By Diane Alden

On October 6th 2019 I had the most delightful opportunity to take an enthusiastic group of youngsters along with some of their moms and dads for a walk along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail.  Some came with home-fashioned name tags and others agreed to write their names on the stickers I provided.  They parked in my driveway since I have a trail leading to the trail and off we went.

I was astounded by their energy, enthusiasm and interest in learning and in taking in new information!  They marveled at the red spice bush berries and collected a few to take home to plant, finding out that they came from the female bushes and had seeds inside.   The male bushes had equally fragrant leaves, a delight to crush and smell, but did not have any of those red berries. 

They learned to identify the evergreen Christmas ferns with the spores on the undersides of the slender tips seen on the right side of this photo.  I showed them how after staying green all winter they gradually bend down and capture the leaves underneath them, providing mulch for themselves in the early spring, turning brown.  We could find last year’s  dried-up brown fronds hiding underneath the green fronds. 

We felt the stem of the horse balm plant (on the left) now making its seeds and found that it has a square stem, putting it in the mint family.  We crushed a leaf; it did smell a bit minty. 

The last of the asters were still blooming and we studied the different varieties.  These wonderful native plants are good for the bees.  

We looked at some of the invasive non-native plants that are threatening to take over all and crowd out the native plants.  I explained that they do not provide any benefits for the bees and the birds. 

The ubiquitous and terribly invasive stilt grass that is easy to remove enticed the children to pull it up.  Ever creative, the children enjoyed fashioning crowns and bracelets.  They were not spreading it since the seeds had already dropped.  And always looking for allies in my quest to manage invasive plants on the Aqueduct I asked if they would like to return next year earlier in the season and help me pull some from the Aqueduct Trail before the seeds could drop and spread.  And they said a resounding YES!  So it is very possible they will. 

Mimi’s mom gave me permission to post her picture and so here she is. 

I featured her at the end of a talk I gave at the NY Botanical Garden I gave this past November.  You can watch it if you like.

All because I offered a walk on the Aqueduct for last year’s auction.  Who knows what adventures the winners of this year’s walk could have.