A few days ago, as I trekked through the Ashley Schiff Nature Preserve with my class, I felt like an invader in a foreign land. I had no business here. I am a college student who does part-time work with computers, and as a result, nature does not agree with me. I can appreciate nature, but I haven’t found information it provides necessary in my day-to-day life. There are no scantrons to fill in; nobody is going to ask me about the graphical capabilities of deer; and no one cares whether or not it can run Fortnite for their spoiled fourteen year old nephew.
The awkwardness never went away. It probably got worse. As a class, we were all supposed to find something to take a picture of and identify. Near the end of the walk, we all had to share something interesting. While everyone else had some picture of a bug or pretty plant, the most interesting thing I had was a half dead fern and some brambles. I felt a little like Charlie Brown in the Peanuts Halloween special—but instead of getting a rock, I got some dead looking… thing.
However, it turns out, even rocks have names—and even rocks can be interesting. One of the metaphorical rocks I found was the Japanese Wineberry, or by its scientific name, Rubus phoenicolasius. And like me, the plant is an invader in a foreign land. Actually, I have a bit of an edge on it, as the plant is actually regarded as invasive. At the very least, nobody is trying to actively cull my existence.
At first, the wineberry stood out to me because of its distinct red color and the fuzz on the stalk. It’d almost be cute if I didn’t know that it makes some areas uninhabitable for native species. Despite its appealing name, the wineberry is an issue because native herbivores do not like its taste (Williams et. al, 2016). Maybe it’s about time that we add wineberry onto our menu, and I know exactly where we can find it.
-Felix Wang, Stony Brook University Undergraduate