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

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

Treman Gallery Footbridge II

Looking back after crossing the Gallery Footbridge we are rewarded with this view, providing a better understanding of the site. It is evening on a mid-September evening, Robert H. Treman Park, Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Looking back after crossing the Gallery Footbridge we are rewarded with this view, providing a better understanding of the site.

This is the footbridge at east side of gorge gallery entrance, seen from the east where the trail descends.

It is evening on a mid-September evening, Robert H. Treman Park, Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York

Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Treman Gallery Footbridge I

Here we are on the Gorge Trail of Treman State Park. My readers have seen this marvelous stone bridge from a distance. Here it is on the west side, facing east/northeast and looking down into the gorge. It is evening on a mid-September evening, Robert H. Treman Park, Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York Copyright 2023 […]

Here we are on the Gorge Trail of Treman State Park. My readers have seen this marvelous stone bridge from a distance. Here it is on the west side, facing east/northeast and looking down into the gorge.

Spanning the eastern side of the gallery entrance of the gorge.

It is evening on a mid-September evening, Robert H. Treman Park, Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York

Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

19th Century Enfield Falls

A Bit of History

Enfield Falls, like many other towns, grew around its grist and sawmills. Farmers coming to this mill about the middle of the 19th century could do errands while waiting for their grain to be ground. In Enfield Falls at that time, there were two sawmills, a shingle mill, cooperage, tannery, carding factory, store and hotel. By the late 19th century there was also a post office.”

As farmers turned asway from growing wheat, Enfield Falls evolved from a busy milling center to a place appreciated for scenery and a quality hotel. Robert and Henrietta Wickham build and ran the hotel for many years during the middle of the 19th century. The hotel hosted popular dances in its ballroom. Guests could also dine and rest at the hotel.”

This placard from the Mill Museum at Treman Park is the source of much of today’s information. I used italics and quotes to attribute this source.

The sign in the heading of this post “hung near the hotel at least as early as 1883. In that year, D. Morris Kurtz mentioned it in his “Ithaca and Its Resources”: “At the foot of the hill is the Enfield Falls Hotel, but you look around in vain for the falls or even any sign of them. Upon the side of the stable into which our horses are driven is nailed a small board, on which is painted ‘Admission to the Falls, 10 cents.’ In reply to our inquiry the bright little urchin that takes charge of the team says, ‘Down there they are,’ pointing to the rocky wall which apparently forms the eastern and an unsurmountable boundary to the valley. And to ‘down there’ we proceed……

Treman Gorge Trail from the Old Mill enters a narrow gallery looking here southeast along Enfield Creek, passing over a stone footbridge. This was the control point in the 19th century for collecting the ten cent admission fee. Here are some photographs of the entrance as it exists today. The retaining wall, footpath and stone bridge were constructed in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The site was far rougher for those earlier visitors.

Photograph captured on a midsummer morning. Robert H. Treman State Park, Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York

Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills