Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Newport News Park (11/18/2014)

Have not written much lately and not sure how long I'll be able to keep this up without making it sound like too much of a diary.  Moreover, I've been asked to write a (text) book and I assume that when you start writing for a living your armature writing languish.  We'll see.

Fall is definitively here.  Tonight we get a major frost (early for this time of the year) courtesy of another year with a polar vortex.  I expect that all or most of the leaves will start raining down tomorrow after a night time temperature in the mid 20s.  Taking the dogs for a walk this morning I was struck (as most falls) by the variety of leaves on the forest floor and all the different colors.  An absolute gorgeous sight, made even better by the fact that I don't have the rake these leaves.  Leaves that I saw included those of the sassafras, sour wood, maple, sweet gun and some of the oaks (all shown in the picture below) on top of pine needles.  Further down the trail you see black gum leaves, persimmon and the sycamore.  Naturally in the woods behind our home there are a great number of oaks: red, white, water, post, laurel, overcup, and swamp chestnut oak.  I probably miss a few.  To me a great publication is booklet by the Virginia Department of Forestry on our common Virginia trees (click here for the link).

Of all these trees I mention I have a sweet spot in my heart for the sassafras and the overcup oak.  I like the trident leaves of the sassafras, it delicate yellow flowers in spring and its yellow leaves in the fall.  On top of that, when crushed, the leaves smell like root beer.  Not my favorite drink, but the smell is indicative of the plant's assumed medicinal value.  I've read somewhere that, in the deep south, the roots were ground up and drank as a tea.  Tradition tells us that the tea makes it easier for you to tolerate the southern heat and humidity.  The leaves are also used in Creole cooking.  I like the overcup oak just because the acorn is almost completely covered by the cup, and because it grows in the wettest locations.  They have been fruiting copiously, and I am sure the deer just love it.



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