Young life

youth program mastheadWhile leading a class of homeschoolers along the Arboretum’s woodland paths, I spied two black snakes twisted in an amorous embrace. “Oh look!” I said, waving my hand toward the stream bank, “The snakes are hugging!” A small eight-year-old appeared at my elbow. “Miss Jenny, are they hugging, or are they mating?” she asked.

Plant and animal life cycles are an integral part of environmental education, and there’s never a better time to teach life cycles than spring, when the animal world expands with new life. A recent evening walk afforded me an awesome example of animal young in the form of a mother opossum ambling along with a row of tiny balls clinging to her back. Those balls, it turned out, were baby opossums.

Opossums (or possums, as those of us with a Southern leaning call them) are marsupials, and leave the pouch when they are between 70 and 125 days old. Contrary to popular belief, adult opossums do not hang by their tails to sleep (their tails are not strong enough to support their weight.) Baby opossums may hang from their tails, but only for brief periods of time.

While you are unlikely to spy opossums at the Arboretum during visiting hours, you are certain to encounter tadpoles in the wetland, bluebirds guarding their nests, and monarch caterpillars among the milkweed. You might also chance upon another sight for sore eyes: scores of enthusiastic children delighting in nature during a spring environmental education program.

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator

Tour Talbot’s native gardens this Saturday

Adkins Arboretum’s third annual garden tour, “Celebrating Natives,” is a different kind of garden tour, one that focuses on sustainable approaches to Eastern Shore gardening. The Talbot County Senior Center at Brookletts Place is the hub of this self-guided driving tour of outstanding gardens in and around Easton, St. Michaels, Bozman, and Tilghman. Taking place Saturday, May 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the tour not only highlights the beauty of the gardens but emphasizes their importance in a biodiverse landscape. 

“Celebrating Natives” features eight unique gardens, each demonstrating varying commitments to native plantings and uses of sustainable practices such as rain barrels and composting. The gardens range from a small quarter-acre space that began as a blank slate, to a multi-acre waterfront property showcasing a living shoreline and thriving native trees, to a garden slowly transitioning from exotic plants to natives. Peruse the photos below for glimpses of these beautiful and inspiring gardens. 

The first garden tour of its kind on the Eastern Shore, “Celebrating Natives” exemplifies the Arboretum’s mission of teaching about and showing by example the importance of using native plants in restoring balance to the ecosystem and fostering community relationships. Native plants are those that grew and thrived on the Eastern Shore before the introduction of European settlers. Because these plants have adapted naturally to the region’s ecology of climate, insects, and wildlife, they are a better choice than non-native plants.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 on the day of the tour. Click here to order your advance ticket today!

Brookletts magnolia seed

photos by Barbara McClinton

Brookletts path and groundcover Brookletts rocks downspout Brookletts rooftop OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Cario 3 Cario backyard Cario shed IMG_0201 IMG_0215 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA McClinton 8 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Tiernan-Clarke 2 Tiernan-Clarke columbine Tiernan-Clarke front door honeysuckle Waldrip 5 Waldrip 7 Waldrip bird house

Report from April’s Soup ‘n Walk

Arboretum docent and Maryland Master Naturalist Margan Glover led the walk for the April 18 Soup ‘n Walk program. Here is her report. 

What a fantastic day for a walk!  Here are some of the things our group saw (in no particular order):

Sassafras blooming. Some of us nibbled a blossom or two to enjoy the mild aromatic flavor.

sassafras – photo by Ann Rohlfing

Paw paw flower buds are still small and green, but you can see their ultimate shape and color.
– Violets

Spring beauties. I’ve never seen such a profusion!  There’s a place near the turn on Creekside where the bank is about at eye level, so you actually look through thousands of blooms – magnificent!

spring beauty

spring beauty – photo by Ann Rohlfing

Hearts-a-bursting are just sending out tiny flower buds.

Bluets and dogwood blooming along Upland Trail. Rattlesnake weed leaves also showing along trailside.

– Jack-in-the-pulpits newly out

– Leaf shoots of lady slippers just poking through the leaf litter
– 2 brown toads
– Several painted turtles sunning
– Tree frogs trilling
– We thought we saw an otter in Tuckahoe Creek, but the splashing turned out to be spawning fish (probably perch).
– Virginia bluebells (in fine form) and golden ragwort (not quite blooming yet)
Bedstraw sending up its distinctive leaves on square raspy stems
Mourning cloak butterfly
_AR24540 Just out of dormancy mourning cloak email
Bellwort leaves newly up
Shadbush blooming
Ovenbirds shouting and prairie warblers practicing their scales
– New tent caterpillars (especially on black and wild cherry trees)
No bloodroot, alas. I couldn’t even find the leaves where I’d seen the blooms less than a couple of weeks ago
Just wonderful.


The next Soup ‘n Walk program—after which the program is on hiatus until September—is Saturday, May 16. Soup ‘n Walks fill quickly! Click here to reserve your spot.

Food for the soul

A wide range of organic seeds is available in the Arboretum Gift Shop.

A wide range of organic seeds is available in the Arboretum Gift Shop.

Vegetable season is upon us, and I hope you will look for organic seeds and plants. Organic options are available for many vegetables and herbs. If you do not grow a garden yourself, perhaps you can visit your local farmer’s market for organic local lettuce, milk, tomatoes, fruits, and herbs. Shop for meat that has been provided by cows fed on grass and free range pastures, and shop for eggs that come from a happy hen that is free to run, eats bugs, and basks in the sun.

Did you grow up having Sunday dinners at your grandparents’? I remember how my grandfather would walk to the market to shop and come home and cook a special dinner for us to eat at a beautifully set table. If we spent the weekend with him, he would get up early and mix up his special pancakes while he whistled away in the kitchen. Looking back, I know now this was how he showed us his love. I was very lucky to have a father-in-law that was the same way—who always cooked whatever our favorite meal was—and this too was how he showed his love for us. American meals should have meaning, a time to sit and talk and share, a time to slow down and prepare a healthy, nutritious meal together, eat together, savor the moment of the meal by being fully present, and clean up together.

When was the last time you thought about where your food came from? How was your food transported? Was it grown locally? How were the milking cows, hens, and meat cows treated? How were the employees that work at the slaughterhouse treated? The field workers that picked your fruit and vegetables? We have a voice to say we want our food grown without pesticides and hormones, and we can ensure good food practices for our future generations.

I hope this spring and summer you slow down and prepare a good meal together and enjoy the meaning in sharing a meal with your family and friends. Feed your body and your soul.

by Robyn Affron
Visitor Services Coordinator
Certified Professional Horticulturist

The gatekeepers

There they sat, like black, lumpy beads strung across the roofline. A baker’s dozen, "Cathartes aura -Florida -USA -upper body-8" by Dori - originally posted to Flickr as 20100130_9526. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - fit for any pie. Who knows when they arrived—a month, two months after the old house became empty? I had watched them on my daily walks for several weeks, trying but not succeeding to admire their dark feathers and hunched silhouettes.

Despite my personal ambivalence, turkey vultures, also known as buzzards, were viewed favorably in ancient times. The Mayans knew them as death eaters, believing they could convert death into life. To the Egyptians, vultures were the gatekeepers to the Underworld. Native American shamans interpreted vulture flight as a way to reveal weather and omens. In Greek mythology, vultures symbolized the oneness of heaven and earth, and ancient Assyrians saw in them the union between day and night.

Vultures are the false gold of my students, who unfailingly identify them as hawks until I point out the characteristic teeter-totter of their otherwise smooth glide. A knowledge of this bird’s ecological importance is a lesson in itself: while the thought of carrion for dinner is unpleasant, even more unpleasant is that of a world devoid of scavengers and decomposers. The vulture has its place in the food web, as well as legal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

While the sight of twelve vultures roosting on a roofline may be off-putting, there is an admitted majesty to that of one vulture soaring over Adkins Arboretum’s meadows. With a wingspan of up to 72 inches, the vulture is an easy sighting for beginning birders and nature enthusiasts. Visiting the Arboretum in search of hawks may or may not be successful, but visiting to spy a vulture will almost never disappoint.

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator

**Visit the Arboretum Sunday, March 29 for Tree Rings 102, a family-friendly program that is part of the Arboretum’s Outdoor Explorers series. You’re almost sure to see a vulture overhead.**