Butterfly Corner “Washburn County Register” 06/13/12

Ryall, M.E. 13 June 2012. Washburn County Register, Butterfly Corner.

Fresh start lending a hand to spruce up the habitat

Fresh start lending a hand to spruce up the habitat

June 7: Fresh Start came to the Monarch Butterfly Habitat to help Happy Tonics with  habitat maintenance. Eleven youth and five supervisors signed up to perform Community Service. Youth worked in teams and pounded in plant ID stakes, eradicated invasive species, dug up and transplanted native plants from the path at the Shoreline Restoration Project, near the Shell Lake Beach. Groups planted and watered transplants of elderberry, black eyed Susan, goldenrod and prairie rose at the Native Wildflower and Butterfly Garden. If you think that is a mouth full, the green team accomplished all of this in 2 ½ hours.

Even if we worked all summer, Happy Tonics with limited volunteers and staff, could have not managed transforming area three in such an efficient way. Youth were attentive, happy, willing to learn about the habitat, and enjoyed learning why we are providing habitat for pollinators.

Chad Olson, staff at Wisconsin Fresh Start Rusk Co., Weyerhaeuser, WI  54865

Chad Olson, staff at Wisconsin Fresh Start Rusk Co., Weyerhaeuser, WI

Chad Olson mentioned that teens usually grumble when asked to do manual labor. Not these youngsters. I think they enjoyed working outside with butterflies, native bees, and learning about native plants that allow pollinators to survive and insure a secure local food supply.

Happy Tonics wishes to thank supervisors Chad Olson and Carly Moline, Weyerhaeuser; Dan Gunderson and Sherri Anderson, Shell Lake; and Mary Schmocker, Hayward, for offering a day of service to the nonprofit. Special thanks go out to Jim VanMoorleham, Happy Tonics volunteer and Joan Quenan, Board Member and Volunteer. I appreciated their efforts in supervising different groups of youngsters and teaching them how to eradicate invasive species and identify native plants.

At noon, we all went to the Lion’s Shelter for a cookout. A few youth from Shell Lake stayed at the shelter while we worked at the habitat. They prepared a delicious cook out for us. Youth did mention that the assignment was fun and offered to come again, perhaps next season. Bravo green team! We love youth to participate. After all, it is their world which they will inherit some day.

June 8: Monarch survival statistics are in from Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, University of MN. Since the butterfly was first recorded in 1993- 1994, monarchs have been in decline in Mexico (overwintering site). 2011-2012 was the lowest on record. The average habitat over the past 19 years has been 7 hectares (1 hectare equals 2.5 acres). Last winter the monarchs occupied only 2.9 hectares.  There is great concern about the Endangered Migration Phenomena.

Fortunately, a few interacting weather patterns this year have been in favor of the monarchs rebounding in a single generation. The Texas drought is finally over. This means there was lots of healthy milkweed to lay eggs on. Just when the new generation was born, along came a string of warm days with southerly winds. The winds pushed the monarchs northward in record numbers and much earlier than we have seen in many years.

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A plant story waiting to be told


Single leaf of giant radweed

Single leaf of giant radweed

If you only knew how this story has been nagging me. I have been looking for the photos on and off for a few months now. Photographers, I admit that I haven’t kept up with filing photos in a file system on the computer. Cindy Dyer, Dyer Design, told me she sorts though her photos daily and deletes those she doesn’t want and files the others in folders. It was this past summer when I saw a tall plant with multiple shaped leaves growing in my garden on the back side of the house. I would look out the window and say to myself, “What is that?” Do you notice the serrated leaves? They look like tiny teeth.

On close examination it had a familiar seed head. The leaves were unique in different shapes such as a single leaf and sometimes three to five lobes. I absolutely couldn’t identify the plant using any of my extensive wildflower plant books. It isn’t often than I am stumped by a plant.

Five lobes leaf

Five lobes leaf

I emailed a knowledgeable instructor at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College in Hayward, WI. I had studied natural resources with him.  Larry Baker has an intimate knowledge of plants and I figured if anyone knew this plant, he would.

The seed head was green. We went back and forth a few times until Larry looked up the plant key identification. I should have gone here but I didn’t. I hope he doesn’t think I am lazy. A surprise email came that asked, “Could it be Giant Ragweed?” I could have blushed because I then realized I did recognize the seed head. Yes indeed, it was this plant. The Latin name is Ambrosia trifida and the noxious weed is also known as Buffaloweed.

Great ragweed seed head. Great ragweed seed head.

How did it come to be living in my native wildflower garden? I have no idea how it got there. The plant prefers fertile moist soils. I had mulched this area with garden leaf compost a few years ago. The soil was dark and moist. Beyond the drip line of my home, all the water slopes downwards through a wood chip filter and throughout the garden bed. It must have been a male plant because the flowers were abundant in spike like clusters located on the tips of branches and stems. Female flowers are few without petals located in the axils of the upper leaves.

Leaves are opposite, large and slightly hairy, entire, or palmately cleft into 3 or occasionally 5 lobes. The lobes are ovate-lanceolate and serrated. I was able to look up the plant afterwards in a book that Ed, an elder friend, gave me a few years back. I never dreamed I would be identifying noxious weeds from this source but as you can see, I am. My books are my refuge.

Source: U.S. Department of agriculture, Selected Weeds of the United States, 1970.

Conservation and Asters

Ryan Conner proudly stands next to his Conservation Star Home Award sign

Ryan Conner proudly stands next to his Conservation Star Home Award sign.

This past week I had an opportunity to visit Ryan Conner in Hayward. He invited me to see the native habitat he was implementing on his land.  He owns a home and property on Grindstone Lake. Ryan received a Conservation Star Home Award for turning a sandy lawn of mowed grass into a native habitat on the lake. Frankly this is how I found his
house. Ryan had told me he had a rather large colony of asters growing. The asters led me right to his door.

While I was there I saw several species of small native bees. I also learned about species of asters which are not easy to identify. Reason why? There are over 200 species of aster in the United States.

 

Calico aster with pink centers.

Calico aster with pink centers.

Ryan pointed out that calico aster has pink disk florets. The species also has a plumed flower formation. Now I know the name of white heath aster and sky blue aster which were growing in a rather large colony.

The Monarch Butterfly Habitat has upland white aster. There are several other species of asters at the habitat and hopefully I will be better able to identify the different species more easily now. Ryan is a dedicated volunteer at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake. He has assisted the nonprofit for nearly four years now during the summer season. He has added many native species to the Shell Lake habitat, which in time will provide more color and interest beyond the summer months. It is interesting to note that one of Ryan’s neighbors has also begun to turn his land into a native habitat for pollinators.

Without native habitat for pollinating insects such as bees, butterflies, dragonflies, bats and moths there most likely would not be the plant and insect biodiversity that exists today. According to Douglas W. Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, “Up to 90 percent of all phytophagous insects are considered specialists because they have evolved in concert with no more
than a few plant lineages” (Bernays & Graham 1988). Native insects have not evolved with alien plants and most likely are unable to eat them. For homeowners who want bees to pollinate fruit trees and gardeners who want to have flowers and vegetables pollinated, it is important to plant native plant species that will invite pollinators to the back yard.

LCO Environmental Film Festival – January 26, 2011

Lac Courte Oreilles James “Pipe” Mustache Auditorium
Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College
Hayward, WI, USA
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Topic: Treaty Rights

10 am – Visit InformationBooths/Displays
10:15 – Opening Prayer
10:30 – Guest Speakers(s): Jim St. Arnold, GLIFWC, Fred and Mike Tribble (Invited), LCO Conservation
12 Noon – Potluck (please bring a dish to pass and your own plates/utensils)
1215 pm – Film: “Lighting the 7th Fire”
1:15 pm – Advocacy to Action! How do we make a difference in our community?

“This PBS documentary skillfully weaves together spear fishing treaty rights issues in Wisconsin, the Chippewa prophecy of the 7th Fire and profiles of some of the people helping to bring back the tradition of spear fishing. This video captures a highly significant historical transition and it is the first program in the United States that vividly documents contemporary racism toward Native Americains.” (48 inutes)

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