Anyone who has walked or ridden the full length of the Bright Hope Trail has passed through the “wisteria patch”. This patch marks the site of one of the old home properties in the park, and as is so often the case, exotic plants established by the homeowners have persisted even though the buildings are long gone. On this site the persistent plants are Chinese Wisteria, Japanese Honeysuckle and English Ivy, but it is the abundant climbing stems of wisteria that are most obvious along the trail. From what was probably a planting of one or just a few vines to provide some spring color around the house, the aggressive Chinese wisteria has spread to become the primary vegetation over an area of five acres.
Wisteria is called a twining vine because is climbs by wrapping itself around the stems of other woody plants (or even one of its own stems). As the vine and the host plant continue to expand in girth, the host plant is constricted into interesting contorted shapes. A closer look at the twining habit also reveals that the vine may encircle its host in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. This directional habit is specific to species, so in our patch we are able to recognize Chinese wisteria, as opposed to Japanese wisteria, because the vine climbs from lower left to upper right in our line of sight. A more thorough discussion of wisteria can be found on the web here.
The only way to prevent the wisteria from continuing to expand and suppress more native vegetation is to take some controlling action. If you pass along the trail now, you will see that the Invasive Plant Volunteer Squad has been at work cutting the climbing vines and the shrubby wisteria plants. However, the large stems reaching into the tall trees and the effects of encircling constriction will be evident for years to come.
Back in 2005 a biologist added an entry for the Northern River Otter to the ongoing inventory of life in Pocahontas State Park. There is no detail in the record about where it was sighted, or if it was only inferred from signs. Today I was tramping along an off-trail border of the park when I came across this apparent mud-slide into Swift Creek. Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking, but it could be that we still have river otters here. There is still quite a lot of wild land along Swift Creek, through and below the park. Otters are sensitive to water quality, so their presence would be another sign that Swift Creek has not been overly degraded by upstream suburban development.
Thoughts on the park, its residents and how to preserve its natural beauty.