Sycamore's Wildflower Walk

by Joan Heidemann

[From the May, 1985 issue of the SYCAMORE ISLANDER.]

The annual Sycamore Island Wildflower Walk took place, Saturday, April 20, on a sunny morning more like mid-August than showery April. Phil Stone was our commander-in-chief, assisted by Ellen Richards, Bob Sinclair, and Joan Heidemann. The group of 25, composed of Islanders and members of the Burleigh Garden Club (including some interested "junior associates"), set off in four small groups, heading downhill to the towpath and the turn-around point at Lock #5. Prize for participant-from-farthest-away went to Catherine Stone's sister, who was visiting from Whittier, California. She bore up well under our steamy heat and enjoyed seeing the flora of a moist river bottom -- so different from the plants of California's climate.

The downhill path showed us bedstraw, ded dead nettle, ivy-leafed speedwell, the ubiquitous spring beauty and garlic mustard, a few saxifrage, star chickweed, yellow corydalis, abortive buttercup, and smooth rock cress (so confusingly like sicklepod). At the end of the footbridge, we were level with the top of a pawpaw tree and were able to look with ease at it's rather odd, dark red-brown blossoms.

On the towpath level, the canal side had a ground cover of (among other plants) common chickweed, gill-o'er-the-ground, Indian strawberry, dandelions, and the common -- but beautiful -- blue violet. The river side of the path gave us glimpses of bluebells and large patches of fragrant wild blue phlox. We left this path to go down toward the river, where a good-sized patch of trout lilies -- both yellow and white -- had been blooming a few days before. Unfortunately, they had finished flowering, as had the toothwort, but we found a good patch of wild ginger, with its dark flowers rather like pawpaw blooming on the ground. Golden Alexander, Jack-in-the-pulpits, drooping star-of-Bethlehem and golden ragwort were all in bloom between the towpath and the river, as were May apples. Returning to the path, we saw the large, white, field chickweed, sweet cecily with its licorice scent, shiny bulbous buttercup, and white and yellow violets. Almost at Lock #7 we saw a patch of Dutchman's breeches mixed with squirrel corn -- a good chance to compare the two.

We also saw the foliage of meadow rue and Virginia waterleaf, and we took care to avoid nettles and the handsome new leaves of poison ivy.

The Wildflower walk finished with a trip to Sycamore Island where -- as well as our lunches -- we found the usual vivid display of bluebells and seeile-clowered trillium -- or toadshade -- both dark red and green. Also on the Island were black mustard, Solomon's seal, myrtle, and star-of-Bethlehem.

Although the walk's purpose was to look at wildflowers, we did raise our eyes to see the red bud, the dog wood, a flight of cedar waxwings, and, on the Island, two black snakes above us in two sycamore trees.

Our pleasant Saturday stroll resulted in a total of 35 wildflowers viewed and assorted trees, shrubs and plants in leaf. Thank you, Phil.