Site description will be added next week, after I have reliable transportation again. I spoke with Dr. Klips about this. In the meantime, I visited Glen Echo and Iuka parks for this assignment!
Map of Green LawnTrees
Asimina triloba “paw paw”
One of my most favorite trees, and not just for its incredible fruit! Just about everything about the paw paw is striking. The large, simple leaves smell strongly of green peppers when crushed. The flowers, which give this tree its name because of the three-lobed calyx and doubly three-lobed corolla, are a deep maroon. The fruits mature in fall and if you’ve never tried them I strongly recommend you look for some soon! They’re custardy, super sweet, and taste like a cocktail of tropical fruits. When Lewis and Clark were on the return leg of their great journey, they had completely run out of food and were on the verge of starvation. Perhaps by luck or divine intervention, they happened to stumble across the natural range of paw paws during the height of their ripeness. They feasted on the nutrient-dense fruits all the way back to St. Louis, although some say that members of the party had vicious allergic reactions to their paw paw diets.
Prunus serotina “black cherry”
While a young black cherry has smooth bark, a mature specimen has this wonderful “potato chip” bark. Not only do cherry fruits have cyanide in them, but the twigs do too! If you scratch a young twig, it’ll smell like almonds, which is the trace amounts of cyanide at work. The cyanide is used to deter hungry herbivores.
Phytolacca americana “pokeweed”
While it may look enticing, everything about this vibrantly colored herbaceous shrub is deadly to ingest for humans. However, birds go nuts for the berries which humans use as a brilliant purple dye. People in Appalachia cook the young shoots and leaves before they become too poisonous. There are even songs written about this “polk salad,” check out Elvis’ cover of Tony Joe White’s “Polk Salad Annie.”
Lindera benzoin “spicebush”
To the untrained eye, spicebush appears to be yet another unremarkable deciduous shrub. To those in-the-know, spicebush is an important food source for all sorts of birds, mammals, and insects. Not to mention it’s quite tasty to humans as well! The crushed leaves have a delightful herbal citrus smell that makes for a lovely tea. The drupes can be a bit of an acquired taste but they ARE edible. I can only describe the taste as “Christmas potpourri essential oil.”
Toxicodendron radicans “poison ivy”
Often found as a climbing vine, eastern poison ivy is also found as a free standing shrub. Surprisingly, it is in the same family as many excellent edible plants like pistachios, sumacs, mangos, and cashews. Humans avoid it like the plague due to terrible rashes caused by an oil covering the plant, but a wide variety of wildlife rely on poison ivy as a food source.
Solidago spp. “goldenrod”
You probably aren’t allergic to these insect-pollinated flowers in the Aster family, so don’t blame them for your seasonal allergies. Blame the wind-pollinated RAGWEED! Goldenrod is harmless and very pretty.
Lobelia cardinalis “cardinal flower”
Now THIS is a raceme that doesn’t want you to miss it. The color is so vibrant that if someone told me this was a cultivated lobelia variety, I’d believe them. They are primarily pollinated by ruby-throated hummingbirds, who are known to show a preference for red, orange, and pink flowers.