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A Walk in the Woods: The Beauty of Maple

The numbers of tourists visiting Acadia National Park here in Maine are beginning to dwindle for the season, so those of us who live here are increasingly able to enjoy the park again. My family has a specific loop that we walk every autumn, in October as the foliage is peaking in color, and we continued that tradition last weekend. It was a good opportunity to reconsider the maple tree. Our most common maple is the red maple (Acer rubrum), which may take a backseat in prestige to the more widely known sugar maples (Acer saccharum) of New England, legendary for their maple syrup production. But the red maple has another trick up its sleeve. In the fall, when the...

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A Walk in the Woods: Food Forest

Besides providing wood for making things and keeping warm, forests offer food. But these resources typically go unnoticed by human visitors today. This was not the case in centuries past, when many people relied on the regular, seasonal varieties of wild foods for nutrition. In fact, indigenous populations in North America utilized some 300 different species for food (compared with the 20 to 30 that the typical modern American eats). One of the most recognizable is the acorn. This part of New England primarily features the Northern red oak (Quercus rubra) as we’re at or beyond the northern limit of the white oaks. Red oaks typically have especially bountiful mast production every other year. Last year was productive, even with...

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A Walk in the Woods: There's a Fungus Among Us

It’s been a wet summer around here – between above-average rainfall and plenty of damp, foggy mornings (it is dark and rainy as I write this), the ducks in the pond are happy and the wild blackberries are productive. But the most unique (to me) evidence of the year’s trends has been the explosion of mushrooms in the woods. They’re everywhere – bursts of weird, vivid colors and shapes that turn the forest floor into a micro version of an old 50’s sci-fi film. Even though several varieties have popped up this year that I’ve never seen before, they’ve always been there, hiding just beneath the soil. Fungi are fascinating things, still little-understood. The mushrooms we see are just the...

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