stormyheart: (Default)
It's been a really long time since I've done a wildlife shiny post. A really, really long time. Prompted by my discovery below, I think it's time to bring it back :)

While looking for articles about invasive rose species, I came across an article from 1950 in the Journal of Wildlife Management (http://www.jstor.org/pss/3796151). And I quote:

"The use of multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) as a living fence and as wildlife cover is being widely recommended for farms in the Midwest and Northeast. Trials of the plant in these areas indicate only limited tendencies to spread, and there appears to be little danger of the species becoming a nuisance."

Oh my, how sadly mistaken we were.


Photo by Ulf Eliasson, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Multiflora rose is not native to North America. It was introduced from east Asia for the reasons listed above - to provide berries and cover for wildlife, and to create "living fences" - as well as for ornamental purposes, as crash barriers along highways, and for erosion control. It has become horrendously invasive*, primarily in the eastern U.S.

We battle this stuff all the time at Woodlawn - it's really hard to get rid of. It also has these nasty whitish re-curved thorns that scratch you and easily get tangled in your hair and clothes.

Another interesting note is that while birds do indeed love the berries produced by multiflora rose, they don't get nearly as much nutritional value from them as they do from the berries of native plants.

So if you have this awful plant growing in your yard (or any other invasive plant for that matter), get rid of it right away before it gets any worse! If you need help with identification and control, there's a number of resources online (e.g., http://www.invasive.org/browse/subject.cfm?sub=3071) as well as organizations like native plant societies that can help you out.

*For those unfamiliar with the term, an invasive species is a species that aggressively dominates an ecosystem, often to the exclusion of native species. They are typically non-native species, although a select few (like phragmites) are considered native. A few invasive species that are more well-known among the general public as being out of control include kudzu, Spanish moss, and the gypsy moth.
stormyheart: (bunneh!)
As I mentioned in my last entry, last Thursday I participated in a volunteer survey of vernal pools in the Paint Branch area of Montgomery County, MD. The reason for the surveys is sad - there is a road going up in this area, and I guess they're just making sure there's nothing endangered or whatever. My co-worker Jeff had set up a few afternoons to go out surveying after work...this was the first I was able to make it out for, and I went with Jeff, Susan, and Corinne.

For the non-biologists, a vernal pool is a temporary body of water that usually occurs in the spring with all the rain. Since they're temporary, there's no fish to eat amphibian eggs, so they're really important for frog and salamander breeding. In the MidAtlantic region, they're often found in wooded areas. More at wikipedia.

These were some pretty healthy woods, so there was lots of plant diversity, especially wildflowers coming up on the forest floor. Oh, there were some invasives too - lots of Japanese stiltgrass, and some garlic mustard - but not too bad. We saw some ferns around the vernal pools that were really neat - you don't often see ferns in the wild around here:

P5010245

more wildlife shiny below the cut )

A few more pics can be found on my Flickr account: http://flickr.com/photos/diosa699/sets/72157604943399689/. I'll probably go out on one or two more survey outings, so keep an eye out for additional photos!
stormyheart: (Default)
Okay, it's been over a month since my last Wildlife Shiny post. I think this is going to become less of a "Wildlife of the Week" and more of a "Wildlife of the whenever-I-feel-like-it" feature :)

Today wildlife shiny features the red-backed salamander, Plethodon cinereus.


Photo by J.D. Wilson (www.discoverlife.org)

This salamander gets its name from the wide red stripe that runs from head to tail.  However, the name is misleading because not all individuals have a red back - there are actually two color phases in this species - the "redback" phase (a red stripe), and the "leadback" phase (a dark grey stripe).  They're small - only about 2-5 inches long - and slender.  Red-backed salamanders are members of the Plethodontidae family, or lungless salamanders - they absorb oxygen directly through their skin rather than breathing.  Having permeable skin also makes them more sensitive to dryness, acidity, and chemicals.

Red-backed salamanders live in temperate, moist forests, and sometimes in swamps and marshes.  They like to hide under logs and rocks during the day to stay cool and moist, and emerge at night to roam about the forest floor looking for insects, spiders, and other invertebrates to eat.  When I worked at Riverbend, these were the salamander species we found most often when I took the kids on a salamander hunt through the wooded areas.  They're pretty common throughout most of their range (the eastern half of North America).  So next time you go a'hunting for salamanders in your local woodlands, keep an eye out for these lil' dudes.
stormyheart: (bunneh!)
Loyal readers may remember I asked about their interest in a potential "Wildlife of the Week" feature in my LJ, and the answer was a resounding "yes!" from a whole...5 people. Well that's good enough for me :) I've been rather busy at home and at work since then, but things are finally calming down a bit and I actually have time for this kind of thing.

So...I give you the first Wildlife post...complete with SHINY!

My first Wildlife of the Week is the sea star, more often (mistakenly) called a starfish. In fact, sea stars are not fish at all...they're members of a completely different order of marine life called Echinodermata. Among marine life, sea stars and the other echinoderms (like urchins and brittle stars) are pretty advanced in the evolutionary chain. They are probably second only to Chordates - the invertebrates and vertebrates with a spinal cord. Sea stars are one of the few forms of life that have pentaradial symmetry - meaning they have 5 sides that are symmetrical to one another and branch from a central core. Most other organisms are either radially symmetrical - symmetrical in one plane, with only a top and bottom - or bilaterally symmetrical - having a left and right side that are symmetrical to one another (Wikipedia gives a more thorough explanation of organismal symmetry if you're interested).



The species shown above is the purple (or ochre) sea star (Pisaster ochraceus). You can also see all sorts of interesting intertidal life in the picture, including barnacles, seaweed, small anemones, and I think those black things are snails? or maybe some kind of bivalve. The ochre sea star is one of the more common sea star species, found all along the Pacific coast of North America from Alaska to southern California. Its coloration can range from orange (like above) to brown to purple.

In the summer I spent in Bamfield, British Columbia, we saw these sea stars all over the intertidal zones. They were particularly abundant in our little cove, where there were also lots of barnacles and clams. I have several decent pictures of ochre sea stars, but unfortunately no digital versions. When the tide goes out, this species doesn't need to move seaward to stay submerged, but instead stays in place and dries up a bit. It's outer shell goes from soft and movable to very stiff, helping to lock it in place and protecting it some from predators (and curious humans).

Questions? Thoughts? Any cool trivia on sea stars you'd like to add?

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