Starting at Adkins Arboretum, the Byway Quilt Trail Honors Harriet Tubman and the Legacy of the Underground Railroad

ImageWhen you enter the Arboretum’s main entrance, you will see along the drive a large sign panel displaying a traditional quilt pattern—the pine tree. In the 19th century, the timbering industry dominated the economic wealth of the Eastern Shore. Slaves, including Harriet Tubman and her family, worked in various aspects of the trade. The timber produced by local mills supported the Chesapeake shipbuilding industry.pine tree

The Byway Quilt Trail, a public art project, includes 16 quilt block replicas. It is being installed on or near structures along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway in Caroline County in honor of the centennial celebration of Harriet Tubman.

At Adkins Arboretum, the story of nature and the Underground Railroad is told through a 12-stop audio tour that is free with Arboretum admission.

The Trail is a collaborative public art project supported by the Caroline County Council of Arts, the Caroline County Office of Tourism, and the Maryland State Arts Council.

Click here to learn more about the Caroline County Quilt Trail.

by Ellie Altman
Executive Director


Report from the April 6 Soup ‘n Walk

Sunday was the best day of all because Saturday was windy and cold and Monday it rained all day. This was our first try at a Soup ’n Walk on Sunday. We had lunch first and a 90-minute walk after. There were 24 guests signed up. After our lunch of spring lentil soup, carrot and cranberry salad, ancient grain bread with orange marmalade, and a luscious dessert of fudge cake brownies with cocoa sauce, and a short talk about ancient grains and the color in the recipes, we split into two groups for the walk. The room was lovely, thanks to all the volunteers. Zaida W. did the arrangements, and Lynn L., Shirley B., and Pat B. set the tables and got the soup hot and the rest of the food out for our guests. Thanks also to the staff who got things ready for us.

2014 04 06 volunteers

Soup ‘n Walk volunteers

One group took a brisk hike all the way out to see if the trout lilies were blooming. Margan and Mary Jo’s group went the Blockston Branch and the Creekside trail for a slower 90-minute walk. We were hoping to find pink and white ephemerals and some yellow blooms.

photo by Ann Rohlfing

photo by Ann Rohlfing

My group checked the sassafras trees along the meadow, and they were showing some yellow tips but were not blooming yet. We hurried on to the Tuckahoe trail, pausing briefly to note the persimmon trees and their pebbled bark, the blueberries just showing pink tips, and the shadbush not yet blooming. When we got to the spicebush bridge, we found their many lovely yellow blooms and paused to admire them.

2014 04 08 spice bush


Just about 20 feet farther on the left, we made a magnificent discovery of a huge patch of bloodroot in bloom. I have never seen so many blooms in one spot! The ants must have been very busy carrying the eliasome coated seeds and planting them every foot or so for quite an area. A participant on the walk took many of the photos featured here, including one of a butterfly. Can anyone identify it?



2014 04 06 butterfly

All around us we also saw quite a few spring beauties, many more than two weeks ago. Up and down a few more hills, we were greeted by Ann R. the photographer. She was there to photograph the trout lilies. We crossed the stream on a little foot bridge and went up another hill. Lo and behold, the trout lily leaves were spotted, and on the other side of a fallen tree there were about a dozen blooms. Another spectacular sight for our winter-weary eyes!

trout lily (photo by Ann Rohlfing)

trout lily (photo by Ann Rohlfing)

It takes about 45 minutes of fast walking to get to this spot. Then we turned back and retraced our steps and enjoyed the flowers again, as well as the many skunk cabbage leaves, with a few blooms left and some spring or rock cress showing buds but no flowers yet. Many commented on how lucky we were to have such beautiful weather for a great walk in the woods.

by Julianna Pax
Arboretum docent

A Garden of Marvels

It was cold and rainy outside on March 30, but the classroom at Adkins was cozy and full of folks who sought a bit of insight into what makes plants work and how our understanding of them has developed over the past 300 years.


Ruth Kassinger

Ruth Kassinger, author of A Garden of Marvels, delighted us with her humor and knowledge of the evolution of botany from its origins in the late 1600s until Darwin stormed the scene in the 1800s.

Her book was admittedly “born of a murder” of a kumquat tree in her conservatory, and she took us through a timeline of the many scientists who developed the field of botany between 1608 and the 1870s. Four hundred years ago plants, were referred to as “imperfect animals” until Darwin connected some dots that have proven to astound us with their accuracy and wonder.

The subtitle of Kassinger’s book,“The Discovery That Flowers Have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, and Other Secrets of the Way Plants Work,” gives insight into her way of teaching us through stories and illustrations. She invokes a side show of freak plants: pumpkins that require 125 gallons of water a day to grow! She states that “flowers are all about sex!” She seems more like a mystery writer, spinning stories of intrigue and revelation.

Kassinger asserts that although science has come a long way, it is still a profession of discovery and there is no ‘last answer’ to any of the questions we might have about the miracle of nature. We must ‘stay tuned!’

Her next book will be about algae.

by Anna Harding


Dreys, kits, and muk muks

As my family prepares for a new baby, the backyard Eastern_Grey_Squirrelsquirrels seem in a similar state of anticipation. Their aerial antics drive the dog to distraction, but I recognize them for what they are: amorous precursors to an expanded family.

For the eastern gray squirrel, or Sciurus carolinensis, early spring is a difficult time. Squirrels can’t digest cellulose, foraging instead for foods that are rich in fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Nuts buried the previous fall begin to sprout, forcing squirrels to rely on tree buds for sustenance. Despite the straits of their circumstances, these prolific and adaptable rodents will likely give birth to a litter of one to four kits in February or March, sometimes followed by another litter in June or July. Born hairless and with their eyes closed, the kits will remain in the nest for twelve weeks.

Gray squirrels build their spherical, leafy nests, known as dreys, in the forest canopy, high enough to provide protection from predators but not so high as to be blown free by the wind. The nests are lined with dried grass, feathers, moss, and thistledown. Mating squirrels sometimes share a drey during breeding season, and multiple squirrels will shelter together for warmth during the cold winter months. Some squirrels inhabit hollow tree trunks instead of dreys.

Gray squirrels boast a variety of vocalizations, including a loving coo-purring known to biologists as the “muk muk” sound and reserved for kits and courtship. Our backyard resounds more often with the “kuk” call, which warns of predators such as big, furry dogs trying desperately but ineffectively to scramble up trees.

Adkins Arboretum, with its mature woodlands and dense understory vegetation, is prime squirrel habitat. In these last weeks before spring buds unfurl, numerous dreys can be spotted along the woodland paths. I like to envision sleeping kits nestled in their leafy bowers; careful listeners may even discern a “muk muk” on the breeze.

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator


Wow! I had a great experience recently watching a movie at Adkins Arboretum. Like biophilicall my experiences at the Arboretum, it turned out be a worthwhile decision.

The narrative of the film touched those things that I love about creativity and nature; technically, the subject was biophilic design and architecture. Okay. What exactly is biophilic design? You need to see the movie and/ or read Edward O. Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir to understand the original meaning of  biophilia, but I came away with a definition of the specific term after watching the film. It was, in fact, a confirmation of what I have long felt. Human beings have a deep affiliation with nature that is quite probably rooted in our biology. We have a tendency to focus on lifelike processes. So it follows that buildings that are meaningful to us have to be more than just mere building materials.

Something good happens to all people, young and old, when buildings harmonize with nature, textures, form, and ornamentation and control the natural rhythms of energy that affect us. It changes the way we sense the world. These can indeed be memorable places where humans will thrive, however humble or majestic their environment. Those who love nature should see this 61-minute movie, and obviously there could not be a better space to view it than at Adkins.

I sailed home afterward, taking my favorite back roads and thinking of the beauty of my natural surroundings and the joys of spring to come.

by Ritze Miller