What a better way to spend the July 4th weekend than down by the water. The old canoe in the basement was dragged out and strapped onto the Subaru station wagon and brought down to the only freshwater tidal marsh in Pennsylvania. This is what Indian creek, our Morris park creek drains into. Here is Isabelle canoeing on Darby Creek.
We also dusted off the 1959 Chevrolet Impala sitting in the driveway and headed for the Schuylkill River in West Fairmount Park.
Before cruising the Belmont Plateau we settled in for a leisurely park and walked along the river. Here we discovered a nice patch of Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) just below the Strawberry Mansion Bridge.
The picture above may seem pretty straightforward but is actually an astonishing representation of two different species altogether. To the upper right is the native Staghorn Sumac. The lower left is the non-native invasive Tree-of -Heaven (Ailanthus altissima). They both look so similar at first glance and are growing right next to each other, with pinnately compound leaves about the same size with reddish leaf stems. To the untrained eye these two trees look almost identical. We bring this up because there are just a few Staghorn sumac specimens growing in our area of scope in Morris Park, and they are surrounded by Ailanthus. Knowing the differences is helpful when we undertake our yearly maintenance effort at pulling the hundreds of Ailanthus seedlings up.
The leaflets of the Staghorn sumac are dentate, with toothlike edges, while the Ailanthus leaflets are smooth. The young twigs of the Staghorn sumac are densely hairy, a give-away characteristic of this large shrub or small tree, as well as the origin of its common name. The dense hairs along the new growth resembles that of the antlers of a young male deer. The Staghorn sumac has incredible ornamental value. Its reddish-brown seedpods and lush pinnately compound leaves and shrub status make it a great back-round plant. Isabelle’s brother has one in his back yard in the suburbs of Paris, France. Every year he prunes it so it has a nice shape.
On July 4th itself we chose the Wissahickon to spend the afternoon walking Keeba, only 15 minutes drive from Morris Park. Here we explore a magnificent patch of the native wildflower Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). This one tops the list of our favorite flowers. We look forward to seeing them flower every summer. We were careful to make sure Keeba did not prance about in this patch of very delicate plants. The blue-green stems are very fragile.
The Tulip poplars in The Wissahickon are memorable.