Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Walk in the Woods

Yesterday, with the greens of spring in full riot, I went for a walk with my partner. We visited a state park nearby that is part of the Blackstone River National Heritage corridor. The weather was dubious, as there was a heavy mist falling, yet the walk was fun. There was, however, an upsetting element to this walk. There were tons of invasive nonnative plants all along the walk. There was no major variety to this invasion, but the sheer numbers were staggering.

First came the Berberis species, vulgaris or thunbergii. They were everywhere. One large specemin lurked right next to the path laden with flowerbuds. I'm uncertain which species this was, but it looked to have pendulous flower clusters that would produce yellow flowers. Other examples of Berberis were lower growing, others growing in shady spots were reaching for the sky.

Celastrus orbiculatus was making inroads in a few spots, but the greedy tendrils weren't covering everything as thickly as I've seen elsewhere. Perhaps the park rangers are working to remove it.

Lonicera possibly of the maackii or tatarica family, was absolutely everywhere. The flowers are about to emerge and I suspect they'll show the plants to be of the tatarica group. They grew most thickly right along the path where the sun was brightest, although gangly versions grew further in the trees with less light. Little grew beneath them due to the shade they were casting. Birds will most happily spread their seeds further afield.

Of course Rosa multiflora made an appearance, but like the bittersweet it wasn't appearing in great abundance. If only the multiflora in my own yard were following the same pattern. It's sprouting up absolutely everywhere this year.

There was no sign of Lythrum salicaria, the horrible purple loosestrife, but I'm sure it was lurking around somewhere.

The good news is there were plenty of native plants chugging along, including a variety of evergreen fern that I'd love to try and grow in my own garden. I'm hoping that if funds or initiative allow the park will try and cull out these unwanted invaders to preserve what natives are there.

Recommended Plant of the Week: Magnolia soulangiana. In the north, we cannot reliably grow the beautiful evergreen magnolias so common in the south (Bracken's Brown Beauty can survive if in a protected location, but I've never seen a very large one). The common saucer magnolia offers up huge flowers and a tree large enough to provide shade. Toward the end of April here in Massachusetts, the trees are covered in sweetly scented flowers. These flowers are pink at the base and change to white toward the ends of the petals. It's a fantastic classic plant that certainly deserves a showcase position in the garden.

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