Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A Walk in the Woods Shared by Many


Auspicious weather and a nice turnout made for a lovely fall walk through Herrontown Woods this past Saturday.

We started with a brief tour of the botanical garden next to the parking lot, where storms in recent years have knocked down the grove of white pines, leaving a gap in the forest. Last year, FOHW volunteers rescued this gap from a host of invasive species, and this year's rains fed a robust wave of weeds that had to be subdued. These interventions have made room for 100 native plant species, including sun-loving wildflowers like ironweed and Joe-Pye-Weed that feed pollinators in the summer when the forest has little nectar to offer. Shrubs already growing in the preserve, like blackhaw Viburnum, serviceberry, alternate-leaved dogwood, and wild azalea, are also benefitting from the additional sunlight and protection from deer that they get in this managed forest clearing.

Some sights photographed were these edible berries of blackhaw Viburnum

and some leaves of white oak that looked like they'd had paint spilled on them.

Deeper in the preserve, the blooms of witch hazel came as a surprise. As so often happens, people are more familiar with the spring-blooming asian witch hazels that are grown as ornamentals on Princeton campus and elsewhere, while the less-encountered native blooms quietly in local woodlands in the fall.

The remnants of a bird's nest looked like a beard. We walked up onto the ridge, past the boulder field, and made a stop at the cliff. There was talk of fire's historic beneficial role in woodlands, how the boulders came from igneous upwellings rather than from glaciers, which didn't make it this far south, and the past logging that can still be seen in the multi-trunked trees that originated as stump sprouts after a tree was cut down long ago.

Afterwards we headed to the Veblen House grounds for some refreshments, more conversation, and some tree climbing. Thanks to all of those who came and added to the enjoyment of the walk.