Of Black Vultures and White Petals

I hope they're not trying to tell me something!

I hope they’re not trying to tell me something!

During a typical walk in the woods, the wildlife generally sees us before we see them.  Deer, squirrels, and birds flee as we think we’re stealthily heading down the trail, but occasionally an animal seems to be unaffected by our presence.  In fact, some seem to be a little bit too curious–but vultures?

Today, as we hiked the AT near Keys Gap, Candee noticed two Black Vultures hanging out about 20 feet from the trail.  They just kind of gawked at us as we passed, and my first inclination was to lift my arm and sniff my sweatshirt.  satisfied with passing the first test, I decided to check my pulse.  Fortunately, everything checked out, and a couple of minutes later they flew away.  What a relief!

It sounds like it would be good on a sandwich, but...

It sounds like it would be good on a sandwich, but…

Another unwelcome presence along the trail is Garlic Mustard.  Sure, it sounds delicious, but it’s actually an invasive plant that’s possibly even less popular than the vultures.  For example, along the C&O Canal, volunteer groups are trained in the identification and removal of the plant.  As a novice in the field of wildflower identification, I have never participated in removing these troublesome plants from the park (C&O or otherwise), but retaining as much of the native environment as possible is certainly a worthy cause.

Star Chickweed

Star Chickweed

Star Chickweed, on first appearance, doesn’t seem to be a candidate for anybody’s list of undesirables.  However, when I looked it up on Google, Ortho’s website was at the top of the page.  Go figure!  Star Chickweed appears to have ten individual petals, but there are actually five that are deeply cleft.  The plant is found throughout the eastern U.S., including the Great Smokey Mountains.  It’s edible and contains vitamins A and C, but until I channel my inner Ewell Gibbons, I’ll continue to carry the usual salami sandwich in my backpack–hold the garlic mustard!

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jamie on May 7, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Glad to know you weren’t on the menu for those vultures!

    We have a small stream behind our house and the garlic mustard seems more prevalent this spring than any other since we’ve been here. Guess it’s time to learn some removal techniques. Unfortunately some poison ivy mingles with it — not exactly an invitation to go tromping around on the creek bank.


  2. Posted by LevelWalker on May 7, 2014 at 9:33 am

    Agreed! Just say no to poison ivy. Candee got into poison ivy and biting ants at Town Creek and felt poorly for a month. Most of the garlic mustard work parties have been on Saturdays, which doesn’t jibe with as postal worker’s schedule, so I have never done much with it.

    We’ve had several lose encounters with black vultures. I even misidentified one in an older post. I guess it’s high time to fix that!

    I liked your narrative for Mexico Farms and Fifteen Mile. I never knew that the last ten miles weren’t in the original park plans. That would have been a tragedy–and a travesty!


  3. Posted by Jamie on May 9, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    Out checking a few plants and what did I see in the lawn? Star chickweed! It was not far from violets, dandelions, mints and other miscellaneous plants that substitute for grass in my “lawn.” Not that I am too concerned about it — with a back yard that borders on undeveloped land, all kinds of seeds will make their way into the ground. Anyway, wouldn’t have recognized the star chickweed without your post!


  4. Posted by LevelWalker on May 9, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    I had a very wise neighbor once who told me that some people have lawns, while others have yards. I have a yard. It’s full of what some call weeds, but like you, I have learned to refer to them as wildflowers. Well…maybe not dandelions.


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