Did you ever wonder how nonnative plants arrived in Columbia County? So you want to know what exotic plants live in our state parks?
Mistletoe State Park is offering a free They're in Our Woods walk from 9-11 a.m. June 27. The walk will be led by Sheryl Silva and will explore some of the more unusual plants living there.
"This will be the second year of the walk," Silva said. "Unless the park gets aggressive and removes all of the exotic invasives, we'll continue to have these walks. More than anything, even if we don't see any invasive species, although I'm sure we will, we'll be outside in the fresh air and sunshine, getting some exercise and meeting new friends."
While the walk isn't limited to a specific number of participants, Silva said an optimal number is about 10. She suggests that the walk is not for those who tire easily, including the elderly and young children.
While Silva said no plant is exotic if you see it often enough, she does admit that some plants that have invasive tendencies are not always exotics.
"Exotic plants invade native plant communities and displace native species," she said. "Believe it or not, we actually have exotic invasives in our own front yards and might not know it -- Nandina, English ivy and Japanese privet to name a few."
Kept under control, Silva said invasive plants are beautiful in the home landscape, but compete with the natives for nutrients and rain and can often push the native plants out of the area. She said birds, the wind and careless disposal of plant materials can disburse the seeds of the plants to other areas and wreak havoc on communities.
"This is a terrible thing to say, but I actually like the mimosa tree," she said. "I would never plant one, but it's a cool looking tree that was introduced to the U.S. from Asia in the mid-1700s. The sweet-smelling pink and white flowers look like little cheerleader pompons.
"However, after it flowers, green pods form, which eventually turn brown, then black, then make a terrible mess in the yard. On the walk, we'll see mimosa, privet and English ivy."
She hopes to see wildlife, as well as other flowers and plants in the woods and any exotic invasive plants.
"I was delighted to have both a forester and a former naturalist from another park and her husband take the wildflower walk with us this past spring," she said. "Between the three of them and the rest of us, we identified lots of wildflowers and had a wonderful time. This time I'd like to take the Rock Dam trail in addition to the Cliett Creek trail if the group is interested."
The addition of the Rock Dam trail means a longer hike along more rugged terrain, but Silva said the trek will be well worth it.
"The scenery and terrain changes from fairly flat open wooded lands to rocky outcrops to a steep ravine," she said. "The same vein of stone that makes up Stone Mountain is in this part of the park. If we take the Rock Dam trail, this will involve four stream crossings so participants should be prepared to get their feet wet."
Silva said she's up for either the Cliett Creek trail or both and a vote will be taken before leaving the park office the morning of the hike. The hike will occur even if it rains, according to Silva, unless there is an electrical storm. The hike is free with the $5 per car park pass.
"We'll leave the office porch promptly at 9 a.m.," she said. "Bring water, a camera and snack food to eat along the way, and wear sensible shoes -- no flip-flops."
Silva said any dog going on the hike must be on a leash and under control at all times.
For information, call (706) 541-0321.
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