Saturday, April 30, 2016

Native and Not:Two iconic spring flowers of the Hudson Valley

 When I see shadbush in bloom anywhere along the Hudson Valley, I always think of my father. 

In the 1950's we lived in Poughkeepsie where my father worked as an engineer for the then thriving IBM. My dad was a transplanted Maine coast man who loved seafood. So in spring, when the shadbushes bloomed, he looked forward to eating shad roe fresh from the Hudson River. 

Shad (the fish) are an anadromous species, meaning the fish live in the ocean and come back to spawn in freshwater. For generations, as the Hudson River warmed in spring, the annual run of the shad would begin. Fisherman caught them in nets, mostly to sell their roe. My dad loved this seasonal delicacy 

Shadbush or shadblow got its regional name because their bloom time coincided with the spring shad run. This fact was likely the first bit of nature lore I learned as a child. 
Here in our backyard, I planted a shadbush along the edge of the woods a couple of years ago. This is the first spring that has brought many blooms. Also called "serviceberry" the blossoms of this shrub are subtle and soft against the greening haze behind it.

As for the fish, shad haven't been doing so well in recent years. New York had a moratorium on commercial and recreational shad fishing in the Hudson but I do not know if that is still in place. I might be brave enough now, in my ripe old age, to actually try this seasonal dish. Maybe I will have a chance one spring.

Update: I was able to find the 2016-2017 New York Freshwater Fishing Guide online. It states, "Fishing for (including catch and release) or possessing American shad in the Hudson River or Marine District is prohibited." So I guess shad are still struggling in our beautiful Hudson. I am sorry to hear that.
While shadbush is a subtle native plant, tulips are quite the opposite. Yet both are part of the Hudson Valley's history and traditions. 
Albany's heritage traces back to early Dutch settlers. Each spring, Albany holds a Tulip Festival, which will take place next weekend. But yesterday, a week ahead of the festival, the Handsome Husband and I ventured into Washington Park to see bed after bed of gaudy loveliness.

 I appreciate that the tulip gardeners label each of the featured beds.

 Washington Park also features a rather dramatic statue of Moses. This time of year, one can imagine Moses not so much parting waters as crying out, "Let there be tulips!" and the riotous colors burst forth.
My handsome Husband also blogged about this and other Albany-centric events over at Planet Albany. Check it out.