Friday, October 10, 2014

Autumn Arboretum

Ed Miller has been one of the unofficial leaders of the Thursday Naturalists for some time. Yesterday, he arranged for the group to tour part of the Landis Arboretum in Esperance, NY, just west of the capital region.
Ed has also been a stalwart volunteer at Landis and he and his friend, Nan, have been working on a native plant trail and a fern garden there. Yesterday, they were both present to give us their first-hand tales of the planning and execution of these major projects.
The day couldn't have been lovelier. Blue skies and changing foliage, mild temperatures, no bugs, who could ask for more?
The woodland colors this day ran from gentle purples and mauve to berries and fruits of ivory and red. Here above, New England asters were still putting on a show.
Knapweed, above, is considered an "unwanted invader" but it sure looked pretty on this October day.
On a redstem dogwood shrub, we encountered about a half-dozen of these caterpillars. None of us could identify them. I thought at first that they might be a stage of the Dogwood Sawfly larva that Jackie Donnelly wrote about earlier this week over at Saratoga Woods and Waterways. But after Googling around a bit, I couldn't find any pictures of the sawflies that looked like these guys. Can anybody help identify these caterpillars? Are they friend or foe? Update: A friend has supplied the name: Red-humped caterpillar moth (Schizura concinna.) It does indeed feed on dogwood leaves.  Thank you, Johannah!
Crab apples aplenty hung from this trail-side tree.
In the shady woods, one scarlet branch glowed against its still-green neighbors.
Ed and Nan pointed out purple milkwort, a fairly rare plant in these parts.
American bladdernut is a native understory tree you might pass by without noticing. This is why it is such a pleasure to explore woods and fields with knowledgeable folks, for there is always someone to point out such things as this tree's interesting fruits.
Winterberry is a favorite native of mine. Come the snowy months, these berries light up the woods with Christmas-like cheer.
And here is another plant I love: Herb Robert. It is such a lush yet dainty-looking plant Here, it was growing among Nan's ferns.
After our walk, we returned to the Landis Arboretum meeting house to enjoy our brown bag lunches. The deck of this building offers a wonderful view of the Schoharie Valley, looking as if unchanged for a hundred years.
Landis Executive Director Fred Breglia and his lovely wife Erin (standing) stopped by to greet us all. Seated are Ed and Nan, our guides this day.

Later this month, Ed Miller will celebrate his 90th birthday. I didn't inquire about Nan's age, but they are both an inspiration. They have season tickets to ski in Vermont this winter.

Two delicious cakes appeared so that we could have an early celebration for Ed's 90th.

Ed has written as least two books about plants and trees. But what I think he should really be writing about is how to live a full and rich and healthy life. Ed is one of the most upbeat and positive people I know. He never mentions aches nor ailments. He looks bright-eyed and optimistically at tomorrow. He is always excited about upcoming projects and plans.

Happy Birthday, Ed.  Thank you for the many ways you share your gifts and inspire us all.

The Landis Arboretum is open daily from dawn to dusk. If you have never visited there, it is worth the trip. Find more information here.