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Susquehanna Life

Poison Ivy, Salamanders, Quilters & AARP: Life Around The River Spring 2018

Mar 19, 2018 08:58PM ● By Melanie Heisinger

An Eastern Hellbender

Poison Ivy an Unlikely Hero

Bucknell University biology professor Chris Martine calls poison ivy “perhaps the least popular plant in America.” But in a new study published in the Biodiversity Data Journal, Martine and two Bucknell alumni found that poison ivy may be an unlikely hero by combatting Japanese knotweed and potentially saving new trees in Susquehanna River forests.

Martine reports that dozens of studies have looked at the effects of Japanese knotweed on natural communities in Europe and North America. He noticed that its presence along the Susquehanna River was reason for concern.

“In addition to the prevalence of this single invasive species, it looked like the very existence of these forests was under threat,” said Martine, who holds the David Burpee Professorship in Plant Genetics & Research at Bucknell.

Martine noticed what local nature lovers and biologists with the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program were also starting to see: these forests, specifically those classified as Silver Maple Floodplain Forests, were not regenerating themselves where knotweed had taken a foothold.
In the study, Bucknell researchers conclude that Japanese knotweed has not only excluded nearly all of the native understory plant species in these forests, but it has prevented the trees already established in the canopy from leaving behind more of themselves.

The few places where knotweed has not taken over offer a bit of hope, and they may exist because of poison ivy.

“What we see in the data is that poison ivy often trades understory dominance with knotweed. That is, when knotweed isn’t the big boss, poison ivy usually is,” Martine said. “Many other native plants can co-occur with it and it even seems to create microhabitats that help tree seedlings get established.”

Martine cautions against too much optimism regarding the chances of poison ivy saving the day, however.

“Righting this ship is going to require eradicating knotweed from some of these sites, and that won’t be easy work. It will take some hard manual labor,” he said. “But it’s worth doing if we want to avoid the imminent ecological catastrophe. These forests really can’t afford another half-century of us letting knotweed run wild.”

Salamander: PA’s State Amphibian?

 A group of high school students concerned about clean water and a slippery critter, along with a recent vote in the state Senate, has put North America’s largest salamander one step closer to becoming Pennsylvania’s official state amphibian.

“Passing Senate Bill 658, that recognizes the Eastern Hellbender, will hopefully spark attention and get people to thinking about why clean water is important,” said Anna Pauletta, past president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Student Leadership Council in Pennsylvania.

SLC students have studied hellbenders extensively, wrote the first draft of Senate Bill 658 and continue to work for its passage. With Senate approval, the bill was sent to the state House for consideration.

“The positive impact of Senate Bill 658 extends to all species that rely on clean water, which essentially encompasses all wildlife in Pennsylvania, including us,” Senator Gene Yaw (R-23rd) told colleagues on the Senate floor before the bill passed. Sen. Yaw is the bill’s prime sponsor. 
Hellbenders are North America’s largest salamander and survive where there is cold, clear, swift-running water. They prefer rocky streambeds. Their spongelike bodies allow them to squeeze into crevices which they use for protection and for nesting. Folds of wrinkled skin provide a large surface through which they draw most of their oxygen.

A lack of streamside trees along Commonwealth waterways allows waters to warm, polluted runoff to enter rivers and streams, and silt to build up in streambeds. As a result, habitat for hellbenders has been degraded and hellbender numbers have been decimated in streams where they were plentiful as recently as 1990.

Much of what remains of a depleted hellbender population in Pennsylvania can be found in waters within the Senator Yaw’s district, which includes Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan, and part of Susquehanna and Union counties.

The Senator remembers days as a youngster catching hellbenders in the local creek. “They are a natural barometer of water quality and they live where the water is clean,” Sen. Yaw said. “If they are surviving in streams, it is a good sign for the water quality.”

CBF’s current SLC president in Pennsylvania said passing the hellbender bill is important for more than its recognizing a salamander in crisis. “It’s about allowing people to recognize that there is an issue with clean water in Pennsylvania,” Abby Hebenton said.

Calling all Quilters


The York Quilters’ Guild will hold “Celebration of Quilts 2018: Quilting Outside the Lines” on Friday, May 18 from 9 am to 7 pm and Saturday, May 19 from 9 am to 4 pm at the Grumbacher Sport & Fitness Center, York College of Pennsylvania, 899 S. Richland Avenue, York PA.

The event will include a juried art show with more than 200 quilts, quilting appraisals, quilting classes, merchants’ mall, and quilting demonstrations and lectures. Jill Coleman will be the featured Guild member; Jill’s quilts range from hand-quilted vintage tops to modern quilts. 
Mary Kerr, certified quilt appraiser and author of several quilting books, will bring her show “Quilt as Desired” to York, showcasing vintage quilt tops finished with innovative long-arm quilting. Tickets are $10.

More information about advanced sale tickets and submitting a quilt for the show can be found at

What’s Next?

The question of what to do after retirement weighs heavily on the minds of many older adults. When AARP magazine printed a request for readers to share stories relating to second careers, Bill and Linda Petry, owners of Copper Beech Manor B&B in Lewisburg, stepped up.

“Second careers are not about making your million, but rather following your heart and your dreams,” explained Linda.

AARP magazine staff contacted the couple last fall to schedule a phone interview. A day-long photo and video shoot followed last November. The result was an article in the January/February 2018 issue of the AARP Bulletin and a video at

The Petrys were excited to see the outcome. “We were happy that the video captured one of the major aspects of what inn-keeping is all about—the joy of meeting and interacting with people!”

Of their national fame, the couple said, “We are just excited to be able to share our story, and to let others know that retirement really can be about finally doing what we’ve always dreamed about but never had the chance to. We wanted to encourage others to have the faith to take that leap.”  

More information is at

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