September 18, 2010

September Bounty - Grapes, Smartweeds, and Other Surprises

Ripened fox grapes
Even after drought and floods, never underestimate the gifts and surprises that wild places have to offer.  Our September walk at Great Meadows NWR had many.   Thanks to those who joined me for their curiosity and revelations.

The musky, sweet aroma of ripening Fox grapes perfumed shady stretches of the Dike Trail where large fruit clusters hung overhead in the shadows.  The dryness has made them extra flavorful this year.  These are a seasonal clue for our next surprise encounter with...Cut-leaved Grape ferns with ripened spores.  I haven't seen Grape ferns in many years.  Veteran walker, Steve Tobin, spotted these growing amidst moss covered roots of a large silver maple tree.
Cut-leaved grape fern, fertile and infertile fronds
The ever-present and perplexing smartweeds (Polygonaceae family) raised many questions.  Why are they "smart?"  It's their chemistry.  Their peppery leaves can make the skin and mouth smart, warding off some foragers.  Great Meadows has a variety of smartweeds and their relatives, challenging for many to identify.  Here's a sampling...
Water-pepper (Persicaria hydropiper)
Pennsylvania and Nodding smartweeds (Persicaria pensylvanica and P. maculosa)

 Lady's Thumb (Persicaria maculosa)

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