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Windswept Bog Unicorn root

July 18, 2019 / Comments Off on Windswept Bog Unicorn root

This summer, with reduced mowing at the Windswept Cranberry Bog on Polpis Road, you may have noticed a field of towering white flowers in the fields surrounding the cranberry bogs near Stump Pond. The white spikes are the flower stalks of an unusual native wildflower called “colic-root,” “stargrass,” or “unicorn root” (Aletris farinosa). This is…

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What’s in Your Pond?

June 14, 2019 / Comments Off on What’s in Your Pond?

The answer to that question might surprise you. Ponds are hotspots for insects, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. The combination of wildlife and ever-changing lush landscapes also attracts the human eye. We are fortunate on Nantucket; while sometimes we have “too much of a good thing” in terms of over-exuberant pond vegetation, most of our aquatic…

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Early Spring Botany: Into the Thicket

March 14, 2019 / Comments Off on Early Spring Botany: Into the Thicket

As winter brightens into spring and we all suffer through the “spring forward” time change, the trees and shrubs in our landscape are beginning to awaken from their winter dormancy. But until bud burst, you can still get out there and learn to recognize more of our Nantucket Flora in winter condition — let’s hope,…

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Winter Botany: Twigs and Buds

February 6, 2019 / Comments Off on Winter Botany: Twigs and Buds

During the colder winter months, many of our trees are “closed for the season.” Like island businesses, trees will have an “opening date” sometime in spring when flower buds will pop and leaves will unfurl. Exploring the forest in winter can be a fun way to see another facet of island ecology and learn to…

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A Little Winter Color

January 4, 2019 / Comments Off on A Little Winter Color

Even in winter, when browns, greys or sage greens of lichens dominate the island color palette, you can still find some vivid evergreens while walking the trails of conservation properties around the island. Several species have red berries to add even more visual interest. The crimson/dark green color scheme is apparently a successful evolutionary trait…

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Winter Botany: Marcescent Leaf Mysteries

December 3, 2018 / Comments Off on Winter Botany: Marcescent Leaf Mysteries

If you happen to be wandering through Squam Swamp or Squam Farm as autumn gives way to winter, you may notice that while most of the trees have already shed their foliage, oaks (Quercus spp.) and American beech (Fagus grandifolia) may still retain old dried leaves rattling spookily in the wind. Some individuals seem to remain almost fully dressed, while…

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In Bloom Now: American Cow-Parsnip

June 14, 2018 / Comments Off on In Bloom Now: American Cow-Parsnip

If you’re out and about on Nantucket this month and see super-sized umbels of white flowers that resemble Queen Anne’s lace but are the size of dinner plates, topping plants with beefy stems and large coarse leaves, it’s likely you have come across American cow-parsnip (Heracleum maximum). Typically found at the edges of wetlands and…

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Tiny insects may save island’s black oaks

June 1, 2018 / 1 Comment

Over the last few years, homeowners and land managers have been watching the increasing insect damage to the island’s black oak trees. Last year, the Nantucket Conservation Foundation and the Nantucket Land Council teamed up to fund a student research project to study the oak gall wasp and parasitoids – tiny beneficial insects that prey…

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Wildflowers Signal Shift to Autumn

September 12, 2017 / Comments Off on Wildflowers Signal Shift to Autumn

As the weather begins to hint of September crispness, there are a couple of island wildflowers that signal the shift. You’ll know that change is in the air when swamp rose mallow and sea lavender reach their peak. Swamp mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) is Nantucket’s native wild hibiscus. Rather than living in true swamps, this big…

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What’s Ailing Nantucket’s Black Oaks?

August 4, 2017 / Comments Off on What’s Ailing Nantucket’s Black Oaks?

By Kelly A. Omand If you spend a lot of time looking upwards in the forests of Nantucket, you may have observed something sinister occurring in the canopy of our black oak (Quercus velutina) trees. When first noticed several years ago, it seemed like damage from the usual suspects; fierce storms and salt spray often…

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