At right is our most recent issue (September) as printed.
Into The Woods: Sugar Maple vs. Red Maple
By Ethan Tapper
It is difficult for many people to distinguish between sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and red maple (Acer rubrum). The bark and leaves of these two trees have stumped plenty of us, leading many to just call them both “maple.” This wouldn’t be such a big deal if both species weren’t so abundant — according to the US Forest Service sugar maple and red maple are the two most prominent tree species in Vermont by volume — and so different; these two species grow on different sites in different ways and have different commercial value and applications. These distinctions have real and important implications for our forests and how we manage them.
The first way that these trees are distinct is in how they grow. Foresters often describe trees by “shade-tolerance,” their ability to survive under differing levels of sunlight exposure. Sugar maple, along with beech and hemlock, is “shade-tolerant,” capable of surviving and even growing under a relatively dense canopy and with little direct sunlight. Conversely, red maple, along with trees like yellow birch and red oak, is considered a “mid-tolerant,” capable of tolerating only moderate amounts of shade. Being more or less shade-tolerant has pros and cons: less shade-tolerant trees often grow faster than more shade-tolerant trees when sunlight is readily available, but shade-tolerant trees are generally longer-lived. In the case of these two species, red maple may initially overtop sugar maple but loses the race in the end; sugar maples boast an average life span of around 200 years, whereas red maple averages around 80-100.
While they often co-occur, sugar and red maple differ in where they “like” to grow. Sugar maple is considered a “rich-site” species, most likely to be found where soils are rich in calcium and other nutrients, often growing with basswood and white ash. Red maple, by contrast, is a generalist, able to occupy a range of different sites; from growing with red oak and beech on dry, acidic sites to growing with black ash in wetlands and everywhere in between. It is also associated with some “pioneer” forest types — areas transitioning from field to woods — accompanied by white pine, aspen/poplars and white/grey birch (some of our “shade-intolerant” species). Red maple’s flexibility means that it may become more abundant as our climate changes and our pickier species — like sugar maple — are less able to adapt.
Sugar maple is called “hard” or “rock” maple due to its very dense, hard wood, while red maple is called “soft maple” for its comparatively light, soft wood. Still considered a relatively high-value tree, red maple lumber is used for flooring, furniture-making and other applications, but sugar maple lumber is generally considered more desirable in appearance and is more valuable. Sugar maple’s highest commercial value is realized when large, defect-free logs are used for “veneer,” peeled into sheets as thin as 1/40 of an inch which are fixed to woods of lesser value. You’ve probably seen sugar maple veneer on your tables, desks, doors and cabinets. Both maple species make excellent, high-BTU firewood.
Maple sugaring is another important commercial use for sugar maple and yes, even red maple. Maple syrup production has exploded over the last 15 years in Vermont — over that time our average annual maple syrup output has tripled (from around 600,000 gallons a year in the late 2000’s to around 1.8 million gallons a year in 2017) and our number of taps has increased from around 2 million to around 5.5 million. Sugar maple has traditionally been the primary species tapped for syrup, but red maple is
increasingly used. Both species produce sap of similar quantity and quality, but sugar maple sap is usually slightly higher in sugar content, capable of producing lighter, fancier-grade syrup than red maple (though sugar content in sap varies widely from site to site).
Once you understand how different these two tree species are you can understand why differentiating between them is so crucial, whether you are a forester, landowner or naturalist; they are both important ecologically and commercially but fill very different niches, which has implications for their management. As a result, we should treat them differently, and stop just calling them both “maple!”
For more info on differentiating between these species, check out A Beginner’s Guide to Recognizing Trees of the Northeast, by Mark Mikolas. Ethan Tapper is the Chittenden County Forester. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (802)-585-9099, or at his office at 111 West Street, Essex Junction.
Look Out for Swallowwort
Invasive plant species is destroying native biodiversity at an alarming rate
BY LYNN FURNO
Though there are many invasive plants common to Vermont, some species have flown under the radar. These uncommon species are considered “early detection plants.” One uncommon invasive plant is swallowwort.
When I moved to Hinesburg 28 years ago, I discovered two small vines. I tried digging them up, but to no avail — the roots were too deep. Not knowing they were swallowwort, an invasive plant, it was ten years later when they caught my attention again. The lower limbs of my cedar tree had died, and upon investigation, I discovered more of these sinuous vines under the tree strangling the branches! Determined to remove them, I tried a dose of Roundup, but it resisted even that. Each year, I’d find more vines despite my efforts. Then, for a period of time, the gardens were left unattended.
Five years ago, I returned to the gardens, and found that the swallowwort (still an unknown plant to me) had spread to eight new locations. Furiously, I dove into plant identification books and articles online. Once I knew the name, a whole backstory came to life — from Canada to Pennsylvania and beyond, gardeners and landowners lamented the presence and impact of this innocuous looking vine.
“Nothing else grows, not even grass”
Swallowwort is two species (black and pale: botanical names Vincetoxicum nigrum and Vincetoxicum rossicum). Only black swallowwort has been reported in Vermont. Other names for these plants include black dog-strangling vine or Louise’s swallow-wort. It grows in any soil conditions (forests, meadows, marshlands and roadsides). You can spot shoots in spring, growing vertically until collapsing under its own weight. Trying to stay upright, it latches onto nearby plants or creeps along the ground, twisting and climbing over anything in its path. Look closely and you’ll see the leaves grow opposite each other along the stem, and are oval shaped, with a dark green sheen. Tiny, deep purple (black) or light pink (pale) star-shaped flowers give way in late summer to seed pods akin to those of milkweed, only smaller.
I and others are concerned about the presence of this plant for reasons beyond a few dead cedar branches. Swallowwort reduces biodiversity of native plants, invertebrates, AND vertebrates! The vines release chemicals hindering growth in other plants, reduce the integrity of important habitats like grasslands, choke out new growth in forests, and spread along roadsides. These chemicals can repel or kill native herbivorous insects and mammals. Of particular note are its impacts to monarch butterflies. Adult monarchs mistake swallowwort for milkweed, lay eggs on it, and when hatched the caterpillars are unable to eat or are poisoned by the swallowwort and die.
Through my research I found this article by Julie West of Henderson, New York:
“I want to give you an idea of what it’s like when swallowwort invades. To me, it’s like my land has cancer and I feel an overwhelming sense of helplessness as I watch it spread.
“Nothing else grows, not even grass.
“When swallowwort takes over an open field, there are no more wildflowers.
“No daisies, milkweed, dandelions, Queen Anne’s lace, not even chicory or thistles. It can climb eight to 10 feet high. It will smother and kill [shrubs]. Swallowwort is so aggressive here in Henderson that this took just a few short years.
“Swallowwort has no natural enemies to control its spread. The plants show no sign of damage from insects, and there is no indication that deer or any other animals eat it. Swallowwort can only be controlled when it is recognized early and it is still just a plant here and a plant there.”
Sound bleak? I’ve also found in my research success stories and reasons for hope. There are things we can all do, that you can do, to help.
First and foremost, be on the lookout for new plants on your property that you don’t recognize. The key is to encourage ourselves and others to identify those unknown plants. For this early detection of swallowwort, we can all learn how to identify it so we can take action while it’s in the early stages of establishment (vtinvasives.org/invasive/swallowwort-black).
“Swallowwort can only be controlled when it is recognized early and it is still just a plant here and a plant there.”
We can learn how to control the spread. New growth is fairly easy to dig up. The plant also spreads by seed, so cut off flowers or pluck seed pods, but be sure not to compost or otherwise risk it spreading to other parts of your yard! You can cut this plant to ground level, starving the roots and hindering its spread. Pulling/burning only encourages vigorous growth and digging older plants is difficult because the roots are deep and will break.
Never mow or Brush Hog an invasive when it has gone to seed. Herbicide treatment can be effective in some instances, but it requires continued application over several years.
Small groups of organized people can have a huge positive impact. In Ogunquit, Maine, a local committee has successfully held pod-picking days as part of their work to remove the population of swallowwort. Though the plants have been there for over 20 years, eight annual picking days have removed over 6,000 pounds of pods, all which otherwise would have seeded and continued the spread of the plants. Each year, there is less to pick (which in this case is a good thing)! The group’s motto is “little by little, a little becomes a lot!” The group is motivated by their passion to protect the monarch butterfly, and keep pollinator-friendly vegetation thriving along the coastal parts of town.
My hope is that these stories of struggle against the devastating effects of this invasive plant paired with stories of success will lead to education and action. Hopefully, we can all take steps to control its spread, while we look for ways to restore our gardens and native habitats.
Be on the lookout!
If you find swallowwort, please take pictures and report it here: vtinvasives.org/get-involved/report-it.
Buns and Pansies at Red Wagon Plants
By Julie Rubaud
We have some exciting news for you all. Red Wagon Plant’s Greenhouse #3 is now home to a weekend coffee shop. Our friends Julianne and Didier Murat from Vadeboncouer are showing up on Saturdays and Sundays with pastries, and making coffee (from Tandem Coffee Roasters) and fresh juice for you to enjoy while you soak in the sun and the plants.
We are so excited; after years of dreaming of this, it is finally happening. The inspiration comes from the English tea houses I visited at public gardens and garden centers in England during recent trips. Nothing too complicated, just a simple way to enjoy a pause in your day, surrounded by thriving plants. Possible treats include hot cross buns, buckwheat cakes, parsnip cake, green juice and orange-ish juice.
Check instagram.com/juliannemurat or email email@example.com for coffee house hours (Red Wagon Plants is open every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.). Julianne is taking special orders too, so please let her know if you would like to place a bulk order to take home. You can email her at the above email address, or send her a message through Instagram.
In gardening news, it is time to finally get out there! Onions, leeks, cabbage, arugula, mâche, kale, scallions and more can go in the ground now. And you can sow seeds, too. Radishes, carrots, beets, spinach, arugula and peas are willing to germinate in the cool soils of April.
Our plants are starting to go to local stores, so keep an eye out for the displays at Healthy Living and both City Market locations.
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Raising the Black Lives Matter Flag at CVU
CVU’s Racial Alliance Committee
CVU Students and Faculty:
The CVSD School Board has approved RAC’s proposal to fly the Black Lives Matter flag at CVU for 30 days this year. This effort has been almost two years in the making, with extensive efforts made by the Racial Alliance Committee to educate and advocate for racial equity at CVU. By raising the flag, we hope to make CVU a more inclusive and equitable environment, committed to making all members feel welcome and appreciated.
CVU’s core principles are to respect ourselves, respect each other, and respect the place.
Flying the flag is a catalyst for desperately needed dialogue, a statement of solidarity, and a commitment to equitable change. We affirm that Black Lives Matter is a peaceful and empowering grassroots movement, advocating for justice and collective liberation. By supporting and standing by Black Lives Matter as a school community, we are taking a proactive stance against bias, ignorance, and hate.
CVU’s core principles are to respect ourselves, respect each other, and respect the place. That narrative would be incomplete without showing due respect and recognition to students of color, who often face unique and unrecognized challenges at CVU.
During the week of April 1st, we will raise the Black Lives Matter flag during a 30 minute ceremony featuring the voices of student leaders. This ceremony is a celebration of our diversity and efforts to make CVU a better place, but is also recognition to the work we still must do moving forward.
We encourage any students who have questions, concerns, or ideas to contact us, or consider attending RAC on Wednesday mornings, at 7:45am in the Library classroom. RAC will also be tabling in the cafeteria during lunches this coming week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday), if any students would like to discuss the flag, or other actions RAC is taking in our community.
Hands Only CPR
The mantra of the day was “Stayin’ Alive.”
The instructions were short and simple. Call 911, put the phone on speaker, locate the center of the chest, and press hard and fast to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive” or any 100-measure song.
On Saturday Feb. 2, over 100 members of the community, including some from neighboring towns, ages 6 to over 70, learned hands-only CPR. After a two-minute video, everyone practiced on a mannequin.
Within 30 minutes, attendees had a working knowledge of hands-only CPR.
Thank you everyone who came to learn and to the emergency responders for assisting with the training.
Hinesburg Fire Department is in the early planning of a community cardio-pulmonary resuscitation class for April 6. This is an opportunity to learn all the steps and become certified in the performance of CPR.
If you are interested in attending the class, please email your name and phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will place your name on a list and contact you by mid-March with additional class information.
I recently learned of language included in Section 4012 of H.R.2825, which provides for the reauthorization of the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which would allow armed Secret Service agents to enter polling locations – at the direction of the president.
Local Libraries to Host Mental Health Conversations
FROM PRESS RELEASE - January 31, 2019
Between 1996 and 2016, the suicide rate in Vermont increased by more than 48 percent — the second highest increase nationally according to the CDC. This rising rate of suicide, paired with the social stigma attached to mental health problems, indicates a need for safe spaces for communities to learn and talk about issues of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
Recognizing these issues within their own towns, Charlotte Library and Carpenter-Carse Library (Hinesburg) have teamed up to host “Mental Health Conversations: Risk and Resiliency” during the month of February 2019. The public libraries will host two evenings of panel presentations with mental health professionals, and a separate event that features Pulitzer Prize-winning and Emmy Award-winning writer and critic Ron Powers, author of “No One Cares About Crazy People” at the Carpenter-Carse Library.
The panel discussions will take place on Feb. 5 at the Charlotte Library, and Feb. 20 at the Carpenter-Carse Library. Both panel presentations start at 7 p.m. The panelists are Charlotte McCorkel, LICSW, project director of integration, Howard Center; Joanne Wolfe, MA, M.Ed, licensed psychologist; and Eliza Pillard LICSW, family wellness coach at the Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families at the UVM Medical Center. Themes will include anxiety, depression and suicide prevention. Discussion topics will be what to look for (signs and symptoms) and how to start a conversation with a loved one. There will be time for questions and the libraries will provide online resources and a curated collection of print and video materials for browsing and borrowing.
The Carpenter-Carse Library will welcome Ron Powers on Feb. 12 at 6:30 p.m. Ron Powers is New York Times best-selling author living in Vermont — he is also the author of 16 books, his most recent one, “No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America,” offers an account of the social history of mental illness in America as well as his personal story of his two sons’ battles with schizophrenia. At the library, Ron will speak of his family’s journey with mental illness as well as his research on mental health and the health care system.
Panel discussions will take place on Feb. 5 at the Charlotte Library, and Feb. 20 at the Carpenter-Carse Library.
These discussions and presentations are made possible by the “All of Us” grants through the National Network of Libraries of Medicine. The Carpenter-Carse and Charlotte libraries will also receive iPads through one of the grants. The iPads will be loaded with reputable medical resources, and then circulated at the libraries so patrons can browse a wealth of mental health information privately and securely.
This project is funded in part by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Cooperative Agreement Number UG4LM012347 with the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester. The mental health conversations are part of Charlotte and Carpenter-Carse Libraries’ initiative, “Healthy Communities: Head to Toe.” Another topic the libraries will focus on is “Tick-Borne Illnesses” in April of 2019.