Soup ‘n Walk – March 17, 2012

Photo by Ann Rohlfing
What beautiful sunny mid-70s weather for a Soup ’n Walk on St Patrick’s Day. Some of us went on a two-hour walk and others a later one-hour walk. The longer walk gave us a chance to go along the Tuckahoe Trail to see some of our earliest blooms since this trail has some warmer spots and some different exposures. The sassafras trees as we walked past the meadow showed just a hint of their yellow color, and the shadbush (or serviceberry) along the trail likewise was almost ready to open. The blueberry next to the shadbush did have blooms but they were not full size yet.

The bridge where the spice bushes are blooming (which are lovely) is near the border of the Arboretum. There is a sign that you are now leaving the Arboretum, and we continued on the Tuckahoe Trail. We talked about the spice bush and the sassafras leaves nourishing the spice bush swallowtail caterpillars. Someone mentioned that they had read that spice bush and sassafras leaves were good for tea leaves. This bridge is where early wildflowers start.

Further down the trail, we were treated to just a few spring beauties at first and then to broad sweeps of this delicate bloom. In The Secrets of Wildflowers, Jack Sanders mentions that Indian children would dig up these precious corms and eat them like candy. However, this is not recommended since that is the only source of next year’s blooms. Someone asked to what family this wildflower, Claytonia virginica, belongs. It is in the Portulaca or purslane family. The spring beauty and many skunk cabbage plants share some of this wetland area, although the spring beauty can tolerate drier areas with dead leaves to grow among. 

When we got to the next bridge, we found that a tree had been uprooted and made crossing the bridge a slight challenge. We easily made it across and went on to see where the trail meets a small stream. Along the high bank on the other side are a number of lacy green wood ferns (spinulose?), and close to our side the first little umbrellas of mayapples poking through. Some saw frog eggs in the stream.

On our return trip, we continued to hunt for the elusive bloodroot wildflower. Finally a sharp eye spotted one and, yes, looking carefully around we saw several more. Sanguinaria canadensis is a member of the poppy family (Papaveraceae). This very fragile wildflower comes up folded in a leaf and as it opens is easily damaged and may last only a day, so we were delighted to find this treasure. The roots exude a red liquid that gives it the name and some of its earlier medicinal uses. The seeds are carried off by ants due to their sticky sweet coating and deposited in the anthills and after the ants eat the coating, spreading the bloodroot.

The long walk made us hungry, and we hurried back to the smells of hot carrot and cauliflower soup with herbs served with a pink grapefruit avocado salad, rye bread with strawberry jam, and chocolate walnut cookies for dessert. As part of the nutrition info, we discussed the advantages of eating colorful vegetables and fruits and the many phytochemicals that are included in these delicious foods. I encouraged all to take back the kitchen and teach others to cook and eat good food. Norma Jean and Lynn made the desserts. Mickey, Shirley, Zaida, Mary Jo, and Pat also helped with the setup, walks, serving, and cleanup that help make this program a success. We had over 30 paying guests and some new members. Thanks to all the staff that also helped with this event successful. 

by Julianna Pax
Arboretum docent naturalist
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