Friday, March 30, 2012
On the Trail of Arbutus in Chenango Valley State Park
It was a comment from a friend on the Mayflowers in March post that sent us on the trail of arbutus on the shores of Lily Lake. There are two kettle lakes at Chenango Valley State Park. Lily Lake is the smaller lake with nature trails. It has water lilies, a beaver hutch and wildflowers. Always interested in checking out natural growing conditions for arbutus, we went to have a look. After we managed to make our way down the hill to the lake's edge, we chose to go to the right. Our friend always walks the lake clockwise and we figured if we went the other way and she was there, we would meet on the trail. As it turned out she was there earlier in the day so we missed her. We actually had the trail all to ourselves but we found out later that the best stands of arbutus were in the opposite direction.
It was on the east side of the lake trail where we located arbutus. These healthy looking leaves are growing right next to the root of a pine tree. There may be a symbiotic relationship between microbes growing on pine roots and arbutus. This robust plant growing right on a long pine root might suggest a certain benefit from its location.
Here the arbutus flowers were pink. A rich carpet of moss grows with the arbutus. Pine needles, oak leaves and an acorn cap identify nearby neighbors.
We were surprised to find wintergreen growing with the arbutus. Its bright red berries are mealy this time of year and picking anything is not allowed in a State Park so leaving them be was an easy thing to do. Not chewing on a leaf was more of a challenge. Generally, we found the wintergreen plants large and numerous while the arbutus plants were for the most part puny but numerous. It appears that the glacier left gravely soil rich with clay. We would like to have removed a soil sample but rules are rules. A return trip to see where the arbutus grows best is likely next week. A chance to observe natural growing conditions may just pull us away from the work to be done here.