Way Down Yonder in the Pawpaw Patch

The Ted Grisez Arboretum at Jamestown Audubon has a Pawpaw Patch!  I’ve written about it before – the year I learned what a Pawpaw is and actually tasted one.  Yesterday I took a stroll through the arboretum and found it blooming.  I was surprised by the flower whose petals remind me of Red Trillium.
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It was late September when Sarah and I found the fruit…

Pawpaws

 

…which we ate.

Pawpaws are Yummy and have cool Seeds

 

It is absolutely delicious with a smooth texture and flavors that make you think of banana and kiwi and mango.  It is described in some articles as the only “temperate tropical fruit” – a native to North America.

Range Map:
Pawpaw Range Map

 

We are at the northern-most part of its range.  It seems to be doing well in the arboretum.  It spreads by underground roots which is how a tree becomes a patch!

Osage Orange

Imagine tennis balls – the bright neon-green kind – but a little larger and all wrinkly. Two of these showed up on my porch the other day (mysteriously) and I brought them in and put them in my fruit bowl.

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They have an unusual odor – not “pretty” – but not unpleasant either, sort of a clean chemical aroma, if that makes sense. I did a little googling and discovered they are called osage oranges (Maclura pomifera) and they grow on trees whose northern most range is the southern most part of my county, just barely.

osage orange distribution MapIt is reported indigenous people made war clubs from its very hard wood and that Europeans found it useful as a living livestock hedge, and later, after barbed wire became popular, the rot-resistant wood made good fence posts. The seeds are edible, if you can get to them through the pulp and slimy husk, a task readily engaged in by squirrels.  There are unsubstantiated claims that the fruits repel bugs and spiders in your home.

I don’t know who put these on my porch, but if you are reading this, I am very interested in seeing the tree from which they came! Contact me?

Read accounts about Osage Orange at:

An Escape…

Fire Tower Trail

Fire Tower Trail, Allegany State Park

Sometimes when the world is weighing down heavily on your shoulders, the only thing that helps is a little escape… a chance to walk, explore, breathe crisp Autumn air.  A chance to surround yourself with the familiar, yet be open to the novel.

The Art Roscoe Ski area at Allegany State Park is a wonderful place for cross-country skiing in winter.  Turns out, it is also a wonderful place for hiking when there is no snow.

Fire Tower

Fire Tower at the Art Roscoe Ski Area, Allegany State Park

A side trail runs parallel to the main trail and takes you to a Fire Tower.  I pushed my fear deep down into my boots and climbed the stairs, hoping for a glorious vista from the top.  There were hand rails and the stairs were sturdy.  Still, my heart pounded hard and my breath came in short, shallow fits.

It was indeed worth it!  The view from the top was spectacular and very much justified the climb.

The Allegany “Mountains” are really a big old ocean bed that was carved out over time by melting glacier water and various other forms of erosion.  When you climb up for a view from the top, you can see that all the “peaks” are the same height.

View from the Top

View from the Top

It was helpful to have my hiking buddy in front of me on the descent… much easier looking at his backpack than at the steep stairs that went on and on.  Back on the ground, it took a while before the adrenaline left my muscles and I could relax again… and turn my attention from big sweeping views to the forest’s minutiae.

Moth

A tiny moth kept trying to hide from me under the leaves...

Most of the Sweetwater trail is wide and in winter two trails for skiing are groomed making for fast, easy skiing. Along the way we found a narrower trail that crossed Sweetwater. Always favoring the road less travelled, we took a right hand turn.

Peeling Bark

Loose and peeling bark is back-lit by the Autumn rays.

It was late afternoon and the long, slanting rays of the sun were golden, creating vibrant, colorful mini-landscapes.

Icicle Fungus - Teeth you can Eat

The log we chose to rest on was decorated with a familiar "Icicle Fungus"

A bit further down the trail, there was an opening and the combination of “plant” life was simply delightful… Some I recognized and knew the names of… Others I recognized, but have no names for…  And one brand new!  (I put the word plant in quotes… because back when I studied biology the first time, there were only two kingdoms:  Plants and Animals.  And under that scheme… all these things would have been classified as plants…)

Lichens and Mosses

Lichens and Mosses

The first thing I noticed was a thick carpet of lichens – some 6 or 8 inches tall, punctuated with mosses competing for space.  Tucked in here and there were mushrooms… so bitty it would have been easy to miss them altogether…

Mushroom

A tiny mushroom manages to pop up through the thick mat of moss and lichen.

A little trail nibble was provided by a patch of Wintergreen that was sharing the soil with the others.

Wintergreen

Wintergreen... not the juiciest of berries... but a very pleasant flavor.

Very near the bushy-shrubby type lichens were stalks that resembled small cups on stems, decorated with a bit of red.  I’m not sure if they are a structure of the the shrubby type, or a whole separate species…

Cup Lichen

This seems to match other photos I have found labeled "Lesser Sulpher Cup Lichen."

And then there were the Lycopodium…

Ground Pine

These little "club mosses" or "ground pines" are considered "exploitatively vulnerable" in New York State. They have been over-harvested for wreath-making.

If I have seen the next one before, it was never in such abundance and so easy to investigate… It warrants several pictures…

Running Club Moss

Running Club Moss

Oh dear… this post is getting very long and there is still so much more to tell… I guess I’ll click “publish” and tell you more later…

Holts Run

Took a long, lovely walk out Holts Run in Allegany State Park. Took mostly color and texture shots for my photography class.

I was very delighted to come across Spicebush with berries!

Spicebush

I also ran across a fossil… way up on the steep hillside above the abandonned beaver lodge… an unlikely place!

Brachiopod

Fall Berries

It’s been a good year around Western New York for fruit.  It seems that everything that CAN bear fruit is doing so in abundance.  Some of the berries you can eat.  Some you can’t.  And I was surprised when I looked them up…  More are edible than I knew.

Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana and P. decora)
Mountain Ash Berries
The Peterson Guide to Edible Wild Plants describes the unripe fruit as “bitter and unpleasant when not fully ripe.”  It goes on to say that after repeated freezings, the “mealy-textured fruit become pleasantly sour.”  Rich in pectin, they are said to make good jelly.  While they can be eaten raw, the Guide recommends cooking and sweetening.  Mountain Ash Pie, anyone?  (In my copy of Peterson, Mountain Ash is lised under the old name, Pyrus spp.)

 Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)
Pokeweed
DO NOT EAT!  Too bad, isn’t it, that this berry that looks so luscious and juicy is NOT EDIBLE?  The Peterson Guide warns, “Root, seeds, and mature stems and leaves dangerously poisonous.”  Yet there are instructions for using the new shoots in spring as an asparagus or pickle…

Crabapple (Malus spp.)
Crabapple 1 Crabapple 2
Peterson’s Guide says, “Although usually too hard and tart to be enjoyed raw, crabapples contain an abundance of pectin and make excellent jellies or preserves.”  There are over 30 species in this genus.  (The Peterson Guide lists this tree under the genus “Pyrus” just like the Mountain Ash!)

 Learn more:

How are the fruit trees around your parts?