Typha

cattails

These two views of Imogene Powers Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity across Sapsucker Woods Pond on a March afternoon are separated by 12 months, a year. Wilson Trail, Sapsucker Woods, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York.

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2023 using the IPhone 14 ProMax triple camera, raw format, edited on the phone

In the foreground is the cattail plant, the North American species Typha latifolia.  There are over 30 species in this useful genera. 

2022 using the IPhone 7 back camera

Culinary

Many parts of the Typha plant are edible to humans. Before the plant flowers, the tender inside of the shoots can be squeezed out and eaten raw or cooked. The starchy rhizomes are nutritious with a protein content comparable to that of maize or rice. They can be processed into flour with 266 kcal per 100 grams and are most often harvested from late autumn to early spring. They are fibrous, and the starch must be scraped or sucked from the tough fibers.  Baby shoots emerging from the rhizomes, which are sometimes subterranean, can be picked and eaten raw. Also underground is a carbohydrate lump which can be peeled and eaten raw or cooked like a potato. The plant is one championed by survival experts because various parts can be eaten throughout the year. Plants growing in polluted water can accumulate lead and pesticide residues in their rhizomes, and these should not be eaten.

The rind of young stems can be peeled off, and the tender white heart inside can be eaten raw or boiled and eaten like asparagus. This food has been popular among the Cossacks in Russia and has been called “Cossack asparagus.” The leaf bases can be eaten raw or cooked, especially in late spring when they are young and tender. In early summer the sheath can be removed from the developing green flower spike, which can then be boiled and eaten like corn on the cob. In mid-summer when the male flowers are mature, the pollen can be collected and used as a flour supplement or thickener.

Agriculture

The seeds have a high linoleic acid content and can be used to feed cattle and chickens. They can also be found in African countries like Ghana.

Harvesting cattail removes nutrients from the wetland that would otherwise return via the decomposition of decaying plant matter.  Floating mats of cattails remove nutrients from eutrophic bodies of freshwater.

Building material

For local native tribes around Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia, Typha were among the most important plants and every part of the plant had multiple uses. For example, they were used to construct rafts and other boats.

During World War II, the United States Navy used the down of Typha as a substitute for kapok in life vests and aviation jackets. Tests showed that even after 100 hours of submersion, the buoyancy was still effective.

Typha are used as thermal insulation in buildings as an organic alternative to conventional insulating materials such as glass wool or stone wool.

Paper

Typha stems and leaves can be used to make paper. It is strong with a heavy texture and it is hard to bleach, so it is not suitable for industrial production of graphical paper. In 1853, considerable amounts of cattail paper were produced in New York, due to a shortage of raw materials.[33] In 1948, French scientists tested methods for annual harvesting of the leaves. Because of the high cost, these methods were abandoned, no further research was done. Today Typha is used to make decorative paper.

Fiber

Fibers up to 4 meters long can be obtained from the stems when they are treated mechanically or chemically with sodium hydroxide. The stem fibers resemble jute and can be used to produce raw textiles. The leaf fibers can be used as an alternative to cotton and linen in clothing. The yield of leaf fiber is 30 to 40 percent and Typha glauca can produce 7 to 10 tons per hectare annually.

Biofuel

Typha can be used as a source of starch to produce ethanol. Because of their high productivity in northern latitudes, Typha are considered to be a bioenergy crop.

Other

The seed hairs were used by some indigenous peoples of the Americas[which?] as tinder for starting fires. Some tribes also used Typha down to line moccasins, and for bedding, diapers, baby powder, and cradleboards. One Native American word for Typha meant “fruit for papoose’s bed”. Typha down is still used in some areas to stuff clothing items and pillows. Typha can be dipped in wax or fat and then lit as a candle, the stem serving as a wick. Without the use of wax or fat it will smolder slowly, somewhat like incense, and may repel insects.

The flower stalks can be made into chopsticks. The leaves can be treated to weave into baskets, mats, or sandals. The rushes are harvested and the leaves often dried for later use in chair seats. Re-wetted, the leaves are twisted and wrapped around the chair rungs to form a densely woven seat that is then stuffed (usually with the left over rush).

Small-scale experiments have indicated that Typha are able to remove arsenic from drinking water.[37][38] The boiled rootstocks have been used as a diuretic for increasing urination, or mashed to make a jelly-like paste for sores, boils, wounds, burns, scabs, and smallpox pustules.

Cattail pollen is used as a banker source of food for predatory insects and mites (such as Amblyseius swirskii) in greenhouses. The cattail, or, as it is commonly referred to in the American Midwest, the sausage tail, has been the subject of multiple artist renditions, gaining popularity in the mid-twentieth century. The term, sausage tail, derives from the similarity that cattails have with sausages, a name given to the plant by the Midwest Polish community who had noticed a striking similarity between the plant and a common Polish dish, kiełbasa. 

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Nature and Big Names

barns by other names

View of Imogene Powers Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity from an unnamed boardwalk on an unnamed path from the parking lot. Sapsucker Woods, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York

From an unnamed boardwalk on an unnamed path from the parking lot. Sapsucker Woods, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York

An iced over, thawing in the March sunshine, leads to a view of Kip’s Barn that, I believe, is named for Austin Kiplinger (Cornell Graduate of 1939) the longest serving trustee in Cornell history.

Click me for more information https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2015/11/legendary-cornellian-austin-kiplinger-39-dies-age-97

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Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Stippling

After the farm

All photographs are from the Apple IPhone 14 ProMax, raw format and perfected on the phone.

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I wanted a shot of manifold vertical lines. I think the landscape orientation develops the texture of snow stippling. The elevated wooden walkway traverses wetland, these young trees established on slightly higher ground.

Portrait orientation emphasizes these young trees reach for the sun, rising from former farmland, off West Trail

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Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Holding On

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

Elms throughout the understory of Sapsucker Woods provide late autumn golden color, here on the West Trail after snowfall, holding on until spring. Cornell University Lab of Ornithology Sapsucker Woods, Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York

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Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Habitat

Home to frogs and turtles, this perennial pond is part of Sapsucker Woods of Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York

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Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Thermogenic

Plant Identification

Can you spot the Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)? Hint: the plant emits heat, melting surrounding snow.

I cannot remember, don’t recall (?), the identification of those long stalks. Dear readers: can you identify?

Eastern skunk cabbage belongs to a select group of thermogenic plants for its capacity to create temperatures of up to 15–35 °C (59–95 °F) above air temperature through cyanide–resistant cellular respiration (via alternative oxidase) in order to melt its way through frozen ground.

One mechanism behind maintaining heat around the plant is the thermogenic oscillation of the spadix: Independent of light, a precise thermal regulator is produced by an oscillatory temperature-sensing model in the spadix under dynamic external temperature variations. An equilibrium between heat production and loss, due to heat radiation, evaporation, conduction and convention is maintained in the spadix. Additionally, the airflow around the spathe effectively maintains heat generated by the spadix.

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Reference on the thermogenic features: Wikipedia, “Skunk Cabbage.”

Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Ice Abstracts

Light Plays

Surface of ice formed over a flowing creek. One is a HDR of three exposures, the other is a single exposure. Yes, that is dirt you see under the ice. How did that happen?

Readers: Can you tell which is the HDR? Please answer with a comment. Thank You

All are macros from a Kodak DSC Pro SLR/c with a Canon EF 100 mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens stabilized on a Manfrotto 468MG tripod with Hydrostatic Ball Head

Fillmore Glen State Park, Moravia, Cayuga County, New York.

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Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Meadow Stream, winter 3

Meadow Idyll

Snow under the gathering light of February, edges rounded by sunlight. Can you identify the animal tracks?

Overflow from a Kettle Pond threads through a meadow before feeding Fall Creek. The O.D.von Engeln Preserve at Malloryville.

All were from a tripod mounted Kodak DSC pro SLR-C with the Canon lens EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Meadow Stream, winter 2

Meadow Idyll

The glacial marls through which this water flows to emerge here clear and pure were under threat from development in the 1980’s and 1990. Thanks to the efforts of the landowner, the uniqueness of this environment was preserved.

The first two photographs are combined and enhanced in photoshop to yield the third, combination, photograph.

Winter Shadows
Winter Shadows

All were from a tripod mounted Kodak DSC pro SLR-C with the Canon lens EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Winter Shadows
Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Meadow Stream, winter

Meadow Idyll

This water emerges from glacial marls, pure and clear, before flowing into a kettle pond. Here we see it on a winter afternoon meandering across a meadow before joining the Fall Creek of the previous postings of this week.

The first two are the same photograph. One has been enhanced in Photoshop. The other was perfected in Lightroom. The third is a different photograph taken about the same time, also peracted in Lightroom.

Winter Shadows
Winter Shadows

All were from a tripod mounted Kodak DSC pro SLR-C with the Canon lens EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Winter Shadows
Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills