Today I had this sweetheart, my good ol' dog, Doobie, along with me for my stroll. Doobs loves hiking as much as I do, however with his older age, I now reserve our hikes to meandering plant walks along easy graded, not-so-rocky trails. But with spring in his step today, I watched as he lept over fallen trees and sloshed through murky streams without a second's hesitation, perhaps it was the return of warmer temps and crisp autumn weather. You're only as old as you feel- Doobie is panting, barking, romping proof of just that.
And so after dreaming about exploring this place further for the last few days and nights, early this morning, I had to return. Doobie and I walked just a ways down the dirt road and turned left onto the Foundation Trail. The trees have finally released their leaves covering the usually grassy, rocky woods with a pallet of warm colors. The sky was a muted pale blue, washed with white clouds, making the tree limbs appear even more starkly bare. This is late autumn in northeast Pennsylvania.
However with all these dark branches straggling towards the sky, I couldn't help but notice the star-like sprays of yellow popping at eye-level.
|Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) flower|
|Witch Hazel empty 2-parted seed capsule|
|Witch Hazel bud|
|Witch Hazel bark|
A wee bit of lore...if you're out in the woods and looking for a safe place to sleep, simply seek out a Witch Hazel tree as they are revered for their protective properties.
|Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolia)|
|Common Milkweed (Asclepia syriaca) seeds|
Look at these seeds! This is Common Milkweed ( Asclepias syriaca), which bears edible young shoots, leaves, unopened flowerbuds, and young pods after a couple of changes of water. The flowers can be dipped in batter and fried as fritters too. It is past its season of edibility at this point, however at this stage, I think their cottony achenes still provide an asethetic medicine. These pods can be spotted from afar when their white tufts abundantly blot the edges of ponds and lakes. Do not confuse this plant with Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), although in the same genus, is a poisonous plant.
|Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis)|
Do you see what I see? I apparantly wasn't the only one appreciating the bark of this Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis). Notice the fine black hairs hanging on the edge of the curling bark...I think this tree had made for a nice scratching post for a resident black bear. I looked around for any other clues, such as scat, but found none. Perhaps he simply stopped for a moment to get that one "hard to reach" spot and mosied on his way. Yellow Birch can be used the same as Black Birch- the leaves are diuretic and the inner bark contains salicylates, excellent for relieving muscular pain. Oh, and the twigs are delicious chew sticks.
|Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)|
Lastly, another view of Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), it's "evergreen" leaves actually turning a deep purple. These berries will very likely hang on throughout the winter. I'll have to keep my eyes open after the next snow. This plant practically carpeted the Foundation Trail.
Pike County Park, I'll be back soon.