Berries, blight and blooms

Berries abound

Summer brings a bounty of local produce to the marketplace. But did you know there are also many wild edible fruits?

The black raspberry is the first to ripen in early July. The wineberry, or Japanese red raspberry, began to ripen in mid-July. Wineberry resembles native red raspberry, but the fruits are a little more tart. Native red raspberries will ripen later in the summer. Blackberries are ripening now. Most of these berries can be found on sunny disturbed sites, where they often create bramble thickets.

Wineberries grow along Gambrill Park Road.

Photo by Mike Kay

Blueberries will also ripen soon. There are a number of species in our woods, like the low bush blueberry, high bush blueberry and huckleberry. Look for blueberries in upland areas where you would normally see mountain laurel.

All of these fruits are loaded with powerful antioxidants, which are known to help fight off heart disease and many forms of cancer.

Photo by Mike Kay

There are a number of blueberry species that will be ripening soon, like the low bush blueberry, high bush blueberry and huckleberry.

Fire blight

Although the summer fruits are bountiful this year, a drive through most orchards and some developments in the area will reveal another escalating yield — fire blight.The cool, wet spring created perfect conditions for spread of this bacteria.

Fire blight is the enemy of rose bushes, as well as apple and pear trees. It attacks the blossoms, moves up to twigs and then to larger branches of a host tree. Fire blight gets its name from the burnt appearance of affected blossoms and twigs. Flowers turn brown and wilt; twigs shrivel and blacken, the ends often curling. In more advanced cases, cankers and discolored oozing patches form on branches. Heavy persistent infections can be fatal to a tree.

There is, as yet, no cure for fire blight,and the best way to manage it is to remove infected stems and branches, cutting no less than 8 inches up from the infected area. Because it is so easily transmitted, care should be taken in disposing of infected plant material. Tools which have come into contact with the bacteria can be sterilized in an alcohol solution or in diluted household bleach.

Black-eyed Susans

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) are blooming. This prolific native wildflower likes full sun and is attractive to bees, butterflies and other insects, while being highly resistant to insect pests. The roots were used by American Indians as an astringent for sores and snakebites. When cut, the blooms last about a week. The native plant, hirta variety, is not a true perennial, and does best by reseeding each year. Seed can be gathered from the button after it dries or can be purchased. Natural reseeding causes hirta to spread in gardens. Several cultivars (domestic varieties) are sold, which though showy in gardens and better at staying in one place, may not have the wildlife value of our state flower.

House wrens

Most house wrens have sent their first batch of young out into the world and are now nesting a second time. Some wrens mate for life, but sometimes male wrens will actually sing to find a second mate while his first mate is sitting on their eggs. Occasionally, a female will desert her young and find another male, leaving the mate to feed the young. Wrens eat insects (including spiders) almost exclusively, so they rarely frequent seed feeders. If you have wrens in your area, you can see the constant activity of the parent or parents as they provide enough food for their brood.

Nature Note for 8/3/2008