June 18, 2024

Birds and Trees, Flowers and Bees

Rehoboth Ramblings


Early to mid-Spring is such a beautiful and enjoyable time of year. The daffodils and flowering trees were even more beautiful this year, I thought, perhaps distracting us from the reappearance of the dreaded invasive plants. Here’s one suggestion for getting rid of these bullies of the plant world: “If you can’t beat them, eat them” advised a headline in the Boston Globe on April 16 and adding “Why foraging plants is good for you and the planet.”

The article described how to identify and cook two invasive species, garlic mustard and Japanese knotweed. My fantasy is to get in the time machine and stop people in the 1800’s from importing knotweed, and all those other nuisance plants originally from Asia, to use as ornamental borders. Knotweed can grow up to 8 inches a day in the spring, as anyone who walks by a patch of it daily can testify, and is strong enough to poke through concrete.

There are a couple of problems with this foraging suggestion. First, the stuff is indestructible, the Godzilla of the plant world. It will probably survive Armageddon, along with cockroaches. The more you cut knotweed the more it grows back, and secondly, its location along roadsides means that even if it hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals, it is growing in the midst of car exhaust and dog pee. (Ditto the wild blackberries that grow along the road.)

So no, I’ll pass on this cooking suggestion. Plus, knotweed grows so profusely how much would people have to eat to make a difference? I have heard bee-keepers say that honey from bees that like knotweed flowers is very tasty, so I’ll give them that. If you don’t want to eat this plant, the Globe article also offers a recipe from someone in Rockport on how to make gin from knotweed.

If as they say, knotweed stalks taste like rhubarb, many people already grow rhubarb and there’s lots of it available at farm stands. You know what you’re getting. Any kind of foraging makes me nervous. Not everything you find in nature is benevolent. The Globe goes on to sensibly recommend that anyone foraging should find a reliable plant identification guide, such as those from The Trustees of Reservations or the Audubon Society or the New England Wildflower Society at Garden in the Woods in Framingham.  One wild plant I’m good at identifying is poison ivy, but I hope no one would ever eat that!

This past month brought us a solar eclipse, a minor earthquake, and on one afternoon an almost perfect double rainbow after a spring shower. With the eclipse, I was surprised just how much sunlight there was around here, even when only a small sliver of the sun was exposed. It really made you realize just how powerful the sun is, if an eerie but clear light remained even when the sun was mostly blocked. This light was different from twilight or a cloudy day. The Earth would be a very different place if the light from our sun was always that weak. So though seeing a total eclipse would have been nice, and I’m glad everyone had such a good time with it, even a partial eclipse was worth seeing. (Thanks to the Blanding Library for the eclipse glasses!)

We continue to act as turtle crossing guards this spring, when we see them trying to cross the road on the way to the pond, where the water level remains high. We’ve found a couple of tiny turtles that surely wouldn’t survive long trying to cross a road, so it’s nice to feel helpful.

Moving further afield, the ospreys are back along the East Bay shore of Narragansett Bay. A good place to see them is while on the trail at the Audubon Center in Bristol. This trail and boardwalk also connect with the East Bay bike path. The osprey nest nearest the water is huge! The birds must have been doing some serious remodeling. The nest closer to the bike path is smaller but easier to observe. We saw two ospreys flying in circles high above, perhaps in a courtship ritual. Once the chicks hatch later this spring, you’ll hear them even if you can’t quite see them way up there in the nest. Back home, right outside the door, the hummingbird feeder will be waiting for our smallest avian summer residents. Welcome back birds, big and small!


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