I'm just back from a few days downstate in Westchester County, where I tried to interest my grandkids in coming out to the woods with me. No deal, Grandma. We've got other plans. OK, so while the girls were off with their friends and I was relieved of babysitting duties, I found my way to some lovely local nature preserves. Marsh Sanctuary, just outside of the town of Mt. Kisco, offers trails that run through a variety of terrains, including the quiet pond pictured above, and the shaded rocky woodland pictured below.
Another trail led up a steep hill through a grassy meadow to a woods of oak and hickory and beech. On either side of this trail, the breeze moved in waves through acres of Little Bluestem Grass, fully in flower now, the filaments of its fluffy tufts shining in the sun.
There was goldenrod, too, hidden among the waves of grass, and these were just about the only native plants I could find in the whole preserve, not counting the trees and some native dogwood shrubs. That doesn't mean the vegetation wasn't beautiful, because it certainly was, despite being almost exclusively alien invasives, such as this Japanese Knotweed covering an old stone wall. I don't believe I have ever seen Japanese Knotweed with such vivid pink seed receptacles any other place but this.
Competing with the Japanese Knotweed and Multiflora Rose and Wineberry and Japanese Barberry to cover every available space was this prolific vine with berries in shades of the most remarkable turquoise blue and purple. This was a new plant for me, and although I couldn't help admiring its genuine beauty, I was dismayed to discover, when I learned its name, that this vine, Porcelainberry, is considered one of the most invasive plants around.
I did notice some recently planted native shrubs -- Winterberry and several species of Viburnum -- growing around the pond, but they looked pretty spindly, struggling to survive against all the vigorous competition. Then I came upon this healthy looking shrub. It looked a bit familiar to me, but it took me a while to remember its name, since this woodsy Westchester habitat seemed hardly the place where Groundsel Tree (Baccharis halimifolia) would be found. The last place I found it was among the coastal sand dunes of Fire Island, its typical habitat. I found just this one specimen at Marsh Sanctuary. I wonder how it got here?