Some survey work was done last week at State Game Lands 134 (along Plunketts Creek in Lycoming County) to get information on the elevation at the site with the berm removed. As you may recall NPC partnered with the PA Game Commission, the 333rd US Army Reserve Engineering Unit, and numerous other groups to reconnect Plunketts Creek to its floodplain by removing an earthern berm along the Creek.
Mark and Trent with BluAcres found the control point from the survey work during the design phase and set up the equipment.
Trent found the previous survey points and collected data at those points.
Trent even humored me and held up the staff so the tip was “sitting” on what would have been the top of the berm.
They’ll download the data. There will be some computer magic and then there will be a pretty new map. This work is to help the agencies who issued permits that the work resulted in the correct grade – the stream is reconnected to its floodplain.
Mr. Crabapple, a stump in our backyard, has grown a braid!
OK, that’s what I call it. Normal folks would probably
call it shelf fungi.
Turkey Tails is their common name, reflecting the
wonderful concentric color zones of tan, brown, gray and cinnamon that look
like fanned turkey tails. These are one of the most frequent types of fungi
found in our woods and throughout the world.
Until the 1960’s, fungi were categorized as plants. We
now know, from biochemical and DNA studies, they are more closely related to
animals than plants and are placed in a separate kingdom which includes yeasts,
molds, mushrooms, and mildews.
Turkey Tails are saprobes, decomposers of dead hardwood
logs and stumps. I see them all the time when I hike. Ah well, I actually can’t
see the fungi’s main body, the mycelium, made up of microscopic thread-like
hyphae, because they live deep inside what they are recycling – secreting
digestive enzymes to break down the wood molecules and absorb them as building
blocks in order to keep growing. What I do see are the fruit bodies formed to
make and release their reproductive spores.
The white underside of the Turkey Tail is covered with
very tiny holes from which the white spores are released, usually in fall or
winter. The thin, flexible “shelves” can grow up to four inches in
diameter and may overlap in layers as their fruit bodies grow.
I am always amazed by their soft, velvety exterior when I
check them under a magnifier. Mr. Crabapple thinks they look cool! Little does
2020 was NPC’s 30th anniversary, but we couldn’t
celebrate in person. We re-grouped. Join in celebrating NPC’s 30+1 Anniversary!
September 15, 2021 5pm cash bar 6pm dinner Herman & Luther’s (787 State Route 87, Montoursville, PA) Cocktail hour, live music, and a buffet style dinner. Cost is $45 per person with reservations due by September 7, 2021
The trailing, woody stems of this native plant like to
grow sprawled out across my favorite bog. Hiking in is like walking on a thick
Their shiny green leaves of three won’t raise welts
though to some folks, they may resemble poison ivy.
Swamp Dewberry or Bristly Dewberry (Rubus hispidus)
is a member of the Rose Family – like the other berries we love to eat during
the summer. Unfortunately, the ripe fruit of Dewberry doesn’t taste that great
to humans. Song birds, game birds, other mammals, yes. To us, the taste is
The small, white, five-petaled flowers have finished
blooming by now, and the ones pollinated by small bees and flies have grown
into small, individual druplets that are clumped together to form the aggregate
fruits we call Dewberries! They start out white, then green, then red and
finally purplish-black when totally ripe. You may find all of these colors at
one time or another on their slender and bristly red twigs.
Look for swamp Dewberries growing where the soil is acid and damp and the sunlight is dappled. Their tendency to form dense thickets also provides nesting habitat and protective cover for birds and smaller animals. The favor is returned when seeds of the fruits are dispersed into new areas.
The 1st Platoon of the
333rd Engineering Company of the US Army Reserves pulled out of Proctor
Saturday morning, August 21, 2021 after nearly 3 weeks of work. The 30 soldiers
worked on their equipment skills, teamwork, and project management while
removing an earthen berm along Plunketts Creek at State Game Lands 134.
The berm was built to protect the site
when it was a propagation farm for the PA Game Commission raising turkeys then
pheasants. Since the farm is no longer being used in that way, the berm could
be removed to allow the stream access to its floodplain. This will provide
ecological benefits and community benefits by reducing flood impacts.
Over the course of the 3 weeks the soldiers worked to pull apart the berm, haul some of the material to a nearby dirt and gravel road project on State Game Lands, create small stockpiles, grade the area to allow for connection between the stream and its floodplain, and seed the area and install jute matting (a coconut fiber grid material). Additionally, they improved their skills in operating the heavy equipment, had training with night vision goggles, practiced building earthen structures that are used to help tanks absorb impacts (a tank defilade), and worked as a team. Many of the soldiers are new to the platoon and this was the first summer training they had attended with the group.
Over the course of the project partners
such as the Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association, Loyalsock Creek Men’s Club,
and American Legion Post 104 (the Eugene Grafius Post in Montoursville) toured
the site to see how the project was progressing and meet the onsite leadership
implementing the project. There was a common comment heard during each tour, “that’s
a lot of dirt.”
It was a lot of dirt, but the
soldiers got the job done even with the rainy weather that changed site
conditions and created some challenges. After one rain and wind storm, the
soldiers removed 30 trees from local roadways to keep local traffic moving and
allow the soldiers hauling material to the Camp Mountain Road/Huckle Run site
to safely return to the main base.
Over the next several weeks the seed
the soldiers spread will germinate and the Pennsylvania Game Commission will work
to close out the permits needed for the work. The blue silt sock the soldiers
installed on their first day will stay in place until the permits are released.
For those of you who do your walking in town, here’s a plant you may have seen growing from pavement cracks and then sprawling out like a mat over the sidewalk. It is Spotted Spurge, Chamaesyce maculata, a member of the Euphorbiaceae or Spurge Family.
This interesting little plant is a native annual that
blooms from May to October. Its paired, dark green leaves are slightly toothed
and hairy. They stand out against the slender, red stem which is also covered
with fine hairs. On closer examination, you may find a reddish blotch on each
Be careful if you pull off a piece of the plant to look
at – the milky latex that seeps out of the torn stem is a caustic skin
irritant. Yes, I itched from it because I placed it on the desk where I do
research and write. Yes, before I did the research and found out about the
Male and female flowers grow cupped in structures called
cyathias that are produced in the leaf forks. You really need a magnifier to
see their white or pinkish petal-like appendages and the hairy three-lobed
capsule that the pollinated female flower develops. Each valve of the capsule
contains a single seed that is ridged and pitted.
You may see resident flocks of Mourning Doves pecking at the plants. These seeds are hydrophilic, by the way. When wet, they can adhere to surfaces – like shoes of passers-by. Spotted Spurge is known in all of the states except Alaska. It has even been introduced to Hawaii.
The 333rd Army Reserve
Engineering Company has been busy over the last 2 weeks at Plunketts Creek. The
soldiers are working with the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Northcentral
Pennsylvania Conservancy on a project to reconnect Plunketts Creek to its floodplain
at State Game Lands 134. An earthen berm was used in the past at the site to
protect the birds being raised by the Game Commission when the site was a
After a few equipment issues, the
soldiers got underway and have the berm removed at the farm site. They are
working on the final grade and expect to begin hydroseeding (spraying a mix of
seed, mulch, and water instead of spreading seed by hand and then covering with
hay or straw) and installing the jute mat (it looks like a grid of coconut
fiber twine and adds stabilization until the seeds germinate and grasses and
flowers start to grow) in the next couple of days.
The material from the berm is
going one of two places. Some of the material is being hauled by the soldiers
up to a road project on Camp Mountain Road. Material will also be stockpiled on
the farm site for future by the Game Commission.
Camp Mountain Road has become
entrenched, the driving surface of the road is lower than the berm along the
side. On dirt and gravel roads it’s especially important to let rain and snow
melt drain off the road not run down the road. As water runs down the road it
picks up more sediment. The sediment can wash into streams resulting in water
quality problems. By bringing the driving surface back up and adding drainage
the road will have less impacts on water quality and people using the road will
have a smoother trip.
The material being stockpiled on
site will be out of the floodway. It will also be hydroseeded and vegetation
will be allowed to grow on it to keep the dirt from washing off. The Game
Commission can use this material on future road improvement projects in the
Rainstorms on Thursday, August 12,
brought damaging winds to the area. Trees were down on the roads and blocking
neighbors’ driveways. The soldiers who
were at the farm recognized the downed trees would prevent the soldiers hauling
material and those at the road site from returning to the farm site. They
quickly got their equipment organized and began removing trees from the road
and opened driveways in the immediate area. The Sergeant reported they removed
Residents in the area commented, “The Army was wonderful to the
community of Proctor…They didn’t even blink an eye and were out helping clear
the roadways and even helping residents clear trees!”
While the rain provided an
opportunity for the soldiers to work on different skills than they had been and
allowed them to practice a quick pivot in mission, it also made things too wet
to haul material to the road site for the rest of the day. The soldiers are
working with the wet conditions and using it as an opportunity to train some of
the newer soldiers on how changing site conditions impact operations.
On Friday, August 13 Lieutenant
Colonel Reuben Trant visited the site to review the work and gain a better
understanding of the training underway. The project is being undertaken through
Department of Defense’s Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) program. The
program is designed to assist local communities with improvement projects while
also providing the military with training opportunities that build their skills
and ready them for deployment.
Lieutenant Colonel Trant was
impressed with both the amount of work the soldiers had done and the amount of
training and operating hours the soldiers were gaining. (He also commented
several times how beautiful the area is)
The Lieutenant Colonel noted that
IRT projects are a win-win. The host community and project partners have a
project completed and the soldiers get training time.
The soldiers will continue working
for the upcoming week. They will be pulling out on Saturday, August 21 to
return to Reading, PA.
Last week you saw a white steeple, the bloom of a
Ural False Spiraea. This week, here are the lovely pink steeples of a TRUE
spiraea – Steeplebush or Spiraea tomentosa.
This woody shrub, a member of the Rose Family, is
a native perennial ranging from Canada to North Carolina. Look for it in
sunny wet meadows, moist old fields, and pastures. The plant pictured was
growing in an acid bog, carpeted with mosses and low blueberries, within a
broad area circled by hemlocks and black spruces – and way off the beaten path.
Immediately the bright pink blossoms spiking upward caught my eye as I
shouldered my way through the dimness of the low evergreen branches and out
into the open. Wow…took my breath away…the flower clusters ruled the green
of everything else.
This is not a tall plant – two to four feet –
with short-stemmed leaves, oval and toothed, dark green, and leathery, arranged
alternately on the tough stems. They usually grow unbranched and are crowned
with terminal clusters made up of tiny, five-petaled flowers that open from the
top down. The fruit is found in five tiny brown pods, each with a single seed
that will drop when the dry pods split open.
Tomentosa, a part of its scientific
name, refers to the matted hairs found at different places on the plant – under
leaves, on stems, on fruit pods, and especially on first year stems.
As you check out Steeplebush in your field
guides, don’t be misled by different plants that have the same common names.
This one is also known as Meadowsweet and Hardhack. I suspect the later refers
to the tough stems farmers dealt with when cutting them out of their pastures –
to no avail!
It is TRUE – this False Spiraea came to us from the Ural Mountains of
West Central Russia, a particular range that marks part of the boundary between
Europe and Asia.
It is TRUE that this plant is False Spiraea. True Spiraea plants have
toothed single leaves up to two and one half inches long on their plant stems.
False Spiraea has leaves that are at least a foot long, made up of thirteen to
twenty-one toothed leaflets that each grow to four inches long.
It is TRUE that the leaves of False Spiraea are very similar to the long
feather-shaped or pinnately compound leaves of American Mountain Ash, (Sorbus
americanum), a native tree that can grow to thirty feet tall. Consequently,
its scientific name, Sorbaria sorbifolium, means it has leaves like
Sorbus. Both are members of the Rose Family.
It is TRUE that False Spiraea , a perennial growing to eight feet in
height, can and does spread aggressively sideways in loose soil. This can be a positive quality because it
helps control erosion on banks and slopes likely to get washed away. I found
Ural False Spiraea on Dunwoody Road driving along Bear Creek. It has its work
cut out for it, as this road has been washed out quite a few times!
What caught my eye were the lovely four to ten
inch tall, steeple-shaped clusters of tiny, white flowers. They form on the ends of new wood in early
summer and leave dry, brown steeples when the blooming is finished.
I like lichens- that’s what Smooth Rock Tripe (Umbilicaria
mammulata) is – an amazing example of mutualism between a species of fungus
and a species of algae or cyanobacteria.
This relationship creates fascinating possibilities for
Fungus is the bulk of a vegetative body that provides
shape, form and protection from total desiccation, while it receives nutrients
in the form of sugars photosynthetically
created by the algae or cyanobacteria layered inside. This is a win-win
arrangement that allows them both to occupy extremely adverse environmental
habitats, like Arctica, Antarctica, and deserts where they grow on many
I found a lot of it growing on the rocks at Canyon Vista.
Smooth Rock Tripe is one kind of leafy lichen that grows from a single
attachment at its center, like a navel. It has a disc-shaped thin body called a
thallus that is gray to reddish-brown to greenish when wet on top, but black
and bumpy underneath. It may grow to the
size of a dinner plate under optimal conditions, but it will take decades at a
growth rate of 2 to 5 millimeters a year, less than a quarter of an inch!
Stories tell of soldiers at Valley Forge during the
winter of 1777 – 1778 and various
explorers, trappers, and adventurers having been saved from starvation by
eating rock tripe, a practice probably handed down from Native Americans.
Presoaking to remove bitterness and boiling for hours are said to soften its
leather-like texture into softer, edible protein that contains one-third more
calories than an equal amount of cornflakes. I’ll take the cornflakes. I like
lichens a lot – and am hoping I won’t be required to eat any of them!