SANGUINE ROOT STAFF HIKES APPALACHIAN TRAIL IN BEAUTIFUL HAMLET OF WEVERTON MARYLAND.
A welcome adventure in what feels like a far away land from Morris Park, the Sanguine Root staff has left the piedmont region. The Appalachian Mountains offer a different tableau of species and geology. There are present a wide variety of things we are used to in Morris Park, such as heavily folded metamorphic rock, hiking trails with waterbars, and upland trees such as Beech and Oak. This location is 1.5 miles from Harper’s Ferry West Virginia.
There was a sign at the beginning of the trail that outlined rules, laws, warnings, and etiquette, with maps included in the mix, a bit of history and tips. Also noted was the many volunteer groups that maintain the trail system. This trail is spectacular. We also noted how much the town of Weverton Maryland, population 500, takes pride in the trail and cares for it.
There were many oak trees present along the trail. We found a great Beech Tree (Fagus grandifolia) with much personality.
Driving on the I-70 west into Fredericksburg Maryland, we could see the Appalachian Mountain province in the distance. Seeing this mass of upturned rocks was a great reminder of our position on the piedmont. Nothing like a geographical reminder of ones landmass than a mountain range or a lack thereof.
Mountains have a way of reminding us of our geological past. We are intrigued by them and the more we learn about them, we are astounded by the age of the earth. Try to comprehend 550 million years ago. Back then, this actual rock was a sandy beach. Then it was covered with more layers of sediment, and weighed down by each successive layer, becoming compressed and heated until the grains of sand cemented together and it officially became a rock we know of as sandstone. Then the continents of Africa and North America collided and this pushed sideways on all of the layers of the rocks, much like what happens to that annoying throw rug that gets caught under the bathroom door. The rug folds and bunches up. The folds can be neater like that of a pleated curtain, or the folds can meet up, like the plastic liner of the kitchen trash, or that rug on the bathroom floor.
Then the folds, which by this time, are very tall mountains, on the order of the present day Swiss Alps become eroded by rain. 300 or so million years eroded the Appalachians down to mere stubs of the up-ended sandstone layers. Because Sandstone is harder than the neighboring shale layers (which is clay from river deposits transformed into rock) the upended sandstone formations end up being the mountains that we see. Of course, there are many more complicated factors and complex foldings that occur along the way, which make it a much more interesting story. The fact that these layers of deposited sand were buried so deep during the mountain-building process that they heated up and partially melted changes the simplified explanation of folding described. However that would explain the bands of white Quartz seen in the above picture.
Sand is composed mainly of silicone, which is the what glass is made of. Glass is an amorphous form of this element. Glass is sand that is heated up to the point of melting, and cooled so quickly, it has no time to arrange itself in any specific order, which is something elements like to do. Sand is actually the element silicone (often with other elements) cooled slow enough in a volcanic setting to have a structure. Then the cooled volcanic mass is eroded like all the other types of mountains to small bits we like our beaches to be and will never ever leave the carpeting in the car- no matter how much we vacuum.
In the process of metamorphic rock formation, the sandstone, partially melts and this melted sand cools very very slowly, giving the silicone enough time to arrange itself in a structured way, forming crystals. These are the white quartz bands on the rock seen above. All the while, these bands were then being folded in the continental collision. This was going on very deep in the earth. Then when the mountain eroded, all that weight above it was lifted off and the rock sprung up in an uplifting process. The rock pictured above went through all of this stuff over a span of 550 million years. What is really neat is that there it is, in its spot on the earth, right where it all happened, here in Weverton Maryland, right before our eyes. All of this generalized history can be read just by looking at the rock.
One last thing: sometimes the folding structures found on the cross-section of a rock mimick the larger picture. These interesting folds occur on a macro scale as well, and this helps us interpret complicated geological structures.
This old sign has most likely guided many a weary hiker up yet another rocky hillside with a complex geological story to tell.
This next tree we have never seen before, but we think it may be a Honey-Locust. Anyone recognize this tree?
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.
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.
Consequently, there was not much time to be spent studying this spectacular and unique flower.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This was found while picking up a trail of trash that led to this site.
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.
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.
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?
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.