NPC Executive Director, Renee’ Carey, receives Rothrock Conservationist of the Year Award

NPC is very proud to share that your Executive Director, Renee’ Carey, was recently presented the 2020 Dr. Joseph Trimble Rothrock Conservationist of the Year Award by the Pennsylvania Forestry Association (PFA).

Dr. Jim Finley with PFA presents Renee’ with the 2020 Dr. Joseph Trimble Rothrock Conservationist of the Year Award.

Renee’, has served PFA in many capacities as a board member and volunteer supporting forest, land, and water conservation. In 2019 Renee’ celebrated 25 years with the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy where she is currently the executive director. She is widely respected for her work ethic, passion for conservation, and leadership in the conservation community. The plaque she received read, “Renee’ consistently demonstrates her commitment to conservation of land, forests, and water and the communities that depend on wise resource use. She actively seeks partnerships with state agencies, county conservation districts, non-profit organizations, and landowners to protect and conserve natural resources for recreation and jobs today and to allow future generations similar opportunities. She is known for encouraging and guiding people to steward natural resources with the vision to nourish communities. Her passion for this work clearly emulates the values she shares with Dr. Rothrock’s concern for natural resource stewardship.

The Pennsylvania Forestry Association

Each year the Association recognizes an individual, organization or group’s significant contributions to the public recognition of the importance of Pennsylvania’s forest resources in the same tradition and spirit of Dr. Joseph T. Rothrock. 

Dr. Rothrock served as the first president of PFA and earned the title, “Father of Forestry in Pennsylvania,” through his untiring efforts to promote the forest conservation movement in Pennsylvania.

Nominees for the Award were evaluated on the following three criteria:

  • Value of contributions to the continued conservation of Pennsylvania’s forest resource;
  • Public recognition and stature of the individual in the field of resource conservation; and
  • Other Unique or special considerations which demonstrate a long term commitment to conservation.

Renee’ was nominated by Dennis Ringling, Marc Lewis, and Roy Siefert. Renee’ would like to thank these individuals for their nomination and the PFA for honoring her with this award.

I am both humbled and honored to receive the Rothrock Conservationist of the Year Award. I have been so proud to serve our communities and help champion the conservation efforts of NPC for the past 26 years. I look forward to many more years to come!

Renee’ Carey, NPC Executive Director

From Underfoot to on your Table: Some thoughts on #Plantsgiving

Planning a #Plantsgiving

Given concerns over COVID-19, people all over the U.S. are making the tough choice to avoid gathering in large groups this Thanksgiving. Bucknell Professor Chris Martine, biology, and his botanical colleagues suggest that one way to still bring everyone together for the holiday is to join them in the 2020 edition of #PlantsGiving, a social media campaign in which people challenge one another to count the number of plant species used in their Thanksgiving meal. Learn more about #Plantsgiving here.

Below, Susan Sprout, shares some insight on some not-so-noticeable plants that are likely to be apart of your Thanksgiving meal.

By: Susan Sprout

I love the thought and act of giving thanks anytime. We don’t do it nearly enough. What a great idea to count the blessings of plants as part of Thanksgiving preparations! Plants provide so much to the human population of this planet and yet, we probably overlook their presence in many of the items we eat. So now is the time to take some time and to be mindful of the many unique and tasty ways in which we enjoy or eat or imbibe plants.

STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

By counting the number of different plant species used in our Thanksgiving feast and sharing the information, we are providing recognition due to all plants for their continuing support all these years. We should also look at this as a way to educate others – friends, family, students, all plant primary and secondary consumers – about their many and varied uses. This being said, you have probably guessed by now that I really love plants and enjoy telling their stories and sharing them with you. The plants that I report on most are natives or plants living here so long, everybody thinks they are natives. I would like to take this opportunity, since it’s Thanksgiving and #PlantsGiving, to tell you about some non-native plants you will probably use this week. They are spices used in pumpkin pies and muffins and breads. They are cinnamon and allspice.

My Ceylon cinnamon tree (Cinnamomum zeylandicum) and my allspice tree (Pimenta dioica) are tropical trees that live in my backyard during the warm months and inside the house the rest of the year. They are taller than I am, so the photos show their long, shiny, evergreen leaves instead of the whole tree. Cinnamon is a member of the Lauraceae Family like sassafras and bay leaves. Allspice is a member of the Myrtaceae Family like eucalyptus. Cinnamon can grow from 20 to 60 feet. I will definitely be keeping mine trimmed down to a manageable size. Some people are so surprised to find out the cinnamon powder is made from the inner bark of this tree, after it is striped off, bundled and allowed to ferment. The outer layer of bark is then scraped off and the inner bark is rolled into quills and allowed to dry. It is the second most popular spice in the USA, after black pepper. My allspice tree is native to the West Indies. Our ground allspice is made from the small green fruits that are picked in mid-summer and dried by the sun or in ovens. Its name reflects the fact that it has the aroma and flavor of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves combined.

Have a splendid #PlantsGiving. Some clues for your search:

  • Read labels, look for different types of gums in milk products and gluten-free baking mixes.
  • My favorite bread from Wegman’s has 17 different flours, seeds, and nuts. So, be vigilant!
  • Don’t forget herbs and spices.
  • There is corn starch in baking powder.
  • Check beverages for sugar and Stevia.
  • Don’t forget the wine!

Enjoy!!!

Susan Sprout is the author of the recurring series, Underfoot, on the NPC blog. Catch up on past issues of Underfoot: Introduction & BloodrootTrout Lily & ColtsfootBlue Cohosh & Dutchman’s BreechesGround Ivy & Forget-Me-NotsGoldthread & Wild GingerCommon Mullein & Sweet WoodruffAniseroot & Butterfly WeedMyself Jewelweed & SoapwortAmerican Pennyroyal & Great LobeliaBoneset & Common RagweedPokeweed & Blue ChicoryPrickly Cucumber & WintergreenBeech Drops & Partridge BerryPipsissewa & Nostoc, Witch Hazel.

Planning a #Plantsgiving

We interrupt your weekly issue of Underfoot to share this festive, botanical activity as a means of staying connected this Thanksgiving holiday, courtesy of Bucknell University.

To help get your (cranberry) juices flowing, Susan Sprout shares some #Plantsgiving tips and insight on some not-so-noticeable plants that are likely to be apart of your Thanksgiving meal.

© sonyakamoz / stock.adobe.com

Lewisburg, PA — Given concerns over COVID-19, people all over the U.S. are making the tough choice to avoid gathering in large groups this Thanksgiving. Bucknell Professor Chris Martinebiology, and his botanical colleagues suggest that one way to still bring everyone together for the holiday is to join them in the 2020 edition of #PlantsGiving, a social media campaign in which people challenge one another to count the number of plant species used in their Thanksgiving meal.

Biologists around the country have played along the last two years, but this year they want to include anyone who hopes to connect with people during this unusual holiday season. Students in Martine’s Bucknell courses this semester will report their families’ counts for homework, joining those who are participating in research in his lab this semester as well as students involved in The Bucknell Farm and the Lewisburg Community Garden. “It’s kind of the perfect assignment for this holiday,” Martine says. “But my real hope is that all sorts of other folks will join in. I am 100% certain that people will be really surprised by how quickly their plant numbers go up once they start counting.”

According to Martine, the typical meal can include 15 or 20 different plant species without much trying. Side dishes like potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn and green beans are obvious, but others may be a surprise. “We’ve had dozens of species reported from individual meals, with a dinner last year hosted by a professor at the University of Arizona that included 122 species!” he says. To join in, just count the plants you’ve used in your Thanksgiving meal and then use the #PlantsGiving hashtag to post your report on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. CONTACT: Martine, 570-577-1135, chris.martine@bucknell.edu@MartineBotany

Underfoot: Witch Hazel

By: Susan Sprout

Find out what’s underfoot with NPC member and environmental educator, Susan Sprout! Catch up on past issues of Underfoot: Introduction & BloodrootTrout Lily & ColtsfootBlue Cohosh & Dutchman’s BreechesGround Ivy & Forget-Me-NotsGoldthread & Wild GingerCommon Mullein & Sweet WoodruffAniseroot & Butterfly WeedMyself Jewelweed & SoapwortAmerican Pennyroyal & Great LobeliaBoneset & Common RagweedPokeweed & Blue ChicoryPrickly Cucumber & WintergreenBeech Drops & Partridge Berry, Pipsissewa & Nostoc.

Witch Hazel
When English colonists were introduced to this native shrub, they called it Witch Hazel. Hazel for the familiar trees they left in their homeland and Witch from the Anglo-Saxon root “wy” that means to twist or bend. Right now, this amazing deciduous shrub is blooming!

Look for their yellow fall leaves on thin branches in moist, rocky woods. I saw lots along Highland Lake Road. But hurry. Their egg-shaped, coarsely-toothed leaves fall when they bloom, and you can get a better view of the four pale yellow, strap-shaped petals.

Witch Hazel leaves

The flowers occur in bunches of three below the leaves. Sometimes, last spring’s seed capsules are still firmly attached near them. After this autumn’s blooms are pollinated by a variety of insects, fruit grows during the following spring. Inside the capsule two chambers develop, each with an individual seed. When mature, the seeds are forcibly shot out as the woody capsule splits open. The noise it makes gives the shrub another common name – Snapping Hazel.

Witch Hazel flowers along with last spring’s seed capsules.

The seeds will lie dormant where they land for two years before germinating. My bottle of distilled Witch Hazel is sitting on my desk right now as a reminder of the wonderful medicinal uses of the tincture made from its leaves and bark. Astringent and cooling on bruises, in cosmetic preparations, and ointments for hemorrhoids. There are four native species in America. Our local species is Hamamelis virginiana.

Click here to get to know Susan Sprout!

That’s a Wrap on the 2020 Stream Season!

As Todd’s picture demonstrates, the 2020 instream construction season for the Northcentral Stream Partnership looked a little different than in the past. Sure, there were hardhats and ear protection, but this year there were also masks. The Conservation Districts, PA Fish and Boat and PA DEP worked to get the logs drilled and rebar in, but there weren’t any volunteers helping out.

Masked up and ready to stabilize some stream banks!

We changed things up so we could still work to stabilize stream banks and improve local water quality. And we improved local water quality on over 2 miles of stream at over 9 different properties.

Changes were made to reduce the possible spread of COVID-19 and to try and keep everyone safe. However, the stream partnership worked together (like they always do) to figure out how to work with those changes and still get streambanks stabilized.

Given how many things didn’t go as planned this year, everyone in the stream partnership is amazed at how much we got done. There were hiccups along the way. One project had 2 skid steers break down and a track come off the third. There was also the project that a boulder (the size of a Mini Cooper) was discovered while putting in a stabilized stream crossing. However, those are “normal” hiccups that happen in some form every year.

This year projects have been completed on:

  • Sechler Run, Danville, Montour County (aka the Geisinger project!)
  • Turtle Creek, Lewisburg, Union County
  • Briar Creek, Berwick Columbia County
  • Schwaben Creek, Herndon, Northumberland County
  • Beaver Run, Danville, Montour County
  • Turkey Run, Mifflinburg, Union County
  • Limestone Run, Milton, Northumberland County
  • Mauses Creek, Montour County
  • West Branch Chillisquaque Creek, Montour County

The list of interested landowners on agriculturally impaired streams continues to grow. We’ll have a full schedule in 2021 (fingers crossed) and have plenty of planning and design work to keep everyone busy this fall and winter.

NPC Members Walk in Penn’s Woods

Since 2017, the Walk in Penn’s Woods partnership has been working to offer Pennsylvanians a statewide day of walks in the woods on the first Sunday in October. These walks provide an excellent opportunity to get out, have fun, and learn about Pennsylvania’s forests, to see forests in new ways, and to understand and appreciate the many values we hold for the woods.

Autumn in the Tioga State Forest.
Photo Credit: Bob Ross

Since many of the organizations that hosted a formal, group activity in the past were unable to do so this year (NPC included), the partners declared the entire month of October a Walk in Penn’s Woods – encouraging everyone to create their own woodland adventures! 

To help celebrate this initiative and inspire others to join in the fun, several NPC members shared some of their favorite places in Penn’s Woods!

Thank you to these members for sharing their appreciation for Penn’s Woods!

Underfoot: Pipsissewa (Spotted Wintergreen) & Nostoc (Star Jelly)

By: Susan Sprout

Find out what’s underfoot with NPC member and environmental educator, Susan Sprout! Catch up on past issues of Underfoot: Introduction & BloodrootTrout Lily & ColtsfootBlue Cohosh & Dutchman’s BreechesGround Ivy & Forget-Me-NotsGoldthread & Wild GingerCommon Mullein & Sweet WoodruffAniseroot & Butterfly WeedMyself Jewelweed & SoapwortAmerican Pennyroyal & Great LobeliaBoneset & Common RagweedPokeweed & Blue ChicoryPrickly Cucumber & Wintergreen, Beech Drops & Partridge Berry.

Pipsissewa, aka Spotted Wintergreen
This beautiful little native plant popped into view on a hike last week. Its shiny dark green leaves with white mid-ribs really stood out in the leaf litter of the oak – pine woods.

Pipsissewa, also known as Spotted Wintergreen.

Pipsissewa is a member of the Shinleaf family. I have found six  common names for it, and by their use, they could mistakenly place it in three totally different families. That is one good reason to use scientific names to identify plants! Chimaphila maculata is Greek for “winter-loving” and “spotted” which seems appropriate for an evergreen plant with the white blotches on its leaves. Small, creamy-white blossoms with five petals appear on a single eight-inch stem above the leaves in July and August. After the nodding clusters have been pollinated by insects, seed capsules begin to form that will contain seeds to be dispersed by the wind.

Pipsissewa showing seed capsule on the flower stem.

Pipsissewa is native to eastern North America and Central America. It grows from Canada, where it is endangered, all the way south to Panama. The word Pipsissewa comes from the Creek language and means “breaks into small pieces” for its medicinal properties because it was used to treat bladder stones. Science confirms diuretic and antibacterial activity.

Nostoc, aka Star Jelly
Ever heard of Nostoc? I hadn’t. What a shock to find out the handful of gummy, convoluted globules I found growing in a drainage ditch didn’t just fall from the sky overnight! It wasn’t there…it rained…it was there!

A plant not in any of my books. Its greenish color told me it had chlorophyll and would make its own food and give off oxygen. This amazing find is a kind of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, with microscopic filament-shaped colonies enclosed in gelatinous sheaths. Nostoc can be bluish-green, olive green, or brown; but, in dry conditions, it becomes an inconspicuous, crisp, brownish mat, not unlike the desiccated dog poo I mistook it for. Wet from rain, it plumped up and became more visible.

It has been growing on earth for about 3.5 billion years. It grows everywhere from Arctic regions to deserts. Its nitrogen fixing cells make it useful on reclamation sites by making the soil better for what will grow next. The chloroplasts containing chlorophyll in our plants today have their origins with cyanobacteria. Without them, our plants wouldn’t exist. We wouldn’t either.

Besides living through repeated patterns of freezing and thawing, it can survive intense solar radiation. It has survived numerous mass extinctions. It was once thought to have fallen from the sky, hence the common name Star Jelly. Maybe it hitched a ride on a meteorite!

Click here to get to know Susan Sprout!

Bar Bottom and a Lesson on Title Searches

by Renee’ Carey, NPC Executive Director

Back in June when NPC attended an auction to purchase the Bar Bottom property, we thought we needed to close in 30 days. However, it took a little longer than that.

When NPC purchases a property, we have an extended title search done. For a “normal” residential purchase a title search goes back 60 years. However, since we are usually purchasing a property that will be owned by a state agency for conservation and public recreation, we go back at least 100 years if not 150 years.

The 112-acre Bar Bottom property includes steep, forested hillsides, a trout stream, and a rocky cliff along Loyalsock Creek.

We do this to ensure we are “getting” all the rights and uses we think we are, and that we need.

For example, there were certain periods in history when large numbers of landowners separated the oil, gas, mineral, and/or coal rights from properties. A recent example can be seen with the Marcellus Shale gas boom a decade ago. A lot of people separated their oil and gas rights from the surface interests in their property.

If these oil, gas, mineral, or coal rights have been separated we need to determine if that could impact surface uses of the property. We and our conservation partners want to make sure the property can be used for the conservation and recreation purposes we are buying it for.

It’s not just oil, gas, mineral, and coal rights, however. We’ve also purchased a property in the past were a previous owner retained the “hunting rights.” In this case we had to show that the person with the rights was deceased and had not transferred or bequeathed the rights to anyone else.

Loyalsock Creek downstream from the Bar Bottom property.

While deeds should list all the exceptions, often, over time, exceptions aren’t repeated. Without doing a title search, you won’t know what has been separated from the surface interests, or how other people may be able to use the surface.

During the title search it became clear there were a couple of estates that needed to clarify who inherited the interest in this property. The seller of this property is actually 10 individuals with some varying percentage interest in ownership.

The sellers worked with legal counsel to prepare and file the appropriate paperwork. However, these things take time and we had to extend closing out past the 30 days. The important thing is it got done.

NPC took title to the property on October 6, 2020 – just about 4 months after the thrill of securing the property with the highest bid at auction!  Soon, we will begin working with the Bureau of Forestry (BOF), who will take over the permanent ownership of the property and manage it as part of the Loyalsock State Forest.

Underfoot: Beech Drops & Partridge Berry

By: Susan Sprout

Find out what’s underfoot with NPC member and environmental educator, Susan Sprout! Catch up on past issues of Underfoot: Introduction & BloodrootTrout Lily & ColtsfootBlue Cohosh & Dutchman’s BreechesGround Ivy & Forget-Me-NotsGoldthread & Wild GingerCommon Mullein & Sweet WoodruffAniseroot & Butterfly WeedMyself Jewelweed & SoapwortAmerican Pennyroyal & Great LobeliaBoneset & Common RagweedPokeweed & Blue Chicory, Prickly Cucumber & Wintergreen.

Beech Drops

Beech Drops are parasitic native plants that grow upon American beech tree roots. They lack chlorophyll and derive all of their nourishment from the beech roots through a specialized rootlike structure named a haustorium. It is underground and provides the lifegiving attachment to its host, without which the plant could not complete its lifecycle. As parasites go, this one is not known to cause significant harm to its host tree because it is short-lived.

Beech Drops stem with scales and flowers.

Beech Drops can grow from 5 to 15 inches tall. Their brownish-tan stems and branches blend in with the fallen leaves. I sometimes pass them by when not looking for them specifically. I was looking last week…and what a find! The flowers in the tiny leaf axils were open, and I could see their bright purple edges in the sunlight. The leaves are more like toothy scales, and the two types of flowers can be either pollinated or sterile. It was a treat.

Soon the seeds will be dispersed by rainfall and land on the ground where they will take several years before popping into view. Find them while you can. If you don’t, look for them on a winter walk, their dried up stems poking through the white snow.

Partridge Berry

Our native plant, Partridge Berry, is a low-growing, colonial plant that folks sometimes confuse with Wintergreen. Both are perennials, found in similar growing conditions, have shiny evergreen leaves and bright red berries that may stay on their stems throughout the winter. However, Partridge Berry leaves are different with a pale, yellowish mid-rib or central leaf vein. Wintergreen flowers hang under the leaves, whereas Partridge Berry’s twin white flowers form at the tip end of its creeping stem.

Twin flowers of Partridge Berry

The most unusual clue to identification of the Partridge Berry plant is the berry itself: it has two sets of calyx lobes because the double blooms, after being pollinated, will fuse into one berry. I know, “calyx lobes”? It’s a term botanists use…just think of what the bottom of an apple looks like only much smaller! Two flowers make one berry with a pair of…oh, all right…call them belly buttons! How cool is that!

This plant provides browse for birds, deer and mice. Women in many of the Native American tribes used this plant as an aid during childbirth. Whether you call it Squaw Vine, Twinflower, Partridge Berry or Mitchella repens, it is a really cool and interesting plant!

Click here to get to know Susan Sprout!

Underfoot: Prickly Cucumber & Wintergreen

By: Susan Sprout

Find out what’s underfoot with NPC member and environmental educator, Susan Sprout! Catch up on past issues of Underfoot: Introduction & BloodrootTrout Lily & ColtsfootBlue Cohosh & Dutchman’s BreechesGround Ivy & Forget-Me-NotsGoldthread & Wild GingerCommon Mullein & Sweet WoodruffAniseroot & Butterfly WeedMyself Jewelweed & SoapwortAmerican Pennyroyal & Great LobeliaBoneset & Common Ragweed, Pokeweed & Blue Chicory.

Prickly Cucumber

There has been a fight going on right under my nose…well, right under the bridge walkway. Aggressive, non-native Japanese Knotweed plants have taken over the Muncy Creek streambank, pushing and shading out our local native plants. One plant is fighting back – Prickly Cucumber, a member of the same family as pumpkins and squash.

It has five-lobed leaves and tendrils that help it hold fast as it climbs all over that tall knotweed. It is a fight for light by this feisty native plant. It keeps growing upward and spreading out its leaves over its adversary. You can identify Prickly Cucumber at this time of year by finding its fruit, a one to two inch fleshy, egg-shaped capsule covered with bristles.

Native Americans used its bitter root for a tonic. That bitterness is caused by cucurbitacins, biochemical compounds produced as defense against herbivores. Its defense against bullying plants that want to take over? Just keep climbing!

Wintergreen

Have you had a teaberry milkshake lately? So good, yum! The commercial flavoring for one is synthetically produced methyl salicylate. Before that, it was obtained from birch trees. But before that, this amazing flavor was distilled from the leaves of our native Wintergreen plant.

Wintergreen because it stays green in the winter like its other evergreen Heath family members like Mountain laurel, Huckleberries, and Cranberries. The plant spreads by runners forming small colonies of plants in poorer dry to wet soils in woods and clearings all the way from Canada to Georgia and west to Minnesota. Its nodding white flower grows at the leaf base in mid to late summer. Fertilized by this time of year, the flowers have grown into round, pinkish fruits that turn a bright scarlet among its dark green oval leaves when fully ripe. The fruits or capsules often remain on the plant until the next flowering season, if not eaten by wildlife like birds or deer (or me).

Historically, wintergreen was used to flavor teas, candies, medicines and chewing gum. Applied to the skin, it has also relieved aching muscles and rheumatism, all the while making a person smell like a yummy teaberry milkshake tastes!

Click here to get to know Susan Sprout!