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Archive for September, 2009

Mariton – Fall Walks

Mariton will feature Tuesday Morning Nature Walks during October.  Each week we will meet at 9:00 a.m. at the Nature Center and then walk Mariton's trails.  From fall colors to birds, from ferns to butterflies, we will explore what nature offers and the group's interests.  Bring binoculars and wear comfortable walking shoes or boots.

Crow’s Nest: Invasive Plants Webtool

This summer I worked on preparing a webtool which is now available on the beta version of

It is a description of an invasive plant management program and how it can be used to minimize the impact of invasive species and encourage the health of native plants and wildlife.

There are other tools on the website to help landowners, municipalities, and land trusts protect and manage land or related resources, including conservation easements, forming township Environmental Advisory Councils, Natural Lands Trust's own Growing Greener: Conservation by Design, lighting ordinances, and the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program.

Check it out: it's an evolving set of topics and useful information.

Crow’s Nest: Let’s Contra!

The Friends of Mariton program this Saturday (listed below) looks fun. If you are in our neighborhood instead please join us for an old-fashioned barn dance. Even William Penn might recognize some of the dances…

Mariton – Annual Reception and William Penn

This Saturday (October 3) is the Annual Friends of Mariton Reception.  This casual gathering begins at 6:00 p.m.  There will be time to chat and sample wine, cheeses, cookies and other finger foods.

At 7:00 p.m. our featured speaker will be William Penn.  Actually, it will be David Rose from Easton, who will present a living history enactment.  During Penn's time the colony was teaming with natural resources, but needed investors.  Mr. Rose has researched this period extensively and will use Penn's correspondence and descriptions of the colony to set the scene of what the early Penn's Woods might have looked like.  I am particularly excited about this presentation and hope that your are too.

Please call 610-258-6574 if you plan to attend, so that we can plan accordingly.

Crow’s Nest: Wetlands Manual Update


The Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the protection of wetlands in the U.S., is updating their manual on wetlands in our region. The Corps reviews applications to disturb wetlands and requires mitigation where necessary—so they need to have a reference of what a natural wetland is like in terms of soils, hydrology, and plant communities.

So they came to Crow's Nest along with scientists from the U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The agencies are cooperating on the project which builds on an earlier NRCS study at Crow's Nest.

The earlier research mapped the microtopography of three sites at Crow's Nest where diabase uplands meet wetlands and collected temperature and chemical data from shallow groundwater wells. These researchers added soil profiles and plant species data from our undisturbed sites.

For more information please call us at 610-286-7955.

Crow’s Nest: Lost & Found

This month a boy lost his walking stick along the creek trail or beyond–to the west of the culvert across French Creek. It is varnished and engraved with his name with a loop on top. If you find it could you please drop it off at the preserve center barn?

Found: a blue fishing hat; left near the parking lot. Please give us a call at 610-286-7955.

Crow’s Nest: Late September highlights

We're just starting to get a little fall color showing, particularly on the black gum or tupelo trees (Nyssa sylvatica) and on the sourwood (Oxydendron arboreum) planted in our yard.

But fall is still a time for flowers. Asters and goldenrod are blooming throughout the preserve, and New York ironweed is still flowering. Our fall-blooming witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana) started flowering even as its leaves are turning yellow. And boneset, a white-flowered Eupatorium, is flowering along the creek trail.


The bottle gentian (Gentiana andrewsii) is blooming in our northern meadows. The closed flowers reportedly keep out smaller, less efficient pollinators.


Along the creek trail and in wet meadows you may see a lot of the arrowleaf tearthumb (Polygonum saggitatum). This native plant grows in thick mats in sunny wet areas. If you were to try to walk through it you would find its small barbs scratching you.


And in moist woods throughout Crow's Nest you can find horse-balm (Collinsonia canadensis). These beautiful flowers are actually very small so they're not as showy as this close-up suggests. The veins on the leaves of this plant are deeply recessed—a distinctive texture that is present all summer.

On my night table: Last Harvest

I've enjoyed reading Witold Rybczynski's 2007 book: Last Harvest: How a Cornfield Became New Daleville: Real Estate Development from George Washington to the Builders of the Twenty-First Century, And Why We Live in Houses Anyway (Scribner). 

The book follows the sometimes messy process of planning development of land for homes, in this case in a local Chester County township. The developer in the book seeks to use the guidelines of neotraditional town design: walkable communities with sidewalks, houses close together with front porches, and cars to the rear–a layout which can be used to protect open space elsewhere on the land. The developer, Joe Duckworth–who has been on Natural Lands Trust's board and is a birder and conservationist–faces challenges from weather to rising costs, the need to balance design standards with the need for flexibility, and the struggle to sell the concept in a market that doesn't jump for anything that is too different.

Rybczynski traces the history of how land has been developed in places such as Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia and the Levittowns of the mid-20th century, and in the neotraditional town of Seaside in Florida.

The reader is left optimistic as the first residents move into New Daleville: this community is likely to be a better place to live than the average suburban development, and the physical layout will foster neighbor interaction and walking for pleasure.

Sometime soon I want to visit New Daleville to see for myself how it turned out. I found the book especially interesting because I know some of the local places mentioned and even know of some of the people–the book reads like a John McPhee essay because it is as much about the characters as it is about the place.

Crow’s Nest: Contra Dance coming!

We will be hosting the Elverson Dance at Crow's Nest on October 3. Janine Smith will be calling to Ladies in the Parlor. Join us for an evening of Contra dances, squares, and waltzes.

Instruction is provided at 7:00 pm; dances begin at 7:30. No partner is necessary; wear comfortable, soft-soled shoes. The fee of $8 is payable at the door; there is a discount for students and seniors.

We hope to see you here!

Crow’s Nest: Aralia elata found at preserve


Here's a plant I have never seen here before now: Japanes angelica-tree (Aralia elata), very similar to our native Hercules' club or prickly-ash (Aralia spinosa) that is not found here. Don't let common names fool you—the native Zanthoxylum americanum also goes by the names Hercules' club and prickly ash but has pinnate leaves not bipinnate like the aralias. That's one leaf—and not even all of it—spread out on a table in our visitor center above.

I believe we have the Japanese species since the veins go all the way to edges of of the leaflets, per Rhoads and Block, Flora of Pennsylvania, page 152-3. The other differences can only be seen when the tree is in flower.


I don't know how it got here, other than by bird-dispersed seed. It can be found in the area where we have created a demonstration site of old-growth acceleration and are promoting oak regeneration—the disturbance of prescribed fire and selected thinning has created the conditions for it (Rhoads and Block note that it is "naturalized in disturbed woodlands; especially SE [Pennsylvania]").

Look at the thorns at the base of each pair of leaflets and even on the midrib of each leaflet. This species is not noted as terribly invasive—though I recall there is a lot of it in the Wissahickon Valley of Philadelphia's Fairmount Park—but we will probably remove it since it isn't native or desirable in our woods.


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