Soup ‘n Walk, Saturday, October 15

by Arboretum Docent Julianna Pax

It was a perfect fall day with clear skies and a little wind as our group headed out for a meadow walk. We were mostly concerned with the plants of the meadow, but strayed right away to the beautiful tupelo tree and the possumhaw viburnums near the Visitor’s Center. It was hard to pass up such a vivid display as we discussed the red colors in these two plants. Attention was also paid to the forest edge as we scoured the ground for mushrooms, another topic of the day. We were not able to find any. Perhaps some were hiding under all the leaves that are starting to fall.

Many of those leaves had already turned their lovely colors of purple, red and orange, but the majority of the forest had not reached its peak of glorious color. Maybe in another week or two.

The tall grasses of the meadow – big bluestem, switchgrass, and Indian grass – were especially noted. Upon close inspection, we observed the difference in each flower head, which helps in the identification of the specific grasses. The dried pods of some of the common milkweed were still hanging on, and a few of the milkweed bugs could be seen feasting on the seeds. We even found one with a new batch of tiny milkweed bugs. There were a few new shoots of milkweed scattered along the meadows edge, and several were just full of yellow aphids, which really seem to love any and all of the milkweeds. I’m sure the ladybugs we saw earlier on the path will be heading in their direction. I was a little disappointed that just about all of the goldenrod was finished blooming, but they have left behind many seed heads that the birds will love.

Unfortunately, the meadow and the meadow edge are scattered with several types of invasive species, so we pointed out the aggressive Oriental bittersweet, Japanese honeysuckle, and the Tree of Heaven, just to name a few. But it was too pretty a day to dwell on the negative!

As we made our way around the far end of the South Meadow, part of the group stopped to say hello to a snake that was waiting to cross or may have been basking in the warm sunshine. He wanted no part of us and headed into the underbrush. Farther around the path, we were looking at the leaves of a pretty flowering dogwood and discovered a small assassin bug slowly maneuvering around the branches, perhaps looking for a snack.

The South Meadow is just loaded with pearly everlasting this year. Seems to be more than usual. It is such a pretty little plant with white flowers that just pop out here and there all through the meadow. We discussed how well it dries for decorating wreaths and such, but noted that it has a very strong scent when brought indoors!

The Virginia creeper vine is just spectacular now with its red, red leaves and is innocently climbing up and over many plants on the forest edge. And as vile as poison ivy is to some, one cannot deny the beauty of those leaves this time of year!

We picked up the pace of our walk as it neared 12:00. I was sure everyone had worked up an appetite and was ready to head in for a delicious lunch.

Most folks in the group were repeat visitors, but three or four were there for the first time and seemed to enjoy themselves. We were quick to invite them back. Thanks Julianna and Shirley for being my back-up. It was a very enjoyable day!

The next Soup ‘n Walk (the last of the year) is Saturday, November 12. Register today!

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