Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More Musings from the Trail

It's berry season! Blueberries and raspberries are ripening, making the birds and bears fat and happy.

But there are other berries out there that while edible to wildlife, people should not be eating. Like those white berries that have a single black dot in the middle - Doll's Eyes, aka: white baneberry (Actaea pachypoda). Toxic. Look but don't eat!

Here are some of the berries that were ripe yesterday:

Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) - a beautiful purplish blue, these berries are disappearing fast to the wildlife. According to my copy of Native American Ethnobotany (Daniel Moerman), the roots of this plant was used by many native peoples for a vast variety of medicines and were often eaten. One group (Montagnais) did ferment the berries in cold water as part of a wine recipe.

Choke cherry (Prunus virginiana) is small native cherry that was eaten in a variety of ways by many native peoples. The thing is, it is very tart. I remember at summer camp that the "remedy" for eating choke cherries was to follow up with a handful of raspberries. The nature counselor, a wonderful woman who had a vast knowledge of wild edibles, used to make a jelly from the fruits, using little green apples as the source of pectin. Mildred was most famous, however, for her wild blueberry fritters and her wild foods banquet. Every year she also led a "live off the land" trip. One year they had snake, and another year I believe a woodchuck was served up as part of the main course.

Here's a nifty plant: Bulblet Fern (Cystopeteris bulbifera). Those area the spore packets on the back side of the leaf. They are sensitive to touch, easily dropping off when disturbed. This fern is found along cliffs or ledges of limestone and calcareous shale, but also in limy swamps. The ones here can actually fit either habitat description: they are at the edge of a cedar wetland, in an area where the local bedrock (a limestone) is really close to the surface.

It's not a berry, or a plant of any kind. This large land snail caught my eye yesterday. It was easily an inch across, possibly more, and because it was white, it stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. It was just hanging out under the mushrooms.

Dewdrops (Dalibarda repens) are blooming in the woods right now, and if you are lucky, like I was, you might get a glimpse of one of it's insect visitors! Originally, I had written that this was one of the dewdrop's pollinators, but it turns out that dewdrops have two kinds of flowers: sterile and fertile. The white showy flowers are sterile. The fertile flowers are hidden beneath the leaves and apparently never open up; they are self-fertilizing, which means that this fly is not a pollinator (at least not for this flower). According to Native American Ethnobotany, dewdrops are also called Robin Runaway; I'm still trying to find out why.

No comments:

Post a Comment