Saturday, November 17
Today was the best weather of the week. It was sunny and in the 50s with just a brisk breeze. We had 25 paid guests and some who had not been to S&W before but were members, as well as some friends of members. Margan and I each led half the group. We did the same trails, but in opposite directions. The theme for today was searching for the acorns, nuts, berries, and seeds that are food for wildlife.
My group walked to the wetland and looked at the bicolor oak. The leaves were already brown. Earlier, they would have been dark green on top and light and fuzzy on the bottom, hence the name bicolor or swamp oak (Quercus bicolor). The group then received a map showing the location of many trees in the Arboretum and a sheet with leaf and acorn diagrams of the white and red oaks that can be located at Adkins. Someone volunteered that the white oak leaves have rounded lobes and the red oak leaves have pointy stipules on the lobes. Another question was asked about the acorns, which were not abundant this year compared to last year. White oak acorns take one year to mature, whereas red oak acorns take two years, and this was not a good year for either. Squirrels like the lower tannic acid in the white oaks and will eat them first. When they bury or save the acorns to keep them from sprouting, they nip off the tip of the acorn. Red oak acorns have more tannic acids, which keep them from sprouting as quickly. Squirrels have been shown recently that they can recover up to 90% of buried acorns. The other 10% seem to benefit our forest when they sprout.
We kept walking past a shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) and black walnut (Juglans nigra) trees. These nuts also feed our wildlife, especially the squirrels and some of the birds and deer who like nuts. We passed the dogwood (Cornus florida)with their maroon color leaves and noted that the berries have already disappeared as food for birds and that many buds are showing for blooms next year. We walked past the meadow and stopped at a huge northern red oak (Quercus rubra). These leaves have red petioles! We looked for acorns and found only one, which was probably last year’s.
northern red oak
Next to the pavilion, we identified a southern red oak (Quercus falcata) by its leaves. We passed several sassafras trees (Sassafras albidum) showing next year’s buds. The berries were eaten earlier this summer from the female trees.
southern red oak
Heading into the woods, we passed some blueberry bushes (Vaccinium corymbosum) with colorful red leaves. These bloomed in May, and the birds enjoyed the berries soon after. Many beech trees (Fagus grandiflora) were visible in the landscape. The young trees still had leaves of green and gold and were quite picturesque all around us.
Next, we started down Creekside Trail to find some hickory trees. These trees have compound leaves with five to nine leaflets.
The mockernut hickory (Carya glabra) is common and has five leaflets. The wetland, now visible from the trail, was quite full, and I mentioned that oaks have a hard time here except for the swamp chestnut oak (Quercus michauxii). When I turned around, there was a lovely swamp chestnut oak still sporting some colorful yellow-brown leaves!
swamp chestnut oak
Our next view as we turned was the Tuckahoe River graced by a large beech tree (Fagus grandifolia), which blooms in early April. The beechnuts that follow in May are quickly found and eaten by squirrels, deer, and birds.
Now we had to hurry back, but not before we stopped at a large white oak (Quercus alba) with its flaky bark, moss covering, and hearts a’ bursting seeds nearby.
white oak bark
Most of these seeds have been eaten by birds. A post oak (Quercus stellata) with its maltese cross-like leaves was next on the left.
post oak leaves
We hurried past the paw paw trees (Asimina triloba), which were losing their lovely yellow leaves. The delicious fruit fed wildlife in September.
After leaving the rustling leaves on the trail, we entered the art gallery for our hot split pea soup, apple date salad, rye walnut bread with apple butter, and oatmeal cranberry chocolate cookies. Yum. There were samples of white oak leaves, blueberry leaves, sweet gum leaves, and beech leaves on the tables and buffet. New bookmarks for next year, our 14th year, and copies of the recipes were on the tables. After eating, we talked about the good things in the delicious foods we were enjoying. Soluble fiber in the peas and apples lowers cholesterol. Bread-making hints were discussed, as well as the omega 3 good fats in the walnuts and canola oil and how to store them. We had walnuts for sale, with Adkins getting a $40 profit.
Volunteers who are essential to this effort were Pat B., Joyce A., Sheila D., Emily C., Martha S., Marilyn R., Margan G., and Tawna M. My thanks to all the volunteers and staff who make this healthy outreach fundraising event possible. The weather just seems to cooperate each month, except for last September with the hurricane scare.
One member invited her mother from Lewes, DE, to celebrate her birthday. Another very young member was also enjoying the walk, apple butter, and lunch. We had a reporter here from Chesapeake Publishing, so more publicity is coming on the health and wellness value of our S&W. Members came from many other counties in Maryland and were looking forward to next year. They said they would be coming again and indicated that it might be a long wait to next February. There were suggestions for posting the S&W notes/blog on our website. Two I.A.L. members from Chesapeake College were here, and I mentioned a four-week nutrition class that I will be doing there next February at the Wye Mills campus and in March at the Cambridge Center. Check the Chesapeake College website in January. Thanks to all!
by Julianna Pax
Maryland Master Naturalist