Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fruits of fall

This is actually a post I wrote almost a year ago (early November 2007), but never got around to posting because I still didn't quite have my flow down for getting pictures on my blog. Also, we were still on dial-up at the time, which made posting photos a very slow and frustrating task. The pics and info are in-season again, so it seems appropriate to post this now.

Several weeks ago I was walking along the lovely HockHocking Adena Bikeway (AKA the bikepath) in search of beautiful fall foliage. Unfortunately the leaves weren't the brilliant colors I was hoping for (not yet, anyway), and I was about to call the walk a wash as far as getting any pictures was concerned. Then I noticed some funny-looking berries on the ground, which caused me to look up to see where they came from, which led me into an incredibly dense, complex area of vegetation right alongside the bikepath. In the summer I would have found some fragrant flowers there (honeysuckle), and some wild raspberries or blackberries (only the barren brambles remained at this time of year), but on this particular day I was wowed by a dazzling array of colorful berries.

Most of the berries I recognized, such as Pokeweed...

And wild grape...

Then there was a berry that I thought looked like honeysuckle, but as there are several different varieties of said plant, I had to consult a field guide for positive ID. This is amur honeysuckle (which I see all over the place now that I know what it is).

Honeysuckle, as you may know, is a plant not native to the United States, and is very invasive. Ask anyone who's tried to get rid of it if they've had any luck. Another non-native (and invasive) plant is this interesting find.

I consulted my field guide, and did some Google searches, but couldn't figure out what made these interesting Easter-egg-looking berries. I finally sent a picture of it to Phil Cantino at Ohio University, and he identified it as Porcelainberry. According to Dr. Cantino, this plant has only recently started making its way in to Athens County, and he was sad to hear of its presence along the bikepath.

** A thing that was on my mind at the time that I originally wrote this post, and continues to be on my mind throughout the growing season is the uproar that invasive plants can cause in the plant and conservation communities. I almost feel like I have some obligation as a nature lover to hate these invasive species as much as other nature lovers do, but I just can't get worked up about it. Every year in the spring, there are always letters in the paper notifying people about Garlic Mustard pulls around the county (Garlic Mustard is one of the most visible invasives, right up there with honeysuckle). I know that the threat with these plants is that they choke out native species of plants, but is there really any point? There's no way we can eradicate them at this point. I stop short of saying it seems like a waste of time.

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