Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Scenes from Chipp-A-Waters Park

Yesterday, after finishing a school program for fourth grade students at Vowles Elementary, I went down the road to Chipp-A-Waters Park for a short early-Spring walk.  Chipp-A-Waters has long been my favorite place to look for spring ephemeral wildflower.  While I was not realistically expecting to find any flowers, I was hopeful.

To make a long story short, I didn't find any wildflowers.  However, I did find a few interesting things to photograph.

Much of the back end of Chipp-A-Waters park is covered by floodplain forest.  One of the dominant species in this habitat was the Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica).  I say was, because most of the ash trees have died over the past few years - killed by Emerald Ash Borer larvae.  Over the past two years many of these trees have begun to blow down.

Wind-thrown Green Ash trees at Chipp-A-Waters Park

Although I did not find any flowers, I did find several patches of Wild Leeks (Allium tricoccom) poking through last year's leaf litter.  Wild Leeks, which are also known as Ramps, are a highly-sought-after edible plant.  Both the leaves and the underground bulb can be eaten.  They have a mild "onion" taste.  I highly recommend trying them.  If you plan on harvesting any of these to eat, make sure that every plant has an onion smell.  There are many look-a-likes, some of which are extremely toxic.  Unfortunately, it is not okay to harvest this plant from any of Mt. Pleasant's parks - it is against park rules.

Wild Leek leaves

Wild Leek - leaves and last year's flower stalks

Wild leeks and Red Oak leaf

Besides the patches of Wild Leeks, the only green to be found was in patches of moss growing on logs and tree trunks.

Moss on a Green Ash log

Even though there was not much new growth to be found, there was still plenty to photograph, such as these oak leaves and acorn.  I really liked the dark, monochromatic look of this photo.

Leaves and acorn

Another subject that I found to photograph was the fertile fronds from last year's Cinnamon Ferns (Osmunda cinnamomea).

Last year's fertile frond

Many of these fronds can be found in low-lying areas of the park.  It was cold enough overnight that the water standing in many of these pools had developed a skim of ice.

Fern fronds in an icy pool

I didn't spend much time in the park, only about thirty minutes total, but I was happy just to get out into the woods.  I hope to be doing a lot more of that in the coming weeks as birds return and wildflowers begin to bloom.

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