A Surprising Moment with a Spiny Plant
Week of May 9 – May 15, 2021
by David DuBois, Land Steward
Exploration and discovery are two of my favorite aspects of immersing myself in the natural world. While scouting on the new property that we are in the process of acquiring, I had the opportunity to experience that wonder.
Along the shores of Baltimore Brook south of our current property, I came across a thicket of strange thorny plants. Suddenly I was surrounded by a spiny forest of 10 foot tall shrubs and my mind was racing to figure out what I was seeing. Small flower buds nestled between the paired spines suddenly clicked in my mind and I knew the identity of this little grove: prickly ash.
Prickly ash is not an ash at all, but instead is the only member of the citrus family native to Onondaga county. Despite its intimidating spines, this plant is a real beauty. It also has the distinction of being the host plant for the caterpillars of the Giant Swallowtail, a large black butterfly with a bright yellow stripe across its wings. If you get lucky in late summer, you may see them flying over the meadows of Baltimore Woods after they have grown up in this prickly ash grove.
Finding the unexpected in nature reminds me why it is so important to be prepared for surprising discoveries. You never know what fascinating observation awaits around the next bend of trail or where that discovery will lead you. It may be a strange citrus, a giant butterfly, or beautiful reminder of spring. Share stories and pictures of your unexpected discoveries with us using [email protected]!