The Forest in Summer:
What can be found along the newly opened Sibyl’s Path?
Black Rock Forest opened Sibyl’s Path on June 1st to allow visitors of all ages and abilities access to the forest’s natural beauty. Visitors will have new opportunities to view various flora species of the forest as they make their way on Sibyl’s Path.
As spring transitions to summer in Black Rock Forest, mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) can be seen flowering along hillsides. This plant prefers edges and openings in the forest canopy, which allows for sunlight to reach the hearty shrub. Mountain laurel flowers are clustered together often found in groups of 50 or more ranging from bright pink to deep white. The small delicate bowl shaped flowers rely on small insects to land inside, causing the stamens to launch upwards dusting them with pollen. The best time of year to view mountain laurel flowers is late spring and early summer.
Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) is a native wildflower of Black Rock Forest that is found along the edges of Sibyl’s path. This plant produces spherical flowering parts with up to 40 small flowers per cluster. These flowers then grow into round blueberry like fruits that ripen throughout the month of July. The fruits are sought after by many species found in Black Rock Forest including the Thrush family, black bear, white-tailed deer, coyote, red fox and chipmunks. The plant is not only desired by wildlife, but also has a well documented history of homeopathic medicinal uses and can be used make drinks with a flavoring similar to root beer (pinch a leaf for a light root beer smell!).
The Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) is a slow growing, cone-bearing conifer that that can be found throughout Black Rock Forest. This tree shares its name with the poisonous herb “hemlock” which is native to Europe. The eastern hemlock provides cover and shade for many different species of flora and fauna found in Black Rock Forest. Migratory birds including the Blackburnian Warbler, Wood Thrush and Northern Parula are all known to seek hemlocks during the breeding season. Despite the impact of the invasive Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, small aphid-like insects that feed on hemlocks, the hemlocks in Black Rock Forest are showing new growth this year.