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July, 2015:

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

The National Weather Service calls for mostly cloudy skies early, then gradually becoming sunny with a high near 84. Overnight will be mostly clear with a high near 64.

Friday, there's a slight chance of showers with a high near 82 and a low of around 65. Saturday, there's a chance for more showers and thunderstorms with a high near 80 and a low around 61. Sunday, more showers and thunderstorms are possible with a high near 80 and a low around 62.

Monday offers a chance of showers and thunderstorms with a high near 82 and a low of around 62. Tuesday will be mostly sunny with a high near 79 and a low around 60. Wednesday: A chance of showers with a high near 79.

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Queen Anne's Lace dominates pastures on the Niagara
Wildflowers of the summer and fall get a bad rap. Too often, people classify them as weeds which is a really unfortunate title for these plants, many of which are extremely beautiful and should be a welcome addition to any lawn or hedge.

One of those “weeds” – Queen Anne’s Lace -- is in full bloom now and adding a little bit of life and color to our landscape.

Identifying Queen Anne’s Lace

Everyone has seen Queen Anne’s Lace. It is a ubiquitous white wildflower, up to 3 feet tall, that is found in dry soils throughout the Niagara Frontier. You will see impressive stands of them on roadsides, along rail lines, in pastures, or in hedgerows.

If you look closely, you will see that what you thought was a large white, circular flower is really an umbel, or a collection of dozens of small flowers coming from a single stem. Collectively, they make for a lace-like appearance (hence the name) which I’ve always thought was best compared to a doily.

Some of them, but not all, will have a lone purple flower near the center of the umbel.

A close look will show you that the "flower" of Queen
Anne's Lace is really a collection of small flowers.
No one knows why that loner exists – some botanists blame a genetic flaw, while others say that it makes insects assume that there is a bug on the umbel, which in turn attracts predatory wasps to the plant, which in turn become incidental pollinators.

The myth behind that random flower is that Queen Anne, when she was sewing the lace, pricked herself with her needle and it’s a drop of her blood that darkened that flower (by the way, no one knows for sure if it was named after Queen Anne of Great Britain or Queen Anne of Denmark).

The stem of the plant has many fine hairs. That stem is very solid and strong as anyone who has ever attempted to pick Queen Anne’s Lace can attest. It takes a really good pull to snap them stem, and you are apt to uproot the whole plant in the process.

As the summer progresses and the flowers have done their deed, they wilt and curl up, becoming brown and cup-like; hence another common name: bird’s nest.      

Wild carrot 

The Queen Anne’s Lace is a non-native species. It was brought here from Europe because early settlers needed a foodstock and the prolific wildflower provided it. The Queen Anne’s Lace is a precursor of the cultivated carrot. It produces a root that smells and tastes just like the carrots you know and love. Unlike farmed carrots, the roots are very small (1 to 3 inches) and it takes quite a few to make a meal. The roots need to be picked when young. As they age, they become starchy, even woody and do not taste good at all.  
Health hazards  

I strongly suggest against eating any wild carrots unless you are extremely familiar with it. Queen Anne’s Lace can be easily confused with its cousin, the poison hemlock, the same plant that infamously killed the Greek philosopher Socrates.

Death by consumption of poison hemlock is painful and labored – it causes muscular paralysis which ultimately prevents respiration from occurring, so the poisoned individual slowly, not quickly, suffocates. As few as a half dozen hemlock leaves will lead to death.

You also need to be careful when picking Queen Anne’s Lace if you are looking to make a centerpiece of the flowers.

The plant juices can cause phytophotodermatitis. If you’ve seen the scary local TV news reports about giant hogweed every summer for the past half dozen years, then you are familiar with what that is. The juices get on the person’s hands, which leads to hypersensitivity to ultraviolet light for approximately 24 hours; the skin, being unable to protect itself from the sun, blisters badly.

So, if you’re going to pick these flowers, wear gloves. And, encourage your kids to not touch the plants.   But, Queen Anne’s Lace is a beautiful plant that’s probably better left alone, admired and appreciated for the color (and interesting stories) that it brings to the Niagara Frontier.

+Bob Confer lives in rural Gasport where Queen Anne’s Lace sometimes fills vases in his home. Follow him on Twitter @bobconfer or email him at bobconfer@juno.com.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Kathleen Kunkel
GASPORT — A 71-year-old Lockport woman was charged Monday with DWI after New York State Troopers were alerted by a local dentist's office of an intoxicated patient.

Kathleen M. Kunkel was charged with the Class E felony for having a previous DWI conviction in the past 10 years.

NYSP says Kunkel was showing signs of intoxication as she arrived operating her car. When Troopers arrived, she failed standardized field sobriety tests and was determined to be intoxicated. She was transported to Eastern Niagara Hospital-Lockport where blood was drawn.

She was arraigned in the Town of Lockport Court before being remanded to Niagara County Jail in lieu of $1,000 cash bail.

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A West Avenue resident watches as LPD secures the scene Tuesday morning at the site of a box overflowing with an unknown substance. It turned out the substance wasn't hazardous. (PHOTOS BY STEPHEN M. WALLACE / CONTRIBUTOR)


Shredded plastic or fiberglass caused unwarranted concern.
The Lockport Streets Department and an LPD officer responded with caution Tuesday morning to a strange report of a box that fell off a truck and was spilling a white substance onto the roadway on West Avenue.

As the responders arrived around 10:48 a.m., it was difficult to make out if the overflowing contents were soap bubbles or some sort of hazardous material.

Fortunately, they learned that the box was filled with a shredded fiberglass/plastic type of material and there was no public threat.

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