May 7, 2008
- New York's Official Flora
- Family Fun
- Upcoming DEC Events
New York's Official Flora
Sugar maple, the official tree of New York State, is a deciduous tree that is immensely important, not only for its quality sap, but also for the role it plays in the ecology of many North American forests. It is easily recognized in the fall, when its green foliage changes to flaming yellow, red and orange.
Many kinds of animals feast on the tree during all stages of its life. Chipmunks and squirrels eat the seeds on the ground, and deer are fond of maple seedlings and saplings. Insects eat the leaves, as well as the dead wood. Woodpeckers eat the insects, making large holes in the trunks that owls, chickadees, squirrels, porcupines and raccoons use as shelter. Birds and squirrels build nests among the branches, while many larger animals rest underneath.
With its bright pink flowers, the wild rose, New York's official flower, brightens the landscape in a variety of habitats from May through August. When the weather turns colder and the petals of this deciduous shrub fall to the ground, the rose hips remain, providing a favorite food for several species of birds, including ruffed grouse and ring-necked pheasant. Many small mammals eat the leaves, twigs and hips, which are rich in vitamin C. Smaller wildlife also finds protection in the dense thickets that grow freely from roots and underground stems.
Bark and Leaf Rubbings
Find a tree with an interesting design in the bark. Tape the top and bottom of a piece of paper flat against the tree's surface. Rub the side of a peeled crayon (one with no paper) up and down on the sheet of paper until you begin to see the pattern of the bark.
Now take a leaf from the tree and tape it to a flat, horizontal surface. Tape a piece of paper over it, and make a rubbing the same way you did with the bark. Write the name of the tree on the papers and keep the rubbings together in a notebook. Try this with trees with smooth bark and those with bumpy bark to show the difference. Once autumn arrives, select a colorful leaf to add to your notebook.
On Their Own
When seeds fall from trees, most don't begin to grow right away. Instead, the seeds stay dormant until the conditions are just right. Collect some soil from an area around a tree or shrub using a trowel or garden shovel, being careful to remove any dead leaves or twigs. In an aluminum baking pan, add a layer of soil about one inch thick. Water the soil until it is moist and cover the pan with plastic wrap to keep it warm. Place the pan in a warm, sunny place, and after about one week, check to see what has grown. The seeds of these young plants were already in the soil, deposited there by nearby trees and shrubs.
Take a Deep Breath
Photosynthesis is the process plants use to make their food. Plants take carbon dioxide from the air, water from the ground and sunlight to make food and release oxygen. Most of the process takes place in the leaves of the plant. Much of the air that we breathe is a by-product of this process, which is why trees and plants are such an important part of nature...and life.
Try to duplicate photosynthesis with this experiment: Fill a jar with water and place a freshly picked plant leaf into the jar. Put the jar in a sunny location and after an hour, check to see if the leaf is covered with tiny bubbles of oxygen. Ta-da-photosynthesis!
Check out Conservationist for Kids for more activities and information!
Upcoming DEC Events
New York City
Governors Island Family Festival - Governors Island
Saturday, May 31 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM
The second annual Family Festival with games, performances, exhibits and family activities. Free ferries run from the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan and a water taxi from several points in Brooklyn.
Tivoli Bay Visitors Center and Norrie Point Education Center
Fishin' on the River
Norrie Point Environmental Center, Staatsburg
Saturday, May 17 from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Seine and angle for Hudson River fish. Equipment provided. For more information, call 845-889-4745 x104, or send an e-mail. Hosted by the Hudson River Research Reserve and I Fish NY.
Flowers that Bloom in the Spring, Tra La
Saturday, May 10 at 2:00 PM
Painted and red trillium, trout lily, and Solomon's seal are just a few of the delicate spring wildflowers we expect to find in bloom on this easy woodland walk. Learn how to identify wildflowers and some of their fascinating natural history and cultural lore as well.
The Forest or the Trees?
Saturday, May 17 at 2:00 PM
Now you don't have to choose! Gain a closer acquaintance with native trees along Stony Kill's forested trails, and learn each species' ecological role and importance to humans.
Capital Region - Five Rivers Environmental Education Center
Birding by Ear
Saturday, May 10 at 9:00 AM
Come celebrate International Migratory Bird Day on a walking tour of the grounds as we engage in "sound science" at the height of the annual spring migration.
Sunday, May 11 at 2:00 PM
Bring gloves and pitch in as we uproot non-native invasive plants that threaten native ecosystems. Our quarry will be garlic mustard, a wildflower that chokes out native forest species.
Central New York - Rogers Environmental Education Center
Wildflowers at Cush Hill
Saturday, May 10 at 10:00 AM
Wander the forest hillside of Cush Hill admiring nature's beauties. Don't miss the short-lived display of wildflowers, from squirrel-corn to blue cohosh.
Bear Creek Finger Lakes Trail Hike
Saturday, May 17 from 8:30 AM to Noon
Walk a beautiful section of the Finger Lakes Trail. This great system of trails runs across the state, providing short or longer hikes. Please call to register and for trip details.
Western New York - Reinstein Environmental Education Center
Thursday, May 8 at 7:30 PM
Listen for the creatures of the night on an evening walk in the woods.
Mothers and Babies
Saturday, May 10 at 10:30 AM
Do snakes have maternal instincts? Which animal fathers make good mothers? Celebrate Mother's Day by learning about parent/child relations in the natural world.
Who Goes There?
Saturday, May 17 at 10:30 AM
Learn about the animals of Reinstein Woods, detect tracks and other animal signs, and make your own animal track.
Early Bird Walk
Sunday, May 18 at 9:00 AM
The early birder catches the early birds! Search for spring migrants in the morning. Bring binoculars if you have them.
Full "Flower" Moon Walk
Monday, May 19 at 8:00 PM
Enjoy a walk at the time of year when flowers bloom during the day and the moon is in bloom at night.