By the end of our stay in San Antonio (as is typical of vacations), we were glad to return home to familiar vegetation. It seemed fitting to celebrate our return by joining a guided wildflower identification tour at the Merryspring Nature Center scheduled for the first weekend in June. Our leader for this trip was botany expert, Eric Doucette. Arriving a bit late, Eric joked with our leader that maybe we would get further into the park this time. I soon found out why. Eric is was so enthusiastic about his field and it was a pleasure trying to soak up the information provided in his observations.
We began our journey not far from the parking field, where we stopped to learn about the large leafed plant known as Burdock and the small purple flowers known as Ground Ivy. The Ground Ivy, a plant in the Mint family had an interesting violet shaped flower with fine fuzzy hairs within the throat of the flower. Like all plants in the Mint family this ground cover can get out of control if left alone.
Next,we headed across the field to examine two different cherry trees; a Choke Cherry and a Black Cherry. Eric first described the characteristics that distinguished these as cherry trees and then went on to explain how to tell them apart. The Choke Cherry has a less brilliant white flower and the leaves exhibit finer, pointed teeth. The Black Cherry has a flower that seems whiter than the Choke Cherry, more rounded edges to its leaves and a fine, rust colored fuzz along the central vein of the leaves.
Leaving the field for another trail, our guide continued to talk about Hawthorn Trees, Yellow Goatsbeard and Golden Rod. He indicated that Golden Rod was one of his favorites, maybe because it receives a bad rap for causing hay fever and he likes to root for the underdog.
Entering a wooded portion of the trail, I soon spied one of my favorite wildflowers known as Meadow Rue. Close by, Eric began identifying several different ferns; Ostrich,
Lady, Bracken and Christmas fern. No matter how many times I have been clued in on identifying ferns, I just cannot seem to get a handle on it. I am pretty certain I can recognize Christmas, Cinnamon (as long as it has a long beige stalk in the middle), Interrupted and now Bracken Ferns. My husband however, is becoming quite the expert in recognizing these different plants.
Further on, someone pointed out a cluster of Jack-in-the-Pulpits. This group was not that far from a healthy section of Canada Mayflowers and False Solomon Seals. Here, Eric pointed out that if you squashed down a False Solomon Seal it would look very much like a Canada Mayflower and that is because they are in the same genus known as Maianthemum (Latin for may flower).
At this point, our organizer mentioned that our allotted time was up and thanked Eric for our guided walk. Eric did comment that we almost made it to the field this year, so I guess the group got a little further than last year’s tour. I mentioned Eric’s enthusiasm about his work at the beginning of this post, and indeed as we continued towards that field to circle back towards the parking lot, he continued pointing out various plants and went in to some depth about each.
When I stopped to admire a group of pink flowers, he identified them as Dame’s Rocket. He told me that Dame’s Rocket is often confused with Phlox but you could tell them apart because the Phlox flower has 5 petals while the other has only four petals. As we approached the parking lot, Eric’s final observation was to point out a rather large maple leaf. He broke off the leaf and showed us the milky white substance in its stem, thus identifying it as a Norway Maple. We thanked Eric for his time and hoped that we left the nature center a little wiser.