the land that I traveled and the biotic inhabitants that  rested and quarreled among us, the trucker in Arizona who paid for our gas, and Sharon, an older stout woman from Northeast New Mexico that put us up for free and made us BLTs for dinner, eggs and bacon for breakfast, and sent us packing with hugs, apples and canned fruit.

When I arrived in the east it would be another 10 months until I found my way to New York. With an overwhelming feeling of idleness and misdirection living in Vermont and New Hampshire and in-between jobs, I decided to go back to school. So in August of 2013 I enrolled into Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks as a wildlife student. It was in that first week that I realized I really didn’t give much interest towards animal science and was instead intently focused on the plants, fungi, insects and the symbiotic relationships among the three. I then enrolled into the integrative studies program for a combination degree in biology and environmental science. I balanced my scientific education with courses in writing, the arts, and the humanities- as well as contributing to art shows and public speaking events. I believe that balance is what kept me sane throughout my very science-intensive curriculum.  I stayed at Paul Smith’s for 5 semesters and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in December 2015.

December is a horrible time to graduate if you are a plant person.  Absolutely no one is hiring.  (Hasn’t anyone ever heard of winter ecology!?). So I decided to look into internships that could get me back out in the Pacific Northwest.  I stumbled upon the CLM internship and figured I’d give it a shot.  I was shocked at the effort of perfect placement the CLM recruiters gave.  I mentioned four things that I wanted out of the internship- plants, insects, wetlands, and the Pacific Northwest- and I got all four!

Now here I am- back in Eugene after almost four years, back home in the PNW, studying and monitoring the creatures I care so deeply for.  It’s a complete time loop.  I left not knowing what I wanted or how to get what I needed.  I set out on an adventure with no expectations and in due time it prepared me for what I feel I was meant to do from the very beginning- I just didn’t know it yet.  Well, I kind of new but I think I needed the verification, education, and life experience I didn’t quite have then.  But now I do!  Not that the adventure has ended or that I’m finished learning, experiencing the unexpected.  What a sorry story that would be!   I am where I need to be right now just as I was four years ago- just as I was on my motorcycle, in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York.  I’m here and I couldn’t be happier.

Danica Maloney

BLM West Eugene Wetlands

Eugene, OR

Like Indiana Jones, but with Plants

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 11:26am

Hello from Grants Pass, Oregon!

I started a rare plants internship here late in March, almost April. I’ve been here just over three weeks, now. This is my second time participating in the CLM program– last year I was stationed in Susanville, CA focusing on seeds of success. Now I spend my days hunting a federally listed plant, Fritillaria gentneri.

Fritillaria gentneri

Fritillaria gentneri

My partner, Kiki, and I have been tasked with revisiting 150 gentneri sites during the blooming season which is April through June. I’d say we’ve done forty or so sites. That may not seem like a lot, but some of these sites are hard to get to! Spring has sprung before my very eyes since I’ve been here, which means we stumble across blankets of wildflowers during every hike, but it also means we have to quickly check our remaining sites before they dry up!

There are also plenty of Madrone trees to climb on. Kiki swears up and down that climbing a tree increases the accuracy. I'm dubious.

There are also plenty of Madrone trees to climb on. Kiki swears up and down that climbing a tree increases the accuracy of the GPS. I’m dubious.

Grants Pass is nestled in the valleys of the Cascades and it really shows in the work. Kiki and I can be found crawling along slopes all over the area, hunting our precious lilies. I affectionately call it ‘billy-goating’, because goats are so good at climbing up scary steep rock walls. Likewise, Kiki and I have to be good at climbing up scary steep grassy or forested hillsides! Thankfully, there’s usually a manzanita or oak to grab on to for stability.

I'm not sure if this picture adequately captures how steep and terrible this hillside is.

I’m not sure if this picture adequately captures how steep and terrible this hillside is.

The plants themselves can be quite conspicuous, or they can be shy. Sometimes a bright flash of red stands out from the landscape, sometimes it just blends in with the poison oak. It just depends! A lot of the sites are lily-free, which at first was discouraging, but it just makes the victory so much sweeter when a lily pops up! (even though it is totally out of our hands, finding a gentneri feels like a huge victory!)

Can you see the lilies~?

Can you see the lilies~?

Kiki and I take time to explore the area on the weekends– last week we went to the redwoods at Stout Grove! They’re quite a sight. We had a great time climbing around on the trees that had fallen, and the river that runs next to the grove is so blue!

Kiki crawled up a redwood, I'm not sure if this is authorized behavior.

Kiki and a redwood.

Since most of our days are filled with intense hiking, sometimes we just want to relax by the river and exercise our minds with a rousing game of scrabble!

I lost..

I lost..

Until next time~!

Lillie P

It’s Getting Hot in Here

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 11:24am

Hello from Needles! This month it’s finally reached into the 90s! Aside from the sweat that is now mingling with the dust and sand we find on ourselves every day, things are getting exciting! Many desert creatures are starting to make an appearance now, including desert tortoises and snakes.

This month has been full of interesting occurrences including unusual amounts of rain for this time of year, encounters with random desert dwellers (don’t worry, we kept our distance and were safe), and a hike with the Sierra Club!

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Amboy Crater after the rains

 

Earlier this month we met with the Sierra Club at the Turtle Mountains. There is a campground here with a hiking trail through the stunning slopes, however the trail has become less distinguishable with time and even we got lost! The goal of that weekend was to mark out the trail and make it more visible for visitors. It was a great time learning hiking tips and tricks, survival skills in the desert, and lessons learned over the years by the Sierra Club members.  Due to the unusual amount of rain and heavy winds we have been getting around here, we have had to re-assess our seed collecting calendar.

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Planning out where to go to find each species!

Many species are setting seed later or earlier than expected! At this point, we are having to constantly check on specific populations because we are not sure when they will be ready. This means a lot of scouting and driving around to various sites in the field office. During this time we practice our botanizing skills and key out plants along the way that we haven’t seen yet! We have made some seed and tissue collections,including Plantago ovata tissue, Ambrosia dumosa tissue, and seeds of Ambrosia salsola and Chaenactis fremontii, but the majority of this month has been scouting. We are excited that next week we will most likely have a lot of collecting to do! We are looking to collect Salvia columbariae seed, Chylismia brevipes seed, and tissue samples of Larrea tridentata and Ambrosia dumosa among others!

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Plantago ovata seed!

The next time you hear from me I will most likely have camped by then, because there are so many collections that need to be done in so little time, why waste time driving! :)

Until next time!

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Wild burros!

Ooooh-ooh That Smell…

Garden Blog - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 10:26am

On Tuesday, April 24, #CBGSprout raised a big stink at the Chicago Botanic Garden! Our day included these snapshots of the early morning visitors to the rare phenomenon of a corpse flower in full bloom.

We chatted with the early birds and met some “regulars”—visitors who had come by to meet Spike, the Garden’s first titan arum on display last August, and Alice, the corpse flower that bloomed last September.

Kids visiting corpse flower bloom, wearing a corpse flower t-shirt.

Maxwell and Lexi (in her Alice T-shirt) Kirchen visit Sprout early this morning before school.

Baby visiting corpse flower bloom at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Harper, 14 months old, waves at #CBGSprout the corpse flower.

Carrie Kirchen of Deerfield visited this morning, along with Maxwell, age 9, and Lexi, age 6.

Lexi: It smells horrible.

Maxwell: We found out on the Internet. The Internet knows everything.

Lexi: It’s very stinky.

Maxwell: It is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see it. And it is very stinky.

Carrie: I happened to see the Facebook post. And we were here every day for Spike (a titan arum that previously was on display at the Garden).

Jamie Smith of Highland Park was here with Harper, 14 months old, as well as Susan and Jim Osiol of Mt. Prospect.

Jamie: We keep coming! Third time is the charm.

Susan: I’m obsessed. Our daughter called first thing this morning: ‘Mom, Sprout is blooming!’

Jim: It is vibrant. It’s a piece of nature that’s fascinating.

Visitors to titan arum Sprout at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Megan and Daniel Ladror of Chicago

The first visitor to Sprout the titan arum on the morning after the bloom opened.

Emily Rosenberg of Highland Park was here when the doors opened at 6 a.m.

Megan and Daniel Ladror of Chicago analyzed the smell:

Daniel: This smells like our garbage at home after two days.

Megan: It’s such a rare event. I’m excited to see one without waiting in line.

Emily Rosenberg of Highland Park loved the bloom:

Emily: Beautiful. It is so interesting with the spathe (modified frilly leaf). It has great textures.

A visitor from the Czech Republic sniffs the window removed from the spathe for Sprout the corpse flower's pollination.

Roman Bouchal of the Czech Republic came for the smell this morning, and found it in the window removed from Sprout the corpse flower’s spathe for pollination.

Schoolteacher Jody Schatz reacts to Sprout the titan arum's smell.

Schoolteacher Jody Schatz will have something to share with her class at Reinberg Elementary School in Chicago.

Michelle and Haley Nordstrom, who live five minutes from the Garden:

Michelle (who was watching the livestream at the school bus stop with her daughter when she realized that Sprout was blooming; they jumped in the car): I took a photo of Sprout and sent it to my daughter’s school and said, “We’re going to be late.”

Visitors Roberta Stack, Joanna Wozniak, and Apple, age 7:

Roberta: I’ve been watching it in the camera and saw it open. I ran right down.

Apple: Pretty smelly.

Joanna: I’m catching a cheesey whiff. A bit of Parmesan.

Apple: It does kind of smell like cheese.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Ten Things to Know About Corpse Flowers

Garden Blog - Wed, 04/20/2016 - 10:00am

The Chicago Botanic Garden is on #TitanWatch. That’s right: if you visit the Garden’s Semitropical Greenhouse, you will see Sprout, the latest corpse flower from the Garden’s collection of 13 titan arums to begin a bloom cycle. 

 in fruit, leaf, and bud.

Our corpse flowers (Amorphophallus titanum) are now on display in a variety of life stages: in fruit, leaf, and imminent bloom.

You might remember Spike and Alice in 2015: Spike failed to bloom but provided so much excitement; and Alice the Amorphophallus brought visitors to the Garden at all hours to see, and smell, a corpse flower in bloom. Now we are all watching Sprout to see if the corpse flower—known as a titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum)— will produce a huge, rotten bloom. Follow the progress of #CBGSprout on our corpse flower webcam and check our website for updates.

We learned a lot about corpse flowers in the last few months, and in the Semitropical Greenhouse, there are corpse flowers at three different stages on display: in the middle of a bloom cycle (Sprout); a non-blooming titan arum leaf; and a pollinated and fruiting titan arum (it’s Alice!). 

Here’s what you need to know as you watch Sprout grow:

  1. The corpse flower is one of the largest and rarest flowering plants in the world. It takes seven to ten years for a single corpse flower to produce a flowering structure (inflorescence). While other corpse flowers in cultivation have bloomed around the world recently, having more than one plant bloom in such a short time is uncommon. Watch for these signs the titan arum bloom is starting.
  2. Corpse flowers smell bad. Really bad. Peak stink time is usually very late at night.
  3. Speaking of night, that’s when corpse flowers usually bloom. And once they bloom, the bloom lasts 24 to 36 hours. Want a sneak peek? View our last titan arum bloom.
  4. If Sprout blooms, the Garden will stay open until 2 a.m. so visitors can experience the corpse flower bloom up close (last Garden entry will be 1 a.m.). Watch the live corpse flower webcam, check the blog (subscribe today), and follow the Garden on Facebook and #CBGSprout on Twitter to get the latest information. 
  5. Corpse flowers are BIG. In their natural habitats, they can reach 10 to 12 feet tall with a bloom diameter of 5 feet. In cultivation, they typically reach 6 to 8 feet in height, but all are different. 
  6. Corpse flowers are unpredictable. When the Garden was watching Spike, the first titan arum, even the horticulturists were surprised that the plant did not flower.
  7. Corpse flowers are native to Sumatra, but Sprout was grown here from seed the Garden received in 2008 from the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley. Learn about the titan arum’s native habitat.
  8. The corpse flower includes the corm, which may or may not go on to produce a flower; the spadix, which is the tall flower spike; the spathe, which is a single, frilly, modified leaf that enwraps the spadix; the petiole, which is the leaf stalk; and the branch-like rachis, which supports the many leaflets. Find more diagrams and information in our titan arum educator resources Titan arum leaf parts diagram.
  9. Corpse flowers that bloom in the wild attract pollinators like carrion beetles and flesh flies. Once the plant is successfully pollinated, it develops olive-shaped, red-orange berries. Read more about titan arum pollination.
  10. Corpse flowers need protection. The Garden’s conservation work ensures that plants like these survive and thrive. Studying seeds from Sprout, Spike, and Alice enables scientists and horticulturists at universities, conservatories, and other institutions increase the genetic diversity of the species. See how we are studying our titan arum fruit.

 The mature fruit of this Amorphophallus titanum is now being collected for seed.

The mature fruit of Alice the Amorphophallus is now being collected for seed.


We will be announcing extended viewing hours when #CBGSprout blooms. Spring is here, however—see what else is currently in bloom

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

For Some Birds, Constructing a Nest Could Be a Stretch

Garden Blog - Mon, 04/18/2016 - 8:32am

While working out in the woods this winter, a small lump on the branch of a young elm tree caught my attention. At first I thought it might be a gall, or an injury that had healed-over. On closer inspection, the lump turned out to be a ruby-throated hummingbird nest from last summer. 

Although I see hummingbirds regularly at the Chicago Botanic Garden, I rarely encounter one of their nests. Hummingbirds themselves are amazing, but their nests are truly a marvel of avian architecture. Not much larger in diameter than a quarter, they are just large enough to hold the one to three navy bean-sized eggs of the hummer. For the pint-sized bird to be able to keep the tiny eggs warm during incubation requires that the nest be not much larger than her body. 

 Hummingbird nest and quarter (for scale).

Not much larger than a quarter, the ruby-throated hummingbird nest is an engineering marvel.

This is all well and good until the eggs hatch. Growing young hummingbirds can double or triple the amount of room necessary to hold the family. One of the ways the hummingbirds get around this need for flexibility is that they construct the nest of soft plant fibers and then wrap the whole thing with spiderweb silk. This creates an elastic nest that has the ability to expand as the contents of the nest increases. Can you imagine yourself going out and plucking a strand of sticky silk from a spider web with your fingers and then trying to use it to build something out of lightweight fuzzy plant fibers? I imagine you might find yourself wrapped up in a ball like some sort of oversized grotesque moth cocoon. The silk also helps to anchor the nest to the top surface of a horizontal branch.

 Spiderweb silk is used by hummingbirds as a nest liner.

Spiderweb silk: the expandable nest liner preferred by hummingbirds.

Keeping the nest just the right size as the need arises helps to keep the growing youngsters warm and secure. In the western states where several species of hummingbirds nest, often at higher elevations, it is not only important to keep the nestlings warm, but also the incubating female, especially at night. Therefore, it is often the case that hummingbirds in these colder situations will locate their nests on a limb with an overhanging branch acting as a sort of roof to help block the nest from the night sky. 

Although this measure helps reduce heat loss, it is often the case that nesting females will go into a state of torpor (reduced physiological activity to lower body temperature) in order to conserve energy on particularly cold nights. This is a principle of physics in which the larger the difference in temperature between objects, the faster the heat flows from the warmer one to the cooler one. Therefore, a hummingbird with a lower body temperature will lose heat more slowly than the one with a warmer body. As I stated earlier, hummingbirds are amazing!

 Parmelia sulcata, a common lichen, is used to help disguise the hummingbird's nest.

Parmelia sulcata, a common lichen, is used to help disguise the hummingbird’s nest.

Part of the reason—besides size—I had not noticed the nest earlier is that the birds do a fantastic job of camouflaging it. This also relates to the spiderweb silk. Some or all of the silk used is sticky. Upon completion of nest construction, the birds collect bits of lichen and attach them to the sticky strands on the outside of the nest. Interestingly, the birds seem to always use the same species of lichen, one that goes by the name of Parmelia sulcata. 

Parmelia sulcata is a light greenish-gray lichen with a leafy (foliose) appearance. One of our more common lichens, it is often seen on the upper branches of trees, and was particularly abundant on the ash trees that died from emerald ash borer. I don’t know if the birds chose this species of lichen in particular or, being common, it is just found most often. It is also interesting that the birds seem to apply the lichens to the nest in an upright position, with the top facing outward, so they look like they could be growing on the nest.

Come birding at the Garden! Take a birding class; join a group, and check your finds against our bird list.

Although this process is fascinating, it is not restricted to hummingbirds. One of the other breeding birds at the Garden utilizes a very similar nest construction technique to hold its three to five small eggs. The blue-gray gnatcatcher, another tiny bird (that somewhat resembles a miniature catbird in appearance and sound), also constructs a nest out of soft plant fibers, including spiderwebs, and applies lichen to the outside of its nest. A nest of this species, a little larger than that of a hummingbird, was found on a branch of one of the locust trees growing in a Garden parking lot.

 A female ruby-throated hummingbird (males have the ruby coloring) enjoys a sip of salvia nectar in Circle Garden in summer.

A female ruby-throated hummingbird (males have the ruby coloring) enjoys a sip of salvia nectar in Circle Garden in summer.

 A blue-gray gnatcatcher at the Garden; females look similar, but are less blue.

A blue-gray gnatcatcher at the Garden; females look similar, but are less blue.

If you’re lucky, you might find the nest of one of these birds during the nesting season, but if not, keep an eye out for little bumps, lumps, and knobs on bare branches in winter. You might get lucky.

Come #birdthepreserves with the Forest Preserves of Cook County. View our list of upcoming events for free events near you.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

For Some Birds, Constructing a Nest Could Be a Stretch

Birding - Mon, 04/18/2016 - 8:32am

While working out in the woods this winter, a small lump on the branch of a young elm tree caught my attention. At first I thought it might be a gall, or an injury that had healed-over. On closer inspection, the lump turned out to be a ruby-throated hummingbird nest from last summer. 

Although I see hummingbirds regularly at the Chicago Botanic Garden, I rarely encounter one of their nests. Hummingbirds themselves are amazing, but their nests are truly a marvel of avian architecture. Not much larger in diameter than a quarter, they are just large enough to hold the one to three navy bean-sized eggs of the hummer. For the pint-sized bird to be able to keep the tiny eggs warm during incubation requires that the nest be not much larger than her body. 

 Hummingbird nest and quarter (for scale).

Not much larger than a quarter, the ruby-throated hummingbird nest is an engineering marvel.

This is all well and good until the eggs hatch. Growing young hummingbirds can double or triple the amount of room necessary to hold the family. One of the ways the hummingbirds get around this need for flexibility is that they construct the nest of soft plant fibers and then wrap the whole thing with spiderweb silk. This creates an elastic nest that has the ability to expand as the contents of the nest increases. Can you imagine yourself going out and plucking a strand of sticky silk from a spider web with your fingers and then trying to use it to build something out of lightweight fuzzy plant fibers? I imagine you might find yourself wrapped up in a ball like some sort of oversized grotesque moth cocoon. The silk also helps to anchor the nest to the top surface of a horizontal branch.

 Spiderweb silk is used by hummingbirds as a nest liner.

Spiderweb silk: the expandable nest liner preferred by hummingbirds.

Keeping the nest just the right size as the need arises helps to keep the growing youngsters warm and secure. In the western states where several species of hummingbirds nest, often at higher elevations, it is not only important to keep the nestlings warm, but also the incubating female, especially at night. Therefore, it is often the case that hummingbirds in these colder situations will locate their nests on a limb with an overhanging branch acting as a sort of roof to help block the nest from the night sky. 

Although this measure helps reduce heat loss, it is often the case that nesting females will go into a state of torpor (reduced physiological activity to lower body temperature) in order to conserve energy on particularly cold nights. This is a principle of physics in which the larger the difference in temperature between objects, the faster the heat flows from the warmer one to the cooler one. Therefore, a hummingbird with a lower body temperature will lose heat more slowly than the one with a warmer body. As I stated earlier, hummingbirds are amazing!

 Parmelia sulcata, a common lichen, is used to help disguise the hummingbird's nest.

Parmelia sulcata, a common lichen, is used to help disguise the hummingbird’s nest.

Part of the reason—besides size—I had not noticed the nest earlier is that the birds do a fantastic job of camouflaging it. This also relates to the spiderweb silk. Some or all of the silk used is sticky. Upon completion of nest construction, the birds collect bits of lichen and attach them to the sticky strands on the outside of the nest. Interestingly, the birds seem to always use the same species of lichen, one that goes by the name of Parmelia sulcata. 

Parmelia sulcata is a light greenish-gray lichen with a leafy (foliose) appearance. One of our more common lichens, it is often seen on the upper branches of trees, and was particularly abundant on the ash trees that died from emerald ash borer. I don’t know if the birds chose this species of lichen in particular or, being common, it is just found most often. It is also interesting that the birds seem to apply the lichens to the nest in an upright position, with the top facing outward, so they look like they could be growing on the nest.

Come birding at the Garden! Take a birding class; join a group, and check your finds against our bird list.

Although this process is fascinating, it is not restricted to hummingbirds. One of the other breeding birds at the Garden utilizes a very similar nest construction technique to hold its three to five small eggs. The blue-gray gnatcatcher, another tiny bird (that somewhat resembles a miniature catbird in appearance and sound), also constructs a nest out of soft plant fibers, including spiderwebs, and applies lichen to the outside of its nest. A nest of this species, a little larger than that of a hummingbird, was found on a branch of one of the locust trees growing in a Garden parking lot.

 A female ruby-throated hummingbird (males have the ruby coloring) enjoys a sip of salvia nectar in Circle Garden in summer.

A female ruby-throated hummingbird (males have the ruby coloring) enjoys a sip of salvia nectar in Circle Garden in summer.

 A blue-gray gnatcatcher at the Garden; females look similar, but are less blue.

A blue-gray gnatcatcher at the Garden; females look similar, but are less blue.

If you’re lucky, you might find the nest of one of these birds during the nesting season, but if not, keep an eye out for little bumps, lumps, and knobs on bare branches in winter. You might get lucky.

Come #birdthepreserves with the Forest Preserves of Cook County. View our list of upcoming events for free events near you.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

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