Author Archives: Ecroteau

Report on Protectors Semi-Annual Meeting at the Staten Island Zoo

At Protectors Semi Annual Meeting the members and supporters of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods were greeted and updated on walks and efforts by Protectors President Cliff Hagen. The walks are listed on the Calendar of Events.

The evening included a presentation by Tod Winston of the National Audubon Society about bringing birds to your home by growing native plants. He demonstrated that with the Audubon’s Native Plant Database National Audubon Society Plants for Birds database you could find the best plants for the birds in your area. It was emphasized that by growing bird-friendly plants will attract and protect the birds while making your yard beautiful, easy to care for, and better for the environment.

Protectors First Vice President Don Recklies gave a presentation about the severely damaged Arrowwood Viburnum shrubs in our woodlands. An invasive pest, the alien leaf beetle, that has been wreaking havoc on these shrubs. Don’s presentation provided an update on our Viburnum Project and showed what Protectors has prepared for volunteers who want to protect the viburnums their woods and yards.

What’s Love Got To Do With It: Compassion in Civic Life

What’s Love Got To Do With It: Compassion in Civic Life
Thursday, January 19, 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Admission by Donation
Staten Island Museum at Snug Harbor
1000 Richmond Terrace (Building A) SI, NY 10301 (Map)

Join us for a meaningful discussion with community leaders as they respond to current affairs and share their experiences using compassion in civic life.
Our moderator will be Meg Ventrudo, Executive Director of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art and panelists include: Clifford Hagen (President, Protectors of the Pine Oak Woods), Rev. John C. Bethell (Chaplain, United States Penitentiary, Hazelton), Kamillah Hanks (President/CEO at Historic Tappen Park Community Partnership), Ken Bialin (Zen Buddhist Monk & School Principal), and Debra Feaser (Financial Advisor, Edward Jones).

Richard Buegler 10-Mile Winter Walk

Saturday, January 14, 9:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Richard BueglerWinter 10-mile Greenbelt Walk – Protectors’ members are being encouraged to save the date for this iconic winter encounter with Staten Island’s woodlands, ponds, hills and vistas. The ten mile hike along the Greenbelt’s white trail brings participants in close contact with the winter woods. Dress warmly and bring lunch and beverage. We’ll meet at the Eaton Place carousel parking lot of Willowbrook Park. For more information contact Dominick Durso at (917) 478-7607, Don Recklies at (718) 768-9036 or Chuck Perry at (718) 667-1393.

Photos: St. Francis Friary

July 18, 2015 – Forest Restoration Workshop – High Rock

Forest Restoration Workshop #227 July 18,  2015

By Don Recklies,  Naturalist

It rarely happens,  but this day the weather didn’t seem to favor us: it wasn’t hot – and that was good – but the sky was overcast and a moderate rain fell constantly during my commute to High Rock Park. Dom picked me up at New Dorp and we arrived early so we had time to sit in the car and wonder who might show on such an unpromising morning. Hardy souls began to arrive; first Elaine who dropped off refreshments, then Richard, Sandra and Jillian. We lingered a bit to see if anyone else would appear, then took ourselves and a few tools down slope toward Loosestrife Swamp… and the morning became just fine. The overcast melted away and, as weather reporters like to say, we began to “experience periods of cloud and sun.”

Today we planned to pull more Oriental Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) from the edge of the swamp close to the picnic tables. This wisteria has been resistant, it just refuses to lay down and die. Several years ago we noticed that it had gained a solid foothold there and had spread about 80 or 100 feet along the slope. At the west end of the patch wisteria had grown into the tops of several understory shrubs and was reaching higher. We pulled out as much as we could, and removed almost all the climbers from the that end of the patch. At the east end, however, the roots were deep and well entangled in glacial till underlying the soil, making it almost impossible to pull them out in one piece. Here the vines often broke, and we knew we’d have to come back again and again until the roots left behind had exhausted themselves and the plants died.

Then weather intervened and several trees fell in that precise spot making it impossible to get at wisteria underneath the tangle of fallen trunks and branches. We came back again and did what we could knowing each time that there were many root fragments left behind waiting to throw up new shoots. This time most of the storm debris had been removed, and we could get at most of the new vines. There was plenty of wisteria and also Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) as well, and we went after both. The soil was rocky but the bittersweet came out fairly easily; pulling wisteria, however, was still difficult, vines still breaking and leaving roots behind. Dom, who has been at every workshop at this spot said he didn’t recall it being so hard to get those vines out. We kept at it and made sure there were no vines left to blossom and seed next year.

Since this was a small spot we didn’t spend all our time pulling vines. For what remained of our session we set out with weed wrenches to uproot Devil’s Walking Stick alongside the road up to the administration buildings. We spent less than a half hour so we didn’t get all of these.

For the walk after we decided to make a loop from Lake Orbach to Pumphouse Pond and back. The clouds were back again, but no rain. There had been rain this week and last, so the woods were damp and fertile, apparently just the right amount of moisture in the soil to cause mushrooms to pop up. On the way we met lots of them: a variety of gilled mushrooms the most conspicuous of which were amanitas (the group that’s home to the most poisonous of our mushrooms) and russulas, and a number of boletes, the mushrooms that have pores beneath their caps instead of gills. We plucked one of these with yellow pores and watched how the yellow surface bruised green-blue when scratched or squeezed. If we were mycologists we’d use these various color changes as one of the clues to identifying the species.

We also saw a good number of ghostly white Indian Pipes (Monotropa uniflora), both newly emerged plants whose waxy-white blossoms hung toward the ground to keep out the rain (otherwise the pollen might be washed away) and older pollinated plants whose flowers were turning brown and upright. Those not in on the secret think that these are some kind of mushroom, but they are real flowering, seed-bearing plants that lack chlorophyll. Because they don’t have chlorophyll (which gives the green color to most other plants) to produce their own nutrients from sunlight and CO2 they must find them it their environment, and so they steal those nutrients from the threads of fungi in the soil.

But there’s where things get interesting; we’ve known for over 70 years that many fungi have a symbiotic relationship with trees in which the tree manufactures carbohydrates with its leaves and provides carbohydrates to the fungus, and the fungus provides the tree with more water and minerals from the soil than the tree’s root hairs could acquire on their own. In fact, the general belief today is that well over 90% of all green plants have such a fungal relationship, and that these fungal hairs unseen in the soil are a critical part of our environment. Some years ago scientists performed an experiment in which they exposed trees to CO2 in which the ordinary carbon had been replaced with a radioactive isotope that could be traced with instruments. Then when they looked to see where the radioactive tagged CO2 would show up again one of the places where they found it was in the tissue of the Indian Pipes. The tree supplied the fungus with carbohydrates manufactured with the radioactive carbon, and the Indian Pipe robbed the fungus to obtain its food. Really, you can’t make this stuff up!

Indian Pipe wasn’t the only parasitic plant we saw. At Lake Orbach some of the emergent vegetation was draped with a net of a thin, golden-brown vine called Dodder. Unlike the Indian Pipe, Dodder has a limited ability – very limited – to photosynthesize. When the Dodder seed sprouts, it is green and has tiny, anchoring roots. As it grows the tiny vine twists about seeking an acceptable host plant and when it finds one it spirals up, piercing the plant with tiny hairs called haustoria that penetrate the conductive tissue of the host. This is a necessary accomplishment; if the Dodder doesn’t latch on to a host soon after sprouting it will expire. Dodder uses its haustoria to absorb water and nutrients from its host. As the Dodder has accomplishes this vampire-like deed (well, not exactly, we all know that vampires – the bats that is – lap blood with their tongues from incisions that they furtively make) it abandons its infant roots and previous green existence, and pursues its new life as a free-loader. If you look closely at the vines you might see what appear to be widely spaced tiny scales; these are vestigial leaves, not functioning, but not yet entirely abandoned.

While at Lake Orbach, Pumphouse Pond and Hourglass Pond we looked for water lilies, but all the impressive White Water Lilies (Nymphea odorata) were just beginning to open after the previous rain and just a little too far away for a good view without binoculars. At Pumphouse Pond a few of the globular yellow blossoms of the Yellow Pond Lily (Nuphar lutea) stood out of the water on long stems. Unlike the White Water Lily, these yellow globes never unfold their petals but open only at the very top to admit pollinators. I wonder why they remain ball-like; are they, perhaps, trying to keep certain ravenous insects out?

We returned along the shore of Lack Orbach, ducking under dense tunnels of Sweetpepper Bush, Highbush Blueberry and I don’t know how many other riparian shrubs, getting showered with water every time we bumped a low spreading branch. By then it was getting warm, and I at least found the sprinkles refreshing. Back at High Rock, our Restoration was over; it was good.

A Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) hanging out by Pumphouse Pond. These aren’t poisonous – we have no poisonous snakes on Staten Island – but if annoyed they will defend themselves vigorously (i.e., they’ll bite you if you grab them).

A nice Cauliflower Mushroom (Sparassus spathulata) on the Yellow Trail toward Pumphouse Pond: a good edible for foragers if found in good condition.

Below left: Indian Pipes (Monotropa uniflora), flowering plants that lack chlorophyll so they have to parasitize threads of fungus in the soil.

Below right: Dodder (Cuscuta sp.), a parasitic vine that extracts nutrients from the plants it grows upon. If you look closely just left of the center of the picture you can see one of the haustoria with which it syphons nutrients from its host. (this photo was from October of a previous year)

Below left: the White Water Lilly (Nymphea ordorata)

Below right: a Yellow Pond Lily (Nuphar lutea) [from NJ -I couldn’t get close enough to photo ours last Saturday] DfR 7-22-2015

40th Anniversary Event – Aug 9 – Goodhue Woods

Sunday,  August 9,  10 a.m. to 12 Noon The Goodhue Woods (1975 – 2015) –

When City Councilman Michael McMahon approached Protectors of Pine Oak Woods for assistance with the preservation of this special north shore habitat Ellen Pratt did not hesitate to commit Protectors complete support. She quickly gathered together Staten Island’s leading environmentalists and pieced together a collection of supportive essays and letters advocating the preservation of the property. Councilman McMahon brought Protectors’ publication to City Hall and convinced City Council to fund the purchase of the Goodhue Woods.   In 2009,  the City Planning Commission approved the purchase, but the monies set aside by City Council were misappropriated. Once new funding was secured 15 acres of the Goodhue Woods were officially transferred to city Parks in April 2013. Join Cliff Hagen as he explores this city park property.   Gather at the corner of Brentwood and Prospect Avenues. For more information email Cliff Hagen at or call him at 718-313-8591.



Save the Date

In the beginning of August you will be receiving the following invitation to our Anniversary luncheon


Please join us as we

Celebrate the

40th Anniversary


Protectors of Pine Oak Woods, Inc.

And the

Accomplishments of Ellen O’Flaherty Pratt


Sunday, September 20, 2015

12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.


Li Greci’s Staaten

697 Forest Avenue

Staten Island, NY

Cost: $ 70.00 / person

RSVP: September 8, 2015

Why Join Protectors?

We each have a stake in the future of Staten Island. We live here, ed learn here, help play here. We raise families, work hard and enjoy summer days and wintery nights as the years go by.

When you join Protectors, you join Staten Island’s oldest all-volunteer environmental organization. When you join, you become part of an organization working to make Staten Island a better place to live.

When you join Protectors, you meet caring, concerned Islanders. You learn to understand Staten Island’s habitats; you learn to love our parks, you may learn new hobbies: bird watching, photography, walking in natural areas, identifying plants.

When you join Protectors, your calls for environmental preservation are heard. Your calls to halt overdevelopment are echoed. When you join Protectors of Pine Oak Woods, our voices, together, are amplified and every elected official, appointed bureaucrat and decision-maker in government listens.

Join Protectors of Pine Oak Woods today so you can take part in the conversations that we are shaping the future of Staten Island, our Borough of Parks.


—Ellen Pratt and Cliff Hagen


 (photo by Lawrence Pugliares.)



« Older Entries