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Forest Farming Ramps

Ramps, these tasty spring ephemerals with the scientific name Allium tricoccum, are generally called ramps in the south and wild leeks in more northern areas. They are native to the hardwood forests of eastern North America.

In many areas, ramps are viewed as a sign of the coming of spring and people flock to the forests to “dig a mess of ramps.” Many communities hold ramp festivals. When in season, local restaurants, roadside vegetable stands, and other markets sell ramps to residents and tourists. In recent years, the interest in these spring delicacies has increased to the point that high-end restaurants in cities across the nation are now offering ramps on their menus.

Sunlight to the Seagrasses: U.S. Forest Service Research Shines Light on Threatened Coastal Plant

Just off Florida’s 8,000 miles of coastline and tidal areas, in shallow sunlit waters, over two million acres of seagrass meadows waft in the ocean currents.

Besides providing food and habitat for manatees, sea turtles, shellfish, and other animals, seagrasses protect coasts from erosion and store vast quantities of carbon dioxide.

“Seagrasses grow off the coast of many other U.S. states, including North Carolina and Virginia, as well as around the world,” said U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station scientist Zanethia Choice. “Globally, their economic value is nearly $4 trillion.”

Why is Cogongrass So Successful at Invading the South?

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Cogongrass makes kudzu look like a lightweight. A perennial grass, it grows on every continent except Antarctica and has earned a reputation as one of the worst weeds on Earth. In the South, cogongrass ranks among the top 10 plant marauders, invading forests, rights-of-way, and agricultural fields, literally taking over the landscape and altering ecosystems.

Native to Southeast Asia, the weed first arrived in the United States in 1912 as packing material in orange crates imported to Grand Bay, Alabama.  A few years later, farmers planted cogongrass in Mississippi as a possible forage crop. Since then, it’s spread to more than 66,000 acres throughout the South, its progress limited only by winter cold. Landowners and agencies have fought this weed for years with limited success.

International Student Visitor Arrives for Forest Service Internship

Wellington Cardoso, an undergraduate student from Brazil, arrived in Auburn, Ala., this past January to begin an internship with the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station where he’s been studying a biomass harvesting operation.

“The research unit has been examining harvesting technologies for short rotation woody crops,” said Dana Mitchell, project leader of the Forest Operations research unit, which is hosting Cardoso. “Cardoso’s internship ends in July, and he has been able to witness field operations in action.”

Trashy Life: Crayfish Turn Rubbish into a Home

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

To raccoons, snakes and opossums, crayfish look pretty tasty, and large crayfish will even cannibalize their smaller kin. Crayfish, which live in rivers and streams, need instream cover to hide from all their predators. They also use cover to find food, to shelter while incubating eggs, and to keep themselves from being washed away in floods.

Susan Adams, a fisheries research scientist for the Forest Service’s Southern Research Station, examined different types of cover in the Yazoo River basin of Mississippi to see whether crayfish used large pieces of household trash for shelter when natural cover was limited. Her findings recently appeared in the journal Environmental Management.

Leaf Litter Keeps Ground-Roosting Bats Warm

When winter weather arrives, most bats hibernate in caves, but a few species migrate to warmer areas. Warmer being relative, the migrating bats may still end up in places that are too cold for comfort, and sometimes hibernate under leaf litter for short periods of time.

Roger Perry, a wildlife biologist at the U.S. Forest Service’s Southern Research Station, studied these temporary hibernation sites to find out how much protection they offered bats, and how much energy bats expend to stay alive.

The leaf litter study took place in and around the Alum Creek Experimental Forest of the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas, and focuses on eastern red bats, a migratory species that remains active through most of the winter. When winter temperatures are not too cold the bats roost in trees, but when temperatures plunge, the bats temporarily hibernate underneath leaf litter.

What Will Become of Your Forest Land When You are Gone?

Family forest owners may use consulting foresters or state extension foresters for advice on the technical details of land management, but many owners shy away from thinking about how best to pass their forest on to the next generation.

Poor estate planning – or no planning at all – can result in a tax bill that requires selling timber or forest land, which in turn can lead to subdivision and development.

Estate Planning for Forest Landowners is a free publication developed by the U.S. Forest Service that provides a comprehensive guide to estate planning specifically designed for forest landowners.

Restoration Efforts May Mean More 'Chestnuts Roasting....'

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” is a line from a song that conjures up fond holiday memories for some Americans. For others, the joy of roasting chestnuts has yet to be experienced. But the lack of American chestnuts could change in the coming years, thanks to some very dedicated people.

The U.S. Forest Service and its partners may be one step closer to restoring the American chestnut tree to parts of the mountains and forests of the southern United States. Since 2009, they planted close to 1,000 potentially-blight resistant American chestnut trees on national forests in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Woodpecker Condos Bring Endangered Bird Back from the Brink in South Carolina

Many stories emerging from the Francis Marion National Forest share a common genesis in Hurricane Hugo, the massive storm estimated to have knocked down nearly a billion board feet of timber on the coastal South Carolina forest in 1989.

But in a comeback success story, there was no knock-out for the red-cockaded woodpecker.

Before Hugo, the Francis Marion had the densest, second-largest, and only known, naturally increasing population of red-cockaded woodpeckers in the country. Prior to 1989, an estimated 475 breeding pairs lived on the forest.

Finding ‘Gold’ in Bug Bellies

Almost three years ago, two biology professors at Delta State University in Mississippi brainstormed how to give science undergraduates research experience in microbiology and entomology.

They hit upon the idea of searching for “science gold” in the bellies of bugs.

Professors Tanya McKinney and Ellen Green received $40,000 through a grant for under-represented colleges from the U.S. Forest Service to help with the project. As part of their research experience, students in the program search the guts of beetle larvae to discover new cellulases, enzymes that break down cellulose, an organic compound that helps make plant cell walls rigid.