Sunday, July 17, 2016

Daily Diversity! Week 9

Hey everyone! Here are the species for last week.

Ebony Jewelwing

Scientific Order: Odonata; Family: Colopterygidae

Anishinabemowin name: oboodashkwaanishiinh

This common damselfly is recognizable by it’s blue-green body and dark black wings!
Fun fact: Males attract females by performing a “cross display”, which shows off the pattern on the male’s abdomen!
For more info, check out this website!

Widow Skimmer

Scientific Order: Odonata; Family: Libellulidae

Anishinabemowin name: oboodashkwaanishiinh

This common North American dragonfly can be identified by its steely-blue body or the black bands on it’s wings!
Fun fact: Widow skimmers are very territorial, and certain areas are defended by groups of males, especially around the breeding season!
For more info, check out this website!

Red-winged Blackbird

Scientific name: Agelaius phoeniceus

Anishinabemowin name: asiginaak

O-ka-LEE! That’s the song of this common North American bird! This brave blackbird is known for attacking larger birds, and it eats up insects and seeds!
Fun fact: Although the male red-winged blackbirds tend to get around to multiple mates, they are known for helping feed and care for their nestlings!
To hear the bird’s call, click here!
For more information, check out this website!

Sugar Maple Tree

Scientific name: Acer saccharum

Anishinabemowin name: ininaatig

This common deciduous hardwood tree is a vital part of many ecological systems in eastern US and Canadian forests!
Fun fact: The Anishinabe people processed sugar maple sap into various important products, including blocks of sugar for trade and syrup for food in the winter!
For more info, check out this website!

Ironwood, or American Hornbeam

Scientific name: Ostrya virginiana

Anishinabemowin name: maananoons

This deciduous North American tree loves dry soil and rocky slopes in a forest’s understory!
Fun Fact: The ironwood is so called because of its very dense and durable wood, which has long been used for tools and buildings.
For more information, check out this website!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Staying Alive: Bee Colony Die-Offs Still a Complex Picture

By Rachel Pawlowicz

Writing last summer in the Washington Post column "Wonkblog," Christopher Ingraham announced the end of the “Beepocalypse.  The story, which was written in response to the concern caused by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), focused on the situation from an economic viewpoint. Unfortunately, that perspective glosses over many of the nuances of CCD, even if it was meant to mitigate some of the growing anxiety about the situation.

But why was there so much worry? One reason is that CCD led to a steep increase in colony die-offs beginning in 2006. In response to those die-offs, annual colony loss surveys have been conducted to keep track of loss rates.  Earlier surveys tracked only winter losses; in recent years, summer and overall annual losses have been tracked as well.  While it’s true that winter die-offs are down from their 2007-2008 season peak, summer die-off rates have remained high. The Bee Informed Collaboration is an effort from different agricultural-science research labs across the nation with support from various universities, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. These organizations have been publishing the results of the surveys (see below) in addition to researching methods for better beekeeping.  Because their longitudinal study is still in its early days, much of what’s available on the Bee Informed site is their survey data.

This graph from Bee Informed shows recent total annual losses remaining high, even as the number of hives has increased. Beekeepers have taken to splitting their hives in half, increasing the number of active colonies. Note that the graph indicates winter loss percentages, From 2010-2011 forward it also includes data on total annual losses, which includes summer loss rates.

If die-off levels are still high, why would the Post’s writer declare “Beemageddon” over, or rather, averted? That’s because the total number of colonies has increased from 2.4 million in 2006 to 2.7 in 2014. They cite beekeepers adjusting their methods to counteract the effects of CCD as the main reason for the resurgence. Beekeepers have taken to splitting their hives in half, increasing the number of active colonies. The piece also cites the relatively low price to purchase a ‘starter’ pack for a colony as a factor for the increased number of hives. But, again, it doesn’t address potential factors causing the die-offs, such as parasitic infections or harmful agricultural practices.

Where can people go to learn more about the myriad factors playing into this issue and ways to help improve it? The internet is a likely first stop. But there are other resources available that can provide hands-on experience.

Check your local community college, extension service, or county or city education offerings. Many of these offer beekeeping classes or workshops that cover the various issues and challenges beekeepers encounter. We’re fortunate at Matthaei-Nichols to have a top-notch beekeeping program in the Ann Arbor Backyard Beekeepers (A2B2). This local group of dedicated beekeeper offers its “Bee School” for beginning and for intermediate students. Classes run from February through October and meet both indoors and outside in the apiaries at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. The course covers topics such as fall and winter colony management, issues with pests and pathogens, and proper honey removal practices. A2B2 also offers a free monthly beekeeping program at the botanical gardens. Visit the Arb and Gardens website for more information.

During bee school season, the botanical gardens makes use of the colonies for class demonstrations, particularly those hives that are located near the Campus Farm and across from the Project Grow plots. If you take the class, you’ll be able to see the bees in action and work with them in a setting quite a bit larger than most backyards.

These colonies are located across from the Project Grow
gardens at Matthaei Botanical Gardens.
If you’d like to find out more or explore Michigan’s rules and regulations about beekeeping, head over to A2B2, the Michigan Beekeeper’s Association, and check out Starting and Keeping Bees in Michigan: Rules and Regulations by Meghan Milbrath who also runs the Bee School through A2B2.

Rachel Pawlowicz, from Sylvania, Ohio, just completed her first year in the Master of Science in Information program, focusing on archives and records management. Rachel has been busy so far this summer digitizing the Matthaei-Nichols' records and helping with the membership program as well.

Rachel Pawlowicz

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Wolverine Pathways Scholars Come to Matthaei

By Benjamin Tupper

Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum will host the Wolverine Pathways scholars next week. The scholars are students from Ypsilanti and Southfield, Mich., public school districts. Children's ed intern Ben Tupper writes about this exciting new University of Michigan program and what it means for the Arb and Gardens---and  the participating students.

Summer is a busy time for everyone at Matthaei and the Children’s Education department is no exception. We have made the transition from running school programs to summer programs and are preparing fervently for the arrival of the Wolverine Pathways scholars. Some around Matthaei may have heard from me about potential involvement with the program, but for those who have not, here is a little summary of this brand new initiative.

Designed and led by Dr. Robert Jagers (developmental psychologist at the University of Michigan’s  School of Education) the Wolverine Pathways program launched in January and works with students who live within the Ypsilanti and Southfield public school districts. University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel has called the Wolverine Pathways program an “important step for the University of Michigan as we continue to look for ways to identify talented students and cultivate U-M applicants from all parts of our state.”

The program itself is free for students and families. Each student who completes the program, and is admitted to U-M, will be awarded a full-tuition scholarship for four years. The Pathways program features hands-on and project-based learning activities that extend and integrate core English-Language arts, math, and science content. One of the other major goals of the Wolverine Pathways program is to give young people early opportunities that will help them see possibilities and cultivate their fullest potential. It also acts as a way to give youth a sense of what it can be like to be a student at the University of Michigan.

Given the goals and the direction of the Wolverine Pathways program, taking advantage of all that Matthaei-Nichols has to offer makes sense. The education department works with students year round, both leading and designing hands-on learning experiences that also bring in projects-based pedagogies. The Children’s Education team has been busy over the past two months building a program that will hopefully take advantage of our incredible site, knowledgeable staff, and to scaffold an educational experience that is both relevant and connected to youths lives.

Docents in training last month in preparation for the programming that Ben and
the children's ed team at Matthaei will implement during the Wolverine Pathways
scholars visit in July.

The Wolverine Pathways scholars will be at Matthaei for four days (2 days with groups for Ypsilanti and 2 days with groups from Southfield). One of the goals of the program design was to make sure the experience ties into the mission and vision of Matthaei while also giving youth the chance to bring in their own lived experiences to the program. To do this, the team has designed two different projects for the 10th and 7th graders based on their experiences at Matthaei. The 7th graders will help develop and create a citizen-science water-monitoring project, an interpretive guide book to aquatic testing, or blog posts that can be used to provide insight into their experiences here and provide information for future youth groups. The 10th graders will be investigating what stewardship means, based on their own experiences, and how/if their trip to Matthaei has changed and helped inform their own personal stewardship goals and visions.

A view of Fleming Creek at Matthaei Botanical Gardens.The creek is
one of the sites that Ben and the Matthaei-Nichols children's ed team will use
for a water-quality monitoring project with the Wolverine Pathways scholars.

It is going to be an exciting four days, filled with fun, adventure, lots of youthful energy, and I am sure some stressful moments. I will be following up after the program is over to update everyone on what happened, how it worked, and how it helps to inform the design process. One of the things that interests me in exploring is the iterative design process the Children’s Education team has undergone to get to the point of implementation. It is always interesting in education design work how the planned learning goals play out and if they are aligned with youths’ experiences. The second installation of this blog will be about the design process and how implementation went! Thank you to everyone who has been involved in getting ready to provide a wonderful educational experience for these youth and for sharing your expertise and wisdom with prospective U-M students!

Ben Tupper, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Education with a concentration in science education. He is also pursuing his museum studies graduate certificate. His research interests include teaching and learning in informal science education settings with a specific focus on issues in the field of environmental education.

Ben Tupper

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Hoop House Puts Students in Touch with Campus Farm beyond the Growing Season

By Crystal Cole

Hi everyone! This is Crystal Cole, sustainable foods intern at Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum, with an update on what’s happening in the University of Michigan Campus Farm. One of the exciting projects in the works this summer is a fall hoop house installation on the farm. Campus Farm goals include getting students involved in agriculture and providing a space for experimentation, research, and education for students from across the University. Thanks to Michigan’s relatively short summer growing season—when many students are out of town—accomplishing those goals can be a challenge. A hoop house will allow us to extend our season into the fall and winter when people are around.

A hoop house extends growing capacity on both ends of the season.
With the Campus Farm's new hoop house, we'll be able to engage students
with nature and food-growing activities during the school year when many more
of them are here. (Photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons.)

As a result of this move to year-round production, we’ve cut back a lot of our summer production but we do have some crops ready to go! You can find them at Argus Farm Stop in Ann Arbor (325 W. Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48103) including different culinary herbs and my personal favorite—culinary flowers!

These zinnias are fresh from the Campus Farm. If you want to bring a pop of cutting-garden color into the kitchen, try zinnias in salads or sandwiches, or mix them in with sauces like mayonnaise.

Chives blossoms add a subtle onion flavor.

Marigolds add a citrusy spice to salads, rice dishes, even desserts.

Violas are just plain beautiful to look at in a salad. Some people
report that violas and violets  have a subtle wintergreen flavor.

Did you know that many flowers you might be growing in your own garden beds can actually be eaten? *See note below.

Here are some of my favorite edible flowers:

Queen Sophia French Marigold
We have a ton of these out in the vegetable garden. Marigolds act as a natural pest deterrent for tomatoes and peppers and they’re edible. It’s like a dream come true. Just eat the petals though, as the green base of the flower can be bitter. The taste of the flower petals is a combination of citrus and spice, with a slight bitterness. They work well in salads and desserts or cooked in rice or egg dishes.

Giant Zinnias
Zinnias bring a pop of color to any garden and also apparently make a great tea said to be reminiscent of chamomile, though I’ve never tried it. Read more about recipes using zinnias.

A great option for bringing a light onion flavor to many dishes, the chive plant extends its culinary uses to the flowers. Pull apart the fluffy flower ball and scatter the flowers on salads, pizza, or sandwiches to bring a bit of onion flavor to your favorite recipes.

Violas or pansies
These aren't growing in the Campus Farm at the moment but they're worth planting if you want try grow them for the kitchen. Using the whole flower gives a subtle wintergreen flavor to your favorite dishes.

Candied flowers
Yes, you can candy flowers! It's a great way to preserve them for use in sweet recipes. Try candying apple blossoms, borage flowers, lilac florets, rose petals, scented geraniums, and violets, violas, and pansies. Take a look at this all-purpose candied flowers recipe from

What flowers do you like to use in your kitchen?

* Note: don’t eat plants or flowers if you’re not absolutely sure what plant it is! Some plants can be toxic to humans and caution should be exercised when harvesting plants, especially from wild areas. Never use flowers that have been sprayed with pesticide or herbicide.

Crystal Cole is a new graduate from Program in the Environment, specializing in aquatic ecology. Her career goals are to work on integrating her aquatic ecology background with her agricultural interests. She is working this summer as the sustainable foods intern.

Crystal Cole

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Grant Puts Dixboro Road Trail on Fast Track

A hiking and biking trail connecting Matthaei Botanical Gardens with the regional border-to-border trail and beyond is one step closer, thanks to a Local Area Program grant of nearly $730,000 to Ann Arbor Charter Township from Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG).

This recreational trail will provide a critical non-motorized link from the University of Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens to Washtenaw County’s Parker Mill Park, with connections to the state’s Iron Belle Trail, the regional Border-to-Border Trail, and the local Gallup Park Pathway, which is part of the Border-to-Border Trail.

The trtail will connect Matthaei with the area's
Border-to-Border trail system, to Eastern Michigan
University, Washtenaw Community College, Ypsilanti,
and beyond
“The Gardens and Arboretum, along with the Challenge Course and Radrick Golf Course, lead the way in endorsing and furthering sustainability as a goal,” says Karen Sikkenga, associate director of Matthaei-Nichols, “and nonmotorized transportation connections to central and north campus are central to Matthaei Botanical Gardens’ strategic goals. Currently more than 140,000 visitors each year carpool, ride a bike, or drive a car to get to Matthaei. The new trail will allow them to leave their cars safely behind.

Beyond sustainability, the trail “is another link in a chain of accessibility options to the botanical gardens and the area for everyone,” Sikkenga adds.  “And it will serve residents in the densest part of Ann Arbor Township and provide a critical link for the region’s extensive trail system and public transportation.”

The trail also expands on existing non-motorized connections to University of Michigan and St. Joseph Mercy Hospitals, University of Michigan Central and North Campuses, Eastern Michigan University and Ypsilanti, Concordia University and Washtenaw County Community College, as well as public transportation to these destinations. Diana McKnight Morton, Vice Chair of Washtenaw Community College Board of Trustees, says she’s excited about a trail that gives access to areas that are often difficult to get to other than by car. “Once this trail is in place, I believe people will utilize it beyond our expectations,” she says.

The shared-use trail is located entirely on University of Michigan land. The university has donated an easement for the project and provided valuable support for the grant application. The two-mile trail will run near Dixboro Road, a busy artery in Washtenaw County with a right of way that is inadequate for safe nonmotorized roadside passage.

This trail has been a priority in Washtenaw County’s Master Plan since 2002 and Washtenaw County Parks provided a $250,000 Connecting Communities grant for the project. “With this generous MDOT grant from SEMCOG, Washtenaw County’s grant and a state-level MDOT grant of $1,174,000, our Township has been awarded more than $2,150,000 in grant funding for this important project,” said Michael C. Moran, Ann Arbor Township supervisor. In addition to these grants, over 125 individuals and businesses have contributed more than $250,000 toward the project.

There are many gifting opportunities at the Gardens and Arboretum. For more information on how you can help support the trail, visit our major gift priorities page.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Daily Diversity! Week 7 and 8

Hi everyone! Sorry this is getting posted late, but here are the species from the past two weeks!

Foxglove beardtongue

Scientific name: Penstemon digitalis

Anishinabemowin name: unknown

The first plant this week is this wonderful little flower! Foxglove beardtongue has purple stems, dark green leaves, and can be found throughout eastern Canada and the eastern US!
Fun Fact: The name “beardtongue” comes from the fact that the flowers produce stamens that appear to have small tufts of hair!
For more information, check out this website!

Red Honeysuckle

Scientific name:  Lonicera dioica

Anishinabemowin name: ozaawaaskined

This climbing flower prefers to grow in edges, clearings, and banks of thick woods.
Fun fact: This native plant is quite ubiquitous: it’s found in almost every county in Michigan!
For more information, check out this website!

Bur Oak

Scientific name: Quercus macrocarpa

Anishinabemowin name: mitigomizh

This common ornamental tree is an important part of eastern prairies. It is fire-resistant, drought-resistant, and may live for up to 400 years!
Fun Fact: The name “macrocarpa” refers to the bur oak’s macro-sized acorns!
For more information, check out this website!

Green Heron

Scientific name: Butorides virescens

Anishinabemowin name: gichi-mooshka`osi

This small heron is quite the family-oriented bird! Both parents help with incubating the pale-green eggs and feeding their young.
Fun fact: As Wikipedia states, “Butorides is from Middle English butor ‘bittern’ and Ancient Greek -oides, ‘resembling’, and virescens is Latin for ‘greenish’”.
To hear the green heron’s call, click here!
To learn more, check out this website!

Barred Owl

Scientific name: Strix varia

Anishinabemowin name: gookooko'oo

Here to welcome you to July is the barred owl! This nocturnal bird eats small mammals and is known to have an interesting courtship dance. “Who cooks for you?” is the classic phrase to help remember the call of the barred owl!
Fun Fact: Although seen as symbols of wisdom in Western culture, the Anishinabe often see owls as signs of death.
To hear the barred owl, click here!
To learn more, check out this website!

Common Milkweed

Scientific name: Asclepias syriaca

Anishinabemowin name:  ininiwizh

Many species of insect feed on the fragrant, nectariferous flowers these plants produce. These are a popular plant in butterfly gardens, which have increased in number over the years as a way to combat declining monarch butterfly populations.
Fun fact: Milkweed oil from the seeds can be converted into cinnamic acid and function as a very potent sunscreen when used at a 1-5% concentration.
For more information, check out this website!

Indian Hemp

Scientific name: Apocynum cannabinum

Anishinabemowin name:  zesabiins

This perennial herbaceous plant is poisonous, as it can cause cardiac arrest if ingested. Stay away from this one, folks!
Fun fact: Although Indian Hemp can be toxic, tea from the roots has been used in some traditional medicine to treat several conditions, including headache, earache, nausea, insanity, edema, jaundice, anxiety, diarrhea, constipation, and urinary difficulties.
For more information, check out this website!

Japanese Knotweed

Scientific name: Fallopia japonica

Anishinabe name: unknown

This plant is invasive to several countries, and is actually listed by the World Conservation Union as one of the world’s worst invasive species!
Fun fact: Despite its invasive nature, Japanese Knotwood is valued by some beekepers as a significant source of nectar for honeybees when little else is flowering.
For more information, check out this website!

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

Scientific name: Sistrurus catenatus

Anishinabemowin name: zhiishiigwe

Hissssss! This little guy is rather shy and avoids humans whenever possible, but possesses a cytotoxic venom that destroys tissues ~ it’s not afraid to use it if it feels it is threatened!
Fun fact: The word “massasauga” comes from the Anishinabe language, and means “great river mouth.” This is because it tends to live in swamps, which are frequently located at the mouths of rivers.
To hear the Massasauga’s rattle, click here!
For more information, check out this website!

Northern Water Snake

Scientific name: Nerodia sipedon

Anishinabemowin name:  omazaandamoo

This large, nonvenomous snake hunts along the water’s edge for small fish, frogs, worms, leeches, crayfish, salamanders, small birds and mammals.
Fun fact: If one of these slippery fellows feels threatened, it usually swims to the bottom of the water and stays there until the predator gives up.
For more information, check out this website!