Saturday, June 10, 2017

Happy Birthday, Ruth Schottman!

Every budding naturalist should have a teacher like Ruth Schottman!  (That's Ruth in the photo above, with her longtime friend and equally avid naturalist Ed Miller.)  Extremely knowledgeable about almost everything to be found in nature, encouraging and kind in the face of constant questioning by rank amateur wildlife enthusiasts like me,  and contributing an infectious delight to every outing she  leads or attends, Ruth continues to be so energetic and enthusiastic, it's truly hard to believe that she is now turning 90 years old.  How wonderful that she has had so many years to share her love of nature with so many!  We wish you many more healthy years, Ruth, to continue being our friend and teacher.

Ruth is widely known throughout the botanical community and well beyond.  A graduate of Cornell University, she is the author of a delightful book, Trailside Notes, about the wildflowers of the Adirondacks, and for many years she has taught courses on native wildflowers for both the Adirondack Mountain Club and the Ecological Clearing House of Schenectady.  But I know her best through the group she and her friend Nancy Slack (in purple jacket, below) founded way back when they both had young children, the group called the Thursday Naturalists.  This is a group of both professional and passionate amateur botanists who've been meeting most Thursdays for decades now, to explore the natural environment near and far.  I was invited to join this group back in 2010, and oh, how my world has expanded!

Here's a photo of some of the Thursday Naturalists when once we gathered to hike around the shores of Moreau Lake.  Ruth's husband Tom (lower left, in red plaid) joined us that day. Many of us will especially treasure this photo because it includes our dear friend Win (the bearded man), who sadly died way too young a few years ago.

Our group goes out in all weathers (raging storms excluded), always finding whatever treasures the woods and waterways might hold throughout the year.  Ruth always comes prepared for conditions that might daunt less sturdy souls.

Ruth and her companions have introduced me to some of the richest wildflower sites in the region, including Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, where even the weeds at the edge of a pond hold something of botanical interest.

Here we are walking along the Kayaderosseras Creek near Ballston Spa, a site where some of our sturdiest native plants vie for dominance against hosts of aggressive invasive species.  Every time we go out with Ruth among us (there she is, in her orange jacket!), she adds something new to our knowledge.

Here we are again, at Landis Arboretum, visiting the native woody-plant collection created by our dear friend Ed Miller (red shirt).

But Ruth doesn't always wait for a Thursday for nature adventures.  On this bitterly cold day up on the shores of the Hudson River north of Warrensburg, Ruth (blue parka) has bundled up well to join friends Evelyn Greene (brown coat) and Jean Holcomb to watch the actions of ice forming on the turbulent river.

Here she has joined her friend Barbara Hennig to walk an esker (a distinctive deposit left by the retreating ice sheet thousands of years ago) in the Hennig Preserve, a many-acred nature preserve near Galway in northeastern Saratoga County.

Almost as avid a birder as she is a wildflower enthusiast, Ruth has joined our friend Sue Pierce and me this early spring day to observe Great Blue Herons returning to their nesting site near Ballston Lake.

On this gorgeous summer day, Ruth has come with me to Pyramid Lake, a wilderness lake in the Adirondacks, in Essex County.

And here is Ruth on the shores of the Hudson River north of Warrensburg, showing us the amazing outcroppings of marble that make up a portion of the river's bank, creating a lime-rich site for some very rare plants.

One year, we had the great pleasure of staying a few days at Walden Pond together with a group of friends, and Ruth was always up early to take her constitutional walk around the pond.  Ruth is very conscientious about getting her exercise, which probably has contributed to her long and healthy life -- a full and wonderfully fruitful life since fleeing Austria as a young woman during the Nazi era.

I just had to include this delightful photo of Ruth with her friends Frank Knight, Nan Williams, and Ed Miller, gathered for an American Botanical Society meeting in Ithaca.  They invited me to join them that year, and what a marvelous outing it was!

Ruth has an incredible storehouse of information in her sharp and inquiring mind, and she always has something fascinating to teach her friends.  Here, she is showing how the maple tree defends against disease by encircling infectious invaders in structures of bark.

I would never have known about the hairy mid-ribs on the backs of Wild Black Cherry leaves, if Ruth had not pointed them out to me.

I certainly never knew that the bracts of New England Aster flowers were covered with glandular hairs.  Not until Ruth described them to me as a definitive identifying factor for this species.

I also had never examined the leaves of cherry species to detect the tiny red glands that occur on the pedicels.  But Ruth certainly had.

I had often seen these burry tangles on alder twigs, but it was Ruth who told me they were galls caused by Taphrina alni, a fungal plant pathogen that affects only the female flowers of alders.

Once again, it was Ruth who identified a Green Dragon plant when we puzzled over its withered remains on the shores of the Hoosic River.  In the years that followed, we have returned to witness the burgeoning of this plant from that single remnant to such an abundance of plants we cannot count them all.  If Ruth had not alerted us to the presence of this unusual plant at this site, we would be missing an amazing botanical experience.

This has been only a sampling of the many times Ruth has enriched our nature experiences and blessed us with the great pleasure of her delightful company.  She is a natural treasure herself.  Dear Ruth, may your life continue to be a blessing for all who know and love you -- and for those who will come to know you in the years that remain to you.  And may those years be many more!  Happy Birthday, dear friend.


Sally said...

What a wonderful group to share your love of nature with! And, to have such knowledgeable teachers with you! Happy Birthday Ruth and may you have many more delightful hikes in the woods.

The Furry Gnome said...

You are so lucky to have a knowledgeable friend like Ruth, as well as the Thursday Naturalists group!

Woody Meristem said...

You're so fortunate to have a friend like Ruth and the rest of the Thursday Naturalists. Many of the truly skilled naturalists I have known died much too early.

Uta said...

How wonderful that one woman can give such knowledge to so many and doing it with so much joy and fun. Thank you Jackie for sharing Ruth with us and Happy Birthday Ruth.