April Species Spotlight: Spotted Turtle and Scotch Broom

April 25, 2023

By Cara Gentry


Spotted turtle

Spotted turtle in New Paltz. Photo by Alex Bartholomew.

Native Species: Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata)

Once a very common species, spotting a spotted turtle these days is a rare and special treat. They can be recognized by their black shell and yellowish spots on the shell and body. The number of spots vary greatly and can change with age. A relatively small turtle, measuring up to 5 inches at adulthood, these turtles have been in decline due to habitat loss, pollution, and poaching. They are quite sensitive to poor water quality and therefore are not typically found in polluted waters. Spotted turtles love to eat snails, slugs, small frogs, worms and insects as well as aquatic vegetation. If you look carefully into water bodies you may see them sunning themselves on logs and rocks. Preserving open spaces and sensitive habitats is one of our main goals at the Wallkill Valley Land Trust. To find a rare species such as the spotted turtles on several of the properties we protect confirms the need for saving these special places.




Scotch broom

“Scotch Broom Flowers” by tdlucas5000 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Invasive Species: Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius)

Scotch broom is listed as a tier 2 emerging invasive species in the lower Hudson PRISM (Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management). It is a shrub that has a broom like appearance with yellow pea shaped flowers along the stems. Flowering typically occurs in mid spring April to May. The perennial shrub is native to North Africa and Europe and was first introduced to North America as an ornamental. It was sometimes planted as erosion control along highways, and can survive under stressful conditions making it capable of becoming invasive by outcompeting native flora by forming dense stands. The seeds can remain viable for many years in the soil, so areas prone to disturbance will regrow with Scotch broom. The plant contains alkaloids that can be toxic to livestock and pets if ingested. Methods to remove Scotch broom from your property include manual removal, mechanical such as repeatedly cutting back growth until the plant has expended all energy, prescribed burning, and spot treatment herbicides.