Days of flowers and fungi, part 1

GroupTwo weeks ago we wore coats down and up the trails to the northeast homestead to find out if the bloodroot was in bloom. The answer was a frosty “no.”

If the bloodroot blooms did weather the April freezes, they were gone by May 2, when naturalist Tammy Spillis led a walk along greening Quarry Farm trails. Armed with field guides and mnemonic devices like “sedges have edges,” staff and registered attendees started down Red Fox hill in a search for wildflowers and fungi.Violets

Our first find beyond a carpet of wood violets was tall meadow rue. “Anything in the buttercup family is poisonous, but they’re good pollinators,” said Tammy.

A sap test on the next find was done on something in the lettuce family, a plant called lion’s foot. A painted turtle raised his head from Cranberry Run, perhaps at the mention of wild lettuce, then swam upstream and away.

One of the preserve’s many corded grapevines, thick as a bodybuilder’s bicep, hung over the creek. “I never cut grapevines down,” said Tammy. “The larger the root going into the ground, the greater the volume of water. What actually brings down a tree is not because the grapevine is a parasite, but because water is heavy.”

She explained that an upper offshoot of a grapevine such as this one, when tapped with a plastic bag secured over the cut, can yield up to a quart of sweet water in a half-hour’s time. “Always keep a grapevine in your woods, just in case your well goes bad,” our guide advised.

Black mustard grew, hot and spicy, near the vine. Kidney leaf buttercup was a few steps beyond. Way back when, certain plants were thought to be a tonic for the body parts they resembled. “As science advanced and they made explanations into the different folklore, they found many of the plants held true to that,” said Spillis. “But many did not. This is toxic. Don’t eat it.”Spring Beauties

She pointed out a native loosestrife, common name moneywort, good for pollinators, flanked by spring beauties. Spring beauties are related to purslane. So let it grow — purslane is high in Omega 3 oils. That means it’s good for you.

Eric, the brewer in our party, was interested in the wild ginger growing on the old quarry’s edge. We first noticed one or two Gingersplants and their burgundy pipe-like flower in that spot a couple of years ago. The warm green leaves have increased in number since then, and new beds are springing up elsewhere in the flood plain. Tammy told us that ants are making this happen.

“The wild ginger seeds have this oily sugar coating. The ants come back for the seeds and move them to their ant colony. They don’t eat the seeds themselves; all they want is the sugar coating. Wherever the colony is, you’ll get another colony of wild ginger. Isn’t that nice?”

It sure is. More good things to come, further up the hillside.

May 2 workshop now open for registration

SAVE THE DATE: On Saturday, May 2, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., rain or shine, walk The Quarry Farm Nature Preserve with naturalist Tamara Spillis and learn more about native mushrooms and wild plants.

– Registration: Open to the first 20 applicants (age 16 and over). Call 419-384-7195 or 419-234-4620 or email thequarryfarm@gmail.com before April 30 to register.

– Workshop Fee: $15 (includes lunch)

(Optional) Bring a favorite field guide, notebook, pencil, cameras, trail snacks.

-7xo5oaRukMz_q5gaOTNMGByCtLGRcBuUldJ0QIJt0nSt_MM5KSOfXCSPv3XWc6I2T4DW0bPMhJ0DngL1ZgR_pF4bcvMNPaCTCeXwLY7-348F1BfNXFmjF6GWGnuRt4FxWlVY0gIGioYtoX65Us5yZganOVg2DRIuL_zbkOrlhF6GkSkPWkcQV0R4xDONsplaCorlfT0xgWxzf_Yigelk3KFEd3• If you are allergic to penicillin, you should not eat morel mushrooms, no matter how delectable. Morels contain a substance also found in penicillin that accumulates in body tissues and can eventually cause anaphylactic shock.

• Oil lamps containing mushroom wicks may have lighted the world for ancient peoples.

• Genghis Khan made gun powder out of charred shelf mushrooms.

These are a few of the fascinating mushroom facts shared by naturalist Tamara Spillis during a recent slide presentation to The Gathering Basket Herb Society.

On Saturday, May 2, Tamara will share her extensive knowledge with 20 lucky people as we walk The Quarry Farm nature trails and prairie.  We will have the opportunity to explore with Tammy as she identifies and talks about the mushrooms, flowers, and plants along the way, and if you have brought your camera, you can get some great photos.

Some wildflowers that we know about, like wood violets, blood root, and Jack-in-the-pulpit should be blooming on May 2, but the Quarry Farm staff are excited about the prospect of discovering other species that we haven’t yet identified.  When Tamara is finished surveying plant life here, we will have a great educational resource to share with visitors of all ages in the future.

Keep an eye on the weather forecast and come prepared for conditions.  No matter what, we will have a great day on the trail.

tammy spillis Harison Garden Club2-1About Tamara Spillis, Naturalist:

Tamara works part-time as Master Gardener Coordinator in Henry County (Ohio).  In addition, she is a small business owner who manages a naturalist service, working with private landowners and conservation entities to identify and document populations of wildflower and wildlife species.

She also teaches and lectures at museums and colleges on Native American bone and stone tool use.  An amateur mycologist, she has published articles on the use of mushrooms by diverse ancient and modern cultures for fire, warfare, and medicine.

Color photos that Tamara has taken in the field showed insects feeding on and pollinating wildflowers, plants in the various stages of their life cycles, easily confused plants with similar flowers — one edible and the other deadly, mutually supportive plant and insect relationships, common wild plants that are edible and others that are toxic, plants that we live alongside of but rarely see in our everyday lives, and many other insights into the natural world of the fields and woods around us.