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The Monday Garden
April 24, 2005, issue no. 161
Nature Walk Downtown - Look Up; Look Down

by Sue Sweeney

 
To me, the action as a naturalist is downtown. It's not that hard to find something to appreciate in a pristine forest (assuming that there are any left). The challenge is to find the beauty under our feet and above our heads in the parking lot.
 

picture: stunning color of an American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) budding out at the local vest pocket park,
Hoyt and Prospect Streets, Stamford CT April 2005

 
So if you look up in Hoyt Street Alley, you'll find this eastern cottonwood (a poplar like the aspen) turning luscious caramel buds into gorgeous catkins.
 
 
 

pictures: eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) bud to catkin (flower) , Hoyt Street Alley, Stamford Ct. April 2005

 
Some of the other local trees with catkins are from the Betula (birch) clan: the river birch, paper birch and alder (male alder catkins are the long ones: female are the shorter redder ones).
 

pictures: River birch, Morgan Street, paper birch, 3rd Street, and alder, Mill River at Scalzi Park, all Stamford CT April 2005

 
If you look down, you'll find some wonderful wildflowers tucked away in odd corners. Without even considering the lower cancer risk, it'll make you glad that some people skip broad-leaf weed killers. These beauties are thriving in a part of Scalzi Park that’s a hard-packed, heavily-tread mowed area with no supplemental water.
 

picture: trout lily (Erythronium americanum), Scalzi Park, Stamford CT April 2005

 

pictures: cut-leaf toothwort (Dentaria laciniata) (a mustard), spring beauty (Claytonia virginica), common blue violet (Viola sororia) fighting for space with the lesser celandine, Mill River at Scalzi Park, Stamford CT April 2005

 

picture: spring beauties (Claytonia virginica), Scalzi Park, Stamford CT April 2005

 
Violet leaves, by the way, are said to be very high in vitamin A and C which is probably why the rabbits adore them. In my mother's garden, I plant these violets in all the garden borders; the rabbits hop along (when they think no one is watching) taking a bite here and there from the violets and leaving almost everything else alone. Rabbits also prefer lawn clover to garden plants. (Cover has the added advantages of being highly disliked by Canada geese as well as a nitrogen-fixer that's good for the lawn.)

And of course, there are small gems as well as large ones in Hoyt Street alley.

 

pictures: This common blue violet came with some sod tossed in the alley under the chokecherry. Hoyt Street Alley, this mourning dove has two suitor- she's ignoring both at the moment. One of the "lawn mints", henbit, makes (Lamium amplexicaule) makes me glad that some people don't use weed killers. Stamford CT. April 2005

 

pictures: I often see these three mallard brothers swimming in a row, as they learned to do as small children. Or perhaps it's the father and his two sons. IN any case, I can't tell if the same one gets to be first all the time. I wonder if they'll stay together after they get mates. Mill River at Scalzi Park, Stamford CT April 2005. This feral street cat is pretending that an overhead squirrel isn't alerting everyone that the cat's here. Location is undisclosed for the cat's protection. Stamford CT April

 

picture: A busy squirrel hurries across a roof, Strawberry Hill Ave; Stamford CT April 2005

 

picture: one of last year's grape tendrils, Hoyt Street Alley, Stamford CT April 2005

Copyright © by Sue Sweeney. Reproduced with permission.  More articles from The Monday Garden

"The Monday Garden" is a FREE email publication published by Sue Sweeney. Visit The Monday Garden website