I’m in the middle of doing Learn About Your Land classes on the eastern side of the state right now, and this week’s class is all about “What’s in Your Woods”. Good time to be thinking about this month’s blog post. Before I started the class last night, I asked folks what they had most recently been doing in their woods. The first three answers were hunting morels, pulling garlic mustard and cutting firewood. So I guess they should get credit for writing this post.
If you are excited about what things you can harvest from your woods, now is a pretty good time to get out there. I’ve been hearing about people in the southern part of the state finding morels for a few weeks now. It hasn’t quite gotten warm enough up north, but soon. Fiddlehead ferns and wild asparagus are in season now as well. I saw a neighbor who had picked one lone stalk this weekend, but I can taste them now. Last week, I went out for my May photo journal assignment, and the leeks (wild ramps) were up, but still pretty small; hoping to get back out again this weekend to harvest some.
Spring is an opportune time to get out into your woods and start looking for those pesky invasive plants. When I was out in April for my photo shoot, the only green woody plants I saw were the non-native honeysuckle (Bell’s and Morrow’s). That and buckthorn (Glossy and Common) take advantage of the spring sun, and start leafing out much earlier than our native trees. You can certainly control them in the spring, or take note of what is green first (maybe tie some ribbon on them) and walk through your woods with a DNR forester who can help you identify them. Garlic mustard is starting to flower now, which makes it quite easy to identify. Get out there and pull what you can before they go to seed. I came across a patch where I had never had it before, this past weekend, and I grabbed a garbage bag and pulled everything in sight. There wasn’t anything left when I was done, and I didn’t see any on the neighbor’s property. I’ll be sure to keep an eye out this year and next, for any more, but hoping I got on it before it spread too far.
There are some beautiful spring flowers out there now. I saw trillium and wood anemone out on my hike last week. Identifying the ground flora is one way to determine what type of woods you have. Foresters can help you understand the connection, but if you can tell them what species you have, they can tell you what types of trees grow best in your woods. For example, if you find wild sasparilla, yellow beadlilly and bunchberry, your woods will grow quite different trees than if you find Virginia creeper, meadow rue and wild geranium.
On one closing note, my colleague laughed at me when I included this in my presentation, but now is the time to be cutting firewood for Fall 2017. Good firewood is dry firewood, and it really needs about 18 months to properly season. I stick by this recommendation to be cutting firewood for the future, especially when the mosquitoes haven’t taken full control in the woods yet. Happy spring and happy hunting!