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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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. 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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
On Halloween morning 2004 I set out with a camera upgrade purchased spring of that year, a Sony “Cyber Shot, DSC-F828” with an inexpensive tripod. My photograph “Autumn Stroll in Sapsucker Woods”, the feature photograph and below, achieved prizes with the Photographic Society of American and a few sales of self-produced prints. It was an early success.
Click any photograph to visit my Online Gallery “Finger Lakes Memories.”
It is available on my Finger Lakes Memories online gallery where I provide recommendations for sizing, the best print medium with ideas for frame and matt.
The fall of 2005 I invested in a Kodak DCS Pro dslr-c and a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens. October 30, 2005, one day short of the 2004 Halloween shoot, found me driving down Fall Creek Road on a mission of revisiting Sapsucker Woods to possibly improve upon my offerings.
Over the years, travelling Fall Creek Road on my daily commute, I admired this well formed maple next to a farm field. At 6:45 am the sun was about this rise, the frost limned grass not yet burned off. This tree turned a bright yellow, here a green-yellow and dull. The form of the tree is perfect. I was never able to catch this at the right moment, it is still there and maybe I can time it this year during a pick-up of my grandson. If I do, my intention is to climb the fence and use the 24 mm lens to capture the tree and shed with less sky (unless there are some dramatic clouds). That day, I needed to make time for Sapsucker woods.
On site, thirty minutes later, as the leaves of the Fall Creek Road maple predicted, Sapsucker Woods foliage is behind last year’s by a week or so. In “Autumn Stroll in Sapsucker Woods” the over story leaves have fallen and the understory is at peak. Here, I believe the overstory is gone, the understory leaves are yellow-green.
I carefully choose the sites and this one is a risen walk of boards. In the nine years since, the walk as deteriorated and this scene will be different, possibly.
This is a match for the 2004 photograph as far as the camera position. What I enjoy from the 2004 version, aside from the foliage, are the details of the fallen leaves taking up the foreground, a carpet filling the field to lead the eye up through the trees, path fading from view to the right.
This effect is not possible on the boardwalk, above. With the fixed focus 50 mm lens it might be possible with effort. Today, the 24 mm is my first choice to capture this effect.
Here we can see the leaf carpet is possible, if the f-stop is higher to allow a crisp focus. In this scene it is f2 because I happened upon a buck in a daze. He was just standing there as I headed back to the car. I did not risk changing out lenses to the telephoto, so I moved forward slowly.
The best I did was this rear view as he looked backward. Lack of flexibility is a draw back of a fixed-focus lens.
In 2004 my day concluded with Robert Treman State Park. In 2005 the 50 mm fixed focus with a ND filter and tripod was in its element. The sun is higher and overcast, one background tree is a peak foliage. The moderate water flow and stair complete the effect. This was my best work of that day. I need to get this up on the “Finger Lakes Memories” gallery.
Other postings of interest. Click the link to go there.
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