Author Archives: Keith Nevison

Fire and Ice: A memorable trip to Cornell

View down to the Cornell Plantations Visitor Centre

View down to the Cornell Plantations Visitor Center

This year the Longwood Graduate Fellow trip to Cornell was quite eventful! After departing from the University of Delaware post-class and driving by night, we had hardly put our belongings down at our Ithacan hotel when the fire alarms sounded. We, along with a hundred other patrons, had to evacuate smoke-filled corridors into the parking lot just as a fresh snow began to fall. A few hours passed before we managed to book rooms at another hotel, and after a fitful night’s sleep, we began orientation and tours on the grounds of the beautiful, distinguished Cornell University.

IMG_1682

Waiting for the Ithaca FD to extinguish the flames. No one was hurt in the fire!

We were greeted in the morning by Dr. Donald Rakow and Graduate Fellows in the Cornell Public Garden Leadership program. Dr. Rakow, previous Director of Cornell Plantations and current Associate Professor in the Department of Horticulture, was an exceptionally courteous host during our trip and we appreciated all the fun, informative activities that the Fellows had scheduled for us. We started the day with an engaging lecture entitled “Board Interactions and Leadership in the Non-Profit Sector” delivered by Joseph Grasso, Associate Dean for Finance, Administration, and Corporate Relations in the Industrial and Labor Relations School at Cornell University. Mid-morning we were shuttled to the impressive School of Integrative Plant Science to attend a seminar by Dr. William Powell of State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) where we learned about the Ten Thousand Chestnut Challenge, a campaign to grow thousands of blight-resistant, genetically-modified American chestnut trees to “jumpstart the effort to restore the tree to its native range in North America.” The lecture was stimulating and a great example of the important work being done to promote biodiversity through advanced plant breeding techniques.

On our way to lunch we stopped by Cornell’s Kenneth Post Laboratory Greenhouses to learn about “Wee Stinky”, a titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) that has bloomed twice in the last three years (a rare feat considering their typical re-bloom cycle in cultivation is 7-10 years!). James Keach, PhD Candidate in Plant Breeding along with Paul Cooper, Cornell University’s Experimental Station Greenhouse Grower, presented us with some facts on the physiology and morphology of the corpse flower along with some other riveting (and smelly!) details.

James Keach, PhD student in Plant Breeding explains the physiology of the corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum)

James Keach, PhD student in Plant Breeding, explains the physiology of the corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum)

After a wonderful lunch at the Cornell Dairy Bar, we had a tour of the Ithaca Children’s Garden (ICG) with Executive Director Erin Marteal. The Fellows were able to burn off some excess energy while playing in the Hands-on-Nature Anarchy Zone, one of the newest additions to the ICG. Erin gave us a comprehensive presentation on the benefits of playing in nature, including the ways in which students improve in confidence, empathy and cognition through taking leadership over their own play. Go ICG and Erin!

The Cornell/Longwood Graduate Program gang with Erin Marteal, Executive Director of the Ithaca Children's Garden

The Cornell/Longwood Graduate Program gang with Erin Marteal, Executive Director of the Ithaca Children’s Garden

Our next adventure was a driving tour through the F.R. Newman Arboretum at Cornell Plantations. We passed wonderful collections of crabapples, oaks, maples, and other trees on our way to a brief stop at the overlook where we snapped photos and posed for a group shot.

Just in time for sunset over the Finger Lakes region!

Just in time for sunset over the Finger Lakes region!

Our final presentation of the day was held at the Cornell University Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections (RMC), where David Corson, Curator of the History of Science Collections, gave us an overview of the unique properties of early horticulture illustrative texts housed in the library’s collections. Also assisted by Magaret Nichols, RMC’s Head of Collection Management and Rare Materials Cataloguing Coordinator, we were able to take in breathtaking plates showcasing the fine talents of botanical artists while learning about the time-intensive processes required to produce such amazing works through lithography, woodcuts, hand coloring and other laborious techniques.

Magaret Nichols, Rare Materials Cataloging Coordinator (LTS) & Head of Collection Management (RMC) at Cornell University's Library with a fine book of lily prints.

Magaret Nichols, Rare Materials Cataloging Coordinator (LTS) &
Head of Collection Management (RMC) at Cornell’s Library with a fine book of lily prints.

The Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya by Sir Joseph Hooker circa 1851

The Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya by Sir Joseph Hooker circa 1851

The next day, some of the Longwood Graduate Fellows stayed around for a great trip to the partially frozen waterfalls of the Cascadilla Gorge. Guided by Ben Stormes and Emily Detrick, we learned about the efforts to shore up trails and enhance habitat in the gorge after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee submerged the landscape and eroded trails back in the fall of 2011. The falls were stunning this morning and a few of us were simply enchanted by the beautiful natural areas around Cornell and the City of Ithaca.

Frosty wonderland- the Cascadilla Gorge trail recently opened after 3 years of reinforcement

Frosty wonderland- the Cascadilla Gorge trail recently opened after 3 years of reinforcement

The Longwood Graduate Fellows would like to sincerely thank the Cornell Public Garden Leadership Fellows and Dr. Rakow for their wonderful hospitality during our stay. We are looking forward to next year when they visit us at Longwood Gardens and the University of Delaware!

Thanks Cornell!

Thanks Cornell Fellows and Plantations staff!

Class of 2016’s First Field Trip- Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

With a mission to engage visitors, inspire action and change social behaviour, the staff members of Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve (BHWP) adroitly steward 100-plus acres of rich forest and diverse meadows in the heart of historic Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Near to the site of General George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River, the preserve houses over 800 species of wildflowers and other plants, creating healthy, abundant habitat for a plethora of bird and invertebrate species. BHWP is also home to over 80 rare and endangered plant species making it an area of conservation concern for the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Meadow shot

Meadow on a stunning day!

We were treated to gorgeous weather during our visit to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. In a casual stroll of the gardens and meadow we encountered at least 50 plant species, many in bloom, with 8 different species of moths, butterflies and skippers. Particularly noteworthy were the swallowtails feeding on the nectar of Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot or lavender bee balm)

Swallowtail

Swallowtail on wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Other Lepidoptera species observed included: sleeping orange, cloudless sulphur, red-banded hairstreak, juniper hairstreak and snowberry clear-winged moths.

In the morning we met with Miles Arnott, Director of the BHWP Association, whose organization administers programs targeting school groups and teachers, landscape professionals, homeowners, and members of the general public. Under Miles’s guidance, BHWPA has more than doubled its membership to 1,800 by focusing on educating people both “inside the fence and outside the fence.” This fence is actually a massive deer exclosure which encompasses nearly the entirety of the property, preventing plants from overgrazing by overly abundant ungulates. By excluding deer, the plants are able to grow and reproduce freely, resulting in a healthy multi-storied vegetation layer which approximates a balanced Eastern U.S. forest with large and small trees, shrubs, perennials, and groundcovers. This vertical stratification in turn supports quality habitat for many bird species, including harder-to-spot avians like the Louisiana water thrush, rose-breasted grosbeak and scarlet tanagers.

Senna

Senna hebecarpa- wild senna

Miles also described the work that BHWPA is doing on developing its fee-for-service Plant Stewardship Index (PSI). The PSI is a metric which gives a conservation score of 0-10 based on habitat suitability in a given landscape. The PSI factors among other things: presence of rare species, hard to propagate species and specialist species requiring particular conditions for growth and reproduction to determine a score value for justifying protecting lands. Based on these criteria, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve is clearly worthy of continued preservation and support to encourage others to experience the beauty and serenity of this magical place, a touchstone of Pennsylvania’s natural heritage.

For more information visit: www.bhwp.org

Longwood Graduate Program class of 2016 group shot with Gary Shanks class of 2015. Plus Mary Ann Borge- BHWP’s wonderful docent naturalist