By Jane Huff—One of three primary focus areas for our Montgomery County Group is Energy Efficiency. We are working hard to get the word out about the national, state and local incentive programs that support residents to insulate their attics, install and use programmable thermostats, purchase and use Energy Star appliances, and get home energy audits to help lower home energy costs. We have designed a presentation that will: raise awareness the need for home energy efficiency, promote specific energy conservation actions to save money and energy, and provide information on resources and financial incentives to get residents started doing home energy conservation projects. This spring we'll provide presentations for neighborhoods, housing associations, civic associations, and other community organizations. Once you discover the advantages of home energy conservation you will want to have a home energy audit which will highlight areas where you can improve your energy conservation efforts.
These are the first steps towards keeping home energy costs under control but the next step is to learn how to use the sun's energy. Solar radiation is the most abundant and ubiquitous energy source we have, and it's free! We can use it to make electricity to heat our homes and our water. Rooftop photovoltaic panels and solar water heaters are unobtrusive and require very little maintenance. Current options can include leasing the equipment so that there is no upfront cost to you. Sunny summer days may even provide extra energy that can be sold back to the power grid. Check our calendar for local meetings where the advantages of getting the solar connection can be explained.
Interested in learning more about solar energy in Maryland? Chris Stoughton, just elected to the Sierra Club Montgomery County Group Executive Committee, will be conducting a solar seminar at the Silver Spring Civic Building on Thursday, March 8 at 7pm.
Lesser Celandine, Forest Killer on the Loose. By Jane Huff—Spring will soon be bringing out lovely, native wildflowers in woods and stream valleys all over Montgomery county. But among the native beauties are interlopers. One of these invasive aliens is a bright European buttercup called lesser celandine (Ranunculus fricaria). The shiny green leaves and bright yellow flowers of this plant form a colorful carpet all over the floors of local woodlands smothering native plants. Since lesser celandine grows from undergound bulblets and tubers it is easily spread by spring floods and industrious squirrels. Once it gets a "foothold" in a woodland it spreads quickly. The yellow lesser celandine flowers of this plant will be seen in throughout our county woodlands and in Rock Creek Park.
Because it spreads from tiny bulblets which are easily moved about, lesser celandine is very hard to eradicate. Pulling it up only helps it spread since some of the bulblets always get left behind. It has to be dug up with strict attention to getting all the bulblets and then carefully disposed.
As the weather warms up invasive vines and plants like lesser celandine and garlic mustard will be growing rapidly and the best way to keep them under control is for volunteers to get together to pull and cut them.
If you would like to learn more about invasive plants in our area, go to the Certified Weed Warrior program of Montgomery County Parks. With their short, free, training you can become a certified Weed Warrior and help keep our woodlands free of this plant and other alien invaders. But you don't need to be a weed warrior to help with invasive removal events, just be eager to help. Check our calendar for the Sierra Club sponsored monthly events on the Underground Railroad Trail.
Signs of Spring in the Northwest Branch Stream Valley Park. By Marianna Max—This is the time of year to watch for the first amorous activities of wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) and salamanders. In my area (Silver Spring along the NW Branch of the Anacostia) the wood frogs started 'quacking' and mating in vernal pools last week (Feb. 23). By now you'll likely find egg masses from the frogs already in the local vernal (spring) pools. Yesterday I also heard the first spring peepers (Pseudacris cruciferous) calling. Spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) will begin to migrate towards their vernal pool breeding sites with the recent warm rains, so they will be on the march on wet nights for the next few weeks. You might even see some trying to cross local roads anywhere along watersheds, so take care and try to avoid squishing them!
To see wood frogs, peepers or spotted salamanders take a nighttime walk to a pool with a flashlight. You might catch some mating and leaving their egg masses. If you go looking during the day you may see frogs resting on the surface. Egg masses will be around soon and you can distinguish them in the following way. The outside of a wood frog egg mass is bumpy—like tapioca. The spotted salamander egg masses are firmer, rounder, and frequently (but not always) milky in color.
If you visit a vernal pool please be careful to clean your boots with a dilute bleach solution and a fresh water rinse before going. Also, clean between pools, especially if you're visiting pools in different watersheds because the deadly ranavirus that kills amphibians and turtles has been found in our area. For more on ranavirus, read this Washington Post article.
The writer is a member of the Neighbors of the Northwest Branch and lives high on the valley rim overlooking the Northwest Branch.Executive Committee Election Results
Welcome to our two newly elected members of the Executive Committee.
Chris Stoughton is passionate about expanding renewable energy throughout Maryland. Having worked for years in the for-profit, non-profit, advocacy, and public policy fields, Chris has developed a comprehensive understanding and expertise in renewable energy.
Gerald Ehrenstein, treasurer, is currently also a member of the Montgomery County Sustainability Working Group (SWG) and its Renewable Energy Subcommittee. One of his proposals incorporated into the SWG report is for a revolving fund to provide low-interest County loans to homeowners for installation of solar panels or other sources of renewable energy.