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The mission of Great Mountain Forest is to be a leader in forest stewardship. We practice sustainable forest management, promote biodiversity and resilience to climate change, support education and research, and welcome all who love the woods.

Great Mountain Forest 

April 2023

Can I Eat It?

Spring Ephemerals

"The Most Wonderful Place to Do Research"

Can I Eat It?

Andy Dobos of Forest Wolf Programs led a “Wild Edible Plant Walk” at GMF on April 15. While taking plants from GMF is not permitted, the group was shown a variety of edibles in the forest with a discussion of the types of terrain where each is likely to appear. Andy discussed the toxic dosage of plants with specific organic chemical characteristics and how some wildlife species adapt tolerance levels to specific plants that would otherwise induce adverse effects on humans if consumed. Andy stressed three safety measures for picking to eat: identification of the plant from a field guide, further confirmation from an edible plant guide, and final review from someone who can claim that they’ve eaten the plant in question numerous times. Guides recommended for accuracy and utility include:

To learn more about Andy Dobos and events offered by Forest Wolf Programs, visit his website at The Forest Wolf.

Spring Ephemerals

Emerging early but disappearing quickly. spring ephemerals are perennial woodland wildflowers that sometimes wither to only the underground roots and rhizomes for the remainder of the year once woody plants form the canopy that blocks sunlight from reaching the forest floor. Some flowers to watch for include:

Bunchberry, or Cornus canadensis, is a member of the dogwood family as an herbaceous subshrub and only grows to 8” in height. It appears in acidic soils in shady areas and under coniferous trees, with forest companions such as woodland phlox and ferns. Living up to its name, bunchberry produces large scarlet bundles of berries in the late summer that birds feed on.

Rock harlequin, Capnoides sempervirens, emerges in the spring with airy pink and yellow fluorescence and dainty leaves in the form of a basal rosette. It takes a full year of growth before the plant can produce flowers so that it may appear solely in a rosette form. Rock harlequins are found in recently disturbed areas, either by man or natural means. The seeds of this plant are so hardy that they can survive forest fires, and are dispersed by myrmecochory, which means the seeds are carried by ants to new areas of growth.

The purple pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea, can be found in moist acidic soils in part sun. This plant slowly digests insects that crawl into its specialized leaves holding enzymes and rainwater. They are commonly found in colonies because rhizomes, a system of shallow stems and roots spread them. Sadly, over 97% of the native habitat of the purple pitcher plant has been destroyed, making this a special woodland find.

Dutchman’s breeches, Dicentra cucullaria, grows in rich organic soil in deep shade. A cousin of the bleeding heart, this plant provides an essential food source for butterflies and pollinators early in the growing season. Dutchman’s breeches get their name from the whimsical flower resembling an upside-down pair of pantaloons. 

"The Most Wonderful Place to Do Research"

GMF has had a long and fruitful relationship with Carole Cheah, research entomologist with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station's (CAES) Valley Laboratory in Windsor. Carole’s first independent federal grant was for research on balsam adelgids, a significant insect problem in Maine then. She was advised to contact a forester named Darrell Russ at Great Mountain Forest, who might know where to find a stand of balsam somewhere in Connecticut, the southernmost range of this fir. He did, right next to the current GMF Forestry Office, and Carole came to collect and measure adelgid, a demanding process, every week for the next two years.


These sap-sucking aphids damage and can contribute to the death of firs and hemlocks. The genus that infests Tsuga canadensis, the Eastern hemlock, is known as hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) and is a native of Asia. First found in Virginia in the 1950s, hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) now threatens garden plantings and forests across much of the eastern United States. Carole’s research has since turned to HWA, and her 2017 publication mathematically modeled 15 years of data from multiple forests, including GMF, to predict HWA mortality in cold weather. Linear regression analysis suggested the absolute minimum daily winter temperature was the most critical factor. The model predicted that 99% mortality of the winter population should be achieved at -17 degrees Fahrenheit in northwestern Connecticut.


On February 4, conditions permitted Carole to test her model: Russell Russ measured minus 17 degrees F. at the GMF weather station. Carole came to collect samples and calculate the percentage of woolly adelgid survivors. Carole was pleased to find that the mortality rate exactly matched her prediction.


GMF has been releasing Japanese lady beetles, an HWA predator, to control the spread of these insects. The findings also allowed Carole to recommend that GMF reduce the number of beetles to be released this summer so they don’t go hungry (more to come on this topic, including the complex life cycle of HWA).


Weather...or not

GMF is a reporting station for the National Weather Service; any news outlet's “staff meteorologist” uses data collected and submitted daily by Russell Russ. His monthly weather summaries and various weather facts and figures are available on our website. Click on the link below to visit our weather page!

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