A FLOWER BLOOMS

WHERE ARE THE BLOOMIN FLOWERS?

Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) blooms along the East Branch of Indian Creek.  Morris Park Philadelphia
Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) blooms along the East Branch of Indian Creek. Morris Park Philadelphia

SYMPLOCARPUS FOETIDUS. The mottled purple and green spathes of skunk cabbage poke out of the swampy floodplain of Indian Creek.  The pointed Spathes enclose the inflorescence, a red spadix.

The flower is enclosed by a hood.  The spadix is enclosed by the spathe.  Morris Park, Philadelphia
The flower is enclosed by a hood. The spadix is enclosed by the spathe. Morris Park, Philadelphia

Not a bad shot eh?    Done while holding Keeba’s leash as she pulled to get her own view of whatever has her attention. The yellow spots on the spadix are the actual flowers.

Symplocarpus foetidus , Morris Park Philadelphia
Symplocarpus foetidus , Morris Park Philadelphia

Consequently, there was not much time to be spent studying this spectacular and unique flower.

Skunk cabbage with Lesser Celendine, (Ranunculus ficaria) an exotic invasive
Skunk cabbage with Lesser Celandine, (Ranunculus ficaria) an exotic invasive

Of course there has to be an annoying invasive to stall the moment.  This one, Lesser Celandine (Runuculus ficaria) is quite troublesome, especially along moist stream banks and floodplains. Later on this; for now we will enjoy the beautiful flower.

Skunk Cabbage, Morris Park, Philadelphia
Skunk Cabbage, Morris Park, Philadelphia

 

Other facts:  The plant generates its own heat.  It does have a skunk-like odor in the leaves.  The large leaves emerge after flowering. The immature leaves can be seen between the flower spathes.  They are pointy and wrapped up tight, not ready for the cold. One of them looks like it has suffered a bit on the tip.

THE ROSE IS DEPOSED

WHICH SPECIES WILL INHERIT THE FOREST?

Isabelle Dijolsstands before an at-risk forest where Multiflora rose and Japanese Honeysuckle choke out the young trees that are the potential forest of 2061.
Isabelle Dijols stands before an at-risk forest where Multiflora rose and Japanese Honeysuckle choke out the young trees that are the potential forest of 2061.

THE SANGUINE ROOT ENVIRONMENTAL RESTORATION TEAM TOURS MORRIS PARK. MULTI-FLORA ROSE FOUND TO COMPLETELY DESTROY NATIVE HERBACEOUS POPULATIONS AND SEVERELY STIFLE GROWTH OF  TREES AND SHRUBS.

Restored and closely monitored section of Morris park road trail near intersection of upper trail.  Morris Park Philadelphia
Restored and closely monitored section of Morris Park Road trail near intersection of Upper Trail. Morris Park Philadelphia

This week’s rain gave Morris Park  vibrant and rich colors, reminiscent of fall, and sharply contrasting with the past few months snowy winter landscape.  A welcome change and transition into spring.

The site in the above picture is rich with diversity. It is graced with many tree saplings, that will become the future forest as long as they are protected.

Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) has overtaken the trees and shrubs, shaded out and eliminated the herbaceous plant layer, putting this whole area at risk of deforestation. Area near 66th street and Woodbine Avenue.  Morris Park Philadelphia
Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) has overtaken the trees and shrubs, shaded out and eliminated the herbaceous plant layer, putting this whole area at risk of deforestation. Area near 66th street and Woodbine Avenue. Morris Park Philadelphia

The rich vibrancy of the late winter forest also highlighted the harsh realities it faces.  This severely degraded area surrounded by vine covered at-risk trees is a soon to be gaping hole in the forest that could take half a century to recover from. That is only if there is human intervention. If there is not, this infestation will spread outwards consuming even more acreage of forest.  All the while spewing out massive quantities of seed, threatening other areas of the park and other natural areas beyond, as well as the yards of neighboring homes.

  Isabelle prepares to remove Japanese honeysuckle from a young tree near the Morris Park Road trail, Morris Park Philadelphia
Isabelle prepares to remove Japanese honeysuckle from a young tree near the Morris Park Road trail, Morris Park Philadelphia

The Japanese Honeysuckle and Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) vines will kill a small tree or even a whole grouping of trees, denying the forest its regenerative ability.  Those majestic tall trees overhead are not going to last forever, and when they die, what will there be to replace them?  An invasion of exotic, imported plants, often escaped from yards and gardens, will set a forest back many years, if not altogether destroying it.  What was innocently purchased at the garden center, with the best intentions of beautifying ones yard and bringing joy to our families and neighbors, in many cases has easily escaped into the natural world and has turned into a growing menace, blighting forests and endangering species.

 Large thicket of Multi-flora rose presents a daunting task for the Sanguine Root's Environmental Restoration Team. Morris Park, Philadelphia
Large thicket of Multi-flora rose presents a daunting task for the Sanguine Root's Environmental Restoration Team. Morris Park, Philadelphia

Japanese Honeysuckle remained an innocuous and pretty yard enhancement in the United States for many years. It didnt escape or present itself as a problem. Then it became a problem. What changed? How did this pretty vine become a pest?  The answer lies in the fact that it is a plant that evolved for millions of years on another continent, in a complex ecosystem of checks and balances, with many other species playing a part in the success and failures of Japanese Honeysuckle.  Brought to the far shores, 7-10,000 miles away from its evolutionary birthplace and home, the species adapted, was admired and widely planted and enjoyed as a garden specimen. Its fragrant flowers are a joy to experience.

Then it became a noxious weed.  A plant that has never been in this ecosystem, can either immediately die, like a palm tree from the big box store, or it can turn into a monster, and run rampant through the woods.

The Multiflora Rose is carefully approached and clipped down. The thorns are sharp and painful. Not  a garden beauty, this mistaken introduction.  Morris Park, Philadelphia
The Multiflora Rose is carefully approached and clipped down. The thorns are sharp and painful. Not a garden beauty, this mistaken introduction. Morris Park, Philadelphia

Multi flora rose was also introduced with the best of intentions. Its roots were used in the nursery industry, the Multiflora rose was thought to be a useful base species for grafting more glorious rose plants on top of the cut canes.  Then the Multi-flora rose was thought to be a good plant for roadsides, and was widely planted to prevent erosion of embankments all over the country.  This practice spread the exotic species everywhere, and now it is such a problem that it is classified as a noxious weed in some states. Pennsylvania, which has only classified 13 noxious weeds, includes Multiflora rose. (Just to note, it is very interesting to see which states classify noxious weeds and how many and if they do at all. New Jersey claims by default that there are no noxious weeds in the state by not even having a classification.)

Today the environmental restoration team found a patch of Multiflora rose that was threatening existing live saplings of  native trees and shrubs that were growing in the midst of the infestation. Usually we prioritize invasive eradication for situations where the invasives are threatening a less disturbed native ecosystem, or the invasive species is an emerging threat in the forest such as the Japanese Angelica tree (Aralia elata).  When we found that there were native shrubs and trees that were still alive in the mass of Rosa multiflora, we made our move.

We suited up in denim, put on some tough gloves, sharpened our clippers to a razors edge, oiled our tools and strategized.

Isabelle, determined, prepared and happy to spend a sunday afternoon eradicating Multiflora rose from the state of Pennsylvania where it is classified as a noxious weed. A citizen called to duty by her state, Isabelle rises to the occasion, with a positive attitude and thick gloves. Pennsylvania becomes that much more a better state as she cuts through and eradicates its officially sanctioned noxious weed. It has become the time for citizens to rise up against the threats to our ecosystems that our lives depend on. Morris Park Philadelphia
Isabelle, determined, prepared and happy to spend a sunday afternoon eradicating Multiflora rose from the state of Pennsylvania where it is classified as a noxious weed. A citizen called to duty by her state, Isabelle rises to the occasion, with a positive attitude and thick gloves. Pennsylvania becomes that much more a better state as she cuts through and eradicates its officially sanctioned noxious weed. It has become the time for citizens to rise up against the threats to our ecosystems that our lives depend on. Morris Park Philadelphia

The thicket we decided to remove was about 15 feet across and as wide. It was covered with Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) and Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), another problematic invasive vine that was once widely sold as a pretty garden vine.  Also next to the patch was The Japanese Angelica Tree, (Aralia elata). Just last week we had mapped this site for our Aralia elata map and named it Site 32.  It can be viewed in our fun and educational interactive mapping feature on the Sanguine Root homepage. Featured will be an arial photo and map.

The Multiflora rose patch in Aralia elata Site #32.   Morris Park, Philadelphia
The Multiflora rose patch in Aralia elata Site #32. Morris Park, Philadelphia

Speaking of fun, we would not do this if it was not fun.  It is a great excuse to be outside and to interact with nature in a constructive manner.  Fun and adventure can often go hand-in hand. Adventure usually involves a discovery of some sort: This Sunday the discovery of a most precious tiny sapling of a Beech tree (Fagus grandifolia) next to the thicket, covered in Japanese Honeysuckle.  This little one still had its leaves from last year, hanging on, just like its older members of the forest.

Isabelle Dijols discovered this tiny Beech tree under a thicket of japanese honeysuckle.  She removed the problematic vine, and uprooted all the vines surrounding the tree sapling. Here she proudly shows off her discovery and rescue operation.
Isabelle Dijols discovered this tiny Beech tree under a thicket of Japanese honeysuckle. She removed the problematic vine, and uprooted all the vines surrounding the tree sapling. Here she proudly shows off her discovery and rescue operation.

Some humans had decided that it was perfectly acceptable to routinely dump their trash in this section of the forest. Mostly beer bottles and cans. Parts of toys, some car parts, spray paint cans.  Two party spots were discovered, created by those who have no problem drinking beer in the midst of their own filth.

Party spot #1, Near Lotus Road, Morris Park, Philadelphia
Party spot #1, Near Lotus Road, Morris Park, Philadelphia

This was found while picking up a trail of trash that led to this site.

a trash dump near Lotus Road, Morris Park Philadelphia
A trash dump near Lotus Road, Morris Park Philadelphia

After filling an entire bag and a dumped plastic crate of this trash, it quickly became evident that there was more trash here than we could handle for the time being.  As resources permit, we will further address this dumping site.  Also the task began to lose its charm, and was no longer as fun as picking up scattered trash in the woods.

Sean Solomon proudly displays his recently gathered trash from the forest floor.  Morris Park, Philadelphia
Sean Solomon proudly displays his recently gathered trash from the forest floor. Morris Park, Philadelphia

After removing the trash and invasives, the area was starting to take shape. It is starting to look like a woods should look.  The Tulip Poplars (Liriodendron tulipifera) create a decent canopy.  Below that are some mid-sized Sweet Gum  trees (Liquidamber srtyraciflua), and a few oaks and Beeches approaching twenty feet tall. Also, some decent Black Cherry(Prunus serotina), and Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) and Hickory.  We uncovered and liberated a decent shrub layer of Spicebush (Host to the larvae of the Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio troilus)) as well as a yet un-identified shrub dogwood.  It will be fun to see what herbaceous perennials will grow at the site.  We have never been able to access this area when they grow because of the thorny thickets. Just to the north of the site, there is Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis).

It is really fun to explore a new area and see what trees are growing there, and make an assessment of the conditions.

Trash at The Lotus Road party spot #2. Morris Park, Philadelphia
Trash at The Lotus Road party spot #2. Morris Park, Philadelphia

The green canes above the trash is none other than Rosa multiflora. We plan on addressing this site in time.  We will first cut the canes, working from the outside of the site inwards.  After the canes are cut down, we will use a mattock to assist in pulling out the roots.  We will also be able to pick up the trash.  When we are done restoring the site, we just sit back and relax, while we watch a symphony of native plants grow on their own.   There will be Tulip Poplars and Sassafrass popping up, which is great because these are fast growing, pioneer trees, and are perfect for forest canopy restoration, something needed in an at-risk forest such as this.  Spicebush will begin to grow as well as a laundry list of native herbaceous plants.  My bet is on Jack-in-the Pulpit (Ariseama triphyllum), a magnificent forest floor specimen, Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)an umbrella like and distinctive plant with a graceful waxy flower, Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) a stunning early spring flower (see ‘about the Sanguine Root’) that has attained a cult-like status, and wild geranium (Geranium maculatum).

These plants will just grow on the site.  Step one: Remove the invasives.  Step two:  Watch the native plants grow.  Step 3: Monitor the site  for invasive plants and remove as they come.

The follow-through step is important. A restoration site needs stewardship.  Even a few minutes time, at the right time of the year can make a huge difference in the long-term outcome of a restoration project.

For example: When the month of May decides to grace us with its presence, we will be faced with a Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) infestation at numerous sites undergoing restoration. This invasive exotic from Europe is a big mess in Morris Park. It will be the subject of much discussion in the coming months. For now, we know its coming and we know we will have to return to every site we have worked on in the past year and pull it up.  It doesnt take long at all to pull it up at any given site, and when we do we can be sure that it will not reseed itself that year. This invasive depends on reseeding itself to survive.  Knowing this will help our eradication strategy.  The native plants need some help in getting established in a previously disturbed site.  Mainly just by removing the invasives.  This process is not gardening, where we decide what goes where, but instead we decide what does not belong and what does. Where what does belong is not up to us to decide. This is an exciting part of environmental restoration.  What will grow, and where?

The Official photo of the Aralia elata mapping site # 32 of the Sanguine Root Mapping Project.  Morris Park, Philadelphia
The Official photo of the Aralia elata mapping site # 32 of the Sanguine Root Mapping Project. Morris Park, Philadelphia

If we can be of some assistance in minimizing the negative effects of the human impacts on the forest, we are there.  Watching the forest operating on its own, without the burden of exotic invasives is very interesting.  Urban environmental restoration is a fun and engaging enterprise.

SNOWCOVER NEVER LIES: TRACKING THE HISTORY OF THE TRAIL

PAWS AND SHOES, BOOTS AND SNEAKERS. BICYCLE WHEELS AND SLEDS ARE DETECTED ON THE MORRIS PARK ROAD TRAIL THIS MORNING.

Keeba inspects trail for evidence of other dogs.  Morris Park Philadelphia
Keeba inspects trail for evidence of other dogs. Morris Park Philadelphia

Five inches of fresh powder in late February. This snow was like the old days in December 2010, a fluffy dusting, a reminder that winter still has its grip on our region. Before the snowcover is gone for the year, coming soon, there is a need for some mention of how great snow is for tracking.

Nothing is lost on a fresh coat of snow.  The wanderings of deer and fox, human and dog are recorded exactly as they are on the frozen sheet of snow.  If we would like to follow the passage of any of these creatures, this is the time.  We can live the morning commute of a white-tailed deer, or of an energetic canine by following their footpath.

The snowcover will hopefully protect the soon-to-be emerging wildflowers from having their delicate buds being crushed by feet.

The log-bordered trail, in some sections, was designed to wind around  our populations of delicate and beautiful spring wildflowers, so they can be appreciated, photographed, drawn, inspected, meditated upon, admired and thoroughly enjoyed without being crushed accidently.

It is heart-warming to see so many tracks on the trail, that there is an enthusiastic usage in our community of this fantastic and inspiring natural area, right here in the City Of Philadelphia, one of the largest cities in the country.  The diversity of native-to-Pennsylvania trees, shrubs and wildflowers in Morris Park is notable.

While the City Of Philadelphia has a distinguished and great personality in its people and its amazing architecture (especially our rowhomes, which are spectacular in architectural detail), our parks that represent and contribute to the diversity and richness of the flora and fauna of Pennsylvania are the most astounding quality of  our urban status.  Philadelphia is a city of homes and forested Parks.

Philadelphia Pennsylvania: A city of homes and forested urban Parks
Philadelphia Pennsylvania: A city of homes and forested urban Parks

Here, there is a heavily used Morris Park trail, with a neighborhood of fine row-homes in the background.  This image robustly illustrates how a densely populated urban area can elegantly co-exist with it’s northeastern deciduous Pennsylvania piedmont forest location.

What is most uplifting is the amount of appreciation from the surrounding community there is for this arrangement.  The sense of belonging, attachment, usage and responsibility is clearly evident in the tracks in the snowy trail.

Reports have been coming to the Sanguine Root from dog walkers who not only carry bags with them to pick up after their dogs in the park, but are also remembering to bring an extra bag, so they can pick up trash that may have been accidentally introduced into the park. (Sometimes trash will come out of our pockets when we reach into them to grab a bag to pick up after our dog).   We at the Sanguine Root have actually found trash that we accidently dropped from our own pockets a few hours earlier. Isabelle exclaimed just yesterday upon finding a receipt from Shop-Rite  on the trail: “Thats my garbage! I polluted!”

We also track some of the most unfortunate circumstances we face in the area: heroin users who leave behind empty bags and paraphernalia, sometimes in alarming frequency and with disturbing deposits, sometimes very close to our homes.

There are those that toss their empty beer cans into the forest along the trails. The Sanguine Root does our best to not let our blood boil.  We pick them up, and move on. When we hear of other neighbors doing the same, we feel even better!

The Morris Park Road trail has become a place where the neighbors see each other and talk. it is an everyday experience. In the most heavily used sections there is hardly a bit of trash found, because someone in the neighborhood has picked it up.

Our neighbors in Overbrook, Philadelphia, enjoying a sunday afternoon in Morris Park
Our neighbors in Overbrook, Philadelphia, enjoying a sunday afternoon in Morris Park

When we go into the park, we want to experience the woods, and luckily enough for us here in Overbrook, the woods is right here.

The snow clearly shows how much the park is being used.  All the foot traffic we see is inspirational.

For anyone who is able to get to an accessible natural area or park, we recommend  that you take a walk in your place if you can.

“Take a walk in the park” -one of the Sanguine Root’s mantras.

By the way, less than 30 days until spring, so enjoy all that winter has to offer!

Heard shrieking in the park last night, these are most likely Fox tracks. They put their back feet in the same placement as the front in what is called 'direct register'. Morris Park Philadelphia
Heard shrieking in the park last night, these are most likely Fox tracks. They put their back feet in the same placement as the front in what is called 'direct register'. Morris Park Philadelphia