Me and the deer poop…

Walking into the woods is something I do on a pretty regular basis. When I get too stressed out, I just wander out into the woods to explore, find cool rocks, or even just sit there for a minute to listen. I know all the woods on campus. I know where all the deer, rabbits, and chipmunks can be found. I know all the spots that other students go to hang out, and I even have my own secret spot just for me and the deer poop that can often be found there. I like to think that proves I’m the only human that frequents the spot. So I was pretty happy to be able to spend class time walking through Ashley Schiff, even more pleased to hear we were allowed to just do whatever, as long as we took pictures of things we found. It was my ideal scenario.

Since the whole class was there, and we needed to take pictures and identify what we found for a blog, I made it my mission to see something that no one else would see. Even if they saw a different version of it somewhere else in Ashley Schiff, I wanted to find my own of something. So I followed the trail with everyone else, took pictures of things along the path that then someone else saw and also took a picture of. I dug up a couple worms like the true Worm Lab student I am. Shoved a handful of interesting rocks in my pocket. And then I went off the trail.

Wintergreen from Ashley Schiff Park Preserve, April 2019

It didn’t take too long before I found something peaking up through the leaves. It wasn’t very large, and I hadn’t noticed it anywhere along the trail in Ashley Schiff. The perfect thing to fulfill my mission of something just for me. iNaturalist identified it as a wintergreen, genus Pyrola.

After a little research, I found that the IUCN does not have a status for it, but that the Pyrola genus has caused a lot of controversy in the world of phylogenies. This plant was considered to be an effective remedy in the treatment of rheumatism, and a decoction of the leaves, or the leaves and roots, has been used as an eyewash for sore eyes. The website doesn’t say anything about flavors of chewing gum!

Hopefully being off the trail can protect the plant from being stomped on and it can flower soon.

Riley Pena

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