A number of interesting birds have been seen recently in the arb,
including the increasingly rare red-headed woodpecker. Bald eagles (two
individuals at least) continue to haunt the Cannon, and a red-tailed
hawk has been sighted several times in the upper arb and near the Rec
Center. If you go for a ski after dark, look for beavers on the ice
pack—with their dark fur, they are visible from some distance. Apart
from this news, this week's Arb Notes focuses on a few nonnative plants
in the Arboretum which have useful properties. Since these plants should
not be here in the first place, they can be harvested guilt-free—but
please, be sure of your identification, and tread lightly!
Barberry (berberis spp): A thorny, unappealing nonnative shrub with
bright red berries in the fall. These berries are quite tasty in sauces
or as a trail snack. The roots of the shrub can be used (with a suitable
mordant) to impart a delicate yellow color, or can be used to make a tea
rich in berberine (a substance traditionally held to be medicinally
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): Everyone knows this small, weedy
plant. All parts of the plant are edible. The leaves are good as a
potherb or in salads; the flowerheads can be frittered, and the root,
boiled with a change of water, makes an excellent root vegetable.
Burdock (Arctium lappa): A large weed known for its annoying burs, which
tangle in clothing and hair. While all parts of the plant are edible,
the large taproot is indisputably the best part. Boiled, roasted or
steamed, it makes an attractive vegetable.
Common lawn plantain (Plantago major): An inconspicuous weed common on
lawns. The young leaves are good in salads.
Thistles (polyphyletic, mostly cirsium spp.): tall, spiky plants common
in fields. The roots, cooked well, are reminiscent of a sweet parsnip.
The peeled stems, with a consistency like that of celery, are also good.
- Your Student Naturalists are Amy Alstad ’09, Jeremy Hayward ’09, Lindsey Neitmann ’09, David Smith ’09 (off-campus), Hannah Specht ’09, John Vigeland ’09, and Mira Alecci ’11. Please contact any of us (or Arb Director, Nancy Braker) with questions or suggestions!