Underfoot: Sharp-lobed Liverleaf

By: Susan Sprout

Sharp-lobed Liverleaf (Hepatica americana var. acuta), a member of the Buttercup Family, is a native plant of eastern North America, found from Nova Scotia to north Florida. What a treat to find its flower pushing up from small rhizomes on such a hairy stem!

Check out the hairy stem supporting the Liverleaf flower and its green bracts.

Although the colors of its sepals vary from white to blue to pink, they will all have three large green bracts supporting their single blossom on each stem.  Called sepals and not petals for this plant, they can number from six to twenty.

Last year’s three-lobed, evergreen leaves are still around after hiding under the snow we had. Their color has gone a mottled greenish-purple. In fact, people used to think they looked like a human liver, hence the names liverleaf and hepatica.

Leaves of Sharp-lobed Liverleaf

Historically, herbalists who healed according to the Doctrine of Signatures saw the leaves as a divine sign that they were supposed to be used to heal liver diseases. I found Liverleaf blooming in the rich woodlands of Sullivan County. If you go looking for them on a rainy day, they may not be open fully. Don’t confuse them with Spring Beauties whose smooth stem grows from small, rounded tubers and can have as many as 11 flowers on it.

Catch up on past issues of Underfoot!

Welcome, Sara Street!

Over the past few months, former NPC Land Steward, Tamara Wagner, has been training Sara Street to take over her role at NPC.  Tamara is embarking on a career change, but helped to get Sara up-and-running before her departure.  Together, they’ve visited several conservation easement sites and prepared for the year ahead!  We wish Tamara the best of luck, and welcome, Sara!

Get to know Sara

Hello everyone, I am the newest Land Steward Specialist at Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy! I look forward to visiting and learning about all of the conserved easements. I thoroughly enjoy walking through forests and meadows looking at plants and noticing what is blooming or experiencing change. I am enjoying this long drawn out spring with the yellow-green sugar maple samaras (baby winged seeds), red-orange red maple samaras, pink cherry blossoms, and white petals on the serviceberries.

Sara Street (Left) and Tamara Wagner (Right)

My educational background is in Landscape Architecture and Ecological Restoration. I am a Certified Arborist and I have my own business, Susquehanna Ecology Collaborative. I work in forestry, park management, municipal, and residential properties. My main tasks include invasive plant management, tree planting, shrub and perennial plantings, landscape design, property consultations, and tree injections. I enjoy gardening, propagating plants, hiking, and swimming in the Susquehanna River. I live in Muncy with my husband, Chad, who is also a Certified Arborist, and my son, Rowan, a 10th grade student at Muncy Jr/Sr High School.

Contact Sara Street at sstreet@npcweb.org.

Underfoot: Life on a Rock

By: Susan Sprout

 A huge bolder standing in a rather flat area of woods caught my eye on our Earth Day rambles. I knew it was a glacial erratic because there were no other big rocks nearby. Ripped out of its bed and plucked up by a moving ice sheet, it was unceremoniously dumped there as the glacier melted.

Glacial Erratic

Thousands of years later, it has become a microcosm of lichens, mosses, grasses and trees. The non-living environment of the rock was a stable platform or substrate for lichens, typically the first organisms to colonize bare rock. Their physical and chemical processes dissolved minerals and built up soil as they lived and died. Mosses began living on the rock next when sufficient soil was available. Then came grasses and shrubs. Living and dying there, they provided more humus and soil to the rocky top.

Moss and lichen thrive on the rock’s surface.

OK, confession time…what really caught my attention as I passed by the rock… were the American Beech trees growing on top of it, like candles on a cake! Happy B-Earth Day! May all of the ecosystems on earth keep working for all of the organisms that share the planet and make it livable for each other! Humans, take note.

Catch up on past issues of Underfoot!

It’s About Time

By: Susan Sprout

How do you personally mark the passage of time? By the day, week, or month? By the seasons? By special family projects, events, or birthdays? From one Earth Day to another? No matter how you measured, Spring 2020 to Spring 2021 was an unusual year. For me, the time this year swelled and compressed from periods of inactivity to hyperactivity as it passed, slowing down indoors and speeding up near a deadline. Besides making music with my friends, one thing that kept me functioning and moderately sane, were  plants…those super wonderful plants that grabbed my attention on walks and hikes and forest rambles…the ones I photographed, researched and shared with you weekly. Now, many of them are already popping forth from their winter quarters and beginning to bloom! Wow! That was a quick year!

OK, maybe looking backwards!

A collection of some of the plant’s from the Underfoot series shared throughout the past year!

However, looking forward, please think about using native plants and trees in your yard and garden. Did you know that they have evolved over millions of years here and have specific habitat niches? Many have specific mycorrhizal partners in the soil that can more easily take minerals from underground and make them available to plants’ roots. They can then pass on the energy created in their leaves to the insects with which they share an evolutionary history. These insects are food for other native insects, spiders, birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals. Feed our native wildlife with food plants that they can metabolize. Recharge the food web in your yard! We will all be glad you did!

Find out what’s underfoot with NPC member and environmental educator, Susan Sprout!

Underfoot Directory
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 & NostocWitch HazelPlantsgivingBlack Jetbead & Decorating with WinterberryWild Bergamot & Bald Cypress TreeGalls & BittersweetAmerican Beech & BagwormSeedpods & American ChestnutNorthern Bayberry & Sweet FernBroom-sedge & Common Motherswort, Snow Drops.

The Worlds End Challenge

Last year NPC had planned to lead a group hike on the Butternut Trail at Worlds End State Park to celebrate the 30th anniversary.  Portions of the Butternut Trail traverse NPC’s ‘Flynn’ partnered acquisition.  NPC purchased the ‘Flynn’ property, over 600 acres of prime forest land, in 1993 to form the northern and eastern boundaries of Worlds End State Park.  While planning the hike, we realized the Endless Mountains Heritage Region (EMHR) was planning a similar hike on the same weekend as part of their Sullivan County Hikes and Bikers series:  The Worlds End Challenge.  So, naturally, we teamed up! 

Of course, the event was postponed last year due to COVID-19. Recently, EMHR reached out and asked if we’d lead the hike this year as part of The Worlds End Challenge. Their two-day event, May 22 – May 23, challenges hikers to visit every Worlds End State Park vista/overlook over the course of the weekend. 

Due to COVID-19 guidelines and current restrictions on EMHR/DCNR events, the event is limited to 50 people, so sign up fast! All guidelines, including masks and social distancing, will be applied where necessary.

Registration is $10. For more information and how to register, please visit:  www.emheritage.org/events.

Butternut Vista

For more information and how to register, please visit:  www.emheritage.org/events.

It’s official! NPC adds 112 Acres to the Loyalsock State Forest

It’s official!  The Bureau of Forestry has taken over ownership of the ‘Bar Bottom’ property.  This 112-acre addition to the Loyalsock State Forest has not only expanded public access to Bar Bottom Hollow and the surrounding public land, but also helped conserve the overall natural beauty of the Loyalsock Valley!

When the bidding started at the auction for the ‘Bar Bottom’ property last summer, THIS is the moment that Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy (NPC) Executive Director, Renee’ Carey, was holding her breath for.  This full circle moment, from recognizing the community value and conservation significance of a piece of land, to ensuring that it will be cared for and available for generations to come.  And members of NPC made it all possible!  THANK YOU!

The banks of ‘Bar Bottom’ bordering the Loyalsock Creek. Photo credit: Ellen Shultzabarger

The incorporation of this land into the Loyalsock State Forest is significant because it makes it easier for outdoor recreationalists to access Bar Bottom Hollow and will help with management of this block of State Forest Land.  Located east of Jacoby Falls (another popular hiking destination that NPC helped conserve access to), Bar Bottom Hollow boasts several spectacular waterfalls throughout the gorge. Hikers can access the Hollow by hiking in from Jacoby Falls or Wallis Run (please note that there is no public way to access the property from the Route 87 side of the Creek).

A cold-water stream in which trout reproduce naturally also winds through the land before entering the Loyalsock Creek.  As part of the State Forest system, this water resource will be stewarded for the benefit of the wildlife that need it and the people that enjoy it.

To date, NPC has purchased over 6,400 acres to contribute to public land in northcentral Pennsylvania. In addition, NPC holds 47 conservation easements and 1 facade easement on over 4,735 acres.  Learn more about these projects.

Controlled Burn at Cavanaugh Access

The area of the Cavanaugh Access that now has a nature trail on it was once a marshy wetland that was changed to allow farming (celery and maybe lettuce), and further changed when a railroad was constructed down through the middle of it. Some of the vegetation that is there now is native, but some of it isn’t native. It isn’t native to Pennsylvania or perhaps even North America, but it’s sure there now!

One way to try to control and in some cases eliminate non-native vegetation is through controlled burns. These are not wildfires, but fires set during specific weather conditions in specific times of the year to add fire back into an ecosystem. This fire can allow native vegetation to re-set and possibly remove non-native vegetation. Fire was part of the ecosystem in Pennsylvania for thousands of years and isn’t as common as it once was.

As humans we have built things (houses, communities, etc.) and changed land cover (there’s a lot less forest cover than there used to be) so that fires are extinguished. In some places and in some instances a controlled fire can help an ecosystem re-start and help plants do what they are naturally designed to do.

The fire at the Cavanaugh Access earlier this week was a controlled burn conducted by the Bureau of Forestry and their trained staff. They train their staff to both use fire to manage land and fight fires when it’s accidentally started (lightening strikes, wayward campfire, etc.). One of the major causes of forest fires in Pennsylvania, however, is debris burning. A careless person burning trash or yard waste can be responsible for causing wildfires that burn thousands of acres of valuable Pennsylvania forests.

As you travel the Pine Creek Trail past the property, make it a point to watch how the property changes. Pay attention to when the property starts to get green and compare it to other areas along that stretch of the trail. Watch what vegetation comes back in, and what doesn’t. Enjoy watching nature do what it does best.

The Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy Unveils New Logo

Season of Change

Spring.  A season of change, growth, and opportunity.  It brings with it the hope that from a small seedling can grow the tallest hemlock in the forest.  As its roots strengthen and its limbs stretch wide, its role in the forest evolves too.  Now it can provide shade, stability, nourishment, habitat, and help others grow as well.

Much like the seedling, the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy (NPC) started as an idea and grew. 

From that very first town hall meeting to NPC’s first “official member” (a posthumous ‘thank you’, again, to Spencer Kraybill for paving the way!). 

From creating and enhancing public access to places like the beloved Pine Creek Rail Trail, to improving our local water quality through numerous streambank stabilization projects. 

From growing a conservation easement program responsible for stewarding over 4,700 acres across Northcentral PA, to most recently adding 112-acres of publicly owned land to the Loyalsock State Forest with the ‘Bar Bottom’ acquisition. Over the past 31 years, NPC’s legacy and conservation impact have continued to grow. 

Why the Change

Members and supporters of NPC, have helped do some amazing things over the years!  And just as NPC’s membership grew, so did NPC’s programs and ability to conserve our region’s natural resources for the well-being of our communities and generations to come. 

For the past several months, NPC’s board and staff have been working to create a new logo for the organization that is a more comprehensive visual representation of NPC’s mission and scope of projects. 

The original logo of the singular tree has served NPC well, and we are grateful for the roots that it helped NPC establish.  The new logo tells the story of everything NPC has grown to be.

A Message from NPC Board Chair, Tiffani Kase

“The Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy (NPC) logo has a new look, although the hard-working organization remains the same!  The new logo represents the expanded scope of NPC’s conservation impact across the region, and we are so grateful for the ongoing support of our membership.  Because of you, we are able to continue taking on projects, and conserving lands that support the environmental well-being, and recreational needs of, our communities.  Thank you so much for all of your support, and we hope that you enjoy the new logo as much as we do!”

Tiffani Kase, NPC Board Chair

NPC Today

From generational family farms, to working forests, and landscapes rich with history – NPC’s robust conservation easement program and partnered acquisitions help ensure that our natural resources are cared for and stewarded for many years to come. 

As a founding member of the Northcentral Stream Partnership, NPC is helping to bring the region’s local water resources back to health while maintaining a working agricultural landscape.  The Partnership’s success is currently being used as a model across the state as part of the ongoing efforts to improve the water quality throughout the entire Chesapeake Bay.

Food. Water.  Jobs.  Education. Heritage. Recreation. Nature nourishes our communities in so many ways.  This past year has demonstrated to all of us just how vital having access to the outdoors is for our mental and physical wellbeing.  NPC remains committed to creating and enhancing access to the hiking and water trails, fishing holes, vistas, and other recreational opportunities that make Northcentral PA such a special place to live, work, play, and visit. 

Underfoot: Broom-sedge & Common Motherswort

By: Susan Sprout

Broom-sedge is a clump-forming bluestem grass – it’s not a sedge at all! Native to southeastern United States, it can survive northward to the Great Lakes. Growing two to three feet tall in a narrow, upright vase-shape, its withered vegetation which has withstood the winter is more obvious and frequently more striking than in summer.

Member of the Grass Family, POACEAE, the genus of bluestem grasses is Andropogon, the Greek names for “man’s beard”. Seed earlets with a long hairy bristle and feathery stalks give these grasses a soft whitish color when the sun shines on them. Their hairy appearance diminishes as winds and small birds remove seeds.

You can find clumps of this perennial grass scattered here and there across sunny pastures, in old fields ,and along open woods. They are invaders of disturbed land and have dense fibrous roots helpful against erosion, but may also be an indicator of poor, infertile soils.

In Australia, our broom-sedge is known as “whiskey grass” because it was used as packaging around bottles of American whiskey and accidentally introduced there!

Common Motherswort
Keep your gloves on when you reach out to touch this plant’s burr-like seed pods whirled around its stem! Common Motherswort has a prickly quality about it, both during its growing season and as an attractive addition to the winter snowscape.

Its square stem appears to be interrupted with clusters of small tubes, working their way to the top of an almost five foot flower spike. If you look closely, you can see the tiny, but determined, prickles surrounding each tube that had originally held seeds. Identified as a medicine plant since the time of the ancient Greeks, Motherswort was moved around a lot in Europe and Asia. It came to America with colonists as a useful plant for female disorders, hence the name. The “Wort” part comes from an Old English word meaning root or plant.

A member of the Mint Family, LAMIACEAE, Motherswort has the required square stem, opposite leaves, and scented leaves. Its scientific name, Leonurus cardiaca, indicates that some folks thought its tall, leafy stem resembled a lion’s tail. Think of that if you go to pull this plant from its preferred habitat of stream banks and roadsides, old fields and railroad cinders!

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 BerryPipsissewa & NostocWitch HazelPlantsgivingBlack Jetbead & Decorating with WinterberryWild Bergamot & Bald Cypress TreeGalls & BittersweetAmerican Beech & BagwormSeedpods & American Chestnut, Northern Bayberry & Sweet Fern.

Melting Snow on the Mind

It sure has been a thrilling season for cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and whatever else your outdoor winter activity of choice might be!  And Northcentral PA was the place to be for outdoor recreation enthusiasts – not just for the snowfall – but for the access to trails and land available for the public to enjoy.

The Pine Creek Rail Trail, in particular, saw a lot of action this month.  NPC members helped conserve several of the access points – like Cavanaugh and Tomb Flats – to this beloved trail.  Now doesn’t that good feeling just warm you right up?!

But, as much as we enjoyed all the winter views, we did pass by a couple other NPC projects and properties in February that had us longing for springtime…

The cold weather didn’t stop someone from enjoying a stroll along Sechler Run! We’re sure looking forward to comparing this snowy scene to blooming wildflowers at this streambank stabilization project site!
Daydreaming about splashing around in this local watering hole and paddling Pine Creek. We can’t wait until the snow melts so that you can take advantage of the new parking area and access improvements that were installed at the canoe launch in Avis last fall!

With the warmer temperatures today and subsequent melting snow, we’re not just daydreaming about spring blooms and paddles, but also taking a moment to appreciate the importance of snow and forests to Pennsylvania’s stream and groundwater.

The melting snow also means we’ll be able to resume more in-stream project work with the Northcentral Stream Partnership, in the coming weeks!

What does melting snow mean to you?!