Watters Smith State Park (West Virginia)
2 June 2012
Guided Nature Hike with the Park Superintendent
On Saturday, we joined a guided hike at Watters Smith State Park, located about 10 miles south of Clarksburg WV.
We found the hike listed on the West Virginia Travel Planner Calendar website: http://www.wvcommerce.org/travel/eventscalendar/default.aspx
For more information on Watters Smith State Park: http://www.watterssmithstatepark.com/history.html
This was a family event, so kids and adults participated.
The Park Superintendent Andy Bennett and his wife Laura.
Andy turned out to be a great guide and I called him a “walking encyclopedia”. He knows his plants/animals/birds!
We’re off! Most of the trails were clearly marked and wide enough for a 4-wheeler.
A few were “single track”, like this one, but still easily hiked.
A photogenic Mossy Log along the path.
Poison Ivy Vine. Andy told us the fuzzy ones like this are poison ivy vines.
Grape Vines. Andy told us if you are in “survival mode”, you can cut these vines and get drinking water.
After a short walk, we came to a pond in the clearing.
Nice scene along the edge of the pond. Very quiet and tranquil here.
Andy explained how the dragonflies that live on ponds shed their skins (molt) after the larvae stage.
The discarded skin of a dragonfly larvae.
A more mature dragonfly.
Andy showing us the edible roots of a Cattail.
Typha is a genus of about eleven species of monocotyledonous flowering plants in the family Typhaceae. The genus has a largely Northern Hemisphere distribution, but is essentially cosmopolitan, being found in a variety of wetland habitats. These plants are conspicuous and hence have many common names. The may be known in British English as bulrush, or reedmace, in American English as cattail, catninetail, punks, in Australia as cumbungi or bulrush, and in New Zealand as raupo. Their rhizomes are edible. Evidence of preserved starch grains on grinding stones suggests they were eaten in Europe 30,000 years ago. (From Wikipedia)
Cattail root – closeup.
Poison Oak – the jagged edges of the leaves distinguish this from poison ivy.
The trail passes this old cemetery with several members of the Smith family.
According to Andy, Burr Smith willed the land to the state for use as a state park. There was a long, bitter family dispute to get the land back, but the state won.
I had to Google this one, and found a great site under “West Virginia Butterflies” : http://www.pbase.com/donnar/butterflies by Donna Race.
I emailed her a photo - She replied, “What you have is a Fritillary, probably a Great Spangled Fritillary.”
Continuing the hike along the White Oak Trail.
Large Oak Trees along the edge of the park.
Some more large Oaks along the fence line.
Continuing along the White Oak Trail.
Milkweed. Andy informed us this is a poisonous plant for man and animal. However, the Monarch Butterflies live on it.
The toxins that build up in their bodies make them “un-edible”, so most birds know to leave them alone. Good self-defense.
Asclepias L. (1753), the milkweeds, is a genus of herbaceous perennial, dicotyledonous plants that contains over 140 known species.
Milkweed is named for its milky juice, which contains alkaloids, latex, and several other complex compounds including cardenolides. Some species are known to be toxic. (From Wikipedia)
Close-up of Milkweed
One of many trails branching off the main trail. (Supposed to be “Hershey”, and yes, she was related to the chocolate family.)
Native of Eastern Asia. These plants are deciduous shrubs or small trees growing 3.5 m tall, with a dense, thorny crown. The leaves are alternate, 4–10 cm long and 2–4 cm wide, entire but with a wavy margin. The leaves are silvery when they leaf out early in spring due to numerous tiny scales, but turn greener above as the scales wear off through the summer. The flowers are clustered 1-7 together in the leaf axils, fragrant, with a four-lobed pale yellowish-white 1 cm long corolla. The fruit is a round drupe 1/4 to 1/3 inches (0.65 to 0.85 cm) long, silvery-scaled yellow, ripening to red dotted with silver or brown. When ripe, the fruit is juicy and edible, and works well as a dried fruit. It is small but abundantly produced, tart-tasting, and has a chewable seed. These fruits have been shown to have from 7 to 17 times the amount of the antioxidant lycopene than tomatoes have.
Closeup of Autumn Olive
Dipsacus is a genus of flowering plant in the family Dipsacaceae. The members of this genus are known as teasel or teazel or teazle. The genus includes about 15 species of tall herbaceous biennial plants (rarely short-lived perennial plants) growing to 1–2.5 metres (3.3–8.2 ft) tall. Dipsacus are native to Europe, Asia and northern Africa. Teasels are easily identified with their prickly stem and leaves, and the inflorescence of purple, dark pink or lavender flowers that form a head on the end of the stem(s). The seeds are an important winter food resource for some birds, notably the European Goldfinch. Teasels are often grown in gardens and encouraged on some nature reserves to attract them. Teasel is also considered an invasive species in the United States. It is known to form a monoculture, capable of crowding out all native plant species, and therefore is discouraged and/or eliminated within restored open lands and other conservation areas. (From Wikipedia)
Japanese Honeysuckle is a species of honeysuckle native to eastern Asia including China, Japan, and Korea. It is a twining vine able to climb up to 10 metres (33 ft) high or more in trees, with opposite, simple oval leaves 3–8 centimetres (1.2–3.1 in) long and 2–3 centimetres (0.79–1.2 in) broad. The flowers are double-tongued, opening white and fading to yellow, and sweetly vanilla scented. The fruit is a globose] dark blue berry 5–8 millimetres (0.20–0.31 in) diameter containing numerous seeds. It is an invasive species in a number of countries. (From Wikipedia)
Japanese Honeysuckle - Closeup
Wild Garlic – Entire plant is edible.
Sycamore Tree Leaf
Achillea millefolium, or yarrow, is a flowering plant in the family Asteraceae, native to the Northern Hemisphere. In antiquity, yarrow was known as herbal militaris, for its use in staunching the flow of blood from wounds. Yarrows can be planted to combat soil erosion due to the plant's resistance to drought. In the Middle Ages, yarrow was part of a herbal mixture known as gruit used in the flavouring of beer prior to the use of hops.] The flowers and leaves are used in making some liquors and bitters. (From Wikipedia)
Spittle Bug and Eggs
The froghoppers, or the superfamily Cercopoidea, are a group of Hemipteran insects, in the suborder Auchenorrhyncha. Traditionally, most of this superfamily was considered a single family, Ceropidae, but this family has been split into three separate families for many years now: the Aphrophoridae, Cercopidae, and Clastopheridae. More recently, the family Epipygidae has been removed from the Aphrophoridae. These families are best known for the nymph stage, which produces a cover of frothed-up plant sap resembling spit; the nymphs are therefore commonly known as spittlebugs, or hipster-bugs, and their froth as cuckoo spit, frog spit or snake spit. The final family in the group, Machaerotidae, is known as the tube spittlebugs because the nymphs live in calcareous tubes, rather than producing froth as in the other families.
The froth serves a number of purposes. It hides the nymph from the view of predators and parasites, it insulates against heat and cold, thus providing thermal control and also moisture control. Without the froth the insect would quickly dry up. The nymphs pierce plants and suck sap causing damage, and much of the excess filtered fluids go into the production of the froth, which has an acrid taste, deterring predators. A few species are serious agricultural pests. (From Wikipedia)
There are about 20 native species of Honeysuckle in North America. The leaves are opposite, simple oval, 1–10 cm long; most are deciduous but some are evergreen. Many of the species have sweetly-scented, bell-shaped flowers that produce a sweet, edible nectar. Breaking of the Honeysuckle's stem will release this powerful sweet odor. The fruit is a red, blue or black berry containing several seeds; in most species the berries are mildly poisonous, but a few have edible berries. (From Wikipedia)
Tussilago farfara, commonly known as Coltsfoot, is a plant in the family Asteraceae that has traditionally had medicinal uses. However, the discovery of toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids in the plant has resulted in liver health concerns.
The name "tussilago" itself means "cough suppressant".
Coltsfoot has been used in herbal medicine and has been consumed as a food product with some confectionery products. (From Wikipedia)
Clover is one of the main sources of nectar for honeybees. Clover (Trifolium): The scientific name derives from the Latin tres, "three", and folium, "leaf", so called from the characteristic form of the leaf, which has three leaflets (trifoliate); hence the popular name trefoil.
Continuing up the White Oak Trail
Conk – Bracket Fungi
Bracket fungi, or shelf fungi, among many groups of the fungi in the phylum Basidiomycota. Characteristically, they produce shelf- or bracket-shaped fruiting bodies called conks that lie in a close planar grouping of separate or interconnected horizontal rows. Brackets can range from only a single row of a few caps, to dozens of rows of caps that can weigh several hundred pounds. They are mainly found on trees (living and dead) and coarse woody debris, and may resemble mushrooms. Some form annual fruiting bodies while others are perennial and grow larger year after year. Bracket fungi are typically tough and sturdy and produce their spores, called basidiospores, within the pores that typically make up the undersurface.
Some species of bracket fungi are cultivated for human consumption or medicinal use. (From Wikipedia)
Poison Ivy Berries
Toxicodendron radicans, better known as poison ivy (older synonyms are Rhus toxicodendron and Rhus radicans), is a poisonous North American plant that is well known for its production of urushiol, a clear liquid compound found within the sap of the plant that causes an itching, or sometimes painful rash in most people who touch it. The plant is not a true ivy (Hedera).
Poison ivy can be found growing in any of the following three forms:
Poison Ivy Berries
Poison Ivy Berries
Soon the trail turns and heads down the hill towards the parking lot and ranger station.
Ahhh, some downhill trail.
One of the young boys in the group decided to take the more adventuresome path across the ravine. Boys will be boys.
Soon, we were back at the car. Andy supplied snacks and cold drinks (water and Gatorade) which were greatly appreciated.
Thanks to Andy Bennett and his wife Laura for guiding our group through the woods and showing us lots of interesting things!!
This was one of the most interesting hikes we have done.