Saturday, March 26, 2011

Oxbow Park - Saturday, March 26th, 2011

Class started with 12 students and 2 teachers meeting at People’s Food Coop in SE Portland, Oregon. Well, 11 students, one met us at Oxbow Regional Park. Starting at People’s is very handy, we were all able to get any last minute snacks, lunch or coffee.

We introduce ourself and play, “If you knew me better, you’d know...” Missy talks to cats, Nik grew up in a mining town in Montana, Matthew could eat soup for every meal for the rest of his life, Cyndi won’t live without having chocolate in her daily life, etc...

It was about an hour drive out to Oxbow, I was in a car drove by Patti along with Nik, Matthew and Deborah. It was nice getting to know my new friends.

Out of the car and all ready with day-packs and rain gear we breath in the fresh forest. We begin our hike and shortly we stop to notice some plants. First, we have a mystery plant, hmm, what is it? It looks kind of like carrot leaves but less frilly. The stem is round but with a u-shaped edge. We wonder what it is...

Next plant we meet, we already know by looks. It’s stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) and I’ve met nettle before and it has stung me. It’s a tingly feeling that goes away after a day or so. We learned that nettle has opposite leaves, and above the leaves on the stem, 4 little leaves. Harvesting nettle, cut the stem right above the leaves to ensure that it doesn’t rot or get disease. We want to leave at least 3 or so leaf opposites on the plant and not harvest further down. Never harvest greater than 10% of a plant in an area.

Next on our walk we meet chickweed (Stellaria media) and lucky me chickweed is helpful in soothing nettle sting. It did not work for me immediately and the relief was only temporary. How do we know it’s chickweed when there is a very similar plant growing around it. Upon closer look at the chickweed, with a loop, we see along the stem are a line of fine hairs. Chickweed is edible and I chewed it, then put it on my nettle sting, this is called a poultice.

Looking up, a huge broadleaf friend, we see the Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) standing tall and grand covered in layers of moss. Many leaves decompose on the ground creating soil; going back to the earth. Acer macrophyllum sends small roots back up it’s bark in the soil created by the moss, these roots are called canopy roots. Maple syrup is not harvested from our west coast maples, as without the freezing winters that the east coast receives, maple syrup is sparse. The seeds are something I recall from childhood as the little helicopter seeds that you could stick onto your nose. Bigleaf maple also known as Oregon Maple grow near Douglas Fir.

Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) make wrinkles and aging look good, something that Missy heard and has passed onto us. Douglas firs are conifers and have flat needles which are arranged spirally. The pine cones are about two inches in length, a red-ish brown color with three-forks extending from between scales. The cones this day were dark and wet, the three-forks being more redish-tan.

I met the Osoberry (Oemleria cerasiformis) which is unique to me with it’s leaves growing upward as it’s flowers dangle. My memory of this plant is lacking and I shall have to meet it again. Did it taste like cucumber?

Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylia) grow below the Douglas Fir. Growing tall with a leading droop. The pine cones of this conifer are much smaller being about as big as my thumbnail.

Further along on our forest hike we come upon a very strong tree that we circle around hands held. The Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata), also a conifer, has flat needles and little loose cluster cones. The useful bark doesn’t grow much moss and other forest greens as it is antimicrobial. (I believe...) The fibrous wood is grayish to red-brown.

Little baby trees can start there lives on a fallen Douglas Fir tree. As the fallen tree breaks down and decomposes, it creates soil and nutrients for the young trees.

What are these sticky leaves sticking to me? Cleavers (Galium aparine) perhaps. Yes, little rounded flower leaves surround the stem.

It’s the season for trilliums (Trillium ovatum) and I learned that trillium are perennials growing from rhizomes. Trillium has three white flower petals that turn pink-purple as they age. This brilliant flower has the ants planting it’s seeds. These are a no-pick plant/flower.

The middle of our day hike brings us to a picnic shelter over looking the river where we all enjoy lunch.

I spent some time petting and memorizing waterleaf (Hydrophyllum tenuipes) and I hope to remember this one well when we meet again. Along with all of the others that I met and can’t quite recall.

The Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum) is a beautiful and large fern. Ferns are Pteridophyte and Sphenophyte which have vascular systems but reproduce by spore. The underside of the fern leaves are full of many spores.

Upon coming to a flood plain near the Sandy River we meet some blooming Salmon Berry (Rubus spectabilis). The salmon berry grow right out of the sand near many Red Alder (Alnus rubra). Closer to the river grow Willow (Salix sp.), some budding soft pussy willows.

After resting in the sunshine on the Sandy River beach, we head back. On our way we meet Black Cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) and smell is very stick resonated buds and find a few catkins on the ground.

All along our hike we see more of the mystery plant and on our way back to the car, I know what the mystery plant is. It’s a bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa). I can’t wait to go back and see of them in bloom, beautiful!

Circled back up before we hit the road we share with each other the joys of the day. A very wonderful day it was!

For my homework, I plan on a trip to the Hoyt Arboretum to learn more about trees.

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