Soup & Walk Report, February 19, 2011

Our theme today was searching for the green and we saw it everywhere when we looked carefully. This year was very different from the snow we had last year. Many remembered our tromp through the snow. We had gusting winds today and temperatures in the 50’s compared to the 30’s the previous 2 years. The sounds of the wind in the trees made some think of a plane flying overhead and we commented that people who have experienced hurricanes or tornados hear a sound like a locomotive. When the gusts died down we could hear bird sounds and flowing water along the creek.
Before we entered the relative calm of the woods we looked at the statuesque tulip tree against the blue sky and caught the sunlight bouncing off the seed pods at the top of the tree. Later in the woods, we took a look at another and even though it was swaying in the breeze we could see the seed pods again. The trunk close up has those curious circular patterns up and down the braided bark of the tree.
At the first bridge we visited with the skunk cabbage blossoms poking through the leaves. These wonderful harbingers of spring are a lovely striped purple. The leaves just showing will be more evident next month and guests have described the leaves as looking very tropical. These plants have long tap roots with 3 years growth so they can survive being stepped on. They, along with the netted chain fern, are a sign of healthy wetlands. They also help clean up the Chesapeake Bay by anchoring the soil on this floodplain of the Blockston Branch.
The water was flowing nicely in the winding creek with many patches of soft green moss along the banks. The bright green color shows the effects of the sunlight which can reach these plants during the winter when the upper canopy is devoid of leaves. One observant guest did spot a remaining holly berry on a tree. The holly leaves and sweet bay magnolia leaves were another source of green in the woods. We did see the green stems of patches of green brier with thorns and strawberry bush with some red tips showing. One guest mentioned that this was the first time she noticed these lovely tips that had not been eaten by the deer.
Two of our orchids are visible now as green leaves on the upland train. The cranefly orchid has green above and purple underneath and the rattlesnake plantain orchid has a white striped fuzzy leaf. This latter one near the pine trees still had a leaf stalk showing. We took the Birch Alle` trail to see a little more of the woods. Moss along the upland trail and the birch trail were of several different varieties and shades of green and bluegreen. River birch with the peeling trunks ruffled by the wind were visible among the green pines.
The new bluebird house volunteer Doug Smith pointed out one of the 25 houses that he was monitoring and asked for more help when he is on vacation. He gave a nice background for this opportunity for another volunteer effort.
Our walk was topped off by a lovely luncheon enjoyed by our 28 paid guests which included 2 young children. One of our puppet squirrels visited, welcomed the children and the group and talked a little about the need for this habitat which provides her with acorns to feed her family and friends. In our beautifully decorated meeting room, we enjoyed a very hearty chili, green salad, bread with green spread and spicy date nut bars. Mickey had used many greens from the woods to decorate and with the help of all our volunteers made this a delightful occasion for our guests. Pat B at front desk, Michelle W, and Mary J K who both also made the dessert, Nancy B Shirley B, Zaida W, and all the staff who helped before the event taking reservations and Allison for setting up the room.
Many guests were profuse in the thanks that we have this event regularly at the arboretum. I am grateful that this allows me to promote the arboretum, as well as cooking and eating healthy which go along with the new 2010 guidelines. Thanks to all, Julianna

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