~ Finding Wild Orchids at Snake Den State Park ~

On a recent hike through Snake Den State Park in Johnston, Rhode Island, we observed an amazing number of lady slippers throughout the park. Usually on hikes, we see one or two in dry, sandy, upland areas. However, we were overwhelmed with the shear number we found here. It was absolutely gorgeous and a real treat to see how well they were flourishing here!

~ Things That Are and Aren't Poison Ivy ~

Every year we get flooded with questions about plant ID. Specifically poison ivy. We’ve put together common plants you would see in Rhode Island this time of year that are NOT poison ivy. Here’s to successful backyard plant ID!

~ Spring Has Sprung ~

The sounds and sights of spring are a welcomed respite from winter. Magnolia and cherry trees are blossoming, forsythia is in bloom, and bulbs are pushing through the ground. Daffodils, crocuses, snowdrops, and blue grape hyacinths are all opening their petals to the warming weather.

We love our spring weeds, too. Dandelions, dead nettles, and stinging nettle are all opening up. At a time of year where not much is flowering, these so called ‘weeds’ provide a pollen source for bees and other insects. Another reason not to use round up and pesticides.

Frogs are awake and have made their way to vernal pools. Listen to the chorus of spring peepers and wood frogs in the video below.

~ Twig Travels: Florida Wilderness in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park ~

As many of you know, Matt "Twig" Largess just returned from a four-month tree consulting trip in Florida. On the rare occasion he had some downtime, he explored Florida's wilderness areas. He took airboat rides in the Everglades, hiked through old-growth cypress swamps, communed with wildlife (including alligators!), and discovered that there are more preserved wild areas in Florida than he had imagined. 

One of the preserves Twig stopped by was the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. This is the largest preserved park in Florida, and is home to the nation's largest native orchid population. While he was there, he met with Park Biologist Mike Owen. Mike has been observing and preserving the park for over 24 years. 

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park Biologist Mike Own has been protecting the park for over 24 years.  Photo credit: FloridaHikes.com

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park Biologist Mike Own has been protecting the park for over 24 years. 
Photo credit: FloridaHikes.com

Fakahatchee has an incredible amount of other native biodiversity including Florida panthers, white-tailed deer, black bears, Eastern indigo snakes, diamondback terrapins, the threatened Everglades mink, and flocks of resident and migratory birds. 

It's also an incredibly rare forest ecosystem. This is the only place in the world where you'll find bald cypress trees sharing the canopy with royal palm trees. 

~ Twig Travels: Wildlife Conservation on Florida Golf Courses ~

Matt "Twig" Largess just returned from a four-month tree-consulting trip in Florida. During this time, Matt surveyed green assets on golf courses and other properties that had varying degrees of damage from Hurricane Irma. This was his longest consulting trip to date!

During his trip, he discovered that some of the golf courses he surveyed were allied with Audubon International. Audubon International (separate from the National Audubon Society) has a mission to "deliver high-quality environmental education to facilitate the sustainable management of land, water, wildlife, and other natural resources in all places people live, work, and play."

Golf courses around the world support Audubon International's mission by taking part in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf. The program works with courses to protect the environment while simultaneously preserving the natural heritage of the game of golf. Valuable natural areas and wildlife habitats are enhanced, and potentially harmful golf course operations are minimized.

This is all accomplished by courses following the Standard Environmental Management Practices that Audubon International developed. The practices cover environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, chemical use reduction and safety, water conservation, water quality management, and outreach and education. 

Check out some of the courses that Twig visited and partake in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf.

~ The Winter Forest ~

Ever wonder what songbirds, deer, raccoons, mice, and more eat in the wintertime? Not every species hibernates, so they need consistent food sources to get them through the season. Here are some common berries and plants that are vital to their wintertime diet. You may even consider planting some of these (except Asiatic Bittersweet and Japanese Barberry because they are non-native, invasive species) to attract wildlife in your backyard!

Rare Forest Sighting - Great Island Trail, Wellfleet

Continuing our exploration of Cape Cod National Seashore, we stopped by Great Island Trail in Wellfleet, MA. It is one of three forest areas part of the Atlantic coastal pine barrens, making it another rare forest to visit and study.

The Atlantic coastal pine barrens only comprise forests along the coastal plain of New Jersey, southern Long Island, NY, and Cape Cod and the islands, MA. These forests are characterized by nutrient-poor, sandy soils that are prone to drought and frequent fires. 

The original forests in Cape Cod were predominantly composed of hardwoods and white pines, which were chopped down by European settlers for agriculture and fuel. This deforestation led to topsoil erosion by wind and rain. It exposed the nutrient-depleted, dry, infertile soil and sand beneath, which caused the land to become barren.

In the 1830s, pitch pines were planted to stabilize the soil. Pitch pines are uniquely suited to this type of dry, nutrient-poor environment. They also create cool and shady habitat, perfect for oaks to reestablish. Oaks eventually outgrow the pioneer species (pitch pine), and the future forest will be oak and and white pine, just as it was before colonization.

Forest blessings to all

~ Unveiling of a Food Forest ~

The unveiling of Crossman Park in Central Falls is here! Largess Forestry and Voice of the Forest Alliance teamed up with the City of Central Falls, RI to create a healthful green space at the park this past spring. 

The park was recently renovated to include a walking track, outdoor fitness equipment and a brand new playground. Largess Forestry planted 22 fruit trees and 12 blueberry bushes in the park for anyone in the city to enjoy. 

This is part of a larger by effort by Mayor Diossa to reforest Central Falls and build a healthier community. Since reforesting cities is a huge part of Largess Forestry and Voice of the Forest's mission, this was a perfect collaboration.

We are so thrilled to be a part of this ongoing project.

~ Plant Medicine and ID Walk (Oakland Forest and Meadow Preserve) ~

We’re excited to have you join us on our Plant Medicine and ID Walk on September 9, 2017 from 10am-12pm! This walk is for anyone and everyone interested in the natural world. Throughout the walk Daryl and Grace will take participants on a journey to better understand the environment around us. You’ll learn how to identify common plants and how to use them as food and medicine.


~About Oakland Forest and Meadow Preserve~
Oakland Forest and Meadow Preserve in Portsmouth, RI is a special refuge. It’s home to native wildflowers and grasses, a mature beech forest, and various habitats. This preserve almost never existed. Back in 2000, it was slated for demolition, and condos were going to be built in its place. Instead, there was a grassroots effort to save the land. The Aquidneck Land Trust and Matthew Largess (founder of Largess Forestry and Voice of the Forest Alliance), along with many others, were among the good folks who worked to conserve the property. A representative from the Aquidneck Land Trust and Matthew Largess will both be at the walk.

~About Daryl and Grace~

Daryl Ayla Gardella is a folk herbalist, shamanic healing energy worker, holistic health coach and works for Largess Forestry. She found plant medicine about three years ago. Her journey with plant medicine began to transform her whole world. She felt empowered and joyful, and connected to her truth and purpose in the world. She is excited to bring plant medicine to others.

Daryl's work is a combination of western and energetic herbalism, earth-based shamanism, and intuitive healing. She is dedicated to re-connecting people deeply to plants and nature; receiving their healing capabilities and inspiration. She lives by the ocean, in Newport, Rhode Island, but is always longing to wander the earth, traveling and learning about plants and native healing traditions.

Grace Lentini has been active in the environmental field for ten years. She’s worked with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, RI DEM, and various conservation non-profits. “Throughout the years, my passion for the environment has only continued to grow,” says Grace. “Whenever I see a plant or animal that I don’t know, I immediately need to know what it is. This interest expands my knowledge of the natural world, and allows me share this information with others.” The natural world is beautiful and wondrous to Grace, and she wants everyone to develop a connection with it.