This was our first ever Smoothie ’n Walk. We needed to change to an outdoor Pavilion setting, so I thought of a menu that would work on the picnic tables. The food was prepared at the Visitor’s Center by volunteers Joyce W., Joyce A., Gail R., Denise D.. and Julianna P. We used the new kitchen and the adjoining room. We had blueberry peach smoothies, fresh vegetables and fruit in season, and assorted low-fat cheeses, fresh wheat flax bread, and cherry jam with dips and spreads on trays. Melissa and Ginna were part of the staff assisting.
The day was a sunny, fall-like day in the 80s. which made the meadow colors sparkle. Guests were greeted at the patio with a brief intro to Adkins. Since it was noon on a Sunday, we walked to the Pavilion for lunch first. Afterward, the 15 guests received a handout on smoothies with today’s recipe for the blueberry peach green tea smoothie and other information on smoothies. We discussed the nutrition of whole fruits and vegetables and what constitutes a healthy smoothie. There was a question about adding protein supplements, so it was suggested that if your diet has 20% of calories as protein, you do not need more.
The walk began at the Pavilion and headed into the meadow to the overlook platform. On the way, we saw many samples of grasses. Indian grass (Sorgastrum nutans) is the tallest and has a yellow bloom, while the seed head of purple top or red top Tridens flavens gives this grass its name. We also saw lots of big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), a tall, solid grass with a turkey foot seed head. More types of grasses can be found in the parking lot. We climbed the overlook platform and looked over the meadow. We saw large sweeps of Canadian goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) among the grasses. The meadow has many levels. Most of it is underground—at least 70% is below. The upper level is mostly grasses, and the middle level tends to have plants such as milkweed, pearly everlasting, flowering spurge, and other native flowers. We try to burn the meadow every three years to keep it from becoming overgrown.
Continuing, we turned left at the bluebird house. It has a predator guard to discourage snakes, and it is one of many around the meadow. Volunteers help us fledge many young birds by caring for the houses. This trail gave us a look at the edges of the meadow. We saw the invasive but beautiful blue blooms of Canadian thistle (Circium arvens) hosting tiger swallowtail butterflies, which like the nectar. Next, we saw some American pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) with berries, invasive oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), and someone pointed out a monarch caterpillar on a milkweed leaf (Aesclepias syriaca). The monarch butterfly lays it eggs on milkweed leaves. When the caterpillar hatches, it eats the leaf and takes in an alkaloid that makes it repulsive to birds. Some black cherry trees (Prunus serotina) with black fungus caught our eye by the goat pen. They help us with the invasives, so we turned right to take in the goat pen and enjoyed their entertainment.
Reversing our trail, we passed many winged sumac (Rhus coppalina) bushes with red berries that are high in Vitamin C and make a pink lemonade. The leaves are also turning red. We then made another left turn and someone noticed another tree with red leaves. It was a tupelo or black gum (Nyssa sylvatica). We also saw a groundsel bush (Baccharis halimifolia) with seeds but no blooms, green-headed coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata), and sundrops or evening primrose (Oenothera biennis). Past the Visitor’s Center, we traveled the persimmon tree (Diospyros virginiana) path. Some were loaded with fruit this year, bending the branches. There was a nice patch of devil’s walking stick (Aralia spinosa) in bloom that will have black berries on red pedicels for the birds and lots of thorns for those not careful.
Finally, we saw more purple top grass, some pearly everlasting, and berries on sassafras (Sassafras albidum) as we returned to the Pavilion. What a delightful walk and wonderful, appreciative guests. They want another S&W, and there are only two more left—in October and November.
by Julianna Pax
Maryland Master Naturalist