Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Monarch Butterfly article appears on Homeschool Montgomery Blog

I'm excited to announce that Homeschool Montgomery and Homeschool Frederick, two great online magazines in the area, have published an article of mine about monarch butterflies!

The timing was impecable. As soon as I finished reading my emails this morning I looked out the window and saw two monarch caterpillars on the milkweed. We also found several large black swallowtail caterpillars when we were cleaning the vegetable garden out last night.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

More Native Plant Sale Info

This weekend, as I noted earlier, will be kind of the kick off for Native Plant Sales in our region, as Irvine Nature Center up near Baltimore will have its local great event.

There are several other sales of note, however. Here's a basic round up. If you know of another feel free to let me know and I'll post it here.

Sept 10 & 11

Environmental Concern

St. Micheal's, MD


Sept 18

Greenspring Gardens VA


Sept 18

Chesapeake Ecology Center

Annapolis, MD

There are also several more listed at the MD Native Plant website.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sligo Creek's Flood waters surpass the gauge mark

Last week another tremendous storm ripped its way through our region, leaving in its wake a barrage of downed branches and flooded streets, yards and basements.

Clair Garman, who maintains the Friends of Sligo Creek website, noted that the flow rate where the gauge sits just above Maple Avenue in Takoma Park went from the normal rate of 1.2 cubic feet per second at 6:15am to 2,350 cubic feet per second at 7:30am that morning. That's actually the maximum value that can be recorded by the device. Several who visited the site later pointed out that the storm surge probably surpassed that number, but the gauge simply couldn't record the measurements.

To see the data from that morning for yourself, go to the USGS waterdata site:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Let the Shopping Begin: Native Plant Sale Season Opens

This is likely to be the first of many such notices for the next couple of months. With fall being the best time to plant, everyone seems to be hosting plant sales.

Among them all, the one at Irvine is my favorite, though. Partly this is because I used to work there and actually at one point had to organize this event. But mostly it is because I really love the vendors that turn out at this sale. All top quality people with top quality plants and loads of great garden info to offer.

Irvine is just up the road aways, north of Baltimore. One bonus to going to this sale and seminar: you'll have a chance to see their new green building! Don't forget to bring a check book, since most vendors do not accept credit cards!

Note that if you pay to attend the Irvine Native Plant Seminar, you can get into the sale earlier.

Irvine Native Plant Sale

Saturday August 21, 2010
9am - 4pm
for more info you can also call: 443-738-9200

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Turn In Your Stinky Old Mower, Get One that Runs on Batteries

Those folks up in Baltimore are once again working to put more electric, battery-powered mowers into the hands of citizens. This Saturday they're teaming up with the Neuton company. For details go to:


Past events have been so popular that this time they've rented out an area of Camden Yards Stadium parking lot, and they're taking reservations.

I only wish we could get an event like this going in Montgomery County!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Brookside Nature Center Still Closed From Storm Damage of July 25

My friends at Brookside Nature Center in Wheaton say they hope to reopen this weekend. Their building has been closed since July 25, when a huge electrical storm made matchsticks of many trees in Wheaton Regional Park. The county was forced to cancel several summer day camp sessions at the park and many popular public programs in order to rebuild and dig out from the damage.

Brady Hartley, a MNCPPC naturalist who works at Brookside NC sent me a link to some photos she took the day after, when the storm subsided. Crews continue to work hard on the clean up, and she tells me that the roof damage has been repaired and carpenters are replacing the steps damaged by a fallen tree. They have made substantial progress since her photos were taken, which is a very good thing indeed.

Next door, Brookside Gardens also lost more than a dozen large trees. A prolonged power loss also meant that the popular Wings of Fancy exhibit was unable to open for four days. “The shut down has severely affected our visitor experience – disappointing many visitors wishing to see our fantastic butterfly exhibit and diminishing a significant source of revenue that helps us fund our garden and educational programs,” said an email sent out on the Thursday following the storm.

Ecologists call the storm that caused all this trouble a kind of “disturbance.” Ecological disturbance can come in many forms. Elephants, for example, rip up trees in Africa when they go on a rampage. Hurricanes criss-cross Florida in late summer sometimes. Fires, tornados, and even volcanoes erupting… all of these are “disturbance events” that help to transform ecosystems all over the globe.

The ecosystems which experience disturbance are full of opportunistic plants and animals. One of the most famous of these is the pines in the Western US that will only open to drop seeds once a fire has heated their cones to a certain temperature. Less famous here in the eastern Mid-Atlantic are those seeds and root stocks that wait and wait for sunshine. When a tree goes down, it opens up opportunity for them to sprout and take center stage, so to speak. Where once only shade loving plants would thrive, a tree seedling or flowering perennial suddenly makes it way out of the soil and begins to grow. Meadows open up and the cycle of forest succession turns around again. Where once it was dark cool shade, suddenly warm open sunshine provides nectar rich plants that butterflies and bees will not doubt soon enjoy. The next generation of trees reach out for the sunshine, too, and begin to take strong root.

To everything, turn, turn, turn there is a season, turn, turn turn…

But honestly, when you live in an urban area, though, tree losses due to storms are hard to witness, and no amount of soothing harmonies from the sixties seem to help ease the ache of watching a particularly lovely oak, hickory or maple that has been around for fifty years or more fall in a mere matter of moments.

If your yard only measures a few feet across and you spend a lot of time in the local park walking under the trees, you know them all like friends. The tree where the trail turned in an elbow angle, the hollow place 15 feet up where the flying squirrels raised their young, the hickory that filled a whole spot of the park with butter yellow leaves each October…. Watching them fall to the ground is upsetting. A heightened awareness of the fact that the forest is dynamic, ever-changing and on an agenda stretching beyond our lifetimes is a bit unsettling.

Because both Brookside and Wheaton Regional are both placed square in the middle of urban development, they provide respite for both animals eager to find habitat and humans anxious to find refreshment for the mind, soul and body. Their trees make life here a bit easier, a bit greener, a bit cleaner and a bit more bearable. Losing so many trees at once is not really something we want to happen on a frequent basis.

And while I have no doubt that interesting things will come up in the new pockets of sunshine, I also worry about the already tight budgets of our parks. There are no new pockets of revenue out there, ready to sprout. One can only hope for the best and advocate for the future of these two important community assets.

And I suppose, keep planting trees wherever and whenever possible.