Observation of the Week, 10/13/2015

A Sugar Maple observed by Erika Mitchell (@erikamitchell) in Washington County, Vermont is our Observation of the Week.

Self describing as “really into data” and also someone who likes to get an exercise walk in each day, this summer Erika figured, why not combine these? She tracked down a local county road map and carefully laid out a plan to walk all 80 miles of road that criss cross her town while taking iNaturalist observations along the way. Over the course of the ensuing months, Erica walked all 80 miles of road each way (160 miles round trip). “I wanted the survey to be systematic, so I set the alarm on my phone to go off every few minutes.” Erica said. “When it went off I’d stop and take observations of the three nearest trees.” But the naturalist admits mixing in a few less systematic reports “whenever I saw something really pretty like a wildflower in bloom.”

Erica, who has a PhD in linguistics and works professionally on water quality issues, got involved in natural history about 10 years ago after reading the writings of Henry David Thoreau. She learned about iNaturalist through the efforts of the iNaturalist Vermont project run by the Vermont Center for Ecosystem Studies as part of the Vermont Atlas of Life. According to Erika, “I kept hearing about iNaturalist, but once I realized that I could use it to get feedback on my observations and connect with a whole community of naturalists I got really into it”.

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) is native to the northeastern North American Hardwood forests and is famous for being one of the primary sources of maple syrup. To produce the syrup, a hole is drilled in the trunk so that the sugary sap can drip out and be collected. As much as 40 litres of sap must be boiled down to produce just a single litre of maple syrup.

Sugar maples are deciduous meaning they loose their leaves each winter. The maple syrup sap stores energy made during the previous summer that that is mobilized in late winter to provide the branch tips the energy they need to produce leaves and flowers. This sapstream climbs up the tree utilizing xylem tissue. Another sapstream utilizes the phloem tissue to 'phlow-down' delivering sugars made from photosynthesis in the leaves during the summer to other parts of the tree. The evolution of this vascular tissue (the xylem and phloem) is one of the characters that separates vascular plants from other more ancient groups like mosses and liverworts.

Citizen Scientists: Keep exploring. Keep sharing.

Maybe your discovery will become an iNaturalist Observation of the Week!

By Scott Loarie


Hey, iNaturalists! See something that blows your mind? Click ‘Add to favorites’ so it can be considered for the Observation of the Week!
Posted by loarie loarie, October 31, 2015 01:07

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