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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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

Winter Magic

a meditation

Found along the Hoyt-Pileated Trail, Sapsucker Woods, Sunday, March 12, 2023.

Text of plaque reads: Andy Goldsworthy; British, born 1956; “Sapsucker Cairn” (formerly New York Cone), 1995 – 2008; Llenroc and other local stone; Gift of Sirje Helder Gold and Michael O. Gold, rededicated in memory of their beloved son Maximilian Arnold Gold; Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.

A sculpture transformed by a March snowfall. Notice how the stone, warmed by sunlight filtering through the leafless trees, melts surrounding snow.

Llenroc (Cornell spelled backwards) stone is a type of bluestone that is quarried in the Finger Lakes region of New York. It has a mix of blue-gray and rust color and is traditionally used on Cornell University’s campus. Llenroc is also the name of a Gothic revival villa built by Ezra Cornell, the founder of Cornell University.

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Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Frogs!!

A summertime visit to Sapsucker Woods

Wednesday last, grandson Sam, three years old at the time, and I wandered the landscape, catching the sights of summer. Eventually, we visited Sapsucker Woods, a Cornell University nature preserve. There, a boardwalk over the swamp is a proven venue for frog spotting and, this day, we had some success.

We found this cooperative golden-eyed beauty calmly squatting and croaking.

In this 30 second clip, reflected light off the water surface captures proto-croaks that did not quite escape from the source. There is a successful and full croak finale.

Off the boardwalk, we took a short detour to view an elaborate cairn built of local rock by a famous artist. The dappled sunlight across the surface is especially enjoyable.

The Sapsucker Cairn, Andrew Goldsworthy

At the furthest extent of the preserve is this pond where the residents were notably raucous in this 30 second clip.

About this time the mosquitoes descended for a determined attack on Sam’s legs. “Itchy,” he said. Myself, protected by deet, they left alone. Sam’s Mom prepared him for the trip with natural mosquito repellent that was not up to the task. Next time we visit, Sam will wear long pants and sleeves fortified with deet.

Just before picking Sam up for a quick retreat, I caught this turtle encrusted in duckweed sunning on a narrow branch. The head is retracted for the moment, can you imagine someone wading through that muck to place a rock? It is possible, but I witnessed the head, so am absolutely sure.

Special thanks to blogger shoreacres for the identification of duckweed. In my original posting I called it algae.

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Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Flowing water

Water flowing from glacial till

Amazingly swamp, fen, bog, marsh can all be experienced during a thirty minute walk within this preserve. Here we are traversing a swamp …

…buoyed along on planking from recycled plastic.

The founders of this place, from a dairy farming family, strove for years to protect the water sources from encroachment by development, primary a duplicate of a gravel pit found on the other side of the Fall Creek valley.

This former acidic rainwater, percolating through glacial till, is buffered and chemically altered to create these multiform environments.

Water, flowing quietly, almost soundlessly, with powerful effect.

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Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Formed by Water

Overview

Let’s digress from our exploration of Iquique, Chile for this attraction local to the Finger Lakes Region of New York State, an environment diametrically opposed to the Atacama desert. The Preserve at Malloryville opened 1997, eleven years after we moved to our home our home on Fall Creek (see header photograph).

The correct name is the O.D. von Engeln Preserve at Malloryville. I knew this name from his Finger Lakes geology book obtained from the library and read closely in the early 1990’s. It helped me understand the landscape among which our home was set, in 5 minutes walking distance from the future location of the preserve.

The text from the above information placard at the preserve entrance says it all:“Wetland habitats are shaped by the water that supplies them: the amount, how it moves, and the minerals it carries. Malloryville’s eskers, kames and kettles control the rate of delivery of water to the surface and suffuse it with varied concentrations of minerals. As ground water bubbles to the surface at the base of these hills, distinctive wetland habitats form, each with its own unique community of plants. The preserve’s intense concentration of bog, fen, marsh and swamp habitats is the direct result of ground water moving through this unusually complex array of glacial features.

Before the preserve was opened I was familiar with the landforms described in the above placard. My son and I did his first camping on top of an esker outside our front door. We enjoyed hiking along Fall Creek.

To be continued…..

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