Thanks to everyone who joined us for our recent naturalist stroll.
It was a great morning to walk through the riparian area and along the river trail. Sincere thanks to Master Naturalist Jack Price for leading the walk and sharing his extensive knowledge of trees, plants, flowers, watersheds, etc.
Along the way we discussed what constitutes a true native species and the various management techniques being used to re-establish native warm season grasses in the field.
We admired the basswood, sycamore, pawpaws and boxelder, discussing the various uses for the wood, the importance of the flowers and where the various species grow the best. We also studied the bur oak with its shaggy acorn caps and the row of Osage orange trees growing parallel to the river.
Mr. Price pointed out the bark of a cottonwood tree and how the deep crevices support bird populations; “this kind of bark is very important to wildlife, especially the birds; in the winter you will get winter creepers who go up the bark looking for insects that overwinter here and you will see white breasted nuthatches or other nuthatch species coming down the bark looking for insects the winter creepers missed… there is food in all those nooks and crannies.”
He went on to discuss the scarlet colored spicebush berries which has about 35% fat making them valuable to birds, grouse, turkey, bear, etc.
The spicebush and sassafrass tree can trace their lineage back to the cretaceous period, about 75 million years ago, when they developed strong scented oils to make them less palatable to browsing dinosaurs. The berries are edible to humans, being used as a seasoning.
We stopped by a grouping of dead ailanthus altissima (tree-of-heaven) trees which had been killed using the “hack and squirt” method and talked about using leaf scars to identify trees, particularly in the winter when leaves are absent.
Mr. Price provided a safety talk on the use of pesticides saying “if you are going to use an herbicide, a pesticide, fungicide, whatever chemical application may be… first of all you need to know what you are treating and what you need to use; too many times when I’ve worked master gardener help desks people will come in and say well, I had this thing and I put Sevin on it or I put Malathion on it and they have no idea what they are trying to treat or what the pesticide will do.
When you are buying that pesticide you absolutely need to read that label – the label is a legal contract between you and the manufacturer …” Mr. Price also pointed out that the dead ailanthus makes great firewood.
We enjoyed sharing the autumn morning with the group, learning about our local ecology and observing the change of the seasons reflected in the field and forest.
The White House Farm Foundation periodically offers these naturalist strolls so check our home page for the next date.